A demolition crew on Tuesday morning began tearing down an abandoned Kmart store, ending a 10-year battle by Middle Island residents and Brookhaven Town officials to rid the community of the hulking eyesore.
Officials and some residents stood in frigid temperatures to watch workers using an excavator tear apart the building at 1075 Middle Country Rd.
The body of a 26-year-old man had been found in a wooded area at the site on Saturday. The discovery of the gunshot victim, identified as Alexander P. Incorvia, was the latest example of problems at the 75-acre property, which has been empty since Kmart closed about 10 years ago. Residents previously have complained about squatters and suspected drug use at the site, and town officials have issued about two dozen citations for code violations.
“After 10 years of that sitting empty, it was just a haven for drug addicts and folks that should not be there. There was graffiti,” Town Councilman Michael Loguercio Jr. said in a telephone interview. “It was very, very dangerous. There were multiple hazards within the building. It was a danger to not only the squatters and people who enter the building, but all the firefighters who went in there to put out fires started by the people who were in there trying to keep warm.”
Garden City developer Wilbur Breslin, who owns the shuttered store, has not announced plans for the site. He did not return a call seeking comment.
Town officials had threatened to raze the structure unless Breslin agreed to demolish it. The town had scheduled a public hearing Thursday night on the demolition plans but said the hearing would be canceled if Breslin began tearing down the building.
Breslin agreed to hire his own demolition crew, which began working at the site on Tuesday, officials said.
Middle Island Civic Association President Gail Lynch-Bailey said she was “very thrilled” by the demolition, adding she has not heard from Breslin in “months and months and months” about his plans. She said many residents support uses such as ball fields, boutique shops and restaurants, noting the site overlooks scenic Artists Lake.
“Now what’s going to go there is a big question,” Lynch-Bailey said. “We’re hoping to get something like a field of dreams over there.”
A woman walking her dog on a wooded path behind the store discovered Incorvia’s body. Police have made no arrests in Incorvia’s death.
“That was everybody’s worst nightmare revealed,” Lynch-Bailey said, adding the incident has spurred calls to create a Neighborhood Watch program. “It’s frustrating for the law-abiding residents who live there.”