Monday, April 26, 2010

Taking Back Nassau's Parks

One Small Step For Public Use. . .

The public versus private debate continues, and it's not only with respect to schools.

Our friend Bruce Piel of PARCnassau reports on County parks coming back into the public domain.

The question remains, however, whether, with the parks now under county control once again, will the county maintain and preserve them, or will the parks -- particularly Nassau's so-called "passive" community parks, playgrounds, and open spaces -- continue to go to weed?

Public or private, we cannot neglect the care, maintenence and preservation of Nassau County's green spaces. They are too few, too precious, and too much a part of our suburban quality of life.
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From PARCnassau:
Nassau Taxpayers Repossess Their Parks

By Bruce Piel

Last week the current county administration and the county legislature codified the public’s innate right to full access and use of its county parks. They, in effect, evicted private day camps from county parks.

For over 9 years, the Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau and its constituent organizations have argued and lobbied against the privatization of the Nassau County Parks system. The proponents of this poorly disguised dissolution of our parks, preserves and historical sites included the former county administration, abetted by a compliant majority in the county legislature and general public unawareness.

This resulted in the issuance of permits for private day camps to use 8 county parks and the transfer of 13 county facilities to the Town of North Hempstead , excluding other county residents from having a say in those parks. Each year more and more park facilities were being offered to private operators; including golf courses, the Aquatic Center, park pools, preserves, ice rinks, etc, etc. The final straw was the county entertaining the privatization of the entire Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh/Seaford by a developer that planned an “amusement park” at that site.

The public response which had been building for years against privatization, focused on this monumental travesty with demonstrations, intense lobbying and publicity. Nassau citizens led by these two communities began to protect their parks physically and vocally. Resultant publicity doomed the Cedar Creek project, the sale of acreage in the Roosevelt Preserve and the takeover of the pool at Christopher Morley Park. It also was a factor in the 2009 county elections which put a new team in Mineola .

The battle was won but the war is not over. There are still advocates of public/private partnerships in the park system and county government. There are still private companies looking to make a profit at the public’s expense misusing park facilities. Vigilance by advocates such as PARCnassau and the public must be maintained to insure our parks, preserves, museums and heritage sites are maintained by the county for the use and enjoyment of all Nassau residents. We must urge our county officials to make every attempt to recover the parks given to North Hempstead and begin the process of restoring the Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums. The Day Camp issue was a great first step. Congratulations!

Bruce Piel
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh, NY 11793

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