Popular downtown Kings Park businesses, such as the Park Bake Shop and the Kings Park Shipping and Business Center, have said for years that they lacked adequate parking for their customers. Their decade-old complaint has finally spurred action that has become one of the county’s most significant investments in a downtown: $500,000 for a new parking lot that will provide 23 stalls for local businesses.
“I was shocked when I got the call,” said Lucy Shtanko, who owns the bakery with her husband, Gabe.
On Thursday, Oct. 3, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) sat beside Smithtown’s Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) inside the busy bakery to sign the new Jumpstart economic initiative.
“When we’re focused on families, communities rather than political nonsense,” Bellone said. “We get things done.”
Bellone said that Kings Park had all the qualities worthy of economic development efforts. It has a train station, natural resources, a good school district and is located between Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Most importantly, people worked together to make it happen.
“When you talk about revitalization, you have to start with community right from the start, otherwise it will fail,” Bellone said. “This community has done it right.”
Shopowners Shtanko and John Nobles, who own the shipping center, said they had gathered years ago more than 750 signatures and worked with civic groups and other businesses to mobilize action. Their persistence has ultimately paid off.
Wehrheim, who lives in Kings Park, said that the town had already purchased in the late summer of 2018 two vacant lots for the additional parking at a cost of $279,000.
“We cannot do this alone,” the supervisor said. “We rely on higher levels of government and there couldn’t be a better partner than Bellone.”
The jumpstart funds will pay for the entire project from start to finish, according to the supervisor’s office. But, not for the land that has already been purchased. Costs include surveying, erosion control and environmental protection, excavation, grading, pavement, concrete, handicap accessible sidewalk entrances, landscaping, all new electric lighting, traffic control signage and labor.
The parking lot is expected to be particularly useful for the Park Bake Shop and the Shipping Center and restaurants The Reel Kitchen, Dragon House, Red and Relish. The additional parking will also likely help with leasing out shops that have been vacant, according to town officials.
Since the downtown is laid out rectangularly with the train station serving as a corner hub, some business leaders foresee Kings Park becoming a more popular destination. Joann Galletta Hahn, president of the Kings Park Heritage Museum, predicts that people will be more likely to stroll the business district.
Bellone noted that when the chamber, civic, businesses, residents and government join together, anything is possible.
Twenty-four hours after the jumpstart announcement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill that essentially secured funds for $20 million in sewer upgrades for Kings Park. The upgrades are considered essential for the downtown business development.
“I thank the governor for signing this important bill into law,” said State Sen. John Kennedy (R) who was the bill’s original sponsor. “And I am grateful the project can now proceed.”
The overarching consensus of the community after the announcements: Great things are on the horizon.
The jumpstart project will begin immediately with the surveying. The town expects to finish the parking lot in May or June of 2020.