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Paul Pontieri, Mayor of Patchogue
September 21, 2012 @ 12:00 am EDT
Our speaker was Mayor Paul Pontieri of Patchogue
“I’m a mayor that likes to say yes, when people approach me with ideas to develop the assets of the village.” That was the essence of this morning’s talk by Mayor Paul Pontieri of Patchogue. By being open to new ideas there has been much development in the village.
Patchogue is an old village with many business establishments dating back to the turn of the last century. The changing times left Patchogue with old derelict hotels when the railroad was extended east. There was a large textile mill on the west end of town that was abandoned years ago and was an eyesore. When Pontieri began his first term the vacancy rate of the retail establishments were about 35%. There was very little activity on the street.
Patchogue needed a sense of community, a place where people want to be for entertainment, dining and shopping.
What was needed according to the mayor was the rebuilding of a community. An old vaudeville theater in the heart of town had been used as a movie theater and was in poor condition. A suggestion to knock it down was rejected, and instead it was fully restored into a state of the art theater for live performances. The theater is booked for shows about 200 nights per year and is profitable.
Fortunately the village had previously built a sewer system that was geared to handle 800,000 gallons per day. A capacity that allowed new structures and restoration of the village. The village still has a lot of excess capacity.
By using funds that were made available through congressman Tim Bishop( about $1.5 million) and the then County executive Steve Levy (who happened to be in the room) the village moved forward on many fronts. Residential housing, retail space, the theater, were all part of the grand vision that is now Patchogue. Rental dwellings are in short supply on Long Island, and affordable rental property for residential use is essential for the housing of a young population. Now 50% of the housing in Patchogue is rental. I believe it is about 17% for the rest of Long Island. Paul told us that Suffolk County had about $15 million for use in the downtown areas. Patchogue got about half of it. Levy volunteered “ He got it because he asked.” Another contibution for lighting came from Caithness Power, about $½ million.
Density is not a problem, it’s an asset. Density gives a village a pulse, but it must be well planned and have the infrastructure to support it.
When asked about the school taxes and the objections raised by school boards he told us that the added value gave the village the needed tax money to address the increased needs for services.
During the Q&A someone asked what advice he would give to other mayors, Pontieri said spend the money quickly before it goes away and take a lot of pictures for the press with the person who helped you get it.