Magazine article The New Yorker

LIBERTE, EGALITE, GOLF; LONG ISLAND POSTCARD Series: 2/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

LIBERTE, EGALITE, GOLF; LONG ISLAND POSTCARD Series: 2/5

Article excerpt

The season hasn't even begun, but it's been a tough few weeks at the Deepdale Golf Club. Founded in 1926 by William K. Vanderbilt II and situated on a hundred and seventy-five acres of rolling hills, it was intended, an official history states, as "a golf club with a small, select membership, a place for weekday play when there was no time for the train ride out to Southampton and The National." President Eisenhower, Bob Hope, Randolph A. Hearst, Henry Kravis, Sidney Poitier, Charlie Rose, Tom Brokaw, and Mayor Bloomberg are among those who have enjoyed the quick jaunt. Just this month, Deepdale suffered the loss of an esteemed member, the designer Oleg Cassini. And now the club itself faces extinction. The village of North Hills, which encompasses Deepdale, is considering a plan to invoke the principle of eminent domain to seize the facility. North Hills has suggested turning the world-class private golf course into a world-class private golf course, for dues-paying village residents only.

A confederation of about eighteen hundred households spread amongst many gated subdivisions, the village has a per-capita income of $100,093, so the usual eminent-domain rationale (appropriating private property for the betterment of the masses) doesn't quite hold. The fight, in fact, has the makings of a modern, haut-bourgeois Robin Hood tale: the rich robbing the richer in the service of universally accessible fairways. A 9 A.M. tee time for every citizen! Putt Free or Die! As North Hills' mayor, Marvin Natiss (handicap 23), said the other day, "I am elected by the village residents, not by the Deepdale members, several of whom are billionaires. As mayor, I represent the citizens of the village and have to do what's in their best interest." There are fifty-one golf courses within fifteen miles of North Hills.

Using the slightly anachronistic means of communication--open letters, conference calls, secretaries, lawsuits--so beloved of captains of industry, the members have mobilized a preemptory campaign of characteristic efficiency and vim.

Ace Greenberg (handicap unknown), the Bear Stearns executive and a Deepdale member: "I was flabbergasted. They're not building an orphanage or a university or anything. We're gonna fight it."

The art dealer Bill Acquavella (handicap 12), the vice-president of Deepdale's board of directors, on the phone from Palm Beach: "Would you ever think they could take your golf course away to make it a public course? …

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