An abandoned Middle Island department store that has drawn complaints from neighbors and code violation citations from Brookhaven Town officials is expected to be demolished by its owner.
Crews hired by Garden City-based developer Wilbur Breslin are expected to begin tearing down the vacant Kmart store on Middle Country Road as soon as Monday, officials said. Town officials had threatened to raze the building if Breslin did not do so.
Breslin’s plans for the 75-acre site are unknown, but town officials and Middle Island residents said they’re just glad the deteriorating building finally will get torn down.
Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, called the shuttered store a “big hulking monstrosity” and “the biggest parcel of blight” in the middle-class community.
“It’s sad when you’re excited about something being demolished,” Lynch-Bailey said. “But we’re excited about something being demolished.”
Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said Breslin had obtained demolition permits and agreed to tear down the store by May 31. An April 7 public hearing on the town’s demolition plans may be canceled if Breslin has begun razing the building by then, Eaderesto said.
A spokeswoman for Breslin confirmed on Friday that demolition would begin Monday. She declined to comment further.
The building has been unoccupied since the Kmart closed about a decade ago. Breslin had offered several plans to rebuild the property, but none materialized. Meanwhile, grass grew through cracks in the parking lot pavement and residents worried about squatters.
“Homeless people live in the back,” Lynch-Bailey said. “It’s covered with graffiti.”
Town officials have issued “20-some-odd” summonses for code violations, such as failure to maintain the property, Eaderesto said.
“It’s never secured,” she said. “No matter how many times it’s boarded up, it’s always broken into.”
An inspection last fall by town consultants Cashin, Spinelli and Ferretti of Hauppauge found that the store posed a health and safety hazard and recommended the building be torn down, Brookhaven officials said.
Town officials said they would charge Breslin for the costs of demolition and debris disposal if town crews tear down the building.
In a statement, Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the Kmart property “has been a blight in Middle Island for too many years.”
“We have been working hard to rid our community of abandoned, unsafe houses and commercial properties all over the town, and removing this one will have a huge impact on the quality of life in the community,” Romaine said.
Lynch-Bailey said residents had supported Breslin’s development plans for the site, which included stores, restaurants and ball fields. But she said Breslin had told them he could not find major retail chains interested in opening stores there.
Civic leaders even tried to convince retailers to move to the site, but to no avail, Lynch-Bailey said.
“We’re optimistic once it comes down, there’ll be someone interested in building something there,” she said.
TIMELINE OF CLOSED KMART
About 2006: Kmart store closes.
August 2010: Developer Wilbur Breslin proposes redevelopment of site as pedestrian-friendly shopping center to be called Artist’s Lake Plaza. The plaza is never constructed.
Oct. 30, 2015: Consultants hired by Brookhaven Town inspect the site. They determine the closed store is a health and safety hazard and recommend it be torn down.
Feb. 25: Brookhaven Town Board schedules April 7 public hearing on plans to demolish building.