End Of An Era

Yesterday, I attended a town meeting that addressed the fate of the Islip Triplex movie theater, which closed down in September 2006 after almost 60 years. It was subsequently purchased by local developer J.J. Nazarro Associates, who plans to raze the historic brick building and put a mixed-use retail center in its place.

However, Islip resident Marcalan Glassberg wants to turn it into a multi-use arts center, incorporating a dinner theater, performing arts center and an art cinema. You can read the background story at the New York Times and Islip Bulletin.

The town meeting was touted as a “Save the Theater,” but judging from the reaction of a good portion of the attendees, the gathering was anything but. Glassberg’s description of the new community arts center was met with both cheers and jeers, and it soon turned into a community circus. Teenagers were outraged that they were losing their beloved movie theater; parents ranted about taxes and overpriced entertainment; another shouted, “Don’t let it turn into another nail salon!”

Although Glassberg’s idea is a great solution to saving the structure, I feel that he’s not going to get the rallying community support he seemed to expect. For one, he did not provide attendees with any strong figures – budgets were guesstimated and no solid plans or renderings were presented.

The teenagers provided the most outcry – ever since the theater shut down, they’ve been practically forced to hang out at Starbucks. It’s a valid concern, since there really isn’t anything else for them to do around here. Oconee Diner is expensive and the Bay Shore Roller Rink also shut down a few years ago. Nevermind that I think it’s more of a generational problem of their not knowing how to amuse themselves, but someone needs to get these kids off the streets.

The overall conclusion is that Islip Triplex is not going to survive as a movie theater, no matter which way you slice it. Patchogue’s movie theater shut down this week, and Sayville’s movie theater is holding on by strings. The teenagers and some adults would not accept that fact. Rumors even say East Islip’s Bayway Arts Center and Bay Shore’s Boulton Center – both community theaters – are also doing poorly, revenue wise.

However, Glassberg’s plan is the only way the theater is somewhat going to be saved. The man behind me kept muttering, “He’s such a politican, he’s such a politican” – so, unfortunately, I don’t think Islip citizens are totally sold on the idea. Lexcie and I had to leave halfway through because it became such a circus (case in point – the man behind me turned from mutters to screams). I wonder what Jim Nazzaro had to say.

It’s sad to see such a legacy go in Islip. I actually think I will shed tears if the building gets knocked down. Okay, I know the theater smelled like piss, but it was memorable piss. Everyone hung out there as teenagers. Everyone knew someone there who could get them in for free.

Bit by bit, Islip as I remember it, is fading away. First, the health food store closed. I worked there for eight years, and everyone in the community shopped there, from the librarian to the Episcopalian pastor. Then, BGS Appliances followed, with the old twins and their crazy eye makeup. Andy’s Pizza. Tang’s. Hutley’s. Scoops. King’s Wok. Gone, gone, gone, gone.

Slowly, the town is beginning to look more… yuppie-ish. Dive bar Hutley’s is now the fancy-schmancy Maxwell’s. Tangs and its 20-odd illegal Chinese workers have paved way for the even fancier-schmancier Gatsby’s. Coyle’s 60 flavors of ice cream have replaces Scoop’s 20. The ratty King’s Wok exterior now shines as Lucky Joy Restaurant. Every other block boasts a nail or hair salon.

What’s next? I’m not sure I want to know anymore.

One Response to “End Of An Era”

  1. kenny says:

    i think its a shame for places like the movie theater, CHADF, kings wok, scoops & BGS to go out of business. its a survival of the fittest. islip doesnt have the curb appeal of sayville or babylon and it seems likes its residents are too lazy to walk, rather than drive over to the mall. i think the first thing that needs to be addressed is the parking situation and the fact that 401 employees take up 9/10 of the parking lot behind starbucks/islip pharm. even the parking lot on smith is completely useless because its so *far* away from main st. Phil N. needs to build a parking garage, and he might be the person to do it.

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