sunset at Robert Moses Beach in October 2000
The Deer Park of our youth was something special and unique. Many of us remember those days like they were yesterday and find it
hard to believe all those years have passed since we left those sacred grounds one at a time to go out and face the real
world on our own. We used to see friends every day. Then college or work slowly started to pull us in new directions, and
we started to see everyone less often. Many of us moved more than once, settling in other states. As we took on more and more
adult responsibilities, we all had less time to hang out. As the years went by, a lot of us lost touch with our old friends.
Time seems to have passed in a flash. Remember when summers seemed to last forever! What happened to all that, and us?
Thankfully the web has provided us with some opportunities to reconnect, if only once in a while, with our past. Things like
cruising aimlessly up and down Deer Park Ave, grabbing a few cold ones, spending our hot summer days at Robert Moses,
Gilgo or Cedar beach and going into bars such as the OBI, Cheers, Colonial Pub, Hammerheads, Reflections, Kozy Kabin, and Finish Line (all gone) and
The Nite Owl and Uneeda Rest (still there) at night. Hanging out on moonlit beaches with bonfires going till dawn, sleeping
late and never worrying too much about adult responsibilities. We were not going to live life like our parents did...
or so we thought!
A lot of things have changed since those glory days. Many of the businesses are gone or changed, some local landmarks are
gone, and several have moved around. A lot of the shopping centers recieved facelifts and new stores.
And yet some things remain relatively unchanged. The schools look better now, they landscaped and refaced most of the
exteriors. And although Deer Park is one of the most densely populated areas on Long Island, a great effort was successfully
made to preserve about 850 acres of rare Oak Brush plain ecosystem at the Edgewood/Oak brush plains preserve site on Comac
Road, where there are several miles of hiking and biking trails. Free permits are available for hiking, biking, bird watching,
etc. for all of the LI state DEC preserves, and there are never any parking fees. The old mysterious landmark "bridge to nowhere"
on Commack road in Dix Hills was sadly demolished in 2009 but may rebuilt after all since it connects hiking and bike
trails leading from Otsego Park to the preserve and could become a vital link in the regional trail system leading to the Motor Parkway trail that will be built in Nassau County.
Another area worthy of preservation and clean up is the brook that runs behind Birchwood field, known as Sampawam's creek. This could be a nice greenbelt if it was managed
right, and could link to the bay. The wetlands running from Gieger Lake to Belmont also have great potential.
There is little land left for residential or commercial development. The old Deer Park racetrack has been developed into
homes. Remember the Deer Park airport? The movie theatres? How about the nearby drive in movies?
Friendlies? Arby's? The beer distributor? The strawberry picking farms in Dix Hills? All are gone. The LIRR is electrified
now and the Deer Park station was moved east to the Brentwood border. There is a 24 hour golf course adjacent to it. AIL
merged with EDO and later closed the Deer Park plant. It was subsequently demolished to make way for ... you guessed it another (Tanger)
mall which opened in OCTOBER 2008. At least they had a great free concert with Cheap Trick and playing for an hour. A Home Depot,
Stop and Shop, and a Kohls opened a few years earlier at the same spot. Park Place (formerly DK's) closed and was replaced by a bank.
A Strohemann's bakery distribution center was built behind the new TANGER site facility on the old AIL ballfields. Another big
and brand new shopping center has risen from the ruins of the OTB/Finish Line center and some stores opened in 2009.
On Deer Park Ave., Meyer's Drugstore has been replaced by a Walgreens. The bike shop went out of business. St Cyril's Church
was expanded, Nathan's replaced Arby's, Sizzler became a Boston Market, Jack's became a Checkers. The Taco Bell near the
high school was recently torn down, only to be replaced with a bigger, better Taco bell. The Suffolk Jewish Center on the
west side was sold and is now an evangelical Gospel church of some sort. Memorial-Sloan Kettering hospital opened a new
outpatient facility on Comac road just north of the Comac multiplex theatres. Waldbaums and all the old stores next to it
were knocked down and rebuilt-expanded. Expo closed up in Commack but not soon enough for another new center including a Home Depot and Wal Mart
opened nearby on Crooked Hill Road/
The DP public pools were rebuilt a few years back and actually look smaller. The Deer Park Fire dept. now has a
substation, training facility and really nice soccer and baseball fields at Comac and Nicoll's Rd in what used to be a highway yard.
The DP bowling alley was renovated and looks great. Belmont Lake is still a great place for a bike ride, barbeque, or paddle boat/canoe
trip. Robert Moses, Gilgo and Jones Beaches are still the best anywhere and the water has been clean for the last few years.
The land including the OBI was purchased by Suffolk county in a complicated deal allowing the former owners to make a nice
profit. The south bound causeway bridge was completely rebuilt recently, and the northbound side only patched up for now.
When the next major overhaul takes place in a few years, it should have a bike and walking path added at least as far south
as the ocean parkway. If you have not been to the beaches and parks in a while, make sure to visit them soon. The NY empire
pass is still a good deal for frequent visitors, $65 gets you in all year to any state park or beach as often as you wish.
Other new things on LI include a new minor league baseball team, the LI Ducks, who play at a new stadium in Central Islip
near NY Institute Of Technology, and another minor league team at Coney Island called the Cyclones began playing to a
packed house at the new Keyspan park stadium. A huge new 11 floor Federal court complex also opened in Islip. An aquarium
opened in downtown Riverhead and another is planned for Bayshore or perhaps Pilgrim. The historic Fire Island Light was
re-lit and completely renovated. Fairchild Republic is gone, replaced by a mall. But Republic airport is doing well,
as is Islip, where Southwest is now the main airline. Grumman is really small now, it's sad because they built not only the
A-6 and F-14 but also the lunar excursion modules which landed on the moon, the wings for the space shuttle and parts of
the Boeing 747. Most of their plants are gone forever, sold for industrial and office development.
An aviation museum is being developed at Mitchell Field. Gardiner Manor mall in Bay shore was demolished, and replaced by
a Target, a bookstore, and Stern's (formerly Gertz) was taken down and replaced by a Lowes. "Outlet malls" and "Big Box"
retail stores are popping up everywhere. But the overall economy is no longer booming on LI and real estate prices are slipping nationwide.
Nissequoque River State Park opened in Kings Park, and was expanded to include all of the old Kings Park Psychiatric center,
But no one knows the eventual outcome of that transfer, since the costs of figuring out what to do with all the old buildings
have not been determined but would likely exceed $130 million. The Paumanouk hiking trail is now continuous from Rocky Point to
Southhampton, where it disappears for a bit, and reappears at the border of East Hampton all the way to Montauk Pt.
We finally are getting some new bike trails on land owned by NYSDOT that was originally aquired for the Bethpage State
parkway extension. Another one will run along the Ocean Parkway and over the northbound twin causeway bridge. (see the map
on the DP weather page).The Wantagh parkway trail will be rebuilt and hopefully be linked to a new trail along the old LI
Motor parkway in Nassau, it's already being planned within Bethpage state park. A new trail now connects the Fire Island
Lighthouse to Field 5 at Robert Moses, and the rebuilt southbound causeway bridge is open. A new proposal calls for Rt 347
to be redeveloped, with 3 lanes, a few new bridges and a bike path.
Over 38,000 acres of the Pine Barrens have now been acquired by Suffolk County and New York State, protecting the
globally rare ecosystem. The forests are recovering well from the big fires of 1995. You can still get far away enough
from developed areas while hiking or biking to where it is totally silent. Another new state
park, known as Shadmoor, opened in the Montauk dunes, near Camp Hero, which incidently is REALLY cool and is also open
to the public. You can also take a tour at Montauk Point to see the seals during the winter and early spring. Call
631-668-3781 for details. There is another almost secret state park known as Jamesport State park... ask me for details on how
to find this one. Anyone even remotely interested in supporting any of the bikepath projects should visit the
The LI Motorparkway site for more info and let local
leaders know of your support!
NYPA recently built a 44 MW power station near Pilgrim hospital. LIPA later added ANOTHER powerplant adjacent to it
that would brought the total output up to about 120 MW. They avoided an environmental impact statement by building 3
small plants instead of one large one. Heartland is slowly progressing on it's proposed major redevelopment of Pilgrim.
There is also a very poorly thought out NYDOT plan to build a trucking and rail transfer facility at Pilgrim too.
This could cause more pollution, noise, and traffic around Deer Park and Dix Hills as well as Brentwood. I was successful
in stopping a new access road from the proposed site to Commack road right through the Edgewood preserve. But the overall fight to kill the project still goes on.
The booming housing market on LI has slowed a bit now, but so have purchases of open space... still the threat of paving
over woodlands and farms exists. This is especially true on the east end of LI. Many farming and heavily wooded areas have homes
being built even now in spite of the decline in the market.
BE SURE TO VISIT THE DP FALCONS SITE created by Christa for more information and news!