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Michael Fitzpatrick

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Kings Park Jewish Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the alienation bill required to move forward with Kings Park sewers is stuck in the state Legislature’s deadlock, Town of Smithtown officials are formulating a plan B.

Smithtown officials said they have been eyeing property behind the Kings Park Jewish Center, though planning director Pete Hans said it is just one option the town is considering.

“The town has said for years that they maybe should acquire it, even before the pump station, because they’re not using it,” Hans said. “The town has property on both sides, and our parks department could use a little more space.”

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”

— Peter Scully

The original plans call for 11,000 square feet in front of the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings and Grounds facility located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park for a sewer pump station. Since the area is zoned as parkland, the town requires approval for alienation from the state Legislature in order to build on that property. The bill was left on the floor when the Legislature dismissed for the summer, along with multiple other small local bills, without a vote.

Requests for comment from the Kings Park Jewish Center were not responded to by press time.

The Jewish Center site sits at a low elevation, similar to the parks department property, which is necessary for the wastewater to flow through. Though Hans said the town still has to contact the synagogue about the unused property, that piece of real estate is just one of several ideas the town is considering. The planning director said town officials are also looking at the water district property just northwest of the parks department building or state-owned land next to the U.S. Post Office also on East Main Street. Building on these properties also faces complications that would cost the town and county both time and money, according to Hans.

Suffolk County’s Deputy Executive Peter Scully (D), who is handling much of the county’s wastewater projects, said that while there should be no odor issues at the Jewish Center if the town does build a pump station there, the best site would still be at its originally planned location. Doing it any other way could result in both the town and county spending more money and time than needed, especially important as the Kings Park sewer project is largely funded by a $20 million state grant offered by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2018 budget.

“In this case, we wouldn’t need to issue any debt so the Kings Park business district and Kings Wood apartment complex would be connected at virtually no cost,” Scully said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said that he remains optimistic the state Legislature will reconvene again this year. He said the most likely time frame would be after the Nov. 6 elections but before the Christmas season, leaving a very small window.

People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019.” 

— Nicole Garguilo

“I remain optimistic, we’ll see, but if not, then the goal is to pass it next year unless the town decides to look at a different piece of property,” Fitzpatrick said.

Scott Rief, the communications director for state Senate Republicans, said there has been no specific discussions at this time about the Legislature reconvening.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he has asked county engineers to examine if the Jewish Center site is feasible, because if they delay building the pump station it could delay nearly all of the town’s other sewer projects.

“I hope we don’t have to go that way, because this other part is already designed,” Wehrheim said.

The town had planned to start construction of Kings Park sewers in early 2019. Nicole Garguilo, the town’s spokeswoman, said pushing back the alienation bill into 2019 could push all current sewer projects back a year.

“People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019,” Garguilo said.

A rendering of the proposed outline of the Kings Park sewer lines. Photo from Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials are counting the days to June 20 to see if state officials will take the necessary steps to help Kings Park sewers become a concrete reality.

Smithtown town board held a special session June 1 to approve an amended home rule bill requesting permission to alienate, or use, 11,000 square feet of parkland to construct a pump station necessary to move forward with sewering the Kings Park business district. The paperwork was overnighted to Albany, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said, in hopes the legislation will pass before the state legislative session ends June 20.

“They are only in session for a few more weeks, if we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year,” Wehrheim said.

“[I]f we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year.”
– Ed Wehrheim

Smithtown and Suffolk County require approval from the state to turn parkland located on the property of Smithtown’s Department of Parks building, located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park, into a sewage pump station. While the state Senate previously granted its permission, the state Assembly took issue with the town’s request.

“The Assembly takes the alienation of parkland very seriously, there must be an equal or greater amount of land that is sterilized,” Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said. “There is never a net loss of parkland.”

The Assembly has requested three changes in order for the process to move forward, according to Wehrheim. The first requirement was to permanently preserve an additional 7,000 square feet of open space in exchange for constructing the pump station and to provide an aerial overview of the property to see the layout. Minor wording changes to the legislation were also requested.

“[The Assembly] wanted some additional data to make sure everything passes muster,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Suffolk County Legislature must take up the same amended home rule bill, pass it and send it back to the state legislature for approval as well, according to the assemblyman, for the project to move forward.

Wehrheim said he will be watching and waiting to make sure the alienation bill passes, while the project has funding from the state. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has earmarked $20 million for sewering of the Kings Park business district in the 2018 state budget, but it is not in the town’s hands yet.

“We haven’t been notified by anyone or assured that the money will stay there until we are ready to do the project,” the supervisor said. “We are methodically pursuing it.”

The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”
– Michael Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick said home rule requests, such as Smithtown’s to use parkland for the public purpose of creating a pump station to install sewer lines, are usually handled at the very end of a legislative session.

“I have every confidence on the Assembly side that we will get this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”

The amended bill must also be reapproved by the state Senate, which passed the prior version in May, but has been deadlocked in recent days.

“Once the home rule messages are adopted and filed by the town and county, the Senate has every intention of passing the bill again,” said the office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in a statement.

The supervisor said the final draft of the Kings Park market analysis study to revitalize the area — in which sewers are noted to play a critical role — is expected to be finished shortly and presented to the public. The study, which cost $200,000 and was paid for by county taxpayers, could become outdated, according to Wehrheim, if the project gets delayed because the state approval isn’t granted this year.

“I understand the town supervisor is worried about getting this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “But it ain’t over till it’s over, and it ain’t over until June 20.”

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