KINGS PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A long-awaited demolition project has finally gotten under way in Kings Park, Long Island.
The former Kings Park Psychiatric Center is located on hundreds of acres overlooking the Long Island Sound. But the facility closed in 1996 and the site has remained untouched since.
The facility opened in the late 1800s and housed up to 10,000 people in its heydey.
“My experience here was really negative. It was really frightening,” former patient Lucy Winer told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports
Ron Foley is the Long Island Regional Director for New York State Parks and he told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera this demolition project is a positive development for Long Islanders.
“To us, it’s kind of a celebratory day because it’s the first thing to happen on this site that’s been abandoned, essentially, for more than 20 years and it should be a positive sign in the community that things are finally happening,” Foley told Rivera.
Winer told Gusoff she was a patient in the 1960s when treatments for mental illness included lobotomy, electroshock and restraint. She said she’s thankful the warehousing of mentally ill people is long over, but is unconvinced there’s been positive change.
“Guess where the people who used to be at Kings Park are going? They are going to jail,” Winer said.
“We close these facilities, the institutions. We still have a lot to do to have a safety net for the mentally ill,” Kings Park resident Brendyn Smith told Gusoff.
Officials said leveling the buildings is long overdue.
“This project takes down about 15 buildings. Most of them are already falling down and this, we hope, is just the first phase of a bigger clean-up of the whole place,” Foley added.
Foley said the long-term plan for the sprawling property is to turn it into open space for the public to use.
“I think the expectation is that it’ll be a park that’s why it’s under our jurisdiction and we treat it as if it is parkland,” Foley said.
Officials said the demolition project will cost about $6 million in all.
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