Southern State Parkway tourist center 'eyesore' comes tumbling down, explained.

It once welcomed tourists to the Island, but now its time is up.


The demolition crew gathered at 8:30 a.m. sharp last week in a grassy field on the side of the Southern State Parkway. Behind them was a row of residential houses on Valley Stream’s Arkansas Drive blanketed by trees. In front of them stood the decrepit remains of a 900-square-foot A-framed building.

The abandoned chalet-style structure — a holdover from another time — was built as a tourist center for motorists coming onto Long Island more than four decades ago. Yet, it has sat vacant since 2018.

But within two days last week, what was once the Southern State Parkway Tourism Center was no more.

Demolition machinery made swift work of crushing and pulverizing the building until it was nothing more than a pile of rubble. The state-deployed crew then swooped in to clean up the destruction, removing any and all physical traces.

George Gorman, regional director of the state’s parks, recreation and historic preservation office, said after workers planted grass seeds over the demolition site, they would let nature reclaim the space.

No traffic was disrupted during the work. Before wiping the mini-landmark off the map, however, state officials first assessed for any hazardous materials that could be generated during demolition. Asbestos — a toxic mineral commonly found in older buildings — was discovered in small quantities, noted Gorman, but nothing for which to raise alarm about.

“There was a minimal amount of asbestos that we removed weeks ago,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that when it gets demolished, there would be no hazardous materials on-site.”

At its height, the tourist center welcomed roughly 35,000 visitors each month. But the detailed history of the building is mostly lost to time, Gorman said. Before it, there was the Southern State Park Toll Plaza, a stopping point for vehicles to cough up a few cents to pass through its toll booths.

Since the abandoned center sits on state park land and has been “wasting away” as a relic of a bygone era, Gorman’s department coordinated with the state transportation department to have it finally razed. There was no serious talk of replacing it.

“It was a location for individuals to pick up tourism brochures,” Gorman said. “It was not a full-fledged rest stop. There were no public restrooms. It had a small septic system that helped take care of the few staffers that worked there.”

Discover Long Island, the regional nonprofit tourist promotion agency, last operated it in 2017. The building — topped with its eponymous steep-angled roof — was once the architecture of choice for vacation houses on Long Island.

But now, if anything, the building had become a passing “eyesore” for vehicles on the highway, argued Gorman — something that had long outlived its purpose.

It simply had to go.

“The space doesn’t have the capability to hold a modern, code-compliant visitor’s center,” Gorman said. “There’s residences right behind, so there is really no space.

“It’s an eyesore that needed to be resolved.”