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EDITORIAL: $215M cleanup estimate a stark reality for Kings Park

In the long, frustrating search for the best use of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, this question has been at the core: Who pays to clean up asbestos and other hazards, and how much will it cost? Now we have half the answer.

A new study, commissioned by the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, says it will cost $215 million to return 368 acres of the former hospital to open space. This part of the site was designated parkland in 2006.

The other question is: Who pays? Before the parkland designation, one idea was that a developer would pay, then build that into the price of dwelling units or stores to be sold. But even the lower costs used in earlier estimates forced developers to propose such high-density projects that they were all rejected. It's clear that the Town of Smithtown wants no part of development on the site and no part of cleanup costs.

So, what about the state? Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) got $29 million for the cleanup, and $3.6 million of that paid for the study. In the state's current economic crisis, there's no chance that Albany will soon pony up the rest.

But inaction is not an option. We can't let these buildings keep deteriorating and endangering the community. So it's up to Flanagan and others to broaden the search for remediation money - to federal funding, grants and anything else they can think of. That will be far from easy, but at least now, we all have a better idea how much money we need. hN