Once again a lawsuit brought against the Great Neck Public Schools and the New York State Education Department by the Coalition for the Preservation of Parkwood Woods has been dismissed in court. The Coalition initiated the lawsuit in yet another attempt to block the school district's development of athletic fields on school-owned property near the Park District's Parkwood sports complex on Arrandale Avenue. According to Coalition attorney William DiConza, another, third, lawsuit will be filed.
In this most recent second lawsuit, the Coalition asked the court to ''enjoin'' the school district from taking any action at the site, at least until the court date of March 17. According to the papers served to the school district, the Coalition tried to ''permanently enjoin'' the district ''from acting in any way to remove, alter, destroy or otherwise disturb the current status of the weeds and parkland which are the subject of the underlying action herein until such time as a complete Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared by the appropriate lead agency and all identified environmental issues have been scoped, addressed and all impacts mitigated as required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act.''
The motion was heard before Judge Joseph DeMaro on March 17, in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola. According to Eli Wager, attorney for the school district, Judge De Maro dismissed the case, stating that it had not been properly filed, that the motion had ''improperly commenced.'' Mr. DiConza said that the dismissal was due to a ''technicality'' and another action will be filed ''in the very near future.''
The first lawsuit, an Article 78 brought by the Coalition against the school district and the State Education Department last March, was dismissed last summer in New York State Supreme Court. The lawsuit had asked that the school district refrain from issuing a ''negative declaration'' (stating no environmental concerns) for the athletic field proposal. The school district had maintained that they had not issued a negative declaration, and, further, that they were not the lead agency (the State Education Department was lead agency).
Since then, the State Department of Education issued a building permit for the athletic fields, and at the Jan. 12 board of education meeting, the board authorized the advertising of bids for the project, anticipating a March starting date.
Regarding the most recent lawsuit, Eli Wager, attorney for the school district, has stated that, ''There was no merit before (in the first lawsuit), and there was less now.'' Mr. Wager also said that the school district had not been informed of the intent to sue in advance. The papers were filed in court, he said, ''only on the application of one party.''
As for the validity of the objections to the athletic fields project, and any environmental concerns expressed, Mr. Wager said that the school district has ''dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't'.'' He stressed that ''everything has been done to safeguard the public interests in the development of this property.''
Mr. Wager went on to explain that in issuing the building permit, the state had ''determined that there would be no negative impact on the environment.''
Mr. DiConza and his clients have consistently contended that the board of education and the State Education Department permitted a negative declaration ''based on insufficient environmental studies.''
The board of education has planned to develop the ''Parkwood Woods'' athletic fields for the north end of town in response to numerous requests from administrators, teachers, coaches, students and parents. District studies have shown a definite need for more fields, in light of the large number of students participating in sports (over 70 percent) and the vastly increased number of girls now involved in team sports.
All along, the district has faced opposition from the Parkwood Coalition, consisting mainly of neighbors of the property proposed for new fields. While the school district has maintained that they have met all State Education Department requirements and followed all state rules, the Coalition has continuously raised quality of life concerns regarding their homes and environmental concerns regarding the site, calling for a full EIS (environmental impact statement).