Incumbent Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri is running unopposed. Here’s five questions GreaterPatchogue publisher Michael White had for Pontieri before he enters his fifth term.
Q: Could you describe for me three achievements you’re most proud of during your tenure as mayor?
A: First, attracting young families to move into the village. The average age in Suffolk County is 42 years old, but in the Village of Patchogue it’s 36 years old.
This happens when you improve your parks, recreation center, and pool. You build sidewalks to your downtown and parks for young families to walk on, and provide recreational and cultural programs that these families can walk to.
To make our roads safer the village has paved streets, redirected streets, and put in speed tables to slow down the speed of traffic on our streets.
The easy ones to list are the brick and mortar ones: 750 new residential units downtown, to Artspace/Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center, to the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, to supporting all the fine restaurants on Main Street, thereby giving the downtown an identity as an arts and entertainment distinct.
But when I finish my 25-plus years of service to the village, the single thing I am most proud of, is not buildings, parks or sidewalks, it is how this administration handled the tragic murder of Marcelo Lucero.
This community had every reason to explode, from the racist descriptions of the community, to the constant media coverage. But my constant reminder of that time was from Joselo Lucero, Marcelo’s brother, who stated at an event, ”It is a shame that my brother had to die for us to come together.”
The work we have done since that November day 11 years ago is a measure of who we are as a community: a hardworking, diverse community that accepts all and believes if you reside in the community you are a resident and will be accepted by all.
Q: I believe a logical next step in Patchogue’s redevelopment would be to attract corporate headquarters and high-paying jobs to the village. Let’s stop building these HQ’s along the LIE and get them into our downtowns. Do you agree? And if so, how can this be accomplished?
A: It is critical for the sustainability of the village to move beyond restaurants to a more integrated mix of businesses. I believe the addition of a downtown hotel will start us in that direction, and we have had a number of inquiries. The hotel is important because of the credibility it gives the village as a place to invest. The question is whether we have a location large enough for a building and parking.
Q: What is the biggest issue or problem facing the village right now? What is being done?
A: As all have heard: parking. We will soon have a moratorium in place, we have hired engineers, a parking consultant, flown drones over the parking lots [to identify underutilized areas], worked with Suffolk County and the courts on a possible parking garage on the court property, or the acquisition of property for a large parking lot.
It has been said: ”It is easier to figure out where to put them, than how to get them.”
Well, we now got them, we have to figure out where to put them!
Q: What do you say to reminiscent locals who tell you the current administration is changing the nature village for the worse, physically? We know they’re out there.
A: By becoming, demographically, a younger community things need to change to meet their needs. We are not “old” Patchogue anymore. We are a blend of the old and new to meet the ever-changing needs of the younger community we have become.
Q: Where do you see the village in say 30, 50 years? How can village leadership prevent another downturn such as the one Patchogue experienced in much of the 1980s into the 2000s.
A: If the history of the village is a measure of what we will become, we need only to go back to 1893: to incorporation. The village back then was focused around the river and the bay, from boat building to clamming to industrial uses on the river and work at the lace mill.
It was well on its way to becoming the Hamptons of the time, with over 1,000 hotel rooms in the area. Thirty years later it was becoming the largest and one of the most profitable commercial strips in the site, with a J.C. Penny’s, Woolworth’s , W.T. Grant’s and the iconic Swezey’s and Newin’s and Beehive stores, as well as three theaters.
But 50 years later they were gone, except Swezey’s, and Patchogue began to shut down. Forty years later, we have reinvented ourselves again through the arts, entertainment and restaurants.
The history is important because it tells a story of the vitality of a village that refuses to die. It will be the administrations of the future that will determine the sustainability of the village, and that means meeting the needs of the residential and the business community.
My vision for the village is it having a stable residential housing stock with a vibrant downtown, with a much greater influx of office uses.
With the internet upon us, the ability for businesses to grow independently of large office spaces allows places like Patchogue to grow as well in the business world without the large buildings of today.
Communal office space is the future, where people can leave their homes walk to a communal space to hold meetings, have office equipment available and be part of a working social community.