Long Island projects that didn't pan out
Long Island might have been a very different place if some of the ideas -- some of them showing foresight and some of them simply crackpot -- suggested for the region by entrepreneurs and government planners over the years had come to fruition.
The Kings Park Psychiatric Center operated on Long Island's North Shore for more than a century, closing its doors for good in 1996. A few buildings were removed and New York has turned some of the land into a state park. But the state's big plan to sell part of the property to developers that would create 1,800 housing units was killed in early 2006. Meanwhile, Building 93, which is pictured here, remains, as it did for all those years when it housed thousands of patients.
LIGHTHOUSE PROJECT, UNIONDALE
Perhaps the most controversial proposal for Long Island in recent history -- with passionate supporters and detractors -- the $3.8-billion project pitched by developer and Islanders owner Charles Wang initially would have included as its centerpiece a 60-story tower, with a beacon and an observation deck. It was scaled down, but still would have had enough retail, commercial and residential space to create a new mini city on 150 acres in the area around a would-be revamped Nassau Coliseum. The plan met its end when the Town of Hempstead in 2010 unveiled a zoning plan for the area that permits far less development and lower building heights. Wang is now moving the Islanders to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn in 2015.
COLISEUM REFERENDUM, UNIONDALE
When the Town of Hempstead put an end to any hopes of Charles Wang’s Lighthouse Project coming to fruition in 2010, the final attempt to save the Islanders came in the form of an Aug. 1, 2011 Nassau County referendum. The proposal, backed by Wang and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, sought to borrow $400 million for a new Coliseum and a minor league ballpark. The proposal was defeated, and Wang announced on Oct. 24, 2012 that the team would move to Brooklyn in 2015 after its current lease ends.
NASCAR TRACK, CALVERTON
Multiple developers have proposed building a NASCAR track on the 2,900-acre old Grumman facility in Calverton now known as Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). Developers included Donald Trump, who pursued the idea back in 1999. NASCAR honchos eventually focused their interest in a Staten Island track that never materialized.
RIVERHEAD RESORTS, CALVERTON
Riverhead Resorts proposed in 2007 to create a complex with an indoor ski slope, water park, hotel and equestrian and conference centers on 755 acres of the old Grumman facility in Calverton now known as Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). The project was approved later that year by the Town of Riverhead. The billion-dollar project died in November 2010 when the town board voted to terminate its contract to sell Riverhead Resorts the land after Riverhead Resorts failed to pay $3.9 million to extend the development contract.
SONIC, EAST MEADOW AND NESCONSET
Long Island’s only Sonic location opened in 2011 in Deer Park, creating traffic problems on Deer Park Road for weeks. Many East Meadow citizens and business owners cited congestion in their opposition when the Deer Park ownership group wanted to open a location at the former Rita's Italian Ice in East Meadow Plaza, near Hempstead Turnpike and East Meadow Avenue. The Hempstead Town Board of Appeals voted 5-0 in March 2012 to deny Sonic's eight variance applications, nixing the project. In November of that year, a 3-2 vote by the Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals killed an attempt by Sonic -- through Valley Stream-based developer Serota Smithtown Llc -- to build a 2,100-square-foot eatery on the southeast corner of Middle Country Road and Alexander Avenue, near Smith Haven Mall. But that decision is now up in the air, as a State Supreme Court judge overturned the Smithtown zoning board decision in April 2014.
THE SOUND BRIDGE, BAYVILLE
Master builder Robert Moses called his 1964 idea a "gossamer thread across the sea," a bridge running from Bayville to Rye in Westchester. The state built the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway north to Syosset and acquired much of the right-of-way up into Oyster Bay Cove, but the project was thwarted when North Shore officials and landowners donated wetlands to become a national wildlife refuge and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller abandoned the project in 1973. While the state said it would cut travel time to New England and reduce Long Island's isolation and shipping costs, opponents said it would generate more traffic than it diverted from existing East River crossings and despoil pristine Oyster Bay and North Shore open space.
TRUMP ON THE OCEAN, WANTAGH
While not on the scale of some projects listed here, Trump on the Ocean, the 38,560-square-foot catering facility Donald Trump planned for the Central Mall boardwalk at Jones Beach, certainly gained its fair share of attention. The plan was finally abandoned as a result of damage caused to the area by superstorm Sandy, officials said.
BROOKHAVEN TOWN CENTER, YAPHANK
First proposed by developer Wilbur Breslin in 1989 as a 1.6-million-square-foot enclosed mall along William Floyd Parkway, just north of the Long Island Expressway, Brookhaven Town Center was scaled down in 1999 and again in 2003. The latter would have created an 850,000-square-foot, open-air complex, which Breslin described as a lifestyle center. That plan has been abandoned for a new mixed-use proposal. This is an aerial view of the site looking west.
LEGACY VILLAGE, YAPHANK
The $400 million project would have included 1,215 housing units, a downtown with sports arenas and a solar industrial park on 255 Suffolk County-owned acres in Yaphank. It was nixed by the Suffolk County Legislature in 2011. The project was dubbed “Levyland” by critics, after former County Executive Steve Levy, its main advocate. Levy, however, said the plan would have provided needed housing and attractions.
OLD PLAINVIEW DEVELOPMENT
In 2003, Charles Wang teamed with developer Scott Rechler and AvalonBay in proposing the Old Plainview development on 166 acres at Old Country and Round Swamp roads. The project would have called for 600 housing units and several hundred thousand square feet of hotel and retail space. Although Wang and his partners insisted that Old Plainview was a smart-growth project, they faced significant community opposition saying it was too big for a residential area. When Wang announced in 2007 at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School that he was withdrawing the proposal, attendees responded with thunderous applause.
RADIO CENTER, SHOREHAM
Shoreham might have become a worldwide communications center if Nikola Tesla was a better businessman. The world-famous scientist envisioned a wireless communications center that would employ 2,500 workers that he called Wardenclyffe. In 1900, with $150,000 from J.P. Morgan, Tesla commissioned architect Stanford White to design and build a lab and radio tower for sending messages to England and ships at sea. But he and Morgan disagreed over the scope of the project and Morgan refused additional funding, so Tesla abandoned the project by 1911. Six years later, the 187-foot radio tower was dynamited, but White's building remains.
NUCLEAR POWER PLANT, SHOREHAM
No abandoned Long Island project tops the Shoreham nuclear power plant in terms of cost or impact. The $5.2-billion-plus plant was scrapped following years of protests and the finding that Long Island couldn't be evacuated in case of a major plant mishap. But while decommissioned and sold to the state for $1 in 1989, the debacle continues to resonate: LIPA ratepayers are still paying more than $2 billion in remaining Shoreham plant costs.
OCEAN PARKWAY EXTENSION, FIRE ISLAND
Master builder Robert Moses wanted Ocean Parkway to extend 17 miles beyond Jones Beach to Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, but that idea died when the Fire Island National Seashore was created in 1964.
BROADWATER ENERGY LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS TERMINAL, LONG ISLAND SOUND
The proposal by Shell Oil and TransCanada for an LNG barge by in the middle of the Long Island Sound was shot down by both New York State and the U.S. Department of Commerce, the latter of which said in 2009 that the plan would be detrimental to the aesthetics of the region and government environmental efforts to protect it.
LONG BEACH HOTEL AND PIER
Long Beach became a major resort in the early 20th-century. State Sen. William H. Reynolds, who had already built the world's largest amusement park in Coney Island, in 1906 purchased 1,128 acres in Long Beach and began construction of the boardwalk, hotels, a casino and bathing pavilion. He also envisioned an entertainment pier stretching out into the ocean like the Steel Pier in Atlantic City that would have included an octagon-shape theater. Reynolds also envisioned a large convention hall adjacent to the pier and planned a $2-million resort hotel that would be 700 feet long and be called the New Long Beach Hotel. It was scheduled to open in 1911 but only the foundation block was laid. Reynolds had trouble finding investors and by 1921 his development project had gone bankrupt.
THE ROCKET, EAST PATCHOGUE AND BELLPORT
A company that owned huge tracts of land in Brookhaven hoped to link developments on the North and South shores with a monorail called the Boynton Bicycle Railway. In 1894, "they actually built two miles of it between East Patchogue and Bellport, and the thing worked,” said Robert MacKay of Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, in 2006. “It ran on a wooden rail on wooden trestles. It had a bullet-shaped 60-foot-long wooden passenger car called 'The Rocket,' which reportedly reached a speed of 60 miles an hour. They took it down about 10 years after they built it,” MacKay said.
NEW VERSAILLES, PORT WASHINGTON
In the early 20th century, a developer proposed building a project called New Versailles, a palace-like retreat for millionaires and their megayachts in Port Washington. The development on Manhasset Bay would have been for residents who met strict membership requirements and would buy one or more of the 2,500 units in a huge high-rise building for $10,000 each.