MASTIC BEACH, N.Y. -- Bulldozers brought down a long-crumbling Long Island eyesore on Wednesday, a shuttered waterfront restaurant that was flooded during Superstorm Sandy.
As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the building's destruction is being hailed as a major milestone in the revitalization of a struggling beach community.
It's a place of natural beauty and wildlife on Suffolk County's South Shore.
"It is a hidden gem whose time has come," said Frank Fugarino, president of Pattersquash Creek Civic Association.
But for too long, the hamlet of Mastic Beach has also been a place of blight. Wednesday was hailed as a turning point, as an old waterfront restaurant, Violet Cove, shuttered since 2008, came crashing down, raising residents' hopes for a community transformation.
"It has been my vision for 55 years of my life growing up here that we would be able to enjoy the waterfront," said Robert Miller, vice president of the Mastic Beach Homeowners Association. "We've had hurricanes, Gloria in '85, we had the Superstorm Sandy, and it kind of depleted the area and depleted the people because we lost so many homes during those storms."
"Today, we say goodbye to a symbol of the past," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone added.
The county will combine the Mastic Beach area with nearly 900 other publicly acquired wetland acres to create a waterfront destination.
"We are hoping that it ties into to the entire revitalization of our downtown. We have six miles of parkland waterfront trails. Nobody has that. Mastic Beach is the diamond in the rough that is finally getting the attention that it so deserves," said Maura Sperry of the Mastic Beach Conservancy.
"We look for this to be an amenity not only for our local residents, but to bring visitors here from out of town, to really put us on the map in a positive way," Suffolk County Legislator Jim Mazzarella said.
For years, Mastic Beach was on the map for the wrong reasons. But momentum is building to bring in new life, including sewers to downtown where a developer is creating a master plan for restaurants, retail and new housing along a rebranded Main Street.
The waterfront brings options of an art and ecology center, a network of trails, and a kayak launch. Anything, longtime residents say, is better than what's there currently.
"We will see what's next," one person said.
There will be community meetings by the end of the year to envision what will replace decades of decay.
for more features.