Downtown Patchogue named among ‘Great Places in America’ in national honor


The revitalization of the once-beleaguered Patchogue Village has become a model of success for struggling downtowns across Suffolk and Nassau counties. Now the bustling village is garnering national attention.

It was just announced by the behemoth American Planning Association that downtown Patchogue was named as one of four Great Neighborhoods on the group’s annual Great Places in America list.

“Patchogue Village is a national example of how innovative planning practices can fundamentally transform a community,” said Kurt Christiansen, the association’s president.

The announcement happened Wednesday in Washington D.C.

Locally, there’s a special celebration planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on East Main Street.

the nomination

Alex Wallach, 30, works in the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning.

And, he’s a proud Patchogue resident, having moved to the Copper Beech townhouses south of Main Street in 2017.

He says he chose downtown Patchogue for a home because of its proximity to the train station, its walkable streets, shops, restaurants and entertainment, as well as its cultural institutions and strong sense of community.

“I really looked at it with an urban planning type of mentality … And this is really is a great place. I felt like it deserved national recognition,” he said.

Wallach is also a board member of the American Planning Association’s New York Metro Chapter, which covers L.I., New York City and the Hudson Valley.

After a process, he and the board submitted an application to the larger association earlier this year in an effort to get downtown Patchogue Village listed as among the Great Neighborhoods in America. Other chapters were doing the same thing across the country.

The NY Metro chapter learned this summer that Patchogue was among the few chosen.

Wallach feels the recognition is important.

“So many people have worked so hard for so long, really making this a great place, and I think it’s great that we honor that and acknowledge and celebrate that nationally,” he said.

on past, present, future

Patchogue’s turnaround took some 20 years.

It faced a very uncertain future in 1996, when The New York Times lamented “the community’s deteriorating fortunes” since it was no longer able to depend on tourism, local industry, or traditional retail — and was in desperate need of a complete economic revitalization.

Eventually, the village and county turned to planning concepts that involved transit-oriented development, investments in local infrastructure and multifamily housing.

The result was a staggering increase in public and private investment.

A 2018 study — outlined here by — projected the estimated $246 million in direct project investment has resulted in an output of over $418 million. (See prior coverage below.)

And with physical results.

Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, who has served in that capacity for the past 16 years, says he still pinches himself over the village’s transformation.

“It amazes me,” he said. “I’ve been here my whole life, during the good times when you had Woolworth, J.C. Penny, Swezey’s … and three movie theaters. Then it went down, sliding really fast in the 80s and 90s.”

The other night, Pontieri said he found himself on East Main Street under the Patchogue Theatre marquee for the sold-out Hispanic Heritage Celebration.

“To see the amount of people on Main Street, the diversity of the community we’ve become, and how we survived the things we’ve survived,” he said. “I do pinch myself. It really is an amazing thing.”

He’s said he’s especially touched by the influx of young families and people like Wallach, who are choosing Patchogue to put down roots.

“You can get to any of our parks on a sidewalk now,” he said. “And to see the number of young mothers with carriages walking down to the parks, it doesn’t get better that.”

In a statement, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called Patchogue’s transformation “nothing short of groundbreaking when you consider how much progress has been achieved in such a short amount of time.”

“This downtown revitalization was made possible by a community driven approach from the ground-up led by Mayor Pontieri,” he said. “Today, Long Island is front and center on the map as we can replicate the success in Patchogue to other communities across the region.”

Bellone also vowed to continue to support the village through transportation investments, all designed to generate additional affordable housing and attract new job opportunities.

The other three Great Neighborhoods chosen by the association were Lee’s Summit in Lee’s Summit, Miss., the Short North Arts District in Columbus, Ohio, and historic downtown Delaware in Delaware, Ohio.

Top: An aerial view of Patchogue’s Main Street during an Alive After Five festival in 2018. (Credit: Benny Migliorino/Benny Migs Photo)

All about the retail scene in Patchogue Village, past and present.