. . .One Gazebo At A Time
Park activist, Bruce Piel, reports on trials and tribulations at Bay Park in East Rockaway.
So, how's your local community park doing? The Community Alliance -- and your Long Island neighbors -- would like to know!
Nassau's Forgotten Park
By Bruce Piel
When the County built the Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway they also built Bay Park. This was to provide a compensating amenity for the village as well as a buffer for the local community. The park provided tennis courts, basketball courts, athletic fields and a nine-hole golf course. Despite many years of improvement, community involvement and the value of this facility to the area, in the past decade it has become a neglected stepchild of the County Park system.
Like most of the county parks, Bay Park has been surrendered to vandals and other inappropriate uses when this administration eliminated the park ranger unit a few years back. Community residents no longer visit the park at dusk or after dark. Each week another act of criminal mischief is discovered. On August 1st an act of arson galvanized the Bay Park Civic Association to call a meeting to address the park issues.
On that night, vandals took a crib mattress awaiting curb side pick up and put in on picnic tables under a gazebo within the confines of the Children's Park and Playground, where it was set afire. When the Police and Fire Department arrived about 10:00 p.m., the entire structure and contents were engulfed. The loss of the gazebo and contents from a Children's Park that the community had long fought for became the last straw. Trashed toilets, graffiti covered benches, walls and vehicles driven over the athletic fields and now this.
The Bay Park Civic Association called a meeting for August 17th and invited all concerned public officials and residents. Over 200 residents attended, as did representatives of the 4th Precinct, Auxiliary Police, the Village Board, and Hempstead Councilman Anthony Santino. No one from Nassau County Government or Parks Department deigned to show up!
The community was told that Deputy Commissioner Andrew Hartwick would represent the Parks Department, but neither he nor any park representative made the meeting. Local county legislator Jeff Toback declined to come or send a representative. This snub was not mitigated by his offer of a $250 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprits. The Civic Association expressed their disappointment in the county representation to County Executive Thomas Suozzi who has yet to respond.
PARCnassau firmly believes that the county aided and abetted the vandals by failing to lock the lavatories and Children's park area, as well as not securing the park generally and enforcing the posted hours of access. The incidences of vandalism, underage drinking and drug use are on the rise in all county parks and if their response to the Bay Park situation is any example, the county doesn't care to address these issues. Once again, one of the finest park systems in the country is being allowed to disintegrate. It is past time for Nassau to adequately fund, maintain and protect our parks. They must start by meeting with the Bay Park community and it's Civic Association.
Bruce Piel is the Chairman of the Park Advocacy and Recreation Council of Nassau, a coalition of park advocacy and user groups throughout the county.
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793
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Editor's Notes: The Community Alliance reached out to the Bay Park community over the Labor Day Weekend and found that most residents were pleased with the $250 reward offered by Nassau County Legislator Jeff Toback (a reward matched by the Bay Park Civic Association, by the way), and thankful to Mr. Toback for having 100 reward posters printed so they could be posted by the civic association.
As a point of information, we have learned that the community meeting referenced by Mr. Piel was called by Town Councilman Tony Santino, not by the Bay Park Civic Association.
Further community meetings as to the conditions at Bay Park are to take place during September, we are told, with due participation of the County.
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In related news, there is evidence that the County's parks are making a comeback, getting much needed relief. READ, Mill Pond Gets Liposuction.
And today, the Nassau County Legislature takes up appropriation measures (under the Environmental Bond Act) designed to rehabilitate and revitalize some of our local community parks.