Troubled North Amityville corner's future pondered

Three developers who presented plans for 2.7 acres Three developers who presented plans for 2.7 acres of town-owned land at the intersection at a town board meeting Tuesday said they envisioned some sort of "food destination" there, either a grocery store or restaurants, among other proposals. (Feb. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

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Babylon Town officials are considering proposals to build a nonprofit food market, affordable housing or an urgent care medical center at a North Amityville intersection infamous for its open-air drug trade.

Legitimate commerce at Albany Avenue and Great Neck Road -- once known simply as "the corner" -- has not thrived.

At the southwest corner, the Rite-Aid pharmacy that did double duty as a supermarket in the underserved community was boarded up in 2010. A Valero gas station is open on the southeast. On the northeast, the Citibank branch closed in December; a Suffolk County Police Department substation and a child-care center, Marks of Excellence, remain. The empty lot on the northwest corner is occupied by weeds and litter.

Three developers who presented plans for 2.7 acres of town-owned land at the intersection at a town board meeting Tuesday said they envisioned some sort of "food destination" there, either a grocery store or restaurants, among other proposals.

Nonprofit New Millennium, led by Andy Lewter, bishop of the Hollywood Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral in Amityville, would build up to 50 units of multifamily housing and a community food market with an in-house dietitian.

Farmingdale-based Anthony Bartone would build 24 two-bedroom units and an outpost of John's Farms, the Plainview-based grocer.

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Summit Development said it had interest for one corner from national discount stores Dollar Tree and Family Dollar; the developer envisions an urgent care facility for the other corner.

All of the plans would provide tax dollars for Amityville public schools, among Long Island's poorest, and jobs for hamlet residents, who are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as Suffolk County residents overall, according to the 2010 census.

John's Farms would employ about 35 people, the store owner said; Summit Development officials estimated their project would create 68 jobs.

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Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the town board was likely to choose a developer within a month, with heavy reliance on resident input. In a series of town meetings in 2010, residents said they hoped to bring restaurants and a grocery to the area, and add trees, walkways and better lighting to the stark streetscape.

"We need something permanent that's going to work, that the community can have pride in and gives us a little economic stability," said Rosemarie Dearing, a North Amityville resident and former executive director of the North Amityville Community Economic Council, a civic group.

The prospect of jobs and a shored-up tax base excited her more than the housing elements of some developers. Two percent of adults and zero youth identified housing as a priority in 2010. "I was at all those meetings talking about what the community wanted and needed, and I don't know where that came from," Dearing said.

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