Kings Park's Diamond in the Rough
With its rich heritage, caring residents and strong sense of community, Kings Park is truly one of Long Island's shining jewels. In the heart of this unique hamlet lies the Nissequogue River State Park, formerly the Kings Park Psychiatric Center. This park holds unlimited potential for enriching the lives of all Kings Parkers, Long Islanders and New York State residents. The critical question is when will this outcome be realized?
This parkland not only holds a rich history as the former Kings Park State Hospital, but it also holds an important legislative history. Many may not know but New York State pays taxes on the parkland to the Kings Park School District, nearly 1 million dollars, without a single child attending the school. This little known fact is a boon to the residents of Kings Park.
The clean up and eventual re-development of this park has begun. Senator Flanagan has secured 29 million dollars towards this goal. The phase 1 clean up of this park begins soon.
This November, State Parks released the findings of a remediation study dedicated to the projected cleanup costs of the 368 acres of the southern portion of the park. The costs were estimated at a staggering 215 million dollars. This study was highly publicized in all the papers, even gracing the front page of Newsday.
To many of us in the civics, this maneuver could be viewed as questionable. The study, called the "Cadillac of all studies" by one government official, is flawed and overstated. For example, 11 of the 57 structures on the 368 acres in which the study encompasses are already slated for demolition with funding already secured, yet these estimated costs are included in the highly publicized figure. Additionally, the estimate does not take into consideration the re-use of structures and more cost-feasible ways for cleanup. Moreover, the ultimate cost will be significantly less since the remediation was not even put out for bid.
So where do we go from here? The answer is simple, the state must move forward with a master plan for this park. The potential for this property is limitless, from cultural arts to athletic facilities to museums. The Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, which raises money to support the park has been advocating for such uses. The foundation believes that these goals can be accomplished by establishing public/private partnerships throughout the park. Although the state of the economy is weak and progress may be slower than hoped for, there must be progress nonetheless. The civics will continue to work with our local officials, our local residents and the state to see this jewel reach its ultimate brilliant potential.
The writer, Sean Lehmann, is president of the Kings Park Civic Association.