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State: Kings Park Psychiatric Center to ramp up Halloween security

Building 93, at the former Kings Park

Building 93, at the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, as seen in October 2007. As Halloween approaches, the defunct Kings Park Psychiatric Center continues to attract attention from local young adults and draw the ire of nearby residents. Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

As Halloween approaches, the defunct Kings Park Psychiatric Center continues to attract attention from local young adults and draw the ire of nearby residents.

State park police increase their presence at the site every October and will do so again this season.

On Wednesday, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said park police and staff will increase patrols of the center and enforce vehicle restrictions on Kings Park Boulevard starting Friday, Oct. 28, until Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Only vehicles with appropriate reason will be authorized to travel into the center during the period. The agency said the restriction is designed to prevent access to a site potentially hazardous to individuals’ health and safety.

State parks spokesman George Gorman said these patrols typically mean a reduction in trespassing at the abandoned mental hospital.

But that doesn’t always stop teens and young urban explorers from trying, neighbors say.

Ann Battaglia, 77, has lived about a block from the center’s border for 50 years. She said teens, in groups as large as 15, come at all hours and park on neighborhood streets before entering the former hospital’s property through holes in the fence. This week, a group of young teens arrived and then left after a police officer spotted them outside.

“They haven’t bothered us, but they continually park here,” said Battaglia, who added that she and some of her family members worked at the hospital back when it was operational. “It’s just a nuisance. What is so interesting up there?”

Videos and photos from inside the center, with its crumbling, graffiti-covered wards, are prevalent on social media. The Proper People, urban explorers who film and publish their explorations on YouTube, filmed their foray on hospital grounds in an episode published on Oct. 12, drawing nearly 95,000 views.

The hospital, which opened in 1885, has been closed since 1996. Discussions over razing the buildings and putting park space in its place have continued for more than a decade.

Trespassers have caused problems for park officials in the past. One of the center’s buildings caught fire last month, and fire officials deemed the cause to be vandals. In 2012, three teenage boys accidentally locked themselves inside a patient room and had to be rescued.

Gorman said police haven’t seen any more reports than normal in the past few weeks and are continuing to beef up security for Halloween weekend, including increasing patrols and putting up barriers to prevent visitors from driving up at night, when the park is closed.

Mike DeSousa, 74, considers the explorers a nuisance as well. DeSousa, who lives across Boxwood Drive from Battaglia, said he put up a no parking sign in his yard. While visitors seem to respect it, he still finds the sound of car doors closing late at night to be annoying.

The 50-year neighborhood resident has called state park officials and police, and written to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to do something with the center in the past, but the activity continues outside his home. The past couple of weeks have been better, he said, but overall the number of groups arriving has increased in the last few years, he added.

“They’re slamming doors, leaving bottles all over the place,” he said. “At this point in my life, I’m retired. I don’t need this kind of aggravation.”

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