Monday, April 07, 2008

What? A Town Park In Disrepair?

This One's In Merrick. Others May Be In Your Own Back Yard!

For years we've been hearing about Nassau County's parks -- particularly the so-called "passive parks," which account for the majority of neighborhood parks -- being in disrepair, the victims of neglect and mismanagement.

But a Town of Hempstead (which prides itself on the beauty of its parks and beaches) park in dire need of improvement, and a community up in arms at the Town's failure to respond to the outcry?

We are aghast and agog. Mostly agog.

Do photojournalists not cover Merrick's Julian Lane Park as they do East Rockaway's Bay Park?

Where is Tony Santino -- he of that "foul aroma of government that refuses to address the concerns of the residents it represents" -- when it comes to the concerns of the residents of South Merrick? [Oh, that's Angie Cullen's district. Sorry.]

Residents of South Merrick want a park like the one in South Bellmore? [Hmm. Doesn't Councilman Gary Hudes hail from Bellmore?]

Children are peeing in the bushes at Julian Lane Park? [Don't they know that this community park is not the Town of Hempstead's toilet?]

"The sandbox hasn't been cleaned in 30 years..." So what? Town Hall hasn't been cleaned in more than 100 years. Patience, dear friends. Patience.

Could it be that residents of South Merrick -- akin to their neighbors in Elmont, West Hempstead, Uniondale, Seaford (oh, just pick an unincorporated area of the township) -- are being ignored by Town of Hempstead officials (or, as one resident put it, "slighted")?

Gee, what would make anyone think that?

Amidst the almost mindless (and clearly planted) chorus of "Thank you, Kate Murray" and "Thank you, Tony Santino," disingenuous and misplaced, all, are the cries of outraged residents -- from Elmont, in the west, to Wantagh, in the east -- begging for something remotely resembling representative government.

Of course, not everyone believes that improvements -- or even basic maintenance -- are in order, whether in Merrick's Julian Lane Park or elsewhere in the unincorporated hitherlands of America's largest township.

"My backyard faces the park," said one adjoining Merrick homeowner, "and I think Julian Lane Park is fine the way it is."

Then there was the recent comment -- on this very blog -- regarding our post lambasting Councilman Santino and Supervisor Murray for "hearing voices" at Bay Park, while turning a deaf ear in other communities.

Or could it be that elected officials only listen to residents from the hamlets in which these officials reside?

Take heart, good citizens of South Merrick. You are not alone. Residents from Elmont to Wantagh, East Meadow to West Hempstead, are making noise at Town Hall, and few of them -- other than those on payroll, or woefully out of touch with the reality of a township that has gone from suburb to brownfield-- are saying, "thank you."

Oh, sure. You can find a fella in Elmont who is thankful for the blight that is the old Argo, or a prostitute or twelve in West Hempstead who is grateful to Kate Murray for keeping the Courtesy hotel open for business, but as for the rest of us, we expect more from our town than glass in the sandbox and urine in the bushes.

Keep up the fight, South Merrick! You too, members of the South Merrick Community Civic Association.

You CAN fight Town Hall, and you must.

And remember, whether that fight is in South Merrick or West Hempstead, East Meadow or the western fringes of Elmont, we're all in this fight together!
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From The Merrick Herald:

Emotions run high at playground meeting
By Laura Lane

The room was filled to capacity and many residents stood in the doorway at a recent South Merrick Community Civic Association meeting that was held to discuss proposed upgrades to Julian Lane Park.

Robert Ward, the district supervisor for the Town of Hempstead Department of Parks & Recreation, was invited to the meeting to answer residents' questions about the town park.

Jodi Turk, one of the chairs of the civic group's park committee, opened the meeting by expressing the community's concerns about the park. "I'm a mom like everyone else here, and I sit at the park and complain like we all do," Turk said. "The sandbox hasn't been cleaned in 30 years, there's glass in it [and] the playground isn't safe.

"Turk and several other residents said they'd like two climbing structures, one for younger children and one for older children, to ensure that children play safely. Right now, there is one climbing structure for younger children.

Turk also pointed out that the fence was in disrepair, with holes with rusty metal. She and several residents were upset by an anti-Semitic symbol that they said hadn't been removed from the jungle gym since the summer.

"I'm going to get the JDL [Jewish Defense League] and Newsday down here if it's not cleaned up by this weekend," said Bill Vilkas. "There is no excuse; whatever it costs, it has to be taken off."

Visibly upset, Ward told Vilkas that he didn't know of the swastika and promised to have it removed immediately. "Some other repairs need to be fixed now," Sarah Greenstein said. "How about if I go there with my tool box and send my bill to the town." Ward suggested that she not do that, adding that certain issues could be dealt with now by the town -- those that presented dangerous conditions. "I can take care of the emergency repairs, like cleaning the sandbox and fixing the fence," Ward said. "But we can't make major changes without approval of town hall."

Apart from the repairs, many residents said they believed that south Merrick should have a revitalized park like they've seen in south Bellmore at East Bay Park. Many seemed to believe that south Merrick was being slighted by the town, and they were angry.

"We should be able to go in our backyard, not have to go to Bellmore's park," said Turk. "We've been neglected. Closed garbage cans are a simple solution. At Julian Lane, the children go to the bathroom in the bushes and in the sandbox; everyone knows that."

Turk and others want the town to install a bathroom in the park and have it monitored by a park worker. But not everyone agreed.

"My backyard faces the park, and I think Julian Lane Park is fine the way it is," said Geri Silverman. "I don't want bathrooms there."

Ward said that major capital improvements, like adding a bathroom, are not in the town's budget for this year or next year. "The next capital improvement bill isn't due until 2011. The money that's been set aside for now is going to the infrastructure, like work on the golf course and repairs in the parks," he said. Ward encouraged residents to approach the town as a civic group, not as individuals, suggesting that there is more power in numbers. When Nassau County Legislator Dave Denenberg, a Democrat from Merrick, arrived at the meeting, he also made suggestions on how residents can better empower themselves before the town.

"I recommend that you don't stop," Denenberg said. "South Bellmore didn't stop. Bring this kind of attendance to a town board meeting and keep showing up until it's part of the town budget. Start out with 40 people, and then five at every meeting, and keep asking them to put Julian Lane Park on the list. And everyone should send a letter to [Supervisor] Kate Murray and [Councilwoman] Angie Cullen."

Denenberg said he'd check to see if community revitalization funds could be used to help. "But I can't take county funds for town parks," Denenberg cautioned. "County capital funds have to be used for county property."

Comments about this story? or (516) 569-4000 ext. 236.

©Herald Community 2008
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Feeling ignored in Franklin Square or maligned in Merrick? Contact The Community Alliance at

We're listening, and we are here to help you get the job done.

After all, quality of life on our Long Island is EVERYONE'S concern!

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