Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, at a news conference Wednesday, talked about plans for the ecology center that is expected to take the place of the boarded-up Violet Cove restaurant in Mastic Beach that is being torn down. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

A demolition crew on Wednesday began tearing down a vacant, weather-beaten Mastic Beach restaurant as Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials announced plans for the ecology center that is expected to take its place.

The teeth of an excavator bit into the boarded-up Violet Cove restaurant, quickly destroying the entrance that had welcomed patrons before the eatery closed more than a decade ago. The county had seized the property for back taxes after it was damaged by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

"Today marks a major milestone in an effort to work with the Mastic Beach community," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told reporters at a news conference, minutes before demolition began. "We say goodbye to a symbol of the past that has memories for many, many people."

It was a symbol many in the shoreline hamlet were happy to be rid of.

The shuttered Violet Cove restaurant in Mastic Beach, seen in 2016.

The shuttered Violet Cove restaurant in Mastic Beach, seen in 2016. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Violet Cove and its predecessor, Capt. Andy's fishing station, sat on a 1.27-acre section of a peninsula that was devastated by Sandy.

But even before the storm, residents and Suffolk and Brookhaven officials had launched plans to revitalize the area as part of larger efforts to boost Mastic Beach and its struggling shopping district.

Maura Spery, former mayor of the disbanded Village of Mastic Beach, said the coastline boasted "baby powder sand" that would be a perfect location for aquatic recreation and conservation programs.

"We all live here because of this unmatched vista," she said. "No one else has that but us."

Bellone said nArchitects of Brooklyn had been chosen by county officials to develop plans for the ecology center. The county has a $1 million state grant to fund design and planning for the project. Bellone did not say when construction would begin.

Officials said tentative plans for the facility called for public walking trails, kayak launches, a boardwalk and dune and marsh restoration projects. They pledged to take steps to stem the area's persistent flooding.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Violet Cove was "an eyesore" that had to be removed.

"We're going to have a different vision and vista," Romaine said. "I truly hope this becomes something the people can enjoy. We don't have enough access to the water."

Walt Meshenberg, 60, said he was born and raised in Mastic Beach and recalled crabbing and fishing in the creek that runs past Violet Cove.

Though he said he had fond memories of the restaurant and Capt. Andy's, he said he was not the least bit nostalgic as he watched it get torn down.

"They're bringing more people back to Mastic Beach," Meshenberg said. "Safety hazard's gone and no one can get hurt."

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