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Bar scene, some complaints come with village’s development

Farmingdale's rezoning in 2011 to encourage transit-oriented development

Farmingdale's rezoning in 2011 to encourage transit-oriented development revived a dying downtown, seen Nov. 4, 2016, but now that growth has generated some complaints from residents. Credit: Daniel Brennan

If it seems like there are more places to sip a glass of wine or throw back a few beers in Farmingdale lately, there’s something to that.

The New York State Liquor Authority has approved more on-premise liquor licenses in ZIP code 11735 — which covers Farmingdale’s downtown — since the beginning of 2016 than it did in the previous eight years combined.

Mike Grello, 55, a Farmingdale native who runs a Facebook page called “Farmingdale NY 11735,” said people forget that the village’s now-thriving bar scene is a throwback to a time before malls killed Main Street.

“In the late ’70s, early ’80s, there were at least 10 bars in the village of Farmingdale,” he said. “Now those bars — that were just strictly alcohol and maybe a hamburger — are restaurant-type pubs.”

Grello, who now lives in West Islip, said the area’s rezoning in 2011 to encourage transit-oriented development revived a dying downtown. Allowing higher density in the downtown area and by the train station has brought new apartments — 196 were completed or in development next to the Long Island Rail Road Station last year — and yet another proposal for a new mixed-use project on Main Street next to the fire station is expected to reach village hall this month.

“Allowing the multiple dwellings has helped,” Grello said. “You can see how vibrant the downtown is — it’s hopping on the weekends.”

But the growth in hot spots has not been without pains or controversy.

Last year, the village board approved a process to license food trucks to operate at night — but prohibited their operation on Main Street after residents raised concerns about late-night drunkenness, parking and safety.

And pub crawls attracting revelers who travel from spot to spot and may purchase a wristband that gives them discounted drinks have also attracted rowdy behavior at times.

On July 22, commenters on Grello’s Farmingdale Facebook page complained about police activity in response to a pub crawl.

Nassau County police confirmed that they had responded to a call that night about someone reportedly getting punched. One individual was taken to a hospital, while three others refused medical assistance, police said.

The excesses could start to hurt the growing downtown scene, Grello said.

“The bar crawls are unnecessary,” Grello said. “Basically, you’re encouraging the excessive drinking. Why is the village allowing them to do it? They obviously don’t need it. The place is packed almost all the time on the weekends.”

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said the village can’t do much about bar crawls.

“We don’t sanction bar crawls,” he said. “They’re all organized by social media. . . . How do you stop something like that?”

Ekstrand said that parking, not bar hopping, is the biggest complaint he regularly hears about.

But incidents like that aside, the mayor said that the village is “doing great.”

Tina Diamond, president of the civic group Concerned Citizens of Farmingdale, said bar crawls weren’t a concern her group was focused on.

“Everybody is very happy with the way Farmingdale is now,” she said.

On-premise liquor licenses OKd for Farmingdale ZIP code 11735

2008: 3

2009: 8

2010: 3

2011: 2

2012: 6

2013: 4

2014: 7

2015: 11

2016: 36

2017 (year to date): 25

Source: New York State Liquor Authority

Note: Some establishments have multiple licenses

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