Friday, 27 May 2011 00:00
The town of North Hempstead already owns the site which houses the Harbor Links catering facility in Port Washington so why does the town board want to expand its reception hall portfolio to include the land where The Royalton Mansion sits in Roslyn Heights?
North Hempstead’s elected officials likely have little appetite for acquiring the 10-acre Roslyn Country Club (RCC) parcel upon which the 1920s-era mansion is situated at 33 Club Drive, Roslyn Heights. Town board members are hungry, however, for the votes residing in the 668 Roslyn Heights homes nearest the RCC. That will become evident at a Tuesday, May 31, 7:30 p.m. public hearing being held at 220 Plandome Road, Manhasset, to consider the town’s potential condemnation of the RCC.
Indeed, the town board is so eager to appease these Roslyn Heights residents that they’re threatening to use one of government’s bluntest instruments—its power to seize privately-held property for a public purpose—on behalf of a narrow constituency. The question: why?
Well, the 668 homeowners have reason to be disenchanted with what’s become of the RCC since it was purchased by Corona Realty Holdings of Mineola for $1.675 million in 2002. The sale price is listed in the county’s public records of the transaction. But North Hempstead played a role in 2011’s contentiousness by filing a 2003 application to designate the exterior of the RCC’s mansion a historic landmark. Over Corona’s objections, the town granted the landmark designation in 2004. A state court subsequently reversed North Hempstead’s decision.
The town seemingly believed the best way to inhibit the uses of the RCC property, or get Corona to sell, was to saddle them with a mansion exterior that would remain forevermore in its current form, unless the town approved a modification. The RCC site also includes tennis courts and a pool.
There was a time when the RCC’s neighboring property owners, having purchased limited easement rights to the RCC upon buying into what was a Levitt development, were able to become RCC members. Membership entitled these families to use the RCC’s facilities as long as they paid an annual fee.
Corona today leases the mansion to a catering company and no longer operates the RCC as a neighborhood club for disputed reasons that can be read in legal documents online. The tennis courts and pool are not being used by anyone. Corona might be willing to sell. Isn’t there anyone out there besides a hostile town government who wants to acquire the RCC?
This is an election year in North Hempstead. The Democrats, who have held a majority on the town board for nearly 20 years, saw the candidate atop their town-wide ticket secure 54 percent of the vote in 2009. The latest canary in a coal mine was the 2010 election of state Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola) to a seat which closely tracks the town’s boundaries. The town board’s political victory on May 31—winning the ardent support of 668 Roslyn Heights families—may be short-lived once North Hempstead’s 225,000-plus other residents find out how much time and money they have spent on the RCC matter.
Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net