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The Island Squire dinner theater, once an entertainment destination, comes down

From NEWSDAY   Updated May 12, 2015 11:58 PM
By CARL MACGOWAN  carl.macgowan@newsday.com

The vacant Island Squire restaurant was torn down Tuesday while Middle Island residents sipped champagne and the children of its former owner reminisced about better times at the venue.

The former dinner theater — which had been empty since the final curtain fell about 20 years ago — was demolished after Brookhaven Town officials deemed it unsafe and structurally unsound.

Laurie Wilgenkamp and her brother, Steve, the daughter and son of former owner John Wilgenkamp, joined about two dozen residents who watched the dilapidated structure crumple into a pile of bricks, wood and concrete blocks.

“It’s definitely emotional to see it come down,” Laurie Wilgenkamp, 43, of Mastic Beach, said. She recalled washing dishes there for $20 a night.

“It’s my second family,” she said. “This was the place to be, besides going to the city or Westbury Music Fair.”

“It’s time,” Steve Wilgenkamp, 50, of Islip, said. “It’s time to get rid of the eyesore.”

The Island Squire once was beloved by the community for its New Year’s Eve parties and shows such as “Fiddler on the Roof,” often starring John Wilgenkamp, who performed under the stage name John Wyle. He lives in New Jersey.

But as it deteriorated, the restaurant, on a busy stretch of Middle Country Road, became the object of ire among Middle Island residents, who demanded it be torn down.

Residents shared champagne and served refreshments as Brookhaven workers demolished the crumbling edifice. Town officials and civic leaders used a sledgehammer painted gold to ceremoniously raze the building. “I’m a Middle Island resident, and it’s time to tear this thing down,” Councilwoman Connie Kepert said.

Town officials said they had found signs that the graffiti-covered building had been used as a drug den, and inspectors said the roof had partially collapsed. A family of raccoons was removed shortly before demolition began.

Records show the property is owned by Walmart Real Estate of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart officials said they sold the site in 2003 to CJ Development of Centereach. Attempts to reach CJ Development were unsuccessful. Town officials said CJ Development will be required to pay for the demolition.

It’s unclear what will become of the site.

 ”This is a long time coming,” Middle Island Civic Association president Gail Lynch-Bailey said. “It’s well past time to build something new.”
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Brookhaven Town Photo | Pictured left to right are Middle Island Civic Association President Gail Lynch-Bailey, Supervisor Romaine, Councilwoman Kepert and Councilman Panico.

Middle Island - On Tuesday, May 12 Supervisor Ed Romaine, Councilwoman Connie Kepert and Councilman Dan Panico were joined by local civic leaders and residents to witness the demolition of the long vacant and dilapidated Island Squire Dinner Theatre.

Closed for nearly 20 years, the once popular establishment located on Middle Country Road in Middle Island had deteriorated into a dangerous eyesore in the community.

The Town Board approved the demolition at a public hearing on April 16 in accordance with Chapter 73 of the Town Code, which provides a “fast track” to rid neighborhoods of unsafe structures. The cost of demolition and debris removal is placed as a lien on the tax bill of the property and is paid by the owner – not the taxpayers.

The Town boarded and secured the building on numerous occasions since being vacant, but vandals and squatters still managed to enter and cause more damage to the structure. It has also been the site of illegal drug activity, graffiti and garbage dumping. In addition to other structural issues on the property, the interior roof of the building has collapsed. The property owners have been issued numerous violations over the years and Town engineers declared the building unsafe for occupancy.

“The Island Squire was one of the most notorious vacant structures in the entire Town and its demolition has been a long time in coming,” said Supervisor Romaine. “Thanks to our Law, Building and Waste Management Departments and the persistence of the Middle Island civics and local residents, this eyesore will no longer be a blight on the Middle Island landscape.”

“The site of the old Island Squire, which once hosted shows such as Fiddler on the Roof, closed 20 years ago and this once famous dinner theater has slowly deteriorated and become a blight on the community,” said Councilwoman Kepert. “The property owners have been issued numerous violations over the years for property maintenance violations by the Town’s Waste Management, Building, and Law Departments. Recently, the Town Board was able to declare the structure a health and safety hazard due to the collapse of the roof. I am a Middle Islander, and I say it is time to tear down this terrible eyesore!”

Gail Lynch-Bailey, President of the Middle Island Civic Association said, “Today’s demolition is an important and bittersweet day for Middle Island. The Island Squire hosted thousands of happy events and holds many memories. But its dilapidated state was a terrible blight on our community. With its removal, we can work to revitalize this parcel and improve our Main Street corridor. I am so relieved to finally answer the number one question I’m always asked: ‘When is the old Island Squire coming down?’ It’s today. Thank you, Town of Brookhaven.”

Tom Talbot, Middle Island Civic Association Treasurer said, “I had been told by my family members that this dinner/theatre was once a respectable facility that was known far and wide, and was a proud symbol of Middle Island. Sadly, over the years, the structure deteriorated to the point of no-return. However, I believe that today’s action of demolition will instill a new feeling and bring confidence to the community and demonstrate a commitment that will spark progressive direction in many more areas. Middle Island residents are proud of their community, and from this day on we can look forward with a new energy and purpose.”

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WHAT CAN BE BUILT THERE NOW?

The “Island Squire” property is technically made up of two single and separate parcels, the parcel at the corner (SCTM# 0200 43100 0200 01000) which is 1.59 acres and the skinny narrow piece to the west (SCTM# 0200 43100 0200 012001) which is 2.37 acres. Both parcels are currently zoned A1 as per the MCRLUP (See all pictures attached) which allows for one house per acre. The other potential uses are as follows:

A. Principal Uses:

- One family-dwelling, except that mobile homes shall not be permitted as a principal use

- Churches, place of worship, parish houses

- Convents and monasteries

- Open farming (no storage of manure or odor-or-dust producing substances shall be permitted within 150 feet of any street line. The sale at retail or wholesale of farm, garden or nursery products produced on the premises shall be permitted.

- Public and parochial schools and private schools having a curriculum similar to that ordinarily given in public schools, but not including day-care facilities.

B. Accessory uses, when located on the same lot with a permitted principal use:

-Private garages

- Offices of a physician, lawyer, architect, teacher, or similar professional person residing on the premises (cannot take up more than one-third of the first-floor area)

- Customary home occupations only when conducted by the person residing on the premises

- Fences (there are more specific requirements for this under the A1 code)

-Barnes (that meet specific requirements under the A1 code)

-Other customary accessory uses, structures, and building that are incidental to the principal use

- Accessory Apartments, with approval

-Detached storage sheds (that meet the specific requirements under that A1 code)

-Greenhouses incidental to permitted principal use.

C. Permitted with Special Permit from BZA

- Model Dwellings (that meet the specific requirements under that A1 code)

-Day-care facilities

- A one-family dwelling occupied by more than eight persons living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit though non-related by blood, adoption, marriage, etc.

D. Permitted with Special Permit from Planning Board:

-Colleges and universities (75+ acres required)

-Golf courses (50+ acres required)

-Human cemeteries

-Museum reuse of historic or landmark structures

-Parks, playgrounds, athletic fields

-Private community or recreation center

- Voluntary non-profit ambulance companies

 

It’s coming down!   At the Public Hearing of April 16, the Town of Brookhaven approved the finding of the old Island Squire restaurant as unsafe, warranting its removal.  A 15-day waiting period is required, bringing demo day to sometime around May 1st.
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Town of Brookhaven NY
Resolution
2015-0191

SETTING A PUBLIC HEARING ON THE Determination of premises at 75 Middle Country Rd. Middle Island (sctm# 0200-431.00-02.00, 010.000 and 012.001) To be unsafe as defined by Chapter 73 pursuant to the Engineer report of Cashin Associates, P.C.

Information

Department: Law Sponsors: Councilwoman Constance Kepert
Category: Miscellaneous

Attachments

  1. Printout
  2. Cashin report

Financial Impact

Approx. $69,000 plus Town labor and associated fringe.To be paid from B3640.4960 (Building Division, Demolition of Unsafe Structures) and reimbursed to B3640.31571 (Building Division, Demolition of Unsafe Structures).

Body

WHEREAS, the structure at 75 Middle Country Road, in the Hamlet of  Middle Island has been abandoned and at the request of the Brookhaven Town Building Department, on December 5, 2014, Cashin Associates, P.C. inspected the structure and found a one story building comprised of cement block exterior walls with both wood and metal pan roof sections.  Said wood framed roofing had collapsed into the structure and exposed the interior of the structure to the elements causing the building elements to become dilapidated and decayed and prolonged exposure to the elements represents a health and safety hazard and should be removed, a copy of the findings are attached hereto; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Chapter 73 of the Town Code, the Town is desirous of setting a public hearing to provide for owner or some one of the owner’s executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or any other person, including but not limited to lenders, mortgagees, having a secured or vested or contingent interest in the premises where such building or structure is located, by registered mail, addressed to the last known address, if any, of the owner or some one of the owner’s executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or other person having a vested or contingent interest in same, as shown by the records of the Receiver of Taxes and/or in the office of the County Clerk or County Registrar to be heard; and

WHEREAS, if the Town Board shall find that said building is unsafe, pursuant to  Chapter 73, §73-5, §73-6 and §73-7 the Town Board must make an order directing notice together with the report prepared by Cashin Associates, P.C., to be posted upon the premises, and shall be filed in the office of the Suffolk County Clerk in the same manner as a notice of pendency pursuant to article 65 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, and shall be served upon the owner or some one of the owner’s executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or any other person, including but not limited to lenders, mortgagees, having a secured or vested or contingent interest in the premises where such building or structure is located, addressed to the last known address, if any, of the owner or some one of the owner’s executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or other person having a vested or contingent interest in same, as shown by the records of the Receiver of Taxes and/or in the office of the County Clerk or County Registrar, either personally or by registered mail of the Public Hearing.

WHEREAS, if the Town Board shall find that said building is unsafe, pursuant to  Chapter 73, §73-5 and 73-6 the Town Board must make an order directing notice to be served upon the owner or other persons having an interest in the structure, either personally or by registered mail of the Public Hearing.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Town Board of the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York, that the findings of Cashin Associates P.C.  be released for public comment commencing April 6, 2015 and shall be made available for public inspection at the offices of the Brookhaven Town Clerk; and be it further

RESOLVED, that in accordance with provisions of Chapter 73, a public hearing be held by the Town Board of the Town of Brookhaven, One Independence Hill, Farmingville, NY 11738 on the 16th day of April 2015 at 6:30 PM. at such hearing, the public and the owner or any person having an interest in said building, shall have an opportunity to comment on the Town’s findings; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Town Clerk of the Town of Brookhaven, County of Suffolk, State of New York, is hereby authorized and directed to publish the notice of the time and place of such hearing at least ten (10 ) days in advance of such time in The Long Island Advance, a newspaper, which has a general circulation in said Town; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Town Attorney or her designee is hereby authorized and directed to serve notice together with the report prepared by Cashin Associates, P.C., such notice is to be posted upon the premises, and shall be filed in the office of the Suffolk County Clerk in the same manner as a notice of pendency pursuant to article 65 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, and shall be served upon the owner or some one of the owner’s executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or any other person, including but not limited to lenders, mortgagees, having a secured or vested or contingent interest in the premises where such building or structure is located, addressed to the last known address, if any, of the owner or some one of the owner’s executors, legal representatives, agents, lessees or other person having a vested or contingent interest in same, as shown by the records of the Receiver of Taxes and/or in the office of the County Clerk or County Registrar, either personally or by registered mail of the Public Hearing.

RESOLVED, that this resolution shall take effect immediately.
LEGAL NOTICE

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that pursuant to Town Law, a public hearing will be held by the Town Board of the Town of Brookhaven, at Brookhaven Town Hall, One Independence Hill, Farmingville, NY on the 16th day of April, 2015 at 6:30 pm on the findings of Cashin Associates, P.C. that 75 Middle Country Road, Middle Island, NY, (SCTM# 0200-431.00-02.00-010.000 and 012.001) represents a health and safety hazard and should be removed.

 

DONNA LENT

TOWN CLERK TOWN OF BROOKHAVEN

Dated:  March 12, 2015

Farmingville, New York

 

Delighted to learn that at the March 12th Town Council meeting, the TOB set April 16th as the date certain for a Public Hearing to consider the demolition of the old Island Squire restaurant. This is a required legal step which should result in the long- sought removal of this blighted building. No word yet on any plans for any type of replacement  on the property. Many thanks to our Supervisor, Councilwoman, and the town legal department. Extra special thanks to investigator Robert Ingagliato for his persistence in pursuing those responsible for the parcel — and his extreme patience while dealing with us!

 

At the February 25th Middle Country Road Task Force meeting, Councilwoman Kepert advised that the Squire is indeed slated for demolition later in 2015;  the following week, Supervisor Romaine confirmed this welcome news in his “Coffee with the Supervisor” segment featuring Middle Island Civic Association officers Tom Talbot and Gail Lynch-Bailey.

Given its historic and once glorious past, perhaps no site is sadder than the former Island Squire property on the north side of MCR at Swezeytown Rd in west Middle Island.  Empty for more than  two decades, this blighted parcel is a terrible eyesore.  It cannot become a restaurant again due to more stringent sanitary codes and was upzoned to less intensive use as part of the MCR Land Use Plan.  A school, business office complex or some sort of housing is permissable there.  Some of us thnk the TOB should buy it and build a senior center there, similar to the Rose Carracappa building in Mt Sinai.  But first the delapidated building must come down.  Because of the huge, long-standing graffiti tag on its front,  the TOB may do just  that in 2015.  Current owners have recently been unresponsive and tied up in court over title batttles.  Time to get the sledgehammers and bulldozers on site, Brookhaven!

From Paul Infranco’s Longwood Community News Group post:

As we drive past the decaying Island Squire Inn in Middle Island it is easy to forget the significant role it played in our area. Today’s now and then will focus on the history of that property.

The Hagen general store and hotel was located between Swezey Lane and Swezey-Town Lane, on the north side of Middle Country Road. The general store was built in 1835. By 1860 it was owned and operated by Oscar Swezey. It had a hotel to serve people who were hungry or needed a place to sleep when traveling across Long Island. A fire destroyed the hotel in the early 1900′s. In 1924 it was rebuilt and renamed Hunters Inn. It eventually became known as the Island Squire Restaurant. The building has been empty the last few years and the property is for sale.

The New Hunters Inn was built on the previous site of the Hagen Hotel and general store, which had burnt down. Rebuilt by the Hines family it was conducted as a dining and dancing establishment. It became a gathering place for hunters who after hours of hunting, -tramping miles and miles in chilly and sometimes biting weather, could come and get a substantial hot meal.

 

From Marianne Bickerton
Granddaughter of Charlie Hagen

My great-grandfather was Christian Heinrich Hagen, who owned and operated The Old Homestead in Middle Island from 1902 to 1918. He and his wife, Anna (Bohle) Hagen had formerly lived at 14 Sherman Street in Brooklyn. There in Brooklyn, the couple lost their first three children in the diphtheria epidemic in 1894 & 1897. The three children, August C. Hagen, Henry N. Hagen, and William Hagen were buried in the Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn. During the week little August C. Hagen died, 181 people died of diphtheria, according to the NY Times “Vital Statistics of the City” for the week ended June 10, 1894. Evidently, the epidemics in the tenement houses of NY were terrible. As you may know, another one of their infants, Walter Hagen, was buried in the Union Cemetery, although I was not able to find the grave.
I’m not sure if the epidemics were the reason my German great-grandparents moved out to Long Island, but their next child did live to become my grandfather, Charles John Hagen. He had a strict upbringing out on the farm, and was not allowed to play ball on Sunday. My mother told me that he would find Native American arrowheads in the fields when plowing. My grandpa attended a one-room schoolhouse near his home. He grew up speaking ~‘Hoch Deutsch” or High German, the dialect spoken in Ulm, Germany, where his father was from.