A Fort Salonga philanthropist hopes if he can help to build central infrastructure of a park, others will come and help out.
Charlie Reichert, owner of IGA Supermarkets, will donate $1 million to New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through his nonprofit, Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation, for complete renovation of the Nissequogue River State Park’s administrative offices. He ceremoniously handed the first check to Wayne Horsley, Long Island’s regional director of state parks, Nov. 2.
“I am hoping this donation jump starts the park, that we can really get going,” Reichert said. “If people see that a private citizen is putting money into the park, maybe there will be other private citizens or corporations to put money into the park and get things going.”
The Fort Salonga resident said he envisions the park as a green space where, one day, there could be sports fields and concerts for residents’ recreation. His donation will kick-start a makeover of the central building.
Brian Foley, deputy regional director of the Long Island region for the state’s park system, said the $1 million donation will be used to completely overhaul the interior of the former World War I-era veterans memorial hospital. The first floor’s central waiting area will be enlarged and built to accommodate additional educational display cases, with reconstruction of the existing meeting hall and children’s playroom. The women’s and men’s bathrooms will be updated with the new addition of a family bathroom stall, according to Foley.
“The first floor will be and stay almost exclusively devoted to the public,” he said. “That is the prime purpose of state parks.”
The second floor of the building will be made into office space for state park employees on-site, according to Foley. Storage space will continue to be available for the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to enhance and beautify the park.
“This money will bring us a long way to making this into a public building that everyone can be proud of,” Horsley said.
Currently, the state is replacing the administrative building’s roof and straightening out the cupola, according to Horsley. Construction equipment is parked outside Building 40, on the former childcare center on the north side of the park’s main entrance, to begin abatement of the structure to make way for a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters for the state’s Department of
Environmental Conservation’s Division of Marine
Resource. Horsley said he expects the building to be torn down this winter into early spring 2019.
“We are in this together to make this a premiere park in the state’s park system,” Horsley said. “As we all know, we have a long way to go, but we are well on our way.”
John McQuaid, president of the Nissequogue River State Park, and Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said Charlie Reichert’s support through his foundation has been invaluable over the years as it also sponsors the spring and fall runs that raise funds for the park.
“This community is forever indebted to you, the state is forever indebted to you because you have changed the course of history,” Trotta said.