The Price (Tag) of Privatizing Public Parks
Our good friends at PARCnassau find the County Legislature's approval of the private use of Bay Park's athletic fields -- at taxpayer expense -- dismaying, to say the least.
Are we giving away our public parks and open spaces? And, at what cost to taxpayers, homeowners, and future generations of park-goers? A boon in revitalizing and maintaining a local community park, or a sellout to a private group with the public to bear the burden?
Read on, and feel free to comment below. They are your County parks, after all. Well, at least they were...
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Yesterday, Monday, April 4, 2011 the Rules Committee of the county legislature voted to allow the County Parks Department to finalize an agreement with Molloy College, Rockville Centre for the Occupancy and Use Permit for the Bay Park athletic fields. In effect, this commits COUNTY TAXPAYERS to underwrite Molloy College’s athletic program for $3 million up front and field maintenance costs for up to 30 years. This decision begs the question, why?
· Why was this proposal brought up in the Rules Committee instead of the Parks Committee?
· Why did the Republican majority ignore calls for further data that would insure an informed vote?
· Any logical reading of the agreement shows it to be, in fact, a lease and not a permit. Giving a private entity total use and control of most of a county park for up to 30 years is a lease, nothing less. Calling this a permit is just a way of avoiding scrutiny under the Alienation of Municipal Parklands case law which would require approval of the NYS Legislature. So, why was this done?
The vote was along party lines with the Republican majority outvoting the Democrat minority. (Will we ever see voting in accordance with personal knowledge and belief? Apparently not in Nassau County.) Testimony by PARCnassau and Vincent Esposito, former president of the Bay Park Civic Association against the proposal, stimulated a lively debate among the legislators about public access to the fields. A motion to table the matter until glaring omissions of public rights and access were investigated was totally ignored.
So who is the real loser in all this? The taxpaying Nassau County resident who will now have to finance a $3 million capital project bond to improve the fields for a private college to play on to the exclusion of the general public. The same residents will have to pay tax moneys to maintain those fields for up to 30 years for the private college’s sports and continuing exclusion of the public.
The only remaining hope is that either NIFA will nix this expensive agreement as not in the public interest or that the NYS Department of Parks will bring action to have this agreement brought under jurisdiction of the Alienation of Municipal Parklands case law. Any and all citizens of Nassau could and should petition NIFA and the State to weigh in on this issue.
For too long the very government entities charged with the fiduciary responsibility for our county parks have instead either violated or ignored that responsibility at the expense of the public that voted them into office. Shame on Them!
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau
Bruce Piel, Chairman
246 Twin Lane East, Wantagh, NY 11793