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Shelter Island Profile: Ed Klaris, when he needs a recharge, he fills up here

Since Ed Klaris was born, his place of retreat and relaxation has been Shelter Island. Life has brought him plenty of excitement to retreat from, and many accomplishments so he surely deserves some rest.

Just last week, he attended opening night of “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” at Lucille Lortel Theatre, starring Aubrey Plaza and Christopher Abbott. Alongside him were Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Cera and Neil Patrick Harris.

But wait, there’s more. Klaris appeared in the Playbill as production counsel for the show, and it opened in the very theater where his father, Harvey Klaris, produced Caryl Churchill’s “Cloud 9,” in 1981. “It had a lot of meaning for me,” Ed said.

Klaris was born and raised in Greenwich Village, where he lives when he’s not on Shelter Island, and although he went to school in the city, he was still the beneficiary of an Island education.

“I took swim classes with Mr. Wroble in the 60s and early 70s, and, over time, slowly made my way off the shore,” Ed remembered. “As you got older you were allowed a little bit further away from the sand. I made it all the way out to actual swimming.” He also attended summer school sessions at the Shelter Island School.

“Growing up we didn’t play golf or belong to the yacht club, but we did play tennis,” he said. “We were original members of Shelter Island Racquet Club at Menantic.”

He cleaned the courts and rode his bike in a constant loop between the tennis courts and his house. When he was 15, he got his first job as a busboy at The Cook, a restaurant in the Heights. 

Since the arrival of his own children, Maya and Ethan, 26 years ago, he’s come to Shelter Island every summer. His sister Lorin is a full-time resident, and his mother Alice spends about half of the year here. When the family convenes, he is the cook, and clams are his specialty. “I go clamming with the family and then it’s chowder or spaghetti with clam sauce,” Ed said. “I also like to barbecue bluefish or striped bass. When we end up with a lot of tomatoes, I make marinara sauce for everyone.”

Ed has worked with his share of celebrities, from being in-house legal counsel at ABC News, to general counsel for The New Yorker, and professor of intellectual property law at the Columbia University Law school. In 2005 he founded KlarisIP, a boutique law firm that is a go-to for intellectual property and media law.

As in-house counsel at ABC he got an early education in the value of schmooze. “One of my responsibilities was to help the news anchors get off jury duty,” he said, adding that his approach was to go in person and talk with Vinnie the clerk.

He learned to ask: How can we make it so Barbara Walters can come down, do her duty and get back to work as quickly as possible? He did the same thing for each and every anchor, and soon many of the recorded messages broadcast to the waiting jury pools were voiced by ABC anchors, including Barbara Walters.

Overall, he’s seen Shelter Island change for the better over the years, for example the renovations of The Pridwin, and The Chequit, and the transformation of Peconic Lodge into the Perlman Center. “I’m so thrilled that the old structures are seeing investment,” he said. 

Ed’s own transformation from tennis to golf motivated him to become a member of Gardiner’s Bay Country Club, where he says the course and the food are great. However, he’s not a proponent of the club’s plans to dramatically increase water usage.

“I love watching the fairways go from green spring to dry summer to green fall. The course changes as the season goes on,” he said “It’s a beautiful course for that reason. I have zero personal interest in a course that doesn’t reflect what is actually happening on the Island.”

Ed said a big part of the Island’s charm for him is its unpretentiousness. “I adore Shelter Island for its lack of a great grocery store. For its simplicity — an escape from New York City living.”

Here, he drives a white ‘67 Mustang, and never worries about parking.

The years-long trend toward bigger and bigger homes troubles him, and the erosion of the water table, especially in Silver Beach, has been sobering.

Ed’s not above emphasizing the Island’s few drawbacks as he tries to keep the place to himself. “I often describe Shelter Island to people as a place full of ticks,” he said, with a smile. “I tell them there is not much to do there, there’s no bridge, and you have to wait for a boat.”

Lightning Round — Ed Klaris

Favorite place on Shelter Island?
The end of Wades Beach when the tide is moving and there is a current into Dickerson Creek.

Favorite place not on Shelter Island?
Greenwich Village.

What exasperates you? Traffic on the LIE.

When was the last time you were afraid? When I saw the NYTimes/Siena poll last week, showing Biden trailing Trump in several key battleground states, that made me scared. Really scared.

Favorite sports/teams? I subscribe to all the Manhattan and Bronx teams — Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, Giants.

What is the best day of the year on Shelter Island? July 4 weekend because there is still a lot of summer to go.

Favorite food?
Shelter Island clams.

Favorite person, living or dead, who is not a member of the family?
Barack Obama.