Councilman: Make former hospital site a park

Building 93 is the tallest structure in the Building 93 is the tallest structure in the Kings Park Psychiatric Center's complex, with 11 floors, a two-story attic, a basement and a sub-basement. Standing just inches shorter, Building 7 is the second highest. (July 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Julie Cappiello

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Dozens of acres around the old south entrance to the shuttered Kings Park Psychiatric Center could be the future site of a Smithtown park, town Councilman Robert Creighton said.

Creighton said he is seeking support from other town officials for a plan to have at least 55 acres -- or more than 10 percent of the former hospital property now controlled by the state parks office -- transferred to Smithtown. He pitched the idea Tuesday at a town board work session.

State park officials and State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said they could not comment on Creighton's proposal.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the town may not have the money for a new park when municipalities must comply with a state cap on tax levy increases.

"Where's the money to pay for these recreational facilities that they're touting?" Vecchio said. "No one has demonstrated need for these kind of athletic facilities. You need to demonstrate that need."

Creighton, a Kings Park resident, said Thursday he envisions baseball, soccer and football fields on land near the intersection of state Route 25A and Kings Park Boulevard. The boulevard had been an entrance to the hospital, which closed in 1996.

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"Most of the people in Kings Park have said that the property should be used for recreational purposes, and that's what we're trying to do," he said.

State parks officials have said they intend to create a master plan recommending uses of the 521-acre property, after dozens of buildings are demolished or renovated. Demolition of 19 structures began last summer, and a second round of demolition is expected this year.

The property's northern 153 acres were made a part of Nissequogue River State Park in 1999; the remaining 368 acres, including the 55 acres eyed by Creighton, are largely closed to the public. He said houses near the south entrance, operated by the state Office of Mental Health for a few dozen patients, will remain.

Creighton has no cost estimate for building the park but said he plans to soon offer a resolution asking the state to transfer the land.

The parcel's flat land and a minimal number of trees, and its proximity to downtown Kings Park, make it ideal for a park, he said.

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"It's big enough for probably three different facilities," he said. "I do believe it fits in with what the majority of the town people have said [they want]. They would like to see recreational facilities on the ground."

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