Residents rally at site of abandoned Treehouse Cafe

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Along Sunrise Highway, situated among bustling businesses, stands the Treehouse Cafe, which closed eight years ago. Although it once was the area’s go-to sports bar and restaurant, the brown, wooden exterior now buckles and the inside lies barren. Merrick and Bellmore residents recently rallied for changes to what they described as a blight on the neighborhood.

“It was left in a terrible state,” said Judith Bilello, a nearby Merrick resident who helped gather about 25 people outside the building on May 22. “It’s dilapidated and in disrepair. I’m concerned; it could be dangerous.”

Bilello explained that the building’s owner gave up on the location after permits from the Town of Hempstead, specifically one for a rooftop bar, were not approved. Since then — five or six years ago, she said — the building has been abandoned.

A sign on top of the building advertises the Savoy Tavern in Merrick, with an arrow directing people to its daily brunch and happy hour. The Savoy and the Treehouse have the same owner, who did not respond to calls and emails requesting comments.

Large orange billboards are posted at the front and back of the building, announcing a “notice of public hearing” on June 14, 2017. Others read, “Warning. Unsafe structure. Do not enter,” flanked by Town of Hempstead logos and a message urging the owner to contact the town.

More signs of wear mar the building as well. The doors and windows are boarded up with wooden planks. The paving around the property is cracked, and a mound of gravel and garbage lies untouched. Flags that once hung from the tall light posts are tangled and tattered. And the exterior, lined with wood, has dozens of extruding nails.

Just feet away from the front of the building, thousands of cars pass the site daily on Sunrise.

“It’s a terrible eyesore for the community,” said Susan Blumberg, another resident who helped organize the rally. “I pass it all the time — everyone can see it.”

There is hope for improvement on the horizon, however. The rally caught the attention of Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, who called on the owner to make changes.

“For far too long, this property, once the Treehouse Restaurant, has become a neglected eyesore in the Merrick community,” King Sweeney posted on her Facebook page. “Residents are tired of the debris, and the run-down, possibly unsafe conditions here. Time for the owners to be good neighbors, do the right thing and fix this property!”

Bellmore residents also left comments denouncing the site, some calling it “awful” and others calling a renovation “overdue.”

The effort caught the owner’s attention, according to Susan Trenkle-Pokalsky, a town spokeswoman. “Councilwoman King Sweeney’s social media post on the property prompted the owner’s contractor to come in and meet with the building department and the board of appeals to discuss the next steps,” Trenkle-Pokalsky wrote in a statement.

“Following that conversation,” she continued, “the required supplemental application was filed, and we are confident that this property will once again be a functioning restaurant and no longer a blight on the community.”

Trenkle-Pokalsky could not give specific details about the improvements. Whether the plan includes the two smaller, abandoned buildings on the property was also unclear.

Follow the Bellmore and Merrick Heralds for updates over the summer. Have concerns about the site? Send an email to agarcia@liherald.com.