A handful of gracious but decrepit Georgian houses will be demolished starting this month in the second phase of Nissequogue River State Park’s transformation.
“One day, it’s going to be a jewel of a state park,” said Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional director of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “It has the most extraordinary views.”
Many buildings on the site of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, which in its heyday cared for more than 9,000 patients, fell into disrepair after it closed in 1996.
Copper thieves, damage from the wind and rain, and the presence of toxic building materials, including asbestos, give officials little choice but to send in bulldozers instead of repair crews.
The former medical staff’s houses slated for demolition are positioned with their backs to Long Island Sound — and that prized view.
The New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which began taking over the property in 2000, inherited 64 dilapidated buildings, almost all connected by extensive underground steam tunnels, including one 14 feet wide.
All the work needed initially was estimated at $216 million, Horsley said. The new $6.7 million project, which should finish by November, calls for demolishing the tunnels and about seven buildings, though a few can be turned into comfort stations.
A water tower also will be removed because it mars the views of nearby residents, Horsley said.
This is the park’s second demolition project: About $14 million was spent removing as many as 19 buildings and structures.
After the latest project, there will be about $5.75 million left out of the $25 million secured by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).
One of most alarming problems is unsanctioned explorations of the site by teenagers, undeterred by contaminants, broken windows, falling tiles and other dangers.
“No one has been hurt over the past eight years, but it’s a miracle,” said Bryan Erwin, who chairs the Long Island regional parks commission.
Park police have issued 36 summons and arrested two trespassers since Jan. 1, a park official said.