Tags Posts tagged with "Sean Lehmann"

Sean Lehmann

Sean Lehmann and Linda Henninger work to bring new life to downtown Kings Park. Photo from Sean Lehmann

By Rebecca Anzel

Three Kings Park community leaders partnered to improve and invigorate the hamlet’s downtown area.

Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Tanzi, Civic Association President Sean Lehmann and Civic Association Vice President Linda Henninger had received feedback from residents and business owners for years that the area needed to be revitalized.

Together, they hosted three meetings attracting about 300 residents each to create a vision plan representative of the community’s wishes for downtown Kings Park, which includes parts of Main Street, Pulaski Road, Indian Head Road and Meadow West. The plans included ideas for more sewers in the town to help accommodate new businesses and affordable housing.

Tanzi and Henninger proposed the completed vision to the Smithtown town board at a meeting in November. The town is waiting on a marketing study to be completed before accepting the plan.

“You just have to drive through Kings Park to see we have great bones and offer a lot,” Henninger said in a phone interview. “We can really make this the jewel it can be.”

For their leadership and commitment to improving Kings Park, Tanzi, Lehmann and Henninger are being recognized as three of Times Beacon News Media’s People of the Year.

Tony Tanzi works to bring new life to downtown Kings Park. Photo from Tony Tanzi.

“They work hard to make Kings Park a better place to live. It’s their persistence against resistance from the county, the state and the town that makes them successful — they just keep going,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. “This is something that kids should look at and say, ‘These guys don’t stop and when you don’t stop, you get results.’”

Tanzi, a third-generation Kings Park resident, owns a hardware company, construction firm and several properties in the area. He said he hopes by revitalizing downtown, younger residents, including his four children, will want and can afford to stay in Kings Park.

“Younger residents not only want the ability to move around without having to get a car, they want to live in an area that has an entire community built into an offshoot of where they live,” he said.

Henninger, a mother herself, agreed that upgrading downtown Kings Park is a way to keep residents and attract new ones. She has always been active in the town. A Fort Salonga resident, Henninger has been a member of the civic association since 1992 and formed a group called Kings Park Neighbors Association, which helped prevent the sale of the Kings Park Psychiatric Center to a private developer.

That fight is how she and Lehmann met. He moved to Kings Park in 2005 and got involved with KPPC because he thought the developer’s plan to build multifamily housing would not be good for the hamlet.

One of their immediate efforts has been to hold a concert series and farmers market on Main Street, a way Lehmann said he hoped would encourage other residents to begin utilizing the downtown area.

“This is a unique community and we love it,” Lehmann said. “Kings Park has a very small town feel and plenty of open space, so when we thought about revitalizing our downtown, we wanted it to still feel quaint and fit with the character of the community.”

Henninger was quick to point out that while she, Lehmann and Tanzi helped to organize the project and make sure a plan was created, revitalizing downtown Kings Park was a group, community effort. The best part of the 18-month project, she and Tanzi agreed, was seeing residents come together to better the hamlet.

“It’s easy to get tons of people coming out to fight against something they don’t want, but it’s very rare that you can get people to come out and talk about something they do want,” Tanzi said. “We got so many people engaged and excited about it that they came out and participated.”

Henninger echoed the sentiment.

“When you’re doing something for the good of the town, of the community, anything can be accomplished,” she said.

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

Kings Park’s Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association have joined forces to seek out improvements to downtown Kings Park.

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce has been working for years to try and revitalize the downtown. It has now partnered up with the civic association and together they have hired Vision Long Island to do a community vision prospectus with hopes of creating a bucket list of items that could transform the community.

“For a long time it has been a sore subject that our downtown is struggling as it is,” said Anthony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. “We’re hoping to create a vision of what they’d like to see. Hopefully everyone feels that they’re vested in the process. Then we will take that plan to the town board.”

According to Tanzi, this includes a series of public meetings where they will meet with community members to try and get the broadest representation of what the community wants. Tanzi said he hopes to see residents flooding those meetings and sharing their desires for downtown Kings Park. He also said he wants to engage as many groups as possible, including school districts, fire districts and more, to get a diverse amount of opinions.

“I want to hear all the wants and dreams,” Tanzi said. “Whether it’s for more restaurants, housing, apartments or brick sidewalks.”

The next meeting was set for Oct. 24 at William T. Rogers Middle School on Old Duck Road at 10 a.m.

Tanzi said that the chamber and civic are each paying $5,000 to Vision Long Island, and Vision is underwriting the final $5,000 for its overall $15,000 fee. Tanzi said he hopes Vision Long Island will identify Kings Park’s marketability and assets, highlight the resources and then couple that with residents’ desires for a new downtown.

“Then, hopefully, the Town of Smithtown will have to make a commitment to implement these changes and identify sources of funding.” Tanzi said.

Vision Long Island will be meeting with the town later in October, according to Tanzi, and said it hopes to have a full plan within the next six months.

Wastewater management and high taxes are two specific problems Tanzi said downtown Kings Park faces currently.

“We don’t have the ability to move forward because of the lack of sewers,” Tanzi said. “This makes it difficult for someone to come and want to invest in downtown.”

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he agreed and has written to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) expressing how desperately Kings Park needs sewers.

“I am writing you today to implore you to do all that is in your power to obtain funding to expand sewer access in the hamlet of Kings Park,” Trotta said in the letter. “Downtown Kings Park, with its railroad station just off Main Street and a beautiful state park in the heart of the town is ripe for economic revitalization.”

Sean Lehmann, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, said that this issue has been relevant in the civic association for years.

“Every year we give out membership forms, and on the forms we ask each member to list their top three concerns,” Lehmann said. “For the past four or five years downtown has been the number one concern.”

Lehmann also said the conditions of buildings in town are a concern as well as parking.

“We don’t have the type of businesses to drive customers out to shop here also,” Lehmann said.

He did say that some restaurants on Main Street are actually doing very well, including Ciros, Cafe Red and Relish. “But we’d like to invite more,” Lehmann said. “And sewers would really help with that.”

Lehmann also said downtown should have a focus on housing opportunities. “We want affordable housing opportunities,” Lehmann said. “It would be great for our kids who are just coming out of college.”

More than anything else, Tanzi said that resident participation is the most crucial factor.

“If we all fight for it and spend time and everyone feels that they’ve been heard, I think they’ll be more inclined to march to town hall and say what they want,” Tanzi said.