Kings Park residents bash Uplands project

The Society of St. Johnland plans to develop The Society of St. Johnland plans to develop a 50 acre site to expand and reposition the St. Johnland Nursing Center into a state-of-the-art CCRC in Kings Park. Photo Credit: Handout

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Kings Park residents last week excoriated a proposed senior housing complex, saying it should be moved to the site of a former state psychiatric hospital.

Of 32 residents who spoke Thursday night at a packed public hearing before the Town of Smithtown board, all but two opposed the St. Johnland Nursing Center's pitch to build the 199-unit Uplands at St. Johnland complex on a wooded, 50-acre parcel on Sunken Meadow Road.

Opponents said they feared the loss of wildlife and said excessive artificial light would destroy nighttime vistas. They also opposed St. Johnland's proposal to set aside a 5-acre parcel on Meadow Road for a leaching field in a planned expansion of a Suffolk County sewage plant.

Some, such as Robert Trotta, of Kings Park, suggested moving the housing project to the nearby site of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, less than a quarter mile east. The hospital property is now Nissequogue River State Park and other state parkland.

"Save that woodlands," Trotta said, referring to the St. Johnland property. "Just move it 200 yards away."

State officials have said St. Johnland had no interest in making a deal to build on the state property, but a St. Johnland attorney, Vincent Trimarco of Smithtown, said talks simply broke down years ago. "We tried to deal with the state of New York, and it just didn't happen," Trimarco said.

The $103.6 million Uplands project would offer 175 apartments and town houses, 24 assisted-living units and skilled-nursing facilities. St. Johnland CEO Mary Jean Weber, in an interview last week, said only three Long Island complexes -- in Greenport, Port Jefferson and Roslyn -- offer a similar combination of independent and assisted-living homes.

Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio questioned details of the proposal, noting units would cost $395,000 to $825,000. "To me, this seems to be all about maximizing profits," he said at the hearing.

Smithtown resident Ernie Krauss defended Uplands, saying it would have little impact on the community. "There's no traffic" at similar facilities, he said. "That's a lot of baloney."

Engineers are to address questions raised at the hearing in a final environmental impact statement, which is expected to take months to complete.

Daniel Karpen, a Huntington naturalist and engineer, sang the Beatles' "Yesterday" as he called for the Uplands site to be added to a state map of freshwater wetlands. The move, he said, would stop the project "dead cold." He then turned to the audience and bowed.

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