With a band shell, multiuse path, picnic pavilion and sprawling lawn, Eric Alexander likened the vision for the 20-acre Central Islip park to a mini version of Brooklyn's Prospect Park.
Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, unveiled preliminary plans for the park at a meeting last Thursday night at Central Islip High School. In April, 200 community leaders and residents gathered to brainstorm their dreams for the town-owned lot bordered by Clayton Street, Lowell Avenue and Audwin Drive that still holds crumbling remnants of the long-shuttered Central Islip Psychiatric Center.
"This is a park you own -- you created it," said Islip Supervisor Tom Croci to a crowd of more than 100 at last Thursday's meeting. "When you pass it after it's built, you'll be able to say, 'You know what, I helped build that park.' "
The effort was spearheaded by Councilman Steven Flotteron, and the concept was facilitated by Vision Long Island, but Flotteron says money for the first phase of the park will come from a special $1.2 million fund set aside for Central Islip recreation.
Community leaders, including Scott Martello, a Suffolk County representative for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, noted the unique head start offered by the fund, and suggested leveraging it to raise money through matching grants.
Phase 1, which Flotteron said could start as early as September and cost up to $1.3 million, would include clearing trees, building the multiuse path, seeding the lawns, setting up estate fencing for security, and adding benches and exercise stations.
Phase 2, estimated to cost between $1 million and $1.7 million, would add basketball and volleyball courts, a skate park, playground, restrooms and a concession stand. Phase 3 would incorporate a spray park, band shell, shuffleboard and bocce courts, a pond, picnic tables, the pavilion and barbecue pits, and would cost up to $800,000.
Around the high school little theater Thursday night, site plans mapping out the perfect park, designed by Central Islip kids and adults, hung on the walls. Some were elaborate daydreams of roller coasters and log flume rides, but many showed simple, shaded picnic areas and soccer fields.
Josephine Walsh, a 37-year resident of nearby Magnolia Street, who recently started a neighborhood watch group and is president of the Central Islip Civic Council board of directors, said she hopes the park creates a domino effect of positive activity, including luring in business and boosting the area's reputation, which she said has wavered since she's lived in the area.
"We've been waiting a very, very long time for this park to come to fruition," Walsh said. "I've seen Central Islip with its ups and downs, and we're hoping this is a continued up for Central Islip."