Friday, March 21, 2008

Out Of Blight, The Promise Of A Revitalized Downtown

If They Can Do It In Patchogue, Why Not Hempstead Town?

The Incorporated Village of Patchogue, in Suffolk County, Town of Brookhaven, is poised to make a great comeback, its blighted downtown and broken Main Street not the vacant talk of revitaliztion -- so familiar to those of us who hail from Nassau County's forgotten South Shore (read as, the Town of Hempstead) -- but rather, the shovel-into-the-dirt kind of action that has brought the forces of village, county, town and private industry together to rebuild, re-energize, and re-create the suburban vision.

One project alone, in the hands and under the moniker of Downtown Patchogue Redevelopers, is "in the process of developing a mixed-use project which will include 250 rental apartment units, 32,000 sf of ground floor retail, 32,000 sf of second floor office and a 100 room limited service hotel."

Patchogue, no stranger to blight, brownfield, and the dismay of a downtown whose best day was thirty years ago, is fast becoming the little village (population, 11,500) that could. And Brookhaven, long associated with political corruption ("Crookhaven") and governmental malaise, is now taking a strident lead in bringing smart growth initiatives to the streets of its villages and hamlets.

They seem to have lost the fear of building vertically, of increasing density, of actually acquiescing to the will of the people (imagine that), demonstrating that a representative government, obliged to do more than offer broad platitudes and broken promises -- the stuff that the Town of Hempstead's faded "artists renderings" and hapless Urban Renewal Plans are made of --can actually accomplish something for the good of the community, and in this lifetime.

As Patchogue has taken the lead, we say that other municipalities, townships, and the county to the west should pull up their bootstraps, round up the wagons, and follow.

This little village along the shores of the Great South Bay is on the rise once again. [Why, it even has its own blog --]

And what they're doing -- and, apparently, doing well -- in Patchogue should serve as impetus for others -- especially those who preside ("govern" would be a misnomer) over America's largest township -- to take heed and, yes, take action.

The road ahead may not always be easy, or, for that matter, smooth, but at least the governed and those who govern have begun the journey. Well, in Patchogue, anyway.

- - -
From the Editorial Page of Newsday:

Solidarity in Patchogue
This unopposed election is a good sign

On the theory that people should have choices at the polls, this page normally frowns on uncontested elections. On Tuesday, however, Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri and the three trustees running on his Patchogue First ticket won re-election without opposition, and we're fine with that.

The reason it doesn't rankle is that Pontieri and his village board have been leading the way as a model for the revitalization of Long Island's downtowns, conquering even the suburban fear of taller structures. Their plans for shops, hotel rooms and residences at the village's main corner, anchored by a building as high as nine stories, would provoke outrage in many parts of Long Island. But Pontieri and the board have presented it so surefootedly that objections are scarce.

Patchogue, like all downtowns, has gone through tough times in the era of the suburban mall. Now it's coming back to life. Villagers like that new sense of optimism so much that no opponents surfaced - a first for Patchogue. The mayor says he actually missed the competition. "Elections require you to look at what you did and to answer to the public about what you're going to do," he says. But this year's election shows that the public knows very well what he's going to do - and approves enthusiastically.

The solidarity probably means that, of all the major proposals of regional significance for mixed-use development and downtown revitalization, the rebirth of Patchogue is likely to be the first to cross the finish line.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

1 comment:

  1. Re: "If They Can Do It In Patchogue, Why Not Hempstead Town?"

    Your article states that Suffolk County government officials "...seem to have lost the fear of building vertically, of increasing density, of actually acquiescing in the will of the people (imagine that)...." Imagine this: the writer of the article is living on another planet! To say that Long Islanders support high-rise development is brazen and disingenuous and is utterly false. There is nothing further from the truth. The writer's assertion is outrageous and stupid! Like so many Long Islanders, I am a transplant from NYC who commutes to Patchogue from his job in Manhattan rather than to live in the outer boroughs of NYC where there are smothering high rise buildings, congestion of people and cars, noise pollution and air pollution. The proposed construction of a 102 ft. tall hotel at Main Street and N. Ocean Avenue in Patchogue Village would create nothing short of an assault on the senses. The various towns and villages that dot the South Shore along Montauk Highway have their appeal in that they invoke a sense of quaintness and tranquility. Buildings taller than 35 feet are definitely out of scale with the character of this region. Tall buildings are obtrusive as well as cold and impersonal. They veil the sky and distant landscape. They block daylight and sunlight. They lack aesthetic appeal except, perhaps, when viewed from afar. (According to the publicized artist's rendering, the subject proposed hotel complex looks imposing and reminds me of a hospital.) Tall buildings dwarf the pedestrian both physically and spiritually. The visage of streets bounded by walls of buildings is no more appealing than that from inside an imagined giant maze. Tall buildings are stark intrusions to our sense of nature's subtle presence, as they suggest an unrealistic significance to our transitory materialistic society as opposed to the much grander scheme of humankind's relationship with nature. I imagine that many Long Islanders share the sensitivities about which I speak, but many people don't appreciate what they have until it is taken away. Perhaps I should state my objection more plainly. The plan for construction of a 102 ft. (9 stories) tall hotel is out of scale with the character of this region! It is precisely this kind of so called "development" prevalent in NYC's outer boroughs from which first generation Long Islanders had run away! The plan must be downscaled to accommodate a maximum height of 35 feet, lest all of the recent improvements made to the Village will have been for naught. Simply put, there is absolutely nothing appealing about facing a wall. And the perception of a wall would, essentially, equate to the psychological effect on pedestrians who are within close proximity to such a tall structure. The structure would disgrace Main Street. It would destroy the area's small town ambiance. The building would create an oppressive walled-in effect and reduce skylight on the street. It would also give undeserved momentum to future high-rise development in the area. Tourists who visit Long Island do so for reasons other than to experience a "city" ambiance. Clearly, Patchogue Village cannot compete with large cities such as Manhattan with regard to cultural amenities, and should not attempt to do so. However, the area has its own unique appeal and Patchogue Village should build upon these strengths. There is a rustic charm to the stretch of landscape through which Montauk Highway winds, and it is the quaintness of the small towns and villages along its path that is their unique appeal. Not too very long ago, Queens County was largely farmland interspersed with small towns and villages. The so called "development" of this borough of NYC in the name of "progress" and "growth" has resulted in what we now see as, for the most part, wall to wall apartment buildings and commercial buildings six stories and taller, population overcrowding, vehicle congestion, noise pollution as well as air particulate pollution. Long Island's present population was largely due to the transplantation of people from NYC's boroughs such as Queens, which had begun in earnest some 40 years ago. These "transplants" chose to sacrifice their borough's close proximity to Manhattan's cultural amenities and, for many, their easy commute to work for Long Island's open space, fresh air and serenity. However, these very qualities for which Long Island is noted are rapidly being eroded away due to overdevelopment. The appeal of this region are all of the things that cities cannot offer, such as open space, fewer people and fresh air, and is the reason city folk visit. Isn't prudent for Patchogue Village to build upon these assets for the benefit of its residents and visitors? Nearby Sayville and Bellport are model towns which Patchogue should emulate, not ugly Queens, Hempstead Village, Rockville Center or Mineola! There would be no incentive for residents from those western regions to visit Patchogue Village if it is perceived as just more of the same thing. Is it job promotions, political quid pro quo, personal wealth or ego that is driving this proposal? Those well salaried Tritec architects plan their destruction of Patchogur Village, collect their profits and then run away -- to their homes which are undoubtedly located in secluded areas where people are few, the air is fresh and the sky is open. I have a proposal; let's construct a 9 stories tall building near their homes and near the homes of all those who are pushing for this monstrosity. After all, "what's good for the goose...."

    Josh, Patchogue Village