Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Park(s), Drive or Reverse?

PARCnassau Assesses Recent Developments In Nassau County's Parks

Well, 2006 has gotten off to an interesting start as far as the Nassau County Park system is concerned.

The first $4 Million of the Environmental Bond Fund is slated for regular maintenance projects or landscaping studies in several parks both town and county. This is a misuse of these funds which were voted in to either acquire new properties for open space or new capital funded projects such as new playgrounds, etc. (Another $2 million does address new projects but no new acquisitions are listed.)

The County legislative majority confirmed the appointment of an unqualified new Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Museums. Incredible! While Jose Lopez might be a great organizer of track meets, that activity is a miniscule part of park operations of which he admittedly knows little if anything. With the parks system collapsing from lack of personnel and supplies, the appointment of someone less than a proven expert in Suburban Parks is ludicrous. This also raises the issue that if Mr. Lopez was organizing the track evens for nothing, why are we now paying him $125.000 a year to do it now? This appointment follows the hiring of two new Deputy Commissioners, also unschooled in suburban parks. This dynamic trio joins 10 other Deputies and Special Assistants equally unqualified in the proper running of our park system. We truly believe that each of these individuals have greater value in a gubernatorial campaign than any suburban park system.

As we warned in 2000, The Cradle of Aviation Museum, despite its noble intent, would become another boondoggle if allowed to privatize. Management of the facility is in the 3rd group of hands and still large executive salaries and inadequate marketing have caused this public resource to fail. While the county retained most of the maintenance costs and unpaid volunteers do most of the work, the bloated management has bled the coffers dry. Now they are looking at the county to forgive $2.5 million in debt and hand over another half million so they can continue to operate. This is folly. The "Cradle" should be reacquired by the county immediately and turned over to the Museum Division of the Parks Department. The few paid employees should be county workers supplemented by the existing volunteers. Management should be in the hands of the new Deputy Commissioner of Museums, Stacey Kay, who could "earn his spurs" in turning this museum around.

Plans to turn over 13 county parks on the north shore to the Town of North Hempstead continue. This "theft" of parks acquired and paid for by all county residents should be scrapped once and for all. How about using some Bond Fund Money to rebuild the county's Hempstead Harbor Park? To have allowed this park to fall into such ruin is a disgrace and obviously designed to facilitate the transfer to North Hempstead.

Our county parks are in a state of collapse. The least concerned about this is the county administration who continues to starve the system of personnel (excluding Deputy Commissioners, of course), equipment and supplies. It is up to park users, their families, friends and neighbors to stand up and demand that the $68 million a year budgeted for parks is spent in parks. If not, where is that money going? Our suburban parks are an integral part of our lifestyle in Nassau County and they are being taken away from us. We will all be the poorer for it.

Bruce Piel
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793-1963
(516) 783-8378
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Click HERE to read the Newsday editorial, Nassau's Land Preserve

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