The Town of Babylon has approved a vision plan for North Amityville, hoping to bring in new development and stave off an economic downturn in the area.
The plan centers on the intersection of Albany Avenue and Great Neck Road, which is considered North Amityville's downtown and was once one of the most notorious drug trafficking areas in the country.
The vision plan proposes mixed-use buildings with commercial space and housing, a new plaza and a garden. It also includes short-term and long-term solutions, the latter of which includes reconfigurations of buildings and roadways.
The area already has come a long way from its most infamous days. During the 1970s and then with the crack boom of the 1980s, the intersection known as "The Corner" was an open air drug market, with streams of cars coming through while drug pushers and prostitutes hawked their services.
"There was a time when all you heard was gunshots all night," said longtime resident Rosemarie Dearing, 72.
But in the mid-1980s, Dearing and a group of residents joined forces with police and local government to clean up the area and by the late 1990s, "The Corner" lost its vacant lots and instead boasted a Citibank, Rite Aid and Tutor Time. In recent years, the town added colonial street lighting and planters to spruce up the intersection.
Last January, however, Rite Aid shut down several of its stores, including the one in North Amityville. As the economy floundered, residents feared other businesses would flee and the area would once again be vulnerable to nefarious activity. "We were thinking that this could possibly go back to what it was if people start seeing boarded-up stores," Dearing said.
Town Supervisor Steve Bellone said he felt the time was ripe to re-examine development in that area. "It was a good opportunity in this bad economy to step back and do some new planning for moving forward . . . rather than allowing it to slide back," he said.
The town held several community meetings to discuss what residents wanted to see on the corner - respectable businesses, they said - and what they didn't want to see - fast-food restaurants, liquor stores or other places where people could hang out at night.
Dearing and other community members praised the vision plan that grew out of those meetings, saying the project will help keep the area vital. Bellone said that in the coming year the town will begin the redevelopment process by putting out a request for proposals to developers.
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