Town of Smithtown and Celebrate St James Commemorate the Completion of Celebrate Park with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Dedication
Yesterday, the Town of Smithtown, in conjunction with Celebrate St James; Past, Present & Future, hosted State, County & local officials, park donors, small businesses and community members, to cut a ribbon marking the official opening of Celebrate Park on Lake Avenue in St James. On Tuesday, October 18th, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim led the ceremony, in which the Town of Smithtown acknowledged the various departments, private citizens, and community organizations who collaborated together in a public-private partnership to build the new park and municipal parking lot.
“We’ve seen a full blown renaissance here in our quaint hamlet. People are strolling Lake Avenue again, kids are riding bikes to town again. And can you blame them? With a great park to sit and relax in, maybe take in a live performance… paired with some homemade old fashioned ice cream just across the street… it sounds like a Norman Rockwell, picture perfect day to me! Before I took office, I had once counted 33 empty storefronts on Lake Avenue. Now there’s maybe less than a handful. This is what revitalization looks like… Today we commemorate what can happen when a community, the good people who call it home and local levels of government all work together. Today we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor and officially welcome the people of this great town to Celebrate Park!” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim
In 2020, the Town of Smithtown entered into an intergovernmental contract with Suffolk County for the purchase of property, formerly known as the Irish Viking, located on Lake Avenue in St James, with a plan to construct a municipal parking lot and community park as the third phase of the St James downtown revitalization initiative. Upon completion of the purchase of the centrally located land, the Town of Smithtown begun to coordinate design and construction efforts together with St James residents; Natalie Weinstein of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates, Landscape Architect Bob Retnauer of RDA and Architect Michael Morbillo of Enspire Design Group, and in conjunction with the local arts organization Celebrate St James; Past, Present & Future. The park, which was partially funded through community donations, and the construction of the municipal lot, was completed in August.
“I, and I am sure many of you, never would have imagined this joint achievement of local government and a small band of volunteers. But this is an unusual administration and an unusual group of volunteers. Both embody the vision of economic revitalization. Both are committed to progress and both attract the talent and cooperation of some pretty amazing people. I know, because I have the privilege of working with so many of them… Today we will cut a ribbon to symbolically and actually turn a vision into reality – taking an eyesore in our community and transforming it into a place of pride for all – now and in the future. I will forever hold scenes in my mind of children playing here, teenagers gathering here, and people respectfully walking their dogs here. This park will tell our living history for generations to come… In a world of derisiveness and division, even in our town, even when we vehemently disagree on an issue, even through a pandemic, its existence proves we can find common ground, literally and figuratively – creating a ray of light that gives us hope for a better future.” - Natalie Weinstein, Founder of Celebrate St. James: Past, Present & Future
The official unveiling of the Park's design was held in November of 2020, during a ceremonial groundbreaking event. Demolition of the building on the lot took place in the weeks afterwards. The Smithtown Planning Department began to host a series of meetings together with Smithtown Highway Department, Traffic Safety, Parks, Buildings & Grounds, the Town Attorney's office, Landscape Architect Bob Retnauer of RDA and Architect Michael Morbillo of Enspire Design, Natalie Weinstein and the the Celebrate St James organization to coordinate the building process. The municipal parking lot was completed in the Spring of 2021, and features 33 parking spaces, E.V. charging station, ornate street lighting and two entrances. Celebrate Park, which was completed in August of this year, features a wrought iron custom gateway, a pavilion, a pergola, synthetic lawn, unique bench wall seating, personalized brick walkways which members of the community customized individually, a flag pole, benches, tables, dog fountain, and seasonally curated landscaping. Specialty string lighting frames the park and illuminates the space in the evening hours. Additionally, a donor wall serves as a backdrop to the pavilion and the pergola is coupled with original artwork (by Arline Goldstein) and a guide of cultural and historic sites throughout the hamlet.
“Here we are in this magnificent park, located in the heart of the Lake Avenue Cultural Arts District with a pavilion, a pergola, seating, and more, among over 700 bricks with inscriptions that will be read for years to come, each one with its own story, whether it’s the name of a business, beloved family members and friends, there’s even a cow – Baby Face – who lived on the De Camp family farm in our town until the 1960s… I’d like to take a moment to offer a special thank you on behalf of Celebrate St. James to Supervisor Wehrheim and his administration, especially Peter Hans, Kelly Brown and Joseph Arico for building this beautiful park here in St. James! It has been my pleasure to work with all of you. I would also like to recognize and thank the Board of Directors of Celebrate St. James for all their hard work and dedication to our mission.” - Pat Clark, President of Celebrate St. James: Past, Present & Future
The Celebrate St James organization acknowledged the major donors who contributed to the Park’s construction, which included the St James Chamber of Commerce, The Community Association of Greater St. James, a number of local non-for-profit organizations, businesses, and families, presenting each donor with flowers from Hither Brook Floral and Gift Boutique. State Senator Mario Mattera presented Celebrate St James, Natalie Weinstein and the Town of Smithtown with certificates for their collaborative efforts during the ceremony. The event ended with a ribbon cutting at the gateway entrance to Celebrate Park.