Living In: Kings Park, N.Y.: A Slice of America, With Lots of Shoreline


Living in

Kings Park, N.Y.: A Slice of America, With Lots of Shoreline

The Suffolk County hamlet, which has long stretches of parkland along the Long Island Sound, grew up around a now-defunct state hospital.

By Kathleen Lynn

Kings Park is the kind of place where families put down roots, often for generations. Just ask Edward R. Wehrheim, who lives in the same Kings Park house that his grandparents, and then his parents, owned.

“People tend to stay, and their children tend to stay,” said Mr. Wehrheim, 70, the supervisor for the Suffolk County town of Smithtown, where Kings Park is one of several hamlets.

“You have a lot of shoreline, and people gravitate to that,” he said, referring to the large stretches of parkland along the Long Island Sound and the Nissequogue River. Also appealing: the school system and Kings Park’s location on a Long Island Rail Road line.


Kings Park

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Kings Park Bluff





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By The New York Times

The hamlet grew up around a state psychiatric hospital that treated patients for more than a century, before closing in 1996. Many of the old hospital buildings remain, because of the cost of demolition; they stand as eerie reminders of an earlier era’s approach to treating the mentally ill. Part of the old hospital property is now Nissequogue River State Park.

The beaches and open space were a draw for Jenna Castoro, 40, and her husband, Chris Castoro, 45, who moved to Kings Park in October 2017 from Hicksville, N.Y. They paid $499,000 for a four-bedroom ranch house with a pool, Ms. Castoro said, and “we got a lot more for our money here.”

Ms. Castoro said they enjoy relaxing at the beach after work on summer evenings, and they also appreciate the small class sizes at their 8-year-old daughter’s school. One downside, though, is the hourlong drive to their jobs in Nassau County — his in information technology, hers in hospital billing.

The boardwalk at Sunken Meadow State Park offers views of the Connecticut shoreline across the Long Island Sound.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

“I love it,” Ms. Castoro said of Kings Park. “I just hate the commute.”

Kevin Johnston, a retired high school English teacher and longtime resident, who is a member of the board of education, described the hamlet as “a slice of America: it’s comfortable, it’s homey.”

A number of Mr. Johnston’s former students have returned after college, he said: “They hit a certain age, and they realize this is where they want to raise their kids.”

Scott Paisley, an agent with Signature Premier Properties in Smithtown, who has lived in Kings Park for seven years, said buyers like the small-town feel. “It’s more laid-back, and a little quiet, but you’re only six minutes away from Commack and all the shopping on Jericho Turnpike,” he said.

Kings Park’s own shopping district, on Main Street, has been the focus of recent revitalization efforts by the chamber of commerce and the Kings Park Civic Association, which have worked with two nonprofits, Vision Long Island and the Regional Plan Association. Plans call for drawing more people into the shopping district by encouraging multifamily and mixed-use construction in the area. To support such development, the state has authorized $20 million for sewer service for the Main Street area. Mr. Wehrheim said he expects sewer construction to start by 2020.

Kings Park is part of the town of Smithtown, in western Suffolk County. It has a population of about 21,000, including about 4,000 residents in the section of Fort Salonga that is in the Kings Park school district and is generally considered part of Kings Park.


567 PULASKI ROAD | A four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house, built in 1995 on 0.9 acres, listed for 769,999. 516-795-6900CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The hamlet has mostly single-family houses, with a number of 1950s and 1960s subdivisions filled with ranch houses, colonials, split-levels and raised ranches.

The San Remo neighborhood, near the Nissequogue River, was developed as a summer community in the 1920s, when the publisher of an Italian-language newspaper in New York City teamed up with a developer to offer free newspaper subscriptions to buyers. Prices there start at about $300,000 for an older bungalow on less than a quarter-acre and go up to about $700,000 for newer construction.

Fort Salonga, at the western end of Kings Park, offers larger homes, of 2,200 to 5,000 square feet, on one- to two-acre wooded lots near the Long Island Sound. Prices there typically range from about $625,000 to $2 million, said George McKnight, of Century 21 McKnight Realtors, in Kings Park.

There is one co-op community, which began life as a rental garden-apartment complex; one-bedrooms there range from about $220,000 to $260,000. And there is an age-restricted rental complex, Kings Park Manor, that offers apartments to tenants ages 55 and up, with rents starting at $1,400.


31 SIXTH AVENUE | A four-bedroom, two-bathroom house built in 1927 and renovated in 2006, on 0.38 acres, listed for $549,000. 631-667-4646CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Nordeen Accardi of Coldwell Banker, in Huntington, said she often works with buyers moving from New York City who start their searches in higher-profile Huntington, but then discover they can afford more land and a bigger house if they look east, to Kings Park. “We have to educate them,” Ms. Accardi said.

Single-family home prices generally start in the mid-$300,000s and range up to around $1.2 million, with most of the pricier homes in the Fort Salonga area of the hamlet, Mr. McKnight said. As of March 10, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island showed about 30 homes listed for sale in Kings Park, ranging from a three-bedroom ranch with an asking price of $359,900 to a newer stone house, with three master suites, for $1 million.


42 BOXWOOD DRIVE | A four-bedroom, two-bathroom house, built in 1965 on 0.25 acres, listed for $479,000. 631-269-6666CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The median home price in the 12 months ending March 19 was $450,000, up 2.5 percent from the same period a year earlier. As the supply of homes for sale is limited, Mr. McKnight said, properties that are appropriately priced tend sell in about a month.

On Main Street, there are popular restaurants like Relish, Ciro’s and Cafe Red. The hamlet also has a couple of strip malls, including one just south of the train station that offers a supermarket, a T.J. Maxx, an Italian restaurant called Gino’s of Kings Park, and Professor’s Diner.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade always draws a crowd. This year, the grandmasters were members of the Nally family, who have been in Kings Park for six generations, since their forebears immigrated from Ireland around 1900. Kings Park Day in June, sponsored by the chamber of commerce, features rides and music on Main Street. On Fridays in the summer, the Kings Park Civic Association sponsors live music on Main Street.

And there is plenty for lovers of the outdoors to do.

“We have two state parks — how lucky are we?” said Linda Henninger, president of the Kings Park Civic Association.

The Governor Alfred E. Smith State Park, also known as Sunken Meadow State Park, has more than 1,200 acres, with a beach and a boardwalk along with picnic areas, running and walking trails, and a golf course. Nissequogue River State Park offers walking and biking trails, a soccer field and a marina. And the town of Smithtown runs Callahans Beach on the Long Island Sound and the Kings Park Bluff, a boat launch where the Nissequogue River flows into the Sound.


Kings Park Psychiatric Center closed in 1996, but many of the buildings remain in what is now Nissequogue River State Park, because of the high cost of demolition.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Kings Park Central School District serves about 3,100 students in five schools: Fort Salonga and Parkview elementary schools, for kindergarten through third grade; R.J.O. Intermediate School, for fourth and fifth grade; William T. Rogers Middle School, for sixth through eighth grade; and Kings Park High School, for ninth through 12th grade.

In 2018, according to the New York State Education Department, 69 percent of Kings Park students in third through eighth grade were proficient in English language arts and 66 percent were proficient in mathematics, versus 45 and 47 percent statewide. The high school graduation rate in 2018 was 93 percent.

Kings Park is about 45 miles east of Midtown Manhattan, on the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson line. The ride to Penn Station takes 67 to 97 minutes, depending on the time of day. The fare is $19 at peak times, $13.75 off-peak and $391 monthly.

Drivers can take the Sunken Meadow State Parkway, which runs through Kings Park, to the nearby Long Island Expressway or Northern State Parkway. The drive takes between 90 minutes and two and a half hours at rush hour, depending on traffic.

Fort Salonga was the site of a Revolutionary War-era British fortification known as Fort Slongo, which was destroyed in a 1781 attack by Continental soldiers who crossed the Sound from Connecticut.

In the 1860s, an Episcopal minister from New York City founded the Society of St. Johnland, a rural refuge for the destitute near the Long Island Sound. The organization now runs a nursing home and rehabilitation center on part of the original property.

But the event that really marked Kings Park was the opening of a mental institution serving residents of Brooklyn in the 1880s. The railroad changed the name of the train station from St. Johnland to Kings Park in 1891, to reflect the hospital’s link to Brooklyn, in Kings County. Kings Park Psychiatric Center housed as many as 10,000 patients at its peak in the 1950s.

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Published at Wed, 20 Mar 2019 09:01:21 +0000