The long-awaited demolition of more than a dozen vacant industrial buildings at a Port Jefferson Station Superfund site — one of the last major components of a $48 million federal cleanup of the blighted property — is expected to start within weeks, according to state officials.
The $1.5 million teardown of 15 structures at shuttered Lawrence Aviation Industries, a former aircraft parts manufacturing company on Sheep Pasture Road that closed in 2003, is seen by community leaders and local officials as key to a redevelopment plan that calls for moving the Port Jefferson train station to the 126-acre site and building an adjacent solar energy farm.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation said on Sept. 18 that demolition work will begin later this fall and is expected to be completed early next year.
“This is a major step forward to bring this site back into productive use,” Suffolk Deputy County Executive Peter Scully said Friday, adding that the deteriorating structures are among the last impediments to completing deals for future development. “We’re on the one-yard line looking to get this over the goal line.”
A subsidiary of the nonprofit Suffolk County Landbank Corp., an arm of county government, took possession of the site in May as part of a federal court settlement that ended years of complex litigation stemming from environmental hazards discovered on the property. The settlement also outlined a plan for the land bank to sell up to 84 acres of the site to help pay off tens of millions of dollars worth of unpaid debt and delinquent taxes owed by Lawrence Aviation owner Gerald Cohen to government agencies and other creditors. Cohen died in 2020.
Scully and Sarah Lansdale, Suffolk economic development and planning commissioner, said Friday the county is nearing a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to sell up to 42 acres to the transit agency for the new train station and possible future electrification of the Long Island Rail Road's Port Jefferson branch.
Lansdale said a recent online survey of 4,000 Long Islanders showed an “overwhelming majority of the people want electrification of the Port Jefferson branch.”
MTA spokesman David Steckel said there was no update on the agency's deliberations.
The county also is nearing completion of a $5 million deal to sell a separate 42-acre section of the site to White Plains solar farm developer I.On Renewables, Lansdale said. She added that the vacant buildings slated for demolition are in the area where solar panels would be installed.
The remaining 42 acres would be preserved as open space, Lansdale and Scully said.
Ira Costell, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association, said the building demolitions would bring an end to a "long-standing nightmare," adding the train station and solar farm plans would create "a whole new opportunity for us."
The DEC has scheduled a community meeting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 E. Broadway, to discuss the property's future.