An abandoned car dealership along a busy Long Island main street has been transformed into a park preserve, complete with ponds, ducks and wild watermelons.
“I can’t believe it. Where did it come from?” said Patchogue resident Donna Butera.
The four-acre property in East Patchogue was home to a Chevy car dealership for roughly 20 years. It became an eyesore when the dealership closed about six years ago.
The town of Brookhaven then stepped in and purchased the property and, using $3 million in state grants, knocked down the dealership building, ripped out the concrete parking lot and restored the land to its natural state.
“I used to fish for trout here,” said Dr. Michael Ferrigno of Bellport as he walked through the property he visited regularly about 60 years ago.
The Swan River ran through the property then, before it was replaced by a paved parking lot.
"We have a lot of covered gems that we’re trying to polish up and uncover," said Brookhaven’s town supervisor Ed Romaine, who promises to duplicate this restoration around other important watersheds impacted by commercial development.
"Usually, it’s the opposite," said councilman Neil Foley. "Usually, we’re ripping down trees. People think this is great."
Not everyone agrees.
"I think the money could have been better spent," said Marge Gordon of Patchogue. "Who is going to come down and hang out here?"
The park will open officially this weekend but already, people have stopped to sit on its benches and walk on its paths.
"It’s so peaceful," said Donna Butera.
"It’s something we need in our hectic lives," added Michael Ferrigno.