They said he was bat-shit crazy.
That was former Patchogue mayor Steve Keegan’s words, not ours.
Keegan was speaking with GreaterPatchogue Wednesday night from within a packed-out lobby at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. There, the locals were celebrating the theatre’s brand-new, $200,000 video display marquee over East Main Street.
10 photos below by Michael White
This night came some 22 years after Keegan ran a mayoral campaign promising the village would purchase the vacant building and restore it to its former glory.
Yes, they said he was crazy.
“And there were a lot of them,” Keegan recalled. “And they were pretty persistent.”
But he had something they didn’t: faith.
“Believing it could happen,” said Keegan, who was elected in 1996 and by 1998 the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts had been purchased by the village, restored and re-opened to the public.
Wednesday was a night to reflect, but for the hundreds who attended — some believers, some Doubting Thomases, though they might not admit it now — it was also a night to celebrate the village as a whole.
“I use the opening of this theatre as the dividing line of what started the revitalization of Patchogue,” said David Kennedy, the executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce. “Just look at how many restaurants existing before the theatre reopened, and look at how many there are now; that says a lot right there.”
The state-of-the-art, 10-mm LED marquee was made possible in part from a $104,000 Suffolk County grant secured through Legislator Rob Calarco’s office. The additional money came from years of fundraising efforts at the theatre.
Around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Mayor Paul Pontieri led the countdown, where the road was closed so attendees could watch from those LED lights sparkle and dance as video images were displayed for the first time above Main Street.
video courtesy of Benny Migs Photos
“This marquee is going to wake up people that we’re here,” Pontieri told GreaterPatchogue earlier that night. “People who might have walked under the old marquee and maybe didn’t realize who we are and what we are — they’re gonna realize now.”
“A lot of credit has to go to former Mayor Steve Keegan and his administration,” he added. “This doesn’t happen without his vision. And the place is beautiful.”
Though the theatre is owned by the village, which just oversaw a $1 million-plus renovation of its interior last year, it’s run by a nonprofit.
Among the earliest believers was Patchogue resident Christopher Capobianco, now the nonprofit board’s president.
“The marquee is a nice, high-tech addition to a nice old building,” he said. “And from a marketing point of view, it’s going to be hard to drive down Main Street and not notice it.”