Legislation clearing the way for Suffolk County to build a Kings Park sewer system passed the State Assembly on Tuesday and awaits Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature.
The Assembly vote followed Senate approval May 30. It puts the end in sight for a years-long effort by civic leaders, business owners and elected officials who said the hamlet’s reliance on septic tanks and cesspools harmed the environment and hamstrung development.
Suffolk County limits “wet uses” such as restaurants, apartments and cafes without sewage hookup, and Smithtown’s redevelopment plan for downtown Kings Park hinges on sewers.
“This might seem like a small piece of legislation to some, but it’s everything for our community, paving the way to clean drinking water, added protections for our environment and vital for downtown revitalization,” Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said in a statement.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, whose administration has pushed a number of sewer projects across the county, said in a statement that “the lack of sewers has prevented growth in too many of our downtowns, but today we came one step closer to unleashing the true economic potential of the Kings Park community.” Construction could start by the middle of next year, a spokesman from his office wrote in an email.
The legislation, carried in the Senate by John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and in the Assembly by Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) and Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), permits the town to transfer to the county a tenth of an acre of land at town parks department headquarters on East Main Street in Kings Park for the county to build a pump station.
In 2017, Cuomo proposed $20 million for Kings Park sewers and $20 million for sewers in downtown Smithtown. Designs for the Kings Park system were drawn up, but required legislation failed to pass last year in Albany.
“It’s a good day for Kings Park,” said Linda Henninger, Kings Park Civic Association president. “The passage of this bill in the Assembly brings our town that much closer to a vibrant and revitalized downtown.”
A spokesman for Cuomo said in an email that the governor "is committed to improving the health of our bays and harbors that are threatened by nitrogen from inadequate wastewater treatment. As for this legislation, we'll review it."
Passage of the legislation came weeks after the release of an Environmental Protection Agency letter saying a Kings Park commercial landlord faced up to $286,586 in penalties for banned large-scale cesspools at his Main Street strip mall. Sewage hookup would allow those cesspools to be closed.
“It’s good for the region, good for the Island and, since we reside above our potable water supply, sewering is essential in making sure we have quality of life going into the future,” Fitzpatrick said. He said that he and his colleagues in the legislature will ask that the bill be put on Cuomo’s desk “as soon as possible.”