A group of Kings Park residents led by civic association and chamber of commerce members is calling for major changes to the hamlet’s downtown to attract a new generation of neighbors and businesses.
Their plan, which could go to town planners for evaluation as early as this week, envisions multimillion-dollar investment from public and private sources. It calls for dense redevelopment to bring shops and a village feel to portions of Main Street, Pulaski and Indian Head roads; as many as 300 town houses and apartments there and in outlying areas; and new parks and public spaces, including a reconfigured Veterans Plaza.
“The bones of the town are really there,” said Tony Tanzi, the chamber of commerce president and a landlord who owns about 35 properties in the area. “We want to create a new identity.”
Similar efforts are underway across Long Island as places like Patchogue, Copiague and Amityville work to attract residents, visitors and commerce. Like them, Kings Park claims its own Long Island Rail Road station, a critical asset for luring the young and carless. Also nearby are the Long Island Sound, a network of greenbelt trails, and Sunken Meadow and Nissequogue State Parks.
The 521-acre Nissequogue is the former site of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, which employed thousands before it closed in 1996. “Pretty much everyone worked there or had a business that provided something there,” Tanzi said. “When it closed, it kind of left a void on Main Street that has not been filled.”
Today, Main Street, or Route 25A, is dominated by low-slung commercial buildings and parking lots, with a vacancy rate of about 25 percent.
“There’s old real estate lying fallow right now,” said Jack O’Connor, a principal with commercial real estate firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.
Consolidating properties and building moderately priced apartments could build a virtuous circle, he said: “You get a walking around situation on weekends. The restaurants that are there expand. You’re providing your own city.”
But the revitalization plan faces hurdles. Chief among them, according to the plan, written by Northport-based nonprofit Vision Long Island, are the need for rezoning to encourage new building and for a full sewer system.
Without it, the plan’s backers say, multistory building and intensive uses like restaurants are likely impossible. The cost: an estimated $18 to $20 million to sewer the entire district. Complete funding is not in place, project backers said, but Smithtown’s 2017 budget includes a $2 million sewer reserve fund. Backers would look to county, state and federal funds for the balance.
Linda Henninger, civic association vice president, said she has a handshake “commitment” from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to help secure funds and that the group will ask for help from State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport).
Representatives for the two did not respond to requests for comment last week.
Planning director David Flynn said he will suggest the town board not adopt any position until another group, the Manhattan-based nonprofit Regional Plan Association, finishes its recommendations for the area. RPA did not respond to a request for comment last week.
Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio has said he will wait for Flynn’s report. He did not comment on the matter at a recent town board meeting where the plan was submitted, and in an interview last week said, “The responsibility for revitalization rests with the property owners, who have not repaired their storefronts or facades in at least the 30 years that I’m here.”