Kings Park Psychiatric Center Update
Many residents in Kings Park, Fort Salonga, San Remo and Smithtown have recently contacted my office regarding the Kings Park Psychiatric Center (KPPC) property. Thank you for taking the time to sign petitions, send letters and call the office to express your concerns and share your suggestions. Please know that all your thoughts and comments are taken very seriously and are always considered in my thinking about what the best options are for the Kings Park community.
My primary concern regarding the use of the KPPC property is to create a compromise that allows for reasonable development of the property, after it is properly remediated, so that the surrounding communities enjoy benefits that far outweigh any potential burdens. It is essential that any development at this site include steady jobs and taxes for the local economy and tax base without imposing tremendous density, excessive traffic or tax shifting to the current residents and businesses of Kings Park. The challenge for all of us is to find the mechanism that allows us to turn that concept into a reality.
I wanted to share with you several thoughts regarding the potential sale of the property to the Arker Companies, as well as to outline actions that our office has recently undertaken. First and foremost, is the conceptual plan advanced by the Arker Companies in its Brownfields funding application for 1800 units of housing. I am unalterably opposed to this plan for many reasons including the level of density and the complete lack of specificity regarding the type of proposed units. Whether it is Arker, or another company, that density is clearly too intense. Such a proposal is unreasonable and appears to be completely contrary to any reasonable mixed use development.
Arker is in the process of completing its due diligence review, like previous applicants, and that period is set to expire at the end of April. I have personally spoken and met with the Governor, have met with his key staff and with representatives from Empire State Development Corporation to express the community’s strident opposition to Arker’s proposal. I will continue to diligently work closely with all state personnel, including the Governor, to ensure that the community’s objectives are met. There is of course always the possibility that Arker could walk away from this proposal prior to the end of the due diligence period.
Our office has also been contacted by members of the Smithtown Town Board, who have expressed their own opinions and concerns regarding the use of the KPPC property. I have reviewed all their correspondence, comments and suggestions to various state agencies. At the present time, there appears to be no consensus from the Town Board on what is the best course of action. Assemblyman Fitzpatrick and I have invited the Town Board to meet with us to open a direct dialogue on our respective roles and how we can best represent their plan as local representatives. Their input is not only welcomed by the two of us, it is critical to any final product.
I am meeting with Senate Finance staff, Division of Budget personnel and representatives from the DEC to explore potential sources of funding so that the State can participate in the financial component of any remediation. It is certainly clear that the State contaminated this and other Mental Hygiene properties over long periods of time. If the remediation costs for cleanup were limited solely to this property and did not include almost twenty other similar properties representing thousands of contaminated acres across New York State, the financial exposure would be far less significant. We are attempting to the largest extent possible and practical to have the State participate in the cost of the cleanup. While in an ideal setting all costs would be covered, it would be irresponsible of me to represent that the State will automatically pay for everything, particularly in light of the enormous fiscal pressures of the New York State budget.
As these issues continue to unfold, I continue to work every day on a wide variety of other matters that are extremely important to the Kings Park School District and the community as a whole. Our office has secured well over one million dollars in special grants to a significant cross section of groups throughout the Town of Smithtown, including the Town itself, the Kings Park and Smithtown School Districts, numerous not-for-profits and even the local Chambers of Commerce to help promote their economic development efforts. In addition to securing substantial direct financial grants to the Kings Park School District, we most recently secured funding to completely upgrade the community facilities at RJO. Most importantly though, we are doing everything possible to ensure that when the KPPC property is ultimately sold that there are no adverse consequences to the School District because of the decrease in assessed value. Present state law allows for the School District to receive over $800,000 in direct payments for the Psychiatric Center property. Once the property is sold, that benefit will disappear almost immediately. My goal is to see that that does not happen and to protect that stream of funding until the property is properly developed. My office supports the Kings Park Coalition for Economic Development’s recommendation for mixed-use redevelopment as the best means to generate tax revenues while maintaining quality of life in the community.
There are many important issues facing the 2nd Senate District, whether it is state aid for education, availability of affordable accessible health care or the opportunity for quality employment. They are all directly related to local quality of life issues that are extremely important to Smithtown residents. Please know that even though I have spent the better part of March working in Albany on budget issues, there is not a day that goes by that we are not attempting to address local concerns to meet your needs. Your priorities are ones that I have shared, share now and will continue to share as we move forward together.
As always, thank you for your continued input. Please do not hesitate to contact us directly on this or any other matter of legislative concern.
John J. Flanagan