King Park Civic Association members lambasted Smithtown Town Board's attempts to reach out to the state park association to use or obtain a piece of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center for recreational purposes.
Smithtown officials passed a resolution allowing the town attorney John Zollo to reach out to Gov. Cuomo's office to transfer 55 acres of state property of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center to the town's possession for recreational purposes. Supervisor Patrick Vecchio was the only vote against.
"These councilman have been plotting for years to acquire the property to suit their own self-interests in an election year," said Michael Rosato, chairman of KPCA's Nissequogue River State Park Committee.
The 365-plus acres of former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, now under demolition, was transfered to the state parks department on Dec. 29, 2012 under state Sen. John Flanagan, R-Smithtown, becoming the Nissequogue River State Park.
Linda Henninger, president of the Kings Park Neighbors Association, called the town's proposal to request 55-acres for recreational purposes a "land grab" that would take taxes away from Kings Park School District.
"It's astonishing to me after years of fending off one attempted development grab of this land after another, we stand tonight with the architects of another land grab being several of our elected officials," Henninger said.
Sean Lehmann, president of Kings Park Civic Association, said on Jan. 10 the civic group voted to oppose any town effort to acquire 55-acres of land from the state.
However, Creighton rebuffed Rosato's accusations of secretting plotting to obtain the land "an out-and-out lie" and "downright idiotic."
Wehrheim said prior to the 365-plus acres being transfered to state park department, he belived the property was well-suited for potential mixed-use development that would combine residential units alongside commercial business and parks. Yet, he supported Flanagan's move to preserve it as a park.
Residents say the town board should do more to support the full creation of the park. Rosato said he has written letters to federal and state officials asking them to support the creation of a master plan for the Nissequogue River State Park - an effort that councilmen Robert Creighton, Ed Wehrheim and Kevin Malloy he claims haven't gotten behind.
"It's in no one's best interest to piecemeal the property before a master plan, which would guide and provide infrastructure that would be needed to support it," Rosato said.
The Nissequogue River State Park Foundation has offered to put $60,000 towards the creation of a master plan for the new Nissequogue River State Park.
Both Lehmann and Rosato suggested town officials should contact the state about potentially leasing the land for recreational purposes to support the residents' wishes and not take taxes away from their school district.
"We are open to that idea," Wehrheim said. "You are making as if it says it is complete. It's not. We were asking to send a letter to enter into some discussion with the state."
Henninger requested town attorney John Zollo tweak the approved resolution to reflect Smithtown officials would seek a lease, not to acquire the property - a proposal he rejected.
"We would appreciate if you hold off writing that later and write a letter supporting a master plan to gain property for our community through a lease agreement," Rosato said.
Zollo asked the civic association to give the town copies of any letters sent to drum up support for a master plan for the Nissequogue River State Park.