Developers have broken ground for Copiague Commons, a $33.5 million, 90-unit affordable apartment project that local officials say will spark a resurgence of the hamlet’s downtown.

“This downtown has the potential to be one of the great downtowns in our region,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said during a ceremony on May 5. “Key to that is affordable housing.”

Apartments in the two four-story buildings planned for the 54 Railroad Ave. site will rent for $1,193 to $1,850. The project is aimed at tenants earning 60 percent to 100 percent of the area median income, which is $106,200 for a family of four.

Developers are building on the former site of a commercial warehouse a short walk from the Copiague Long Island Rail Road station, taking advantage of new Babylon Town zoning for the hamlet’s downtown that permits greater density.

They are gambling that Long Islanders will forgo some of the staples of suburban life, such as lawns and garages, in exchange for a downtown location and quick access to mass transit.

But the neighborhood that abounds in collision repair yards still lacks many retail amenities, save for the Polish delicatessens and bakeries clustered on nearby Great Neck Road.

“Copiague needs an overhauling,” said Sharon Fattoruso, a resident for more than 30 years and president of the Copiague Chamber of Commerce. Young people drawn by affordable housing could in turn bring businesses, restaurants, and maybe a coffee shop, she said.

“This is a great day for Copiague,” she told dozens of elected officials, bankers and developers who had gathered to mark the start of construction. For now, she said later, even her chamber must hold its meetings outside of the hamlet; there’s nowhere in Copiague for it to meet.

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