PARCnassau Evaluates State of Nassau's Parks
Nassau Parks 2007 Budget
By Bruce Piel
The 2007 Budget for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums has been bouncing around since October of last year. Politics has delayed any timely discussion or action on this deficient document. As you may know, State Senator Balboni, accepted Governor Spitzer’s offer to be in charge of the State Homeland Security Department and resigned his senate seat. A Special Election was set up to fill that seat.Legislator Craig John (D) 11th District was nominated to run by the County Democratic organization. The Parks budget and other controversial bills pending before the county legislature were tabled so as not to become a factor in that election. Mr. Johnson was elected leaving a vacancy in the legislature which became evenly divided between the majority and minority parties. Another Special Election is scheduled to fill that seat. Meanwhile the budget and other bills are still in hiatus until another majority is established and voting can continue along party lines rater than logic and personal convictions. [So much for democracy in action.]
Meanwhile, let us examine the proposed parks budget and if you find, as we do, major deficiencies, you’ll have time to express your concerns to your county legislator.
First, the administration plans to use the General Fund to financially administer the parks department. We believe this to be a bad idea. We will be taxed for park services and those tax monies will be buried with no accounting to insure they are spent on county parks. It also makes auditing by the Comptroller’s office much more difficult. Keep the Parks budget separate and accountable!
Secondly, fees are going up, ALL OF THEM, including Leisure Passes, Golf, tennis, picnic permits, pool fees, ball field and lighting permits, etc. etc. etc. There is no merit to this. If Parks was providing excellent services and needed increases to maintain them or if there was a plan to improve services by hiring more front line workers, buying equipment and supplies, 20% fee increases might be justified, but that is not the case. Instead this is a ruse to increase county revenues by means other than a property tax raise. So instead of everyone paying a little, park users will pay a lot. There is a hiring freeze on so there will be no new workers, However, that does not apply to Deputy Commissioners, their equivalents or to political patronage appointments, who answer to no one and come and go as they please. [If they could only learn to mow the grass, we might get some real work out of them]. No Fee Increases until justified by a management plan to increase employees and supply them with necessary equipment and supplies.
Thirdly, the county still intends to give 13 park facilities to the Town of North Hempstead. The largest of these are Hempstead Harbor , Whitney Pond and Manhasset Lake parks plus numerous smaller ones. We have already cited our objections to giving parks paid for and developed by all county residents away to just some county residents. This is wrong! Now to make this transaction more ridiculous, the budget states that “In Exchange” North Hempstead will invest $5 million in these parks in 5 years. What exchange? County residents in Hempstead and Oyster Bay receive no benefit, rather they will eventually lose access to these parks they have paid for. There is no reasonable time table for North Hempstead ’s $5 million investment and no accounting to insure it takes place. The budget further sweetens the deal by the county playing North Hempstead $3.1 million to take the parks and some roads. Are they serious? Unfortunately, yes. Keep the 13 county parks as county parks and use the $3.1 million to upgrade them for the use of all county residents.
Those are the main items noted in the 2007 budget that should be trashed. Some other minor but serious deficiencies include:
A paper increase of 11 full time positions, no workers just administrators.
A decrease of 4 positions, 2 full time and 2 part time.
A decrease of 13 seasonal positions.
Net loss 6 workers.
To increase revenue they are selling naming rights to the Aquatic Center , Mitchel Field, Ice Rinks and the Lakeside Theatre (I guess Harry Chapin is being consigned to the trash heap).
Golfers on the Red Course in Eisenhower Park will be required to use and pay for golf carts so they play faster and more players can fit in the usable time on the course. [Maybe they can hire monitors with cattle prods to insure the golfers do not tarry.]
County pools will be rentable for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, cousin parties, etc. (and presumably allowing other county residents to be excluded during the festivities).
It goes on and on, but the end result is apparent. It pretty much says to hell with the taxpaying county park user and squeeze out every dollar from the park system regardless of how negatively this will affect the very people the county park system was designed to serve. Now it up to you, your organization and members to put a stop to this travesty. Write or call your county legislators and insist they scrap the proposed 2007 county park budget and that a logical, intelligent plan be developed to restore the parks to some semblance of their former glory and that they serve the public interest economically and efficiently.
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793-1963
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