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CVS eyes site of W. Islip's La Grange Inn

After being closed for two years, CVS Pharmacy

After being closed for two years, CVS Pharmacy has made an application to the Town of Islip to rezone the La Grange property to construct a new CVS. (Nov. 13 2012) Credit: Johnny Milano

Once the site of Thanksgiving dinners, Sweet 16 and first Communion parties, the La Grange Inn hosted celebrations for generations of Long Islanders.

Now, the historic catering hall cowers on its corner at Montauk Highway and Higbie Lane in West Islip -- its white facade graying, its shrubbery overgrown, plywood covering its bank of windows.

Closed since last year -- financial issues have long dogged what some consider a crown jewel of the community -- the owner is plotting a new future for the site.

The Connecticut-based First Hartford Realty Corp. has applied for a zoning change that would allow CVS to erect a 24-hour drugstore with a drive-thru pharmacy. The planning board is scheduled to hear from the realty group and nearby residents Wednesday night, in the first of a series of public meetings on the proposal. First Hartford officials could not be reached for comment, and a spokesman for CVS said the company would "wait until after the hearing before making any comments."

Residents, who successfully opposed a proposal for a drugstore at the site in 2008, have mobilized against the plan. Though residents do not want the inn as it is, they are loath to see a 24-hour store in its place.

Antonio Formica, who lives next to the property, said the plan gives "no consideration to the residents," whose concerns include increased traffic, noise and crime. "We're deeply concerned about what it will mean for the quality-of-life of residents," he said.

The inn closed in January 2011, citing financial trouble. People who had planned events there were left without a venue, and only some received refunds.

Under the proposal, most of the inn's additions would be demolished to make way for a roughly 13,000-square-foot building on the site's western end, said Dave Genaway, the town's planning commissioner. The original structure, which dates to 1750, would be moved to the northeast side of the property.

"We like to see historic structures saved and maintained and . . . "there may be an opportunity to achieve both here," Genaway said.

The proposal has piqued the interest of historians and preservationists. Peter Fox Cohalan, retired State Supreme Court justice and the Suffolk County historian, said the inn was named for the estate of The Marquis de La Fayette, a French aristocrat and American Revolutionary War Army general who visited in 1824. "My concern would be that they preserve that portion of the inn that La Fayette visited," he said. "He was that famous and that important. He's a major figure in American history."

Alexandra Wolfe, an official at the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, said the proposal could be a plus, but it would "require thoughtfulness in the design of the CVS."

Ellen Green, who can see the inn from her backyard, said, "It can't continue the way it is."

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