Demolition of more than a dozen buildings at the old Kings Park Psychiatric Center may start by the end of the month, a state parks official said Wednesday.
An Indiana contractor is expected to begin tearing down structures at the sprawling property between July 30 and Aug. 6, state parks regional director Ronald Foley said in an interview. The contractor, National Salvage & Service Corp., has begun moving equipment onto the site, he said.
National Salvage, which won a $6.4-million contract to raze 15 abandoned buildings, expects to complete the demolition by next spring, Foley said.
The first structure to be torn down will be Building 123, a former kitchen and dining facility near the park's main entrance, north of St. Johnland Road. Other buildings, such as the hospital's morgue, a boathouse, and maintenance and power facilities, are to be torn down later.
The century-old hospital was closed in 1996, as authorities changed their approach to housing the mentally disabled. Four years later, a portion of the 500-acre property became Nissequogue River State Park. The rest of the site is controlled by the state parks department.
The site's future is unclear. State officials have said demolition must begin before they can develop amenities for a park.
National Salvage's contract calls for demolition to be complete by November 2013, but the company believes it can be finished sooner, said Tim Chastain, the company's marketing manager.
Chastain and Foley said crews have begun preliminary work to remove hazardous material such as asbestos and lead paint. Most structures will be dismantled incrementally, rather than blown up.
But in a slight change of plans, a defunct smokestack will be imploded, Foley said, adding that National Salvage believes it is the best way to remove the structure. "They proved that it was a quicker and cleaner way of taking it down . . . as well as safer, too," he said.
A viewing area will be set up for people to watch the implosion which has not been scheduled yet, he said.
Community activists said the long-delayed demolition bodes well for the site's future.
"I'm happy they're finally starting," said Linda Henninger. "It's about time."
Mike Rosato, chairman of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, said many residents had feared the demolition would not happen.
"We have always believed the park has tremendous potential, and we now have taken the first major step to create a wonderful public area for our residents," he said.