The Elusive Legend of Icy Hollow

Long Island Diary
Phil Mintz

    There are about 4,000 place names that have been attached at various times to the multitude of hills and knobs and bluffs and burbs that make up Long Island, but no place, as far as the experts can tell, has ever been given the chilly appellation of Icy Hollow.

    Yet it was there the other night, on the weather map on Cablevision's News 12 Long Island, just over the left ' shoulder of the weathercaster, in a spot that looked suspiciously like the Brookhaven community known as Ridge. Icy Hollow, reporting in at an un-icy 51 degrees.

    It turns out that Icy Hollow a low-lying valley about 1 1/2miles long, which lies between the old RCA property on the west and William Floyd Parkway on the east - was put on the map, so to speak, by a resident and amateur weather observer named Martin Fleischman, who provides the readings to the news station. Fleischman, an assistant principal at William T. Rogers Middle School in Kings Park, said the low-lying valley got its name because it is consistently colder than surrounding areas.

    "We had ice last week," Fleischman, who started relaying the readings a few months ago, said the other day, recounting nighttime lows in the 20s. "We get a lot of radiational cooling," he said. That is the term for the earth's loss of heat to the atmosphere, particularly on clear calm nights.

    Still, there is no Icy Hollow High School, no Icy Hollow Civic Associ­ation, and no children's-size T-shirts that complain "My Grandma and Grandpa Visited Icy Hollow and all I Got Was a Lousy T-Shirt."

    Not only that, Brookhaven Town Historian David Overton had never heard of Icy Hollow; neither had Mike Jones, who was pumping gas the other day at the Mobil station on Middle Country Road in Ridge, nor had the fellow behind the counter at Alfredo's Pizzeria.

    Icy Hollow isn't listed in the "Long Island Gazeteer," a reference work that does include Ice Pond (on the east end of Fishers Island) and another Ice Pond (on the east side of Roosevelt), nor does it show up in Hagstrom's Suffolk County Road Atlas.

     But while Fleischman, who moved to the area five years ago, gets credit for putting the name Icy Hollow before the public, he says he first heard the term from a neighbor, Henry Schlachter, who has lived in the area since 1924.

  "Henry Schlachter coined the phrase Icy Hollow," Fleischman said.
Not quite, said Schlachter, 81, a retired carpenter. He believes his father, also Henry, actually was the first to use the term, and would say it often when the spring and summer nights suddenly turned cool as cold air flooded the small valley.

     My father was the one that originated it," Schlachter, said earlier this week. We used to sit outside and when it got cold, he'd say, 'Here comes Icy Hollow,' so the name stuck. I don't know where he got it."

    As for the unusually chilly temperatures, Schlachter said, "It's the location. We're kind of deep here. It would cool off nights. The cold wave would come in, even in the summer."

    Several members of the Schlachter family who live in the area, just north of Whiskey Road, use the term Icy Hollow. So do" the Fleischmans, of course, and their new next-door neighbors.

    The low-lying area lies between two 'ridges and such an area, according to Brookhaven National Laboratory meteorologist Marty Leach, would fill with cool air when the conditions are right. "The air gets more dense and drains into the valley and continues to cool more and more." At the same time, he said, warmer air replaces the cool air leaving the higher ground.

    Leach said he had never heard of Icy Hollow, either, but said, "Their claims are certainly possible."

   Richard Schlachter, Henry's son, said that in midsummer "you can come here and it's 5 to 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else." In winter, he added, it often snows in Icy Hollow when it is raining elsewhere. "We're down in a hole," he said. "Going south, it goes up maybe 90 feet, north, 35 to 40 feet. Go up the big hill and you feel the hot air hit you."

“The coldest I’ve ever seen here is 26 below – that was in ’61 or ’62,”

Richard Schlachter, 42, who is the head of maintenance at the Suffolk County Farm. Gardening, he. said, is different in Icy Hollow. "We're the first ones to bloom, and the first ones to lose everything."

 Joe Cioffi, the News12 meteorologist who gets the Icy Hollow reports from Fleischman, said, "I've seen some nights where the variation is unbelievable. Marty came in one day, he was a good 16 degrees colder than anybody else." The Fleischmans live across Ridge Road from the Schlachters. On a day earlier this week, in the late afternoon, there was a cool breeze blowing outside the Fleischmans' front door.

    Christine Fleischman said that when she and her husband first moved into the area -- in the summertime - they noticed that it was unusually cool. In fact, she said, they thought their thermometer was broken. "We kept looking at the thermometer," she said. "We said, 'It could not be that cold here.' "

She said that the first night they slept in the house they kept the windows open. In the middle of the night, she said, they broke out the winter blankets. "It was August - I couldn't believe it was so cold."

     Martin Fleischman said the lowest temperature he has recorded in Icy Hollow is 18 degrees below zero. It happened twice, he said, first in the winter of '86 and then in the winter of '87. More common are the late frosts, including one two years ago that occurred on May 13. "Ask me how many times I've planted my garden over," Christine Fleischman says with a smile. “But I get good lettuce here.”


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