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Land transfer at ex-hospital site denied

Building 123 sits abandoned with its roof collapsing

Building 123 sits abandoned with its roof collapsing just off Kings Park Boulevard on the grounds of the former Kings Park psychiatric hospital. (March 9, 2012) Credit: Daniel Brennan

New York Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey has denied Smithtown's request to transfer or lease 55 acres at the former site of Kings Park Psychiatric Hospital to the town for recreational development.

Harvey, in letter earlier this month, said any proposal to transfer control of the land -- owned by the state parks office -- would "require a number of complex state approval and environmental review actions."

The state is focused on completing the first phase of remediation on the 521-acre site, which includes demolishing vacant and condemned buildings, Harvey said.

"It is premature to consider redevelopment proposals for the property," she said, adding that "a number of stakeholders involved in the future of the Kings Park property have expressed opposition to such a transfer."

The plan was created by Councilman Robert Creighton, who is running for Smithtown supervisor, and supported by Councilmen Kevin Malloy and Edward Wehrheim.

"We took a shot; we did our best," Creighton said Monday. "There's not enough parks for all of the leagues that exist."

John McQuaid, a board member of children's athletic association Kings Park Youth, said the group can't schedule as many baseball games as it would like.

But, McQuaid, who is also chairman of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a community organization, said that he was confused by Creighton's proposal.

"I just don't understand why the town would take it upon itself to request 55 acres to make it a park, at the same time of saying, 'We have no money,' " McQuaid said.

Malloy and Wehrheim said they were "disappointed" by the letter, because the proposal sought to build lighted fields in a nonresidential neighborhood.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said that he was not surprised by Harvey's decision, adding that Creighton should have asked state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) to seek the state's cooperation.

"It should have gone through the legislature first," he said.

Neither Fitzpatrick nor Flanagan was made aware of the proposal in advance, they said.

State parks officials have said they intend to create a master plan for future uses of the property, but have not specified when that will happen.

Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said the group opposed the plan.

"We're all in favor of the town getting recreational fields," he said.

"But we think it should be part of the master plan for the property."

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