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Settlement allows DEC to build headquarters in Nissequogue park

A lawsuit settlement allows construction of a DEC

A lawsuit settlement allows construction of a DEC headquarters at Nissequogue River State Park to continue. Credit: Barry Sloan

A foundation dedicated to improving Nissequogue River State Park and New York State have settled the foundation’s lawsuit over construction of a Department of Environmental Conservation headquarters there.

State officials and the foundation’s president confirmed the settlement, which permits work on the DEC’s Marine Resources Headquarters to continue.

The settlement also calls for the state to prepare a master plan for the park that would cover demolition of some former Kings Park Psychiatric Center buildings and two possible additions to the park, one of them the 80-acre parcel owned by St. Johnland Nursing Center. The planning process will start within 90 days after COVID emergency measures end in state parks or in Suffolk County. 

Nissequogue River State Park Foundation president John McQuaid filed a suit last year in Suffolk County Supreme Court demanding a detailed environmental impact study for the project and arguing that parkland for the construction site had been improperly conveyed to the DEC without necessary authorization from state legislators. 

McQuaid, in an interview last week, said the settlement had maintained the legal precedent for that transfer, known as parkland alienation. While the headquarters site on parkland near the Nissequogue River and Long Island Sound “wasn’t our first choice,” he said, “we understand there was support for it from the community” and are satisfied with plans to shield the building from view with indigenous plantings. 

In a joint statement from DEC and the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, officials said they were “pleased with the outcome of the recent court proceedings.” The headquarters will “provide critical scientific and stewardship resources to New Yorkers across the state,” they said. 

Mario Mattera, business agent for Plumbers Local Union 200 and a candidate to succeed State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), estimated the project would provide 300 construction jobs in addition to full-time positions for DEC staffers when the facility opens. 

“These are local jobs for local people,” he said. “It’s a beautiful property — it just needs to be planned properly.” 

Kings Park Civic Association president Linda Henninger, who also supports the project, said the master plan and the DEC facility would benefit the hamlet. “We’re finally starting to see some really positive movement on this park,” she said. “These are things the community has been hoping for for a long time.”

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