Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nassau County Parks: Public Or Private?

Lament Over Public Neglect And The Prospect Of Privatization

Our good friend Bruce Piel of PARCnassau cares deeply about the county's parks and open spaces. So much so that he chides Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and his administration at every turn for, on the one hand, failing to maintain and preserve our green spaces and places of recreation, and, on the other hand, attempting to privatize the parks, taking their stewardship -- and, perhaps, ultimately, their use -- out of the public domain.

Public parks, sustained for the public good, should be the province of a public trust, maintained and preserved by government for the people to enjoy.

But what happens when that government will not, or cannot, by reason of economics or otherwise, meet its obligation to care for our public parks?

Should public parks be "sold" to private entities? If so, will the public be precluded from future use or direction? Are we talking "namining rights," for a fee, enabling government to keep control over the parks, or the county simply handing over the keys to our parks to private enterprise, with the possibility of turning public facilities into "pay-to-play" private country clubs, or, perhaps worse still, open, green spaces into fodder for developers?

Nassau County parks are a natural treasure, to be enjoyed today by residents, and preserved as pristine oases for future generations of Long Islanders.

Private initiatives, carefully structured and scrutinized, to maintain and preserve our county parks can help, especially in these fiscally uncertain times. That said, Nassau's parks must forever remain public, the playgrounds, lakes, pastures, and ballfields that are the very hallmark of suburbia.
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The Privatization of Public Parks

The current Nassau County Administration is aggressively pursuing its goal of partially or completely privatizing most of its parks, preserves, beaches, museums, etc, etc. PARCnassau has always opposed most privatization which we believe demonstrates the county’s ignoring the public will and their fiduciary responsibility to our parks system.

That being said, there are some civic organizations that have generously offered time and personnel to maintaining and/or administering some facilities such as museums, and preserves. This, unfortunately, is not the norm. Much more likely are private entrepreneurs, sometimes disguised as a “friend’s group” or not-for-profit organization that has been given control of public parklands, lining their own pockets at the taxpayers expense. The private day care centers in several county parks would be a prime example. Private operators pay a minimum occupancy and use fee, no town or school taxes and reap exceptional profits. The public is excluded or forced to pay higher fees to compensate for their “stewardship”.

We believe this is intolerable and must be stopped and even reversed wherever possible. Instead the county is still chasing new political friends to enter into more privatization agreements.

Documents show that the county has already privatized fully or partially the following public properties:

· African American Museum
· Bailey Arboretum
· Cradle of Aviation
· Flower Hill Park
· Herrick’s Park
· Hewlett House
· Leeds Pond Preserve
· Northern Boulevard Park
· Roslyn Senior Citizens
· Sands Point Park & Preserve
· Silver Point Park
· Tanglewood Park & Preserve
· Wantagh Railroad Museum
· Welwyn Preserve
· William Cullen Bryant Preserve

These documents further show that the county executive and his staff are actively targeting the following properties for privatization.

· Baxter Pond Park
· Brookside Preserve
· Carmann’s Pond Park
· Carle Place Memorial Park
· Cedarmere
· Centenial Park
· Garvies Point Preserve
· Grant park
· Hall's Pond
· Inwood Park
· Jericho Historic Preserve
· Manetto Hills Preserve
· Massapequa Preserve
· Mill Neck Creek Preserve
· Meadowbrook Park
· Merrick (Meroke) Preserve
· Mill (Jones) Pond
· Muttontown Park & Preserve
· Old Bethpage Restoration Village
· Rev. Arthur Mackey Sr. Park
· Saddle Rock Grist Mill
· Sea Cliff Park
· Stannard’s Brook Park
· Stillwell Woods & Preserve
· Syosset Memorial Park

Are you concerned yet? Does the county walking away from its responsibility to operate and maintain these properties on our behalf bother you? Will we, the taxpayers of this county, continue to stand by while our children’s and grandchildren’s legacy is sold, bartered or given away? We hope not.

We haven’t even given you the worst of what is happening. A “Sportsplex” in Cedar Creek Park and Nickerson Beach Park and the sale of part of the Meadowbrook Preserve to an adjacent day camp that had used the site as their private property without the knowledge and permission of the county for years. These three instances will be the subjects of following updates.

Meanwhile, it is time for us to express our disgust and betrayal at the county administration’s cavalier treatment of our park system and demand the county recover and protect our parklands. It may be time for a public meeting to demonstrate our commitment. Will you and your membership come and show your support? Let us know.

Bruce Piel, Chairman
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh , NY 11793
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A Sportsplex at Cedar Park?

The Nassau County Administration put out an RFP (Request for Proposal) last year for some one to build a Sportplex in Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh/Seaford. This was to include a Go Cart Track and miniature golf. After having to extend the submission deadline a few times, a would be developer has submitted the only proposal.

A group lead by one Philip Tavella of Diversified Financial Consultants. Inc. aka Investacorp, Inc. of Bellmore has submitted plans to build a humongous, professional Go Cart race track from Kart Attack of Bay Shore directly behind the Cedar Creek Water Treatment Plant and a Miniature Golf facility directly behind the Jones Beach Hotel on Byron Street in Wantagh .

On the following pages you can see maps of the proposals.

First the Go Cart Track: Kart Attack bill its tracks as competition grade, x-treme sport tracks for use by adults, primarily. Up to 12 souped up carts will race over an intricate, extended track creating a great deal of noise pollution especially to the Seaford residents and marinas just across Cedar Creek to the east, Cedar Creek Park proper to the south and Wantagh Park and marina to the west, not to mention the Water Treatment Plant itself (which adds its own noxious odors to the mix). Add to that the traffic and crowd noises and the little serenity available to county park users in Wantagh & Seaford will be lost.

Second the Miniature Golf: High mast lights and crowd noise adjacent to a residential area insures no rest for the weary in that area, either. It will also block easy access to the Jones Beach bike path along Wantagh Parkway .

Thirdly, a proposed ball field complex will mean the removal of the hill (the only one in the area) used by local children to snow sled in the winter.

This project will also negatively impact the Cedar Creek park Aerodrome and the small Tether Track which is nestled near the water treatment plant.

Is here an upside to this? Not for residents and park users in the area. The developer intends to make big bucks for his, up to 20 year, lease and is exempt from Town and School taxes. Not bad. Not bad at all. Mr. Tavella touts his directorship of the Darryl Strawberry Foundation aka Center for Autism Education as the only justification he needs for this facility and is unable or unwilling to counter objections above. Mr. Tavella must understand that the community affected is not against special needs children but believes they can be best served by a private facility on private land and not by one on a public park that harms the community at large.

More to come on Nickerson Beach & the Meadowbrook Preserve..

Bruce Piel, Chairman
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh , NY , 11793
(516) 783-8378
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The views expressed by Mr. Piel are his own, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Community Alliance. We welcome differing viewpoints on quality of life issues for publication on this blog.
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Questions? Concerns? Comments? If it impacts on Long Islander's quality of life, we want to hear about it, and to help you do something about it.

E-mail The Community Alliance at thecommunityalliance@yahoo.com.

The Community Alliance
Common Sense Solutions To Common Community Concerns


  1. First of all, there are 3 hills in cedar creek park, not only one as Mr. Piel said. So the children will still be able to go sledding on the four sides of the other two hills, after a fun day of mini golf.

    Secondly, I don't know what kind of crazy mini golf Mr. Piel plays, but the kind i play doesn't really bring the "noisy crowds" that he suggests would keep residents awake (even though the area behind the Jones Beach Hotel, where the course would be, is a good distance away from the residents).

    Thirdly, there is no need for high mast lights (the kind Mr. Piel believes will keep residnets in the area awake) on the mini golf course as no one is allowed in the park after dark anyway!

    All in all i think mini golf would be a great addition to the park, and that's coming from a Seaford resident. The go karts sound like a fun addition as well, but do seem to have more downside and less practicality.

  2. where is everyone going to park????

  3. Good question (about parking?!) I do know that the bike path's entrance will apparently have to be re-routed to Byron Place (a residential street !). For as much information as we can get (from many different resources/persons with interest in this matter), please join facebook's group "Save Cedar Creek Park (Seaford, NY). Thank you.

  4. As I read the article for privatizing Cedar Creek Park and a proposed go cart track and indoor sports complex I had to the check the date. Was it April 1st? Could this be a joke? Is this seriously under consideration. If the last decade and the economic collapse has taught us anything it is that this so called "public private partnership" is not a partnership at all. It is a transfer of the public trust to the private interest. One only has to look at the hole in the ground that used to be the Jones Beach Restaurant to see what happens when these partnerships hit an impasse.

    I found myself asking these questions: Why on Earth are we looking to gain a financial benefit from a public park? Is there no other way to balance the budget? Are we actually out of good ideas?

    Why in the age of carbon credits and climate change are we looking to replace a natural space with CO2 emitting go-carts? Why are we looking to replace a quiet space with a noisy space?

    Haven't we developed this area enough? Haven't we learned that growth for growth's sake is unsustainable over the long run? Haven't we replaced enough open space with pavement?

    Can we not imagine leaving an open space open for the future generations? These parks were entrusted to us to use for the common good. Can you imagine Frederick Law Olmstead proposing such a self centered and cynical use for a public park? Can you seriously imagine Robert Moses considering this idea.

    Why would we want to turn Cedar Creek Park into Coney Island?

    Cui Bono? Who benefits? I can not see an upside for the public. For the County government, they get rid of their obligation to maintain the public park. For the developer? He gets to run a park into the ground so to speak and make a profit doing so.

    The real question is why was this developer not laughed out of the room? Why is he not ashamed? If it is such a wonderful idea, let him buy some land and build his dream park. Let's see if he can make it work in the free enterprise system. My guess is that he can not. And what if he doesn't? What if he signs a 20 year agreement and goes out of business in 5? Who then is left to maintain the structures? A privately owned mega sports complex in Lake Grove went out of business last year. The building was torn down and replaced by smaller buildings. Free enterprise in action. Everyone loves free enterprise.

    I have my own proposal for this very popular park. Do nothing. Leave it be. In the vernacular, Don't fix it if it ain't broke.

    Or if something must be done because we can't for some reason leave well enough alone. Let's do something life affirming and leave a legacy to the future. There is plenty of open space in the front of the park. Let's plant a fruit tree orchard. Let's start community gardens. Let's clean the air instead of pollute it. In short let's change the paradigm from incessant development to sustainable living.

    Or if we have painted ourselves into an economic corner, close the gates and let nature takes it's course. But seriously, that will never happen.

    I've been around too long and seen too much to think that our government will truly represent the will of the local residents. I am cynical and jaded, but not without hope. My hope is that when the time comes for the bulldozers to level the hills and the mixers to dump the concrete that the local citizens will take the kind of direct action necessary to block this plan. That we will return to local level democracy. A few dozen cars parked at the entrance to the park can temporarily block the bull dozers. A few hundred people camped out on the hills and in the fields can get the kind of media attention necessary to embarrass and shame our political leaders into listening to the people.

    Together we can have the kind of community that we want. But we have to want it. We have to leave the comfort of our easy chairs and cause a disruption of the status quo. If we don't, we will have the the kind of community we deserver, not the kind that we want.

  5. Is anyone talking about the environmental impact of this?
    Yes, forest cover has increased in NY state, but not along the coast. The type of wetland/shrub oak/ pitch pine ecosystem you find at Cedar Creek Park is not very common.

  6. note:
    My previous post had a link from the 1980's explaining the environmental situation at Cedar Creek Park. It mentions that there is a tern colony at Cedar Creek Park. I do not know if the tern colony is still there, but the link also discussed the vegetation at Cedar Creek Park. It mentions that the vegetation and habitat at Cedar Creek Park is rare. Even if the terns may/may not still be there, the vegetation/habitat description still applies today. If the developers are going to develop the remaining undeveloped land, then the ecosystem's rarity justifies any opposition.
    Can't we just keep some undeveloped land in Nassau county?

  7. Please express these extraordinary points across on the facebook group "Save Cedar Creek Park (Seaford, NY)" and attend the OPEN MEETING regarding Cedar Creek Park at Wantagh High School (Beltagh Avenue - off Wantagh Ave.), Wantagh, NY on OCTOBER 21st at 7 pm. All is welcome !

  8. Nassau County is in serious trouble..we just passed a %2.5 energy tax and a 3.9% property tax increase..we have the second highest property taxes in the nation(out of 3140 counties!), one of the highest state income taxes and sales taxes. The population is declining , mostly young people leaving and our homes are the least affordable in the nation. Though the go karts might be too extreme anything that generates jobs and income for the county should be taken seriously. The idea that a developer would get such tax considerations however is laughable. Privatizing the parks is not.