East Patchogue and neighboring Patchogue Village have shared their fortunes in good times and bad.
After thriving in the 1960s and 1970s, both communities saw downtown movie theaters close in the 1980s, a harbinger of empty storefronts and boarded-up windows for the next two decades.
Today, both are in the midst of rebirths. But while Patchogue bustles with new restaurants and apartments, East Patchogue's turnaround has been less dramatic.
That could start to change soon, as Brookhaven Town rolls out a new plan aimed at revitalizing the hamlet by encouraging development of new commercial and residential buildings on a quarter-mile stretch of East Main Street. Supporters say the effort is a long overdue attempt to build on Patchogue's success and bring new life to East Patchogue.
"We’re outside of the village," said John Quatrale, a board member of civic group Focus East Patchogue. "It’s great, all the things that have happened in the village, but for years we’ve known we have to get things started in East Patchogue. Really, you need to bring in people.”
The centerpiece of the town's plan is an "incentive overlay district" — a planning tool that superimposes a set of development objectives over existing zoning codes. The district, if approved by the town board, would nudge developers to build ground-level stores and upper-level apartments on East Main Street, currently a strip of small businesses with few homes of any kind.
The town board has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the plan next Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville.
Though modeled on Patchogue's successful blend of retail and residential development, officials say the East Patchogue project would be on a smaller scale. Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley said the goal is to "almost reinvent" East Patchogue, while avoiding pitfalls such as traffic congestion.
"You want development, but you also want smart growth,” he said.
The plan — crafted in part by former Brookhaven planning commissioner Tullio Bertoli before he retired last month — mirrors elements of a 2019 Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency study that called for quadrupling office space and doubling retail uses.
“That will really set the stage for East Patchogue becoming an extension of the success of the Village of Patchogue,” Suffolk Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said Tuesday, referring to the town plan. “The idea is you bring more people down there in the corridor and you get more business.”
Foley and Quatrale said East Patchogue's turnaround started in 2011, when the town bought the shuttered Plaza Theatre — closed about 25 years earlier — and tore it down. Since then, new and renovated health care facilities and improved roads and street lighting have helped spruce up the downtown, they said.
Already developers have shown interest in the hamlet, Foley said. The town expects to soon announce a buyer for the vacant Plaza Theatre site, as well as proposals from major developers to build apartments and mixed-use projects.
“It’s nice to see the bad stuff come down and see things gets renovated,” Quatrale said.
East Patchogue rising
Brookhaven Town planners are proposing an "incentive overlay district" to encourage new business and residential development in East Patchogue. Here are highlights of the plan:
Location: A quarter-mile stretch of East Main Street from the Patchogue Village border to Grove Street
Retail/commercial: Development of first-floor businesses and refurbishment of existing stores
Residential: Second-story apartments, and multifamily housing.
Blight eradication: Builders would be assessed a fee to help pay for renovations of blighted buildings
Public spaces: Civic plazas and public parking areas would be added.