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Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

New Life for an Old Lighthouse

Cynthia Lovecchio, Board President

Legend Yacht & Beach Club
Long Island

Cynthia Lovecchio grew up about 68 miles – and several light years – from New York City. On her family’s 120-acre truck farm in South Haven, on eastern Long Island, she drove tractors, laid drainage pipes, and picked the crops of cabbages, peppers, and strawberries. She attended a two-room schoolhouse through sixth grade. There were five students in her class. It may surprise you to know that Cynthia Lovecchio is not a product of the agrarian 19th century. She’s a baby boomer who grew up during the post-World War II years, before eastern Long Island’s farmland was coated with highways, shopping centers, and subdivisions. “Socially, it wasn’t great, but it was almost like being tutored,” Lovecchio says of that two-room schoolhouse. “Growing up like that, you learn to be comfortable with your own company. I know I can always work, and I can always take care of myself.”

Lovecchio, 63, won a scholarship to New York University, becoming the first member of her family to attend college. “Greenwich Village in 1971 during the Vietnam War protests,” she says, “now that was culture shock.” She earned a bachelor of science in nursing, then a master’s degree. After working as a nurse and in health administration, Lovecchio is now vice president of imaging services for Northwell Health Systems, the seventh largest health care system in the country. She’s also president of the five-member board at Legend Yacht & Beach Club (LYBC), a 47-unit homeowners association in Glen Cove, Long Island – a position that has allowed her to draw equally on the lessons of her rural childhood and the experiences of her high-powered professional career.

“In my work I had to learn to be collaborative,” says Lovecchio. “I learned that there’s a thin line between directing people and bullying people. I also learned a lot on my job about construction from contractors and workers. I understand insurance and safety issues, and I understand that if you’re running any organization, you don’t get too close to the vendors. They’re not your friends. You’ve got to be constantly aware that there are other people out there who might bring you more value.”

All that experience came into play when the LYBC board set about restoring one of the property’s jewels. The development is perched above the Long Island Sound, on the site of the Gatsby-era Pembroke mansion. When that French neoclassical behemoth was demolished, the only surviving remnants were the ornate entry gates, the marina bridge, and a 70-foot water tower dressed up to look like a lighthouse. But the tower had fallen into disrepair, and it was badly battered by Hurricane Sandy. Lovecchio and her four fellow board members faced a daunting challenge: repair estimates were around $175,000, but only $71,000 of the insurance settlement was earmarked for the lighthouse.

The reserve fund wasn’t adequate, but the board didn’t give up. The members discovered that a crane would be much cheaper than the proposed scaffolding, and they negotiated a $128,000 price tag from the contractor, E & J Construction. That number was doable, and the job got done on budget and on time.

There have been other major projects since Lovecchio joined the board in 2013, including extensive landscaping, and refurbishing the original entry gates and the marina bridge. Back in 2003, Lovecchio, the mother of two grown daughters, married Dr. John Lovecchio in the LYBC’s boathouse. They’ve lived in a house in the complex ever since. “Our board now is very civil and able to discuss issues,” Lovecchio says. “We don’t always agree, but we get things done. We consider ourselves lucky to have Virginia Manning of Fairfield Properties as our manager. She’s very results-oriented and very conscientious on follow-up.” Lovecchio has seen a lot of changes since her days of picking strawberries and attending a two-room schoolhouse in rural South Haven, where she learned that she can always work and she can always take care of herself. Soon she’ll see another big change – when she retires from her job at Northwell Health Systems at the end of the year. “I’m really looking forward to not having a 24/7 job,” she says. “I have about a million interests – I draw, paint, garden, sew. I volunteer with Planned Parenthood and Earth Justice. I don’t understand how people can get bored.”

And if boredom ever comes, she’ll have her work as board president to chase it away.

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