Senator Flanagan Holds Urgent Kppc Meeting

John J. Flanagan

August 02, 2005

Citing the importance of supporting and assisting the Kings Park community in their efforts to properly redevelop the Kings Park Psychiatric Center (KPPC) site, State Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport) today announced that he recently hosted two meetings at his district office on Wednesday July 20th with representatives from Cherokee Northeast/Arker Companies and several representatives from the Kings Park community.

"It is critically important that the community has strong input on the future redevelopment of the KPPC property," Senator Flanagan said. "These initial meetings gave an opportunity for elected officials and community leaders to address, directly to the developers, their concerns regarding the future redevelopment of KPPC and its impact on school district enrollment, traffic congestion and overall quality of life."

In the first meeting, Senator Flanagan was joined by State Assemblyman Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Smithtown Supervisor Patrick R. Vecchio and representatives of Cherokee Northeast/Arker Companies, the current preferred bidder on the KPPC property. The second meeting included Cherokee/Arker and the following representatives from the Kings Park community: Charlie Gardner, President of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce; Ed Hogan, Kings Park School Board President; Tony Tanzi, Vice President of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce and President of the Kings Park Education Foundation; Dr. Mary DeRose, Kings Park School Superintendent; Seth Glazer, Kings Park resident and businessman; Carin Perez, President of the St. James Chamber of Commerce and President of the Council of Schools; and Joe Giantomaso, Vice President, Mall Property Inc.

Cherokee/Arker representatives indicated that their primary objectives were the remediation of the property, which will be overseen by the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Health and Labor, and redevelopment of the site that will have the least impact on traffic and the Kings Park School District. The developers estimate the cleanup costs to range between $55 and $60 million, a portion of which will be covered by New York State’s Brownfield Tax Credit Program -- a program funded by New York State revenues.

The policy of New York State is to ensure that contaminated properties be sufficiently remediated for future use. The sale of KPPC is being treated in the same manner as hundreds of other state properties across New York by requiring the purchaser/developer to enter into an agreement to fully remediate the property. While a portion of the property to be developed appears to qualify under the Brownfield Cleanup Program, the vast majority of cleanup costs will be personally financed by the purchaser/developer.

"The State of New York, through the Brownfields program, provides tax and financial incentives to redevelop and remediate approved sites," said Senator Flanagan. "This program is structured to produce a net positive result on local communities by returning idle properties to the tax rolls for economic and productive uses."

Senator Flanagan went on to say, "While the possibility of securing additional resources to remediate KPPC should be further explored, it is indisputable that the current purchase agreement requires the entire 368 acres to be cleaned up. Cherokee/Arker has a contractual obligation to remediate the property to environmentally acceptable levels. If they ultimately become the purchaser, my office is committed to ensuring they fulfill this obligation."

Dr. Mary DeRose stressed the importance of having the developer maintain, at a minimum, the level of taxes being paid on the property by the State of New York to the Kings Park School District. Pursuant to real property tax law, the State is currently required to make tax payments in the amount of $845,000 annually to the School District. Since he first started representing the Kings Park community three years ago, Senator Flanagan has secured sufficient appropriations every year in the annual state budget to continue this statutory tax payment. However, the immediate and future payment of taxes has become a serious issue of concern and uncertainty once the property is sold to a private developer.

Senator Flanagan said, "There is no more important issue involving the sale of KPPC than maintaining the level of tax payments on this property to the Kings Park School District." He further stated, "The percentage of real property ownership in Kings Park is approximately 97% residential to 3% commercial. The loss of $845,000 dollars in tax revenue would shift an undue burden onto the backs of local residents, who already shoulder more than their fair share. In a spirit of cooperation and offering of good faith to the community, it is incumbent upon Cherokee/Arker to continue at the very least the current level of taxes paid on the property until such time that the redeveloped property generates its own positive tax revenue."

While the developers offered no specific dollar commitment, they noted that initial tax payments had been negotiated on other projects in which they have been involved. In addition, they stated that the overwhelming majority of their past projects include substantial negotiated tax and pilot payments to local communities and school districts.

Flanagan noted that the developers were very receptive to doing more community outreach through public hearings, workshops and direct correspondence to the residents of Kings Park. "As I have always said, community involvement in this project is an absolute must," Senator Flanagan said. "The developers were strongly encouraged to immediately implement approaches to meet the needs of the residents and address the circumstances that relate specifically to the redevelopment efforts."

In addition to the numerous questions concerning the remediation of the site and the overall timing of the cleanup, questions were also raised on specific development plans. The developers offered a conceptual framework of ideas that centered on mixed use development with neighborhood shopping, some county or commercial office space and residential development.

The reuse and renovation of two buildings, 93 and 15, were specifically discussed during the meetings. Building 93 was identified as the best opportunity to renovate an existing structure on the property for use as luxury housing. Discussions of building 15 centered around the developers concept to create a community center that would be open to all Kings Park residents immediately.

While the decisions for redeveloping KPPC will ultimately rest with the Town of Smithtown, Senator Flanagan stressed the importance of continuing open dialogue with the community to solicit their input on any future plans. In particular, the Senator encouraged Cherokee/Arker to consider all the issues raised by the community at this, and all future meetings including the following:

Issuing a public declaration that the 1,800 unit proposal is categorically withdrawn;

Making an immediate commitment to maintain at least the current level of taxes ($845,000) being paid to the Kings Park School District;

Gearing the majority of any residential development toward senior or adult day care housing to lessen the impact on school district enrollment and traffic;

Conducting focus groups to solicit input from the residents of Kings Park on the future redevelopment of the property; and

Establishing a housing policy that any residential units developed on KPPC be offered to Kings Park residents first.