Paddy McGee’s and Coyote Grill in Island Park were once two of the hottest destinations for young professionals gathering with friends for drinks and good food.
Hurricane Sandy and a crackdown on drunken driving changed all that, said John Vitale, the owner of the two popular establishments as well as a new shopping center and catering hall that are adjacent to those properties. So, instead of rebuilding the two restaurant-bars, Vitale wants instead to build two three-story buildings that would house 86 upscale rental units.
His plan calls for 60 two-bedrooms units, with rents starting at $2,600 per month, and 26 one-bedrooms renting for $1,800 and up. Vitale said he sees the apartments as a perfect fit for young professionals and empty-nesters. There would be a pool, a gym in both buildings, a community room and boat slips for residents who want to keep everything from boats to personal watercraft to kayaks on the property. There would also be a shuttle bus in the summer months to take residents to the Long Beach boardwalk.
“I envision this for people who want to live nearby the train and bus lines, who want to walk to a good restaurant or to walk to the village for shopping,” Vitale told the Herald last week, pointing out that the Long Island Rail Road station is directly across Long Beach Road from the site. “That could be a real boon to the village and its storeowners.”
He added, “I’ve been thinking about this since I built the shopping center in 2008. The housing is a better use for the land, what with the shopping center fully open, the Bridgeview [Yacht Club] in full operation as a catering hall and other businesses moving in. The rental housing will benefit Island Park more than reopening the bars.”
The waterfront community has gone through changes, Vitale explained. “Island Park’s reputation was all bars and night clubs,” he said. “That has changed as the world has changed. First of all, the new, tougher DWI rules make it harder to have a couple of drinks and then drive home. Secondly, a large number of the young people that used to populate those bars have left Long Island because they can no longer afford to live here. That drop in the younger population has really impacted bars and restaurants.”
Vitale, who lives in East Atlantic Beach, said that he sees himself more as a business owner in Island Park than a developer, and that he has a continuing stake in the village.
“With the rental units, both the young and the elderly will be able to stay in their community after they move from their parents’ home or when they sell their home to move into smaller quarters,” he said. “Now there’s no place in Island Park for them to go.”
At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, some residents asked for assurances that the development would survive a storm like Sandy. Vitale told them that the project, on Waterview Road and Pettit Place, would conform to new post-storm standards.
“After Sandy, nobody will allow you to build unless the plans call for sustainable concepts such as drainage and protection of utilities,” he said. “These buildings will have all those features.”
Vitale has applied to the Town of Hempstead for a change of zoning from industrial to residential, which he would need for the project. He said that his application was “moving slowly,” but added that despite the rejection of a much larger rental apartment plan in nearby Harbor Isle, he was confident that he would get the approval.
Some business interests in the village support the project. “We were excited to hear about the project and would like to hear more,” said Glenn Ingoglia, the president of the Chamber of Commerce. “We’re very encouraged by what we already heard.
“Rental apartments are vital to any community,” Ingoglia added. “I think that the image of rentals on Long Island is changing with the demographics. I can’t believe that residents would reject young people with money to spend on rentals and in community shops, bars and restaurants.”