Developers Hope To Build Massive Housing & Retail Center In Heart Of Long Island

BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A massive new housing and retail development in the heart of Long Island could bring a touch of city living to the suburbs, but will the project get final approval?

A magnet for vandals and gangs, the rotting remnants of the once sprawling Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in Brentwood sits vacant, despite being sold to a developer 15 years ago, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported. It occupies hundreds of acres, but what may rise from the rubble? A new concept.

“It’s more or less an entertainment type of community,” developer Jerry Wolkoff said. “It’s probably the best smart growth in the country today.”

It’s called Heartland Town Square, but Wolkoff describes what sounds more like a mini city.

“Restaurants not dependent upon cars, where they can rent cars,” he explained.

The bold project is big: 450 acres, 9,000 housing units, mostly rentals, 4 million square feet of offices and retail, with plazas, courtyards, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and 25,000 permanent jobs. The eyesores would be transformed into a cultural art center.

Could this be just what Long Island needs to stop the exodus of fleeing millennials?

“There’s nothing for them to do and no jobs,” one woman said.

“They want some place like this, where it’s a little city, where they can feel like they’re living in Manhattan, where they can go out, have dinner with their friends and everybody walk home on the hiking trail, like through Central Park. I think it would be wonderful,” Suffolk County resident Michael Capuano said.

But critics, in a last-ditch effort to sway the Islip town board, say it’s the wrong kind of growth and the wrong kind of jobs.

“This is the biggest urbanization project of Long Island,” one man said. “They’re building the wrong stuff.”

“We have been having building, on top of building, on top of building,” a woman added.

“We’re concerned about our water quality, our air quality,” another said. “As well as the overcrowding of highways.”

They’re concerned about the impact not only to Islip but the entire region.

If approved, construction will begin next year. It’s a massive undertaking that will take three decades to complete, Gusoff reported.

The public still has a chance to weigh in on the Town of Islip’s website or at a public hearing set for April 26.

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