Doubts linger over planned 9/11 park on Sound Avenue

By Tim Gannon Riverhead News-Review

Suffolk County’s proposed acquisition of developer Kenn Barra’s four-acre site at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue may not be dead, as Mr. Barra had suggested at a recent Town Board meeting.

But an attorney for the developer says he has “serious doubts” the deal will even happen.

Mr. Barra had proposed a shopping center for the property but faced stiff opposition from Reeves Park residents and litigation from Riverhead Town over zoning.

To much local fanfare, he ultimately agreed last year to sell to the county for use as memorial park.

County parks trustees are expected to discuss the site plan proposal to build a park on that land at their September meeting, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 20, at 1 p.m. at Montauk County Park.

But an attorney for Mr. Barra said he’s heard before that the deal for the Baiting Hollow land near the Reeves Park neighborhood was moving forward. And it still hasn’t.

County officials and Mr. Barra reportedly struck a deal last fall for the county to acquire the land, which had been slated for development, for $1.2 million for use as a hamlet park.

The Riverhead Town Board also agreed to spend $50,000 on the park, which would include a September 11 Memorial. Since then, however, the county has replaced its real estate director and re-evaluated its open space acquisition program.

Mr. Barra’s attorney, Peter Danowski, said that Suffolk County still has not closed on the property’s purchase and still has not approved an authorizing resolution from the county Legislature on the purchase.

“I have serious doubts that the property will be acquired,” Mr. Danowski said at last week’s Town Board meeting.

At the same meeting, Mr. Barra also questioned whether the county acquisition would occur.

Mr. Danowski said in an interview that the price Mr. Barra agreed to doesn’t even cover what he’s paid on the property, including things like taxes and mortgage payments.

“I’ve been through acquisitions many times,” Mr. Danowski said Wednesday. “If everyone in county government wanted to close on the purchase of this property, it would have been done already. I fully expect this could be developed.”

The September 11 park would be built in memory of all 2001 terror victims, including Thomas Kelly a New York City firefighter and Reeves Park resident who was killed on 9/11. Park Road was later named Thomas Kelly Drive in his honor.

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