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Town board's vote pushes East Patchogue development plan forward

John Quatrale, a board member of Focus East

John Quatrale, a board member of Focus East Patchogue, stands on a plot that is part of the plans for East Patchogue's downtown revitalization. Credit: Randee Daddona

A struggling section of East Patchogue could be on the precipice of a major revitalization effort after Brookhaven Town officials approved new zoning rules designed to encourage new businesses and homes.

The town board voted 7-0 on Thursday to approve plans for an incentive overlay district to cover the quarter-mile stretch of East Main Street, from the Patchogue Village line to Grove and Avery avenues. The district loosened some zoning rules to allow development of multifamily housing and other amenities.

The centerpiece of the plan, town officials said, could be a cultural arts center named for the former Plaza movie theater, closed in the 1980s and demolished in 2011.

Brookhaven officials said they would help East Patchogue residents and business owners build on the success of neighboring Patchogue, which experienced a rebirth after encouraging development of new shops and apartments. One group that has advocated for revitalization is Focus East Patchogue.

"We start now, today," Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. "I expect in the next few years to see the transformation of East Patchogue."

The plan calls for a more walkable downtown, with multifamily housing, first-floor shops, upper-level apartments, civic plazas and additional parking.

Officials said they were recruiting developers to build or rebuild structures that would give the downtown a fresher appearance. In exchange, developers will be required to pay fees to help purchase land for "community benefits," such as parking lots, officials said.

One of those benefits could be the Plaza Cinema and Media Arts Center, a nonprofit movie theater and theater education facility. Now located in the Artspace apartment house in Patchogue, Plaza is seeking a new, larger home, officials said.

"It's always been a dream of ours," Campbell Dalglish, who cofounded the theater in 2010, said at a public hearing before the board voted. The theater now has one movie screen and hopes to expand to as many as five small screens, he said. "We want to move to the Main Street with the ability to expand."

Plaza board president James McPeak said the theater's move would be "a great thing" and "a needed improvement" for East Patchogue.

The district also received support from Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, a pro-development group. He noted Patchogue had become a model for other struggling Long Island downtowns.

"We believe that now is the time for the same kind of new development and revitalization in East Patchogue," Pally said.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said the district would complement the village, calling East Patchogue its "easterly gateway."

"We are one community," he said.

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