Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Less Than Rosey Picture Of Nassau County's Parks

Fall Report From PARCnassau Cites Abandonment, Neglect, And Inexperience At The Helm

Bruce Piel, Chairman of PARCnassau, a county parks advocacy group, issues his second annual report card on Nassau's parks, and finds, yet again, that our parks -- from active to passive -- are still not making the grade.

Now, we all know that Bruce is no partisan of the Suozzi administration, and would probably give poor grades under any Democratic reign, but truth is, the condition of Nassau County's parks, particularly the too long neglected local, or so-called "passive" parks, speaks for itself.

With the progress of our County parks apparantly as stagnant as the waters in our local ponds, Mr. Suozzi's $18 million " “Nassau County Parks Are Making a Come Back” Campaign, launched in January, 2005, notwithstanding, one wonders just where all this money -- tax dollars, every one -- is going.

And now, with the $50 million raised through the last Environmental Bond Act (2004) allocated, if yet to be utilized in reclaiming the few community parks under the County's domain, voters are being asked to approve yet another Environmental Bond -- this for $100 million (Propsition One on the November 7th ballot) to preserve open space and protect our drinking water.

Well, if it isn't "tax and spend," its "borrow and spend" -- which, of course, comes down to "spend now and tax later, with interest," as we've learned through the agony of past bond initiatives, whether for State Transportation (which monies are rarely seen locally), or for Town Highways (which dollars never hit any pavement we've driven over).

Yes, we need to clean up and maintain our parks, to preserve what precious open space is left us in Nassau County, and to make sure that our drinking water, where it is still pure and potable, remains so for generations to come.

Perhaps if the next Governor of New York trims that Medicaid fraud still further, and the Legislature takes a break from its annual "spend like there's no tomorrow" binge, we'll actually have enough money to pay for these things without having to send the taxpayers to the poor house.

And maybe the County Exec, along with our venerable County Legislature, will realize that our Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums needs experienced, hands-on management, and not just a Phys Ed teacher cum Commissioner at the helm.

Yeah, and we're winning the war in Iraq, too!

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7th!
Second Annual Report Card for Nassau County Parks , Recreation and Museums

The Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau) has completed its second annual report card for Nassau County Parks. Chairman Bruce Piel announced that the grade is a disappointing "D". Despite the sincere efforts of the Chief Deputy Commissioner and the few remaining annual employees, our parks and facilities remain in unacceptable condition. It is readily apparent that the county has financially abandoned the park system.

The limited personnel, equipment and resources have been concentrated in Eisenhower Park and a few larger parks with active and vocal advocates. "Lesser" parks, preserves and historic sites have been largely ignored. A couple of hundred employees in a system that once boasted 1,200 obviously cannot do the job. While hundreds of essential entry level jobs go unfilled, the addition of new Deputy Commissioners continues. Added to the roster this year were Deputy Commissioners for Museums, Finance and Golf. In addition, a new Commissioner was appointed. None of these have any park experience continuing the inexplicable policy of the current administration.

The county again hosted the PGA Commerce Bank Golf Tour this year. This is the tournament no one wants, that loses money and denies residents access to the Red Course at Eisenhower for several weeks. The public response was so bad this year that the administration allowed county workers to be spectators for free upon presentation of their employee identification.

Vandalism and trespassing after hours in the parks have increased dramatically. This was highlighted when picnic tables were piled up in the childrens' Playground gazebo in Bay Park and set afire.

Historic sites remain on the verge of collapse. Little or no maintenance is done to keep these important reminders of Long Island Heritage around for future generations. The highly touted Bethpage Restoration Village has become the Bethpage Desolation Village and is slowly crumbling to the point of no return. After freeing this facility from the administration of a notorious "friends" group, the county has yet to find a vendor for the gift shop or snack bar further dissuading visitors.

Preserves are also ignored. Volunteer groups seeking trash removal, cleanup supplies and equipment are offered nothing but lip service. Here again, vandals, dirt bike enthusiasts and other neâer-do-wells have taken over and are systematically destroying these pristine areas. Pond clean ups, highly publicized, have ground to a halt, leaving ugly mud flats for months at a time.

Museum Row at Mitchel Field has been a continuing embarrassment all year. Mismanagement and poor fund raising have finally galvanized some members of the legislature to action. The privatization of the Cradle of Aviation and other facilities has not worked. The county has had to bail the museum out financially over and over. Enough is enough. It is time to return museums to the Museum Division of the Parks System. After all, there is a new Deputy Commissioner (albeit without any museum experience) who is charged with administering such sites (and paid accordingly). Those prominent citizens now sitting on the museum board should turn their efforts into developing private financial support and leave operations to park professionals (yes, there are still a few).

In summary, through patronage and benign neglect the taxpayers of Nassau County are losing a major ingredient in our suburban lifestyle, our parks, preserves and historic sites. A first glance, most look good. It is only when you check the filthy lavatories, and examine the facilities closely that one sees the deterioration and negligence our parks have suffered. It is past time for our taxpayers to demand that budgeted moneys for parks be spent there and not sequestered for more politically advantageous projects.

Let your County Executive and Legislators know how you feel about the travesty occurring daily in what once was one of the finest park systems in the country.

Bruce Piel
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh , NY 11793
(516) 783-8378

1 comment:

  1. re: Here again, vandals, dirt bike enthusiasts and other neâer-do-wells

    Sorry to disappoint, but not all dirt bike enthusiasts are vandals. Most of us have respect for others, even when they don't respect us!