The former site of Central Islip Psychiatric Center has been...

The former site of Central Islip Psychiatric Center has been transformed with modern apartments that retain the original architecture. Credit: James Carbone

The developers behind a 726-unit apartment complex repurposing buildings from the shuttered state Central Islip Psychiatric Center are prioritizing first responders, with a program that provides a 10% monthly discount on rent during their lease.

They hope the discounts at Belmont at Eastview, combined with rental housing, will help keep “the workforce here on Long Island,” said Russell Mohr, vice president of development for Steel Equities, a project developer in Bethpage. Most tenants at the luxury development so far are between 25 and 45, he said. 

Of 175 apartments at the complex leased since this summer, around 60% have been rented to firefighters, police officers, medical personnel and veterans, Mohr said. 

Town officials and the developers, including The Marcus Organization in Farmingdale, have touted the $300 million project as part of a decades-long push to revitalize the hamlet and provide critically needed housing, including homes for young residents and retirees seeking to downsize.

Employers have cited a lack of affordable housing making it difficult to keep employees and attract new ones on Long Island, and, statewide, most volunteer departments have reported a decline in volunteers in recent years. 

Ten percent of the units are allocated as affordable housing for families at or below 80% of the area median income on Long Island, which, for a family of four in 2023, was $102,000. Affordable rents range from $2,003 for a studio to $2,503 for a two-bedroom.   

Initially approved for 364 apartments, the developers can now build an additional 281 rental units and 81 units for sale for residents 55 and older after Islip granted a change-of-zone in December, Mohr said.

The project will also include around 140,000 square feet of retail, service and medical office facilities, Mohr said. That includes a former chapel that will be redeveloped to house the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine Family Health Care Center.

The goal is to start construction on the second phase in the fall or early winter, with final touches wrapping up in early 2026. 

The 87-acre campus features restored buildings from the former psychiatric center that once housed thousands of patients and provided Central Islip with much of its identity before closing in 1996. 

With modern apartments and immaculate brick exteriors, the renovated structures would appear new if not for the original architecture. Mohr said an 18,000 square-foot clubhouse, part of an array of amenities planned for the development, will feature an exhibit on the history of the site, which was also once part of a NYIT campus.

Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter in a statement said the project is a “textbook example of how to build a development the right way, working with local stakeholders.”

The town granted tax breaks for the first phase of the project in 2021.

Guy Imbesi, 61, who was a master sergeant in the Air Force, said he and his wife moved to the two-bedroom apartment at the complex from Middle Island to be closer to his mother-in-law, who is 83 and lives about two minutes from their new apartment. 

“She calls me if something happens,” he said. “Or if something’s wrong, we can get there.”

The monthly discount is “nice,” he added. His wife is still working, but by the time they reach their “70s, early 80s,” staying at the apartment — which they’d like to do, he said — will likely depend on their financial resources.

Vinny Plotino, chief of the Central Islip Fire Department, similarly said the discount is a “great” offer, especially since the cost of housing on Long Island poses an obstacle to keeping volunteers.

But, he added, with monthly rents at the complex ranging from $2,100 for a studio to $4,600 for a two-bedroom, the prices are still high for some of his volunteers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2018 and 2022, the median gross rent in Central Islip was $2,116 per month. 

Still, Plotino is holding out hope that the Belmont initiative could lead to a few new volunteers joining the 50 to 60 currently active in the department, which has 40 vacancies. He’s already started sending recruitment flyers to the development.

“I think it’s a good incentive to start,” he said. “I think all the places should offer some assistance to the volunteer fire or ambulance agencies.”

Robert Leonard, a spokesman for the Firemen’s Association for the State of New York, said he has not heard of any similar discounts on rent for first responders.

The association, he said, thinks the program is “an excellent idea.”

“Affordability is a real problem ... and we think any approach that allows living in your own community, staying at home and remaining in the fire department or the ambulance corps is valuable,” said Leonard, who is also an assistant chief in Syosset.

Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, said the strategy could help recruitment in local fire departments, but it's not a solution for the lack of affordable housing on Long Island.

"Will this have an impact on more affordable housing? No. It's not to say that first responders don't deserve a break; of course they do," he said. And, that 10% could make a difference for some families, he added.

Tim Saunders, 29, moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the Belmont campus with his wife and two young children in November. The location is ideal, he said, because it’s near his wife’s family. 

He said he’s found a community on the campus-style development, which has green space and playgrounds for his children.

“It’s been a blessing,” he said, especially the discount he qualifies for as a veteran of the Air Force, where he served as a civil engineer.

“For anybody coming here, if they want a community or people that care, people that’s involved, this is the place to be. And for veterans, first responders, they really do look out for us,” he added.

The developers behind a 726-unit apartment complex repurposing buildings from the shuttered state Central Islip Psychiatric Center are prioritizing first responders, with a program that provides a 10% monthly discount on rent during their lease.

They hope the discounts at Belmont at Eastview, combined with rental housing, will help keep “the workforce here on Long Island,” said Russell Mohr, vice president of development for Steel Equities, a project developer in Bethpage. Most tenants at the luxury development so far are between 25 and 45, he said. 

Of 175 apartments at the complex leased since this summer, around 60% have been rented to firefighters, police officers, medical personnel and veterans, Mohr said. 

Town officials and the developers, including The Marcus Organization in Farmingdale, have touted the $300 million project as part of a decades-long push to revitalize the hamlet and provide critically needed housing, including homes for young residents and retirees seeking to downsize.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The shuttered state Central Islip Psychiatric Center is being redeveloped into a luxury apartment complex with more than 700 units.
  • Developers are prioritizing first responders, with a program that provides a 10% monthly discount on rent during their lease. 
  • While some say this could help families afford rent, they also add it's not enough to address the larger issue — a lack of affordable housing on Long Island.

Employers have cited a lack of affordable housing making it difficult to keep employees and attract new ones on Long Island, and, statewide, most volunteer departments have reported a decline in volunteers in recent years. 

Ten percent of the units are allocated as affordable housing for families at or below 80% of the area median income on Long Island, which, for a family of four in 2023, was $102,000. Affordable rents range from $2,003 for a studio to $2,503 for a two-bedroom.   

Initially approved for 364 apartments, the developers can now build an additional 281 rental units and 81 units for sale for residents 55 and older after Islip granted a change-of-zone in December, Mohr said.

The project will also include around 140,000 square feet of retail, service and medical office facilities, Mohr said. That includes a former chapel that will be redeveloped to house the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine Family Health Care Center.

The goal is to start construction on the second phase in the fall or early winter, with final touches wrapping up in early 2026. 

The 87-acre campus features restored buildings from the former psychiatric center that once housed thousands of patients and provided Central Islip with much of its identity before closing in 1996. 

With modern apartments and immaculate brick exteriors, the renovated structures would appear new if not for the original architecture. Mohr said an 18,000 square-foot clubhouse, part of an array of amenities planned for the development, will feature an exhibit on the history of the site, which was also once part of a NYIT campus.

Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter in a statement said the project is a “textbook example of how to build a development the right way, working with local stakeholders.”

The town granted tax breaks for the first phase of the project in 2021.

Tim Saunders, left, and Guy Imbesi, both Air Force veterans,...

Tim Saunders, left, and Guy Imbesi, both Air Force veterans, live at the Belmont at Eastview in Central Islip. Credit: James Carbone

Guy Imbesi, 61, who was a master sergeant in the Air Force, said he and his wife moved to the two-bedroom apartment at the complex from Middle Island to be closer to his mother-in-law, who is 83 and lives about two minutes from their new apartment. 

“She calls me if something happens,” he said. “Or if something’s wrong, we can get there.”

The monthly discount is “nice,” he added. His wife is still working, but by the time they reach their “70s, early 80s,” staying at the apartment — which they’d like to do, he said — will likely depend on their financial resources.

Vinny Plotino, chief of the Central Islip Fire Department, similarly said the discount is a “great” offer, especially since the cost of housing on Long Island poses an obstacle to keeping volunteers.

But, he added, with monthly rents at the complex ranging from $2,100 for a studio to $4,600 for a two-bedroom, the prices are still high for some of his volunteers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2018 and 2022, the median gross rent in Central Islip was $2,116 per month. 

Still, Plotino is holding out hope that the Belmont initiative could lead to a few new volunteers joining the 50 to 60 currently active in the department, which has 40 vacancies. He’s already started sending recruitment flyers to the development.

“I think it’s a good incentive to start,” he said. “I think all the places should offer some assistance to the volunteer fire or ambulance agencies.”

Robert Leonard, a spokesman for the Firemen’s Association for the State of New York, said he has not heard of any similar discounts on rent for first responders.

The association, he said, thinks the program is “an excellent idea.”

“Affordability is a real problem ... and we think any approach that allows living in your own community, staying at home and remaining in the fire department or the ambulance corps is valuable,” said Leonard, who is also an assistant chief in Syosset.

Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, said the strategy could help recruitment in local fire departments, but it's not a solution for the lack of affordable housing on Long Island.

"Will this have an impact on more affordable housing? No. It's not to say that first responders don't deserve a break; of course they do," he said. And, that 10% could make a difference for some families, he added.

Tim Saunders, 29, moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the Belmont campus with his wife and two young children in November. The location is ideal, he said, because it’s near his wife’s family. 

He said he’s found a community on the campus-style development, which has green space and playgrounds for his children.

“It’s been a blessing,” he said, especially the discount he qualifies for as a veteran of the Air Force, where he served as a civil engineer.

“For anybody coming here, if they want a community or people that care, people that’s involved, this is the place to be. And for veterans, first responders, they really do look out for us,” he added.

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