Opinion: It’s Time For Well Thought Out Action at the Kings Park Psychiatric Facility

A reader shares her opinion on the Kings Park Psychiatric Facility.

For the past 15 years, the grounds of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Facility have lain dormant, sitting sentinel as a reminder of the benevolent spirit of the Kings Park community; a community that was literally built around the hospital and around taking care of some of society’s most vulnerable members.

And so it sits as a reminder of the past.

For over 100 years, Kings Park stretched out its arms and invited all those who needed care to come, and rest and become well. The original facilities, starting with St. Johnland Orphanage, and later the Kings County Asylum, were created as ‘working farms,’ a place where those over-stressed by city life and misunderstood mental conditions could come and recuperate.

They were welcomed.

Even later, when the state took over the hospital and the farms were closed and the hospital drastically turned from its original roots into an ‘institutional’ facility, Kings Park residents cared for their neighbors.

Now it’s time for the state to give back to the residents of Kings Park and all NYS residents. Granted, and to their credit, State representatives did the right thing and truly represented the wishes of the community by making this beautiful waterfront land into a state park.

But we all know it’s only a park in name.

Where’s the creativity? Where’s the plan? A plan centering on hiking, biking, kayaking, recreation?  A plan to make use of salvageable buildings, the fields, the trails, the river and boat access. An initial request for public/private proposals, with committed state clean-up funds guaranteed, would be a good first step.

What about a public/private partnership; inviting in a hotel company (like national park lodges or resort), or a catering company (like at Sunken Meadow), a museum, or a sports company?

There are many financial reasons the state can give for why they haven’t properly taken care of this deteriorating, asbestos and lead filled site. But Long Island parks (including Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Hither Hills, Montauk, and Wildwood) are some of the most profitable parks in the state park system, and contribute huge amounts to Albany. Shouldn’t some of that come back to take care of this park?

The park is a potential liability as it stands. And it’s a shame to see these once-beautiful buildings, some built with ‘New Deal’ money during the height of the depression, crumbling, especially Building 93, the tallest, designed by architect William E. Haugaard.

Certainly pointing a finger of blame at Albany for leaving this mess in our backyard is easy. But there’s more to this.

Truthfully, knocking down all of those buildings would be like knocking down part of the spirit of the community, its foundation and heritage. It’s an emotional issue for many residents, and maybe a small part of the reason progress has stalled. A full-scale demolition of the site would be infuriating. A careful, sensitive, creative plan, with constructive public hearings, is the best idea ….now.


Kristen Matejka

King Pedlar June 01, 2011 at 04:31 AM
Well said, Frank
Frank Mercuri June 01, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Reading Matt's comments leads me to believe he knows little of what is taking place or what took place regarding the parkland. Seems loaded with critisim rather than substance. If it were not for the Civic groups, all of them, pounding the beat to make sure that no harmful developement would ever be put on what is now designated park land. Yes Matt, it is a park and recorded as such. It took the efforts of a hard working individual, a former worker at the hospital,, and president of the Kings Park Civic association for many years, Greg Szurniki, to get this properaty a park. Politicians are a tool. There has to be some trust in someone and there are some we do trust. Many have stories to tell about the KPCC. There is much history there. What better way to assue their legacy than to fight for them to keep this land as an historic site via a park. Civic associations fight for the community not their gain. There is much brought to light via these orgsanizations. If it were not for their work Kings Park would have a different face. There are many good people putting their time and energy in making things right. They could be home sitting in front of the TV set but do not. I have lived in KP for 46 years and got involved fighting a number of issues that affect our community. I worked for the Feds and met a number of politicians. I know when there is sincerity and when there is BS. No one is out there to give votes to anyone. We work for the betterment of the community period.
Frank Mercuri June 01, 2011 at 04:57 PM
There was no arragance cited . If you have "proof" make it public. Based on your last comment, I leave you with this thought, you too are free to say what you wish, call me names whatever, I have thick skin. Adios amigo( go with God my friend).
Sean Lehmann June 01, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Hi Matt. I appreciate you looking for answers to my questions. However, it is not necassary as I already have the answers. You are free to believe what you wish. I will tell you that those involved in pushing for parkland did weigh all options for the former hospital proprty and parkland was the best option for the Kings Park tax base. Those involved do understand that you have had a keen interest in the park property due to your foil request and subsequent issue of an opinion byRobert Freeman back in 2006. Again, I appreciate your original comments. Regards, Sean
Frank Mercuri June 02, 2011 at 03:07 AM
The redevelopement was the study that Smithtown had made. As to Gregs wanting it a park, his motto was "Keep the park in kings Park". You are taking much out of context. I said at the time as I reiterated a number of times at meetings with our park and state representatives that the idea we had was to look at a new park tieing in with Sunken Meadow and the green belt. That is why Bernadette Castro looked at the property and had it desiganated a park with the approval of Pataki who also viewed the property. LAMB had their presentation to the community and it was rejected overwhelmingly and they pulled out. I do not know where you are going or what white horse your riding and deciding what windmill to attack. I know economics so please spare me your platitudes. Any developement there will be park related and a master plan will achieve that end. Our goal is to have this park as one to be proud of for all residents of New York State. I will keep on fighting to achieve that end and trust with help of God to continue to give me health and energy to do whatever I can. All the info you have is the past. If you have something new then share it if not well then.... Again Adios Amigo.


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