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Kings Park Civic Association

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Town officials trying to plan for Brookhaven landfill’s closure, evaluate potential odor issue and site locations

Power Crush, Inc. is located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The Town of Smithtown is hoping to find a fertile concept for budding plans to build an organic waste processing facility, one that town officials hope might mitigate a potential Long Island trash crisis.

“We are looking in that direction as well as a number of other directions because there will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“…[T]here will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes.

— Ed Wehrheim

The town received $187,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency to undertake a study starting in 2015 on the impacts of indoor organic waste processing facilities, one that takes items like food waste and grass clippings and turns it into compost. Wehrheim said many Suffolk County municipalities are creating contingency plans should the Town of Brookhaven’s plans to close its landfill come to fruition. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has said it could close in less than a decade.

Suffern-based SCS Engineers partnered with Smithtown officials to release the draft study Sept. 13 with the intention to draft a zoning ordinance that would allow for its construction.  Town code does not currently allow for any composting or organic waste facility.

“This is a scoping meeting to look at all the aspects of it and, at some point, the town board will make a decision whether or not we want to have the use of a facility like that put into the town code,” Wehrheim said. “We’re just trying to get out in front of it now so that eight or nine years down the road we will have a remedy for it to take care of our solid waste.”

Wehrheim said one location the town is considering using is Power Crush Inc. gravel supplier on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The property’s owner, Toby Carlson, presentedthe town board with a conceptual plan for constructing such a facility in 2014.

The 280-page report suggests a number of sites for the plant. These include: the northwestern corner of Commack and southwestern corner of Kings Park, adjacent to Sunken Meadow State Parkway; the east side of Commack along Route 25/Jericho Turnpike; the southern side of Kings Park; and the southwestern corner of St. James.

There are a number of potential environmental and quality-of-life hazards stemming from indoor organic waste processing facilities, according to the draft study, including odor, groundwater impacts, air emissions, traffic and dust.

These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.” 

— Gregory McCarron

In an internet-based survey of 28 facilities as part of the town’s study, half of the plants had received odor complaints, 11 percent noise complaints, 7 percent cited dust objections and 4 percent alleged traffic grievances. Yet, a nearly equal number of facilities said they had not received any such complaints from the local populace. Another 11 percent refused to provide any details about any complaints.

“All these facilities don’t want these problems, they don’t want unexpected events,” Gregory McCarron, the vice president of SCS Engineers, said. “These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.”

To try to mitigate  complaints and accidents, organic waste facilities have a number of management practices they employ. These may include building and maintaining vegetable buffers to allay dust issues or scheduling deliveries to lessen traffic issues.

Nearly half of the indoor organic waste processing facilities that responded to Smithtown’s survey said they use some type of air treatment system. In addition, 81 percent reported they have specific facility design-related methods to reduce odor.

“The [best management practices] are certainly effective in mitigating, at least to some extent, those impacts,” Allyson Murray, an environmental planner for Smithtown, said.

In the course of the study, Murray visited three organic waste processing facilities in North America. The most modern facility she visited was in Toronto, Canada, which operated as an  anaerobic digester. Typical composting is aerobic, meaning it uses bacteria that require air to help break down the organic waste. Modern anaerobic composting uses airless containers in both wet and dry environments. Murray said she smelled very little odor on location and the noise was kept to a minimum.

We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.” 

— Adrienne Esposito

“It’s a different kind of technology — the kinds of impacts are of a different kind,” Murray said.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Organization, attended a Sept. 13 meeting held at Smithtown Town Hall to inform local civic groups about the potential organic waste facility. She said that because the idea is still in its early stages she will keep Kings Park residents up to date on any potential hazards.

“Our mission is to look out for the people in our community,” Henninger said. “We’re continuing to educate ourselves on the issue.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, questioned why there are not larger conversations happening on the county or state level to determine just how many facilities Long Island requires and where would be the best location for one.

“In the next few years, every person on Long Island will have to know where our garbage goes,” she said. “We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.”

Murray said the town plans to release the final version of the survey by the end of 2018.

Real estate attorney J. Timothy Shea Jr. gives a presentation on The Society of St. Johnland's proposed assisted living facility to Smithtown Town Board.

The Society of St. Johnland in Kings Park hopes to continue its mission to help seniors in need by constructing a new assisted living facility aimed at Medicaid-eligible residents.

The nonprofit nursing center has submitted an application to construct a two-story facility with 82 units and 100 beds in the footprint of an existing, dilapidated building on the north side of Sunken Meadow Road — a separate tax map parcel on the same property as St. Johnland nursing home.

The proposed building will fulfill a need in the community for alternate living options for low-income seniors, according to a real estate attorney speaking on behalf of the project at the Nov. 30 Smithtown Town board meeting.

J. Timothy Shea Jr., of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman in Hauppauge, asked the board to consider granting  the St. Johnland facility a special exception as its concept plan meets that zoning criteria. This approval would give the nonprofit the ability to use land in a district for a purpose other than what is generally permitted there, in this case an assisted living program on the same property as a nursing home.

“Allowing for this special exception to take place, we would be able to service up to 100 local persons most likely for the assisted living and it’s possible that many of those residents will eventually move to the nursing home at some point in the future,” Shea said.

St. Johnland is also making efforts to implement ideas from staff members and residents into its design of the building’s facade to comply with local waterfront revitalization program standards, he added.

“When we provided elevations of the proposed building to our staff, we received comments indicating they would like to have more of a historic type of architecture,” Shea said. “We are willing to do that and will adjust our elevations accordingly.”

Based on the feedback from the Kings Park Civic Association, the nonprofit has agreed to reduce square footage of the 76,696-square-foot site by approximately 8,000-square-feet to lessen its footprint; preserve an old chapel located to the east of where the facility will be; and provide the group with any building revisions moving forward for further review and comment.

Shea said the site will be “a low traffic generator” because although the facility would employ 70 new employees, they will work in three shifts, so there will be no more than 20 to 25 employees on site at a given time.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Association said she and other members were in favor of it.

“We think it’s a good project,” Henninger said. “A lot of residents from Kings Park and our vicinity — like Commack and Northport — utilize St. Johnland and this seems to be within their wheelhouse. We also liked that they’re not clear cutting woods for it. It seems like a win-win for the community and St. Johnland.”

Mary Jean Weber, the chief executive officer of St. Johnland Nursing Center, which has been caring for Kings Parks’ needy since 1870, said the facility has been in planning for nearly two years.

“I think this is the type of service that is really needed in Kings Park,” Weber said. “This is for the population that doesn’t require the [around-the-clock] medical care needed in a nursing facility but maybe cannot remain living at home any longer or have limited funds. For us, it’s a positive program that really helps with our care for the senior community.”

St. Johnland is still awaiting determination on its application for special exception. The project’s construction costs have not been finalized yet.

A map outlining the proposed location of the new DEC headquarters at Nissequogue River State Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Kings Park residents and community groups showed widespread support for a $40 million proposal for further development of Nissequogue River State Park but also voiced their reservations.

Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said the group’s members came together prior to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Nov. 2 joint presentation to discuss the plan’s potential impacts.

“We look forward to being your partner in this whole endeavor and anything we could do to help, we certainly will.”

— Tony Tanzi

“Our entire board is fully on board with this,” Tanzi said to state officials at the presentation. “We are ecstatic that you are making this endeavor. We look forward to being your partner in this whole endeavor and anything we could do to help, we certainly will.”

John McQuaid, president of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, said the organization’s members have concerns about a new DEC building being constructed near the center of the park. There are still numerous empty buildings that need to be demolished without any time frame for doing so, he said, while the government is already looking to construct new structures. Yet, the group is in support of the plan, according to its president.

“The marina is a home run,” McQuaid said. “It’s a valuable improvement for the community.”

Other concerns were raised with regard to increased traffic that may be caused by moving the DEC’s headquarters to the area and whether it will fit into the overall vision for the park. Many pointed out the state still lacks a master plan to guide the future design and usage of the more than 500 acres.

“We are so excited about this project, but we know that you can work on this project along with working on a master plan at the same time,” Linda Henninger, president of Kings Park Civic Association, said. “We all know how important it is to have a master plan for the entirety of the park.” 

“It’s a valuable improvement for the community.”

— John McQuaid

Wayne Horsley, regional director for the state office of parks, admitted to “back stepping a little” on his previous agreement with residents to draw up a master plan, but claims his office doesn’t have the funds. A master plan recently commissioned by the state for Sunken Meadow State Park cost between $200,000 and $400,000.

“We will discuss it further, we are not adversarial on the issue,” the parks regional director said.

The Nissequogue River State Park Foundation countered by offering to pay up to half the cost of a master plan. The organization has hundreds of thousands in the bank, according to McQuaid, which they are ready and willing to smartly invest in the park’s future.

Horsley expressed concerns that a master plan could take two to three years, and that what exists now is a unique opportunity to work jointly with the DEC, which is providing the majority of the $40 million in funding.

“My message to the community is let’s jump on this while we can, I think it’s a big step forward,” Horsley said. “When I have an opportunity to get $40 million into the park, it’s a good thing. I think we should take advantage of it.”

York Hall, formerly the recreational center of Kings Park Psychiatric Center, has deteriorated after years of vandalism and disuse. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A historical society is holding out hope that a unique piece of Kings Park community history can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The Society for Preservation of Long Island Antiquities has placed York Hall, the auditorium and community center of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, on its 2017 List of Endangered Historic Places.

Sarah Kautz, director of preservation for SPLIA, said the historic building located at the entrance of Nissequogue River State Park is in critical need of preventative maintenance and security to preserve it for future community use.

York Hall, built in 1930, was used by the psychiatric patients for recreational activities and later as a community civic center and public meeting place.

“In a place where there are some darker stories to tell, it was a place where people came together to celebrate and enjoy life,” Kautz said.

When the hospital was decommissioned in the 1990s, the property was transferred to New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Since then the building has been vacant, with the exception of trespassing ghost hunters and graffiti artists, and has fallen into disrepair.

Kautz said York Hall has signs of advanced deterioration over time. The roof is damaged, allowing rainwater to leak inside, and many of the windows and doors are damaged and spray painted.

“The interior is in very poor condition due to roof leaking, copper stripping and extensive vandalism over an extensive period of time” Kautz said. “It’s been the same cyclical and recurring concern with all the buildings of Kings Park Psychiatric Center.”

SPLIA is advocating for York Hall to be secured by sealing off the building, including boarding up the roof, and mothballed. The group is seeking a public-private partnership to rehabilitate the building. Kautz said she has reached out to the Kings Park Civic Association and Kings Park Chamber of Commerce to open avenues for collaborative discussions.

“The community still wants it to be used as a theater and civic center,” Kautz said. “It’s a great mid-sized performance space that is rare to find in this area. I think because of its history and why it was built, the community would like to see it returned to that role.”

The state launched a remediation initiative in 2012 to transform the former psychiatric center into Nissequogue River State Park. Phase one of the project, which was started in 2013, focused on demolition of 19 buildings, removal of the steam tunnels and asphalt, site restoration and reconstruction of the north boat launch to improve access to the Nissequogue River. In April 2016, phase two was announced and is currently underway to remove nine additional buildings and a segment of a 10th building, according to the state parks department’s spokesperson Randy Simons.

“We have our concerns about the wider context of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center,”  Kautz said “There’s no master plan. There’s never been a master plan which would include the former psychiatric center.”

Simons said that two former psychiatric center buildings, Buildings 130 and 132, which both served as medical staff housing, have been preserved for future adaptive reuse as the development of the park progresses.

A view of the downtown Kings Park area. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Kings Park revitalization effort received inspiring news this week, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his intention to invest $40 million to build sewers in Smithtown and Kings Park.

“These major, transformative investments in Long Island’s core infrastructure invest in the future resiliency and strength of the region,” Cuomo said. “Vital water infrastructure projects will support environmental sustainability and bolster economic growth. With these projects, we equip Long Island with the tools and resources to drive commercial activity, create jobs and build a stronger Long Island for generations to come.”

Sean Lehman, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said before the governor’s announcement that revitalization of the Kings Park downtown seemed impossible without enough money to build a sewer system there.

“Any movement depends on [Kings Park] getting sewer money,” Lehman said in a phone interview. “Everything hinges on it.” Lehman estimated the hamlet would need “between $16 and $20 million just to bring sewage to the business district in Kings Park.”

Kings Park Civic Association Vice President Linda Henninger said this money marks a new chapter of the revitalization effort.

“This is really the beginning of not only revitalization of our hamlet, which holds so much potential, but we shouldn’t forget the positive impact it will have on the environment,” she said in an email. “Sewering is not only important for economic reasons, but also environmental. We’re very happy and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and continue to work hard for and with the community.”

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) agreed hearing of the possibility of receiving funds is a step toward bettering the Kings Park and Smithtown communities.

“It’s a great thing,” he said in a phone interview. “I’ve been asking the county for the last three years for sewers in Kings Park and Smithtown.”

At a recent civic association meeting, the group was also enthused by news that Suffolk County put forward an economic stimulus package including $200,000 in grant money for Kings Park revitalization efforts.

“We’re excited by this,” Lehman said. “Anything that can help us move forward is good, and we appreciate the county’s effort.”

Vecchio said the town has not yet drafted a specific plan on how they will use the $200,000 grant from the county, intended to study traffic impacts and parking for revitalization, since no real specifics have been given to the board yet.

In November of last year, the civic association presented the Smithtown board with its plan for revitalization, created by Vision Long Island, an organization that works to create more livable, economically stable and environmentally responsible areas on Long Island. The plan studied the demographics, and commercial areas of Kings Park, and includes recommendation and suggestions from the many meetings the organization had with Kings Park residents.

Fresh produce will make its way to the streets of Kings Park once again as the annual farmers market takes shape with an opening date set for Sunday. Photo from Alyson Elish-Swartz

The market is fresh.

Kings Park’s coveted Farmers Market will start a brand new season on Sunday, June 7, with all of last year’s farmers returning plus some new additions. Founded in 2010, the market boasts everything from locally grown produce, baked goods, fresh fish, goat cheese, olive oil, pickles and more.

One addition includes the St. James-based Saint James Brewery, a craft brewery which specializes in Belgian beer.

Returning farmers market participants also include Thera Farms, from Ronkonkoma, Fink’s Country Farm from Manorville and Monty Breads from Islip Terrace.

There will be multiple festivals held at the market throughout the summer, including a strawberry festival, a corn festival, Oktoberfest, a baking contest and a chili cookout, according to members of the Kings Park civic group helping to organize events.

“This market has brought the town together, while also supporting local agriculture,” said Alyson Elish-Swartz, a member of the Kings Park Civic Association and a chairperson of the farmers market committee said.

The King’s Park Civic Association sponsors this event in partnership with ligreenmarket. Kings Park’s Farmers Market will also spotlight local musicians, as they have done before, with new acts coming this summer. But new this year will be a spotlight on local photographers, with booths featuring photographs from some of Kings Park’s most talented photographers.

Kings Park restaurants will also be hosting cooking demos, where they buy the ingredients from the farmers market and then show fun and fresh dishes residents can make with them. Restaurants like Café Red and Relish have participated in the past, making dishes like fresh watermelon soup.

The Kings Park Farmers Market is open Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through November 22, at the municipal lot on Route 25A and Main Street.

The whole idea of the farmers market started when two local residents who didn’t know each other, Ann Marie Nedell and Elish-Swartz, had the same the idea. Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, gave Nedell and Elish-Swartz each other’s phone numbers and told them to link up. He asked them to find out more and report back to the civic association.

Elish-Swartz and Nedell pounded the pavement, talking up the idea to community groups and handing out surveys to find out what Kings Park wanted in a farmers market, with free parking high on the list.

The plan took a leap forward when Nedell and Elish-Swartz met Bernadette Martin. Martin is director of Friends and Farmers Inc., a company she started to advocate for small family farms and to bring fresh, local food to Long Islanders. The market first opened in the summer of 2010 and Martin manages it, every Sunday, from June through November.

Susan Risoli contributed reporting.

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