Though it is a long, long time from June to December, when the Great Neck Park District election is held, the Record asked the two candidates for their thoughts on the matter of the former Cohan property.
Both Linda Imperatore and Robert Lincoln, the only two candidates who have declared, believe that the park district should continue to move on the unique and rare opportunity to expand Steppingstone Park with the adjacent waterfront parcel. Ms. Imperatore stated that she fully supported the ''bold'' action of the commissioners to request the approval of the Kings Point board of trustees in their move to acquire the lot either by ''condemnation or negotiation.'' Mr. Lincoln commented that he had been silent on the matter until now because ''I did not want to say anything that would interfere with the discussions that were going on behind the scenes, but I do believe that this is a wonderful opportunity to expand and preserve a piece of history. I wholeheartedly agree that we need more waterfront access for the people.''
Ms. Imperatore reflected upon the history of the growth of the park district's properties. She said, ''Land has been acquired gradually, piece by piece. The first park area was the combined former Hayden property, purchased in 1916 for $40,000 and an adjacent property leased from the Town of North Hempstead for $100 a year, at the end of Steamboat Road. It was a public bathing beach. Later it was purchased by the federal government and is now the site of the Merchant Marine Academy. When will we have another chance to secure a waterfront property for the public trust?''
The two candidates have a slightly different take on the question of how the park district should finance such an acquisition. Ms. Imperatore believes that by floating a bond, ''the cost would be minimal when one considers the long-range benefits of such an addition to the park system.''
In addition to a bond issue, Mr. Lincoln thinks that the park district should also explore either selling or bartering the Peninsula Pool property as a means of lessening the impact of the expense of such a purchase, especially since the commissioners have yet to identify a use for that property.
Both agree that public input on all aspects of the issue is essential. Mr. Lincoln commented, ''One reason the recent bond issue for the school district was approved overwhelmingly is because the district gave a wealth of information to the public about the projects. The park district should hold a minimum of two town meetings, on both ends of town, to hear public comments.'' Ms. Imperatore said that she has not heard any negative reactions to the park district commissioners' actions to secure the waterfront lot for the public, but that the public hearing process is important.
Both candidates were asked for their comments on the landmarked mansion's status. Ms. Imperatore would be in favor of the house being made into a museum, but ''the cost would have to be explored and I don't believe the house is available for sale currently. If it were viable and if taxpayers approved of such an idea, I would support it.'' Mr. Lincoln stated, ''It would be great if the park district could be a catalyst or a lead agency in securing the house as a performing arts museum reflecting all the performers who once lived in Great Neck, but I believe it is too big a project for the park district to undertake alone or the taxpayers of the district to foot by themselves. In any event, I would love to see displays in Great Neck House of this piece of our history.''
Ms. Imperatore is hopeful that the current owner of the Cohan property will agree to sell the parcel to the park district. She says, ''We have witnessed so much development and destruction of trees already. I think people are appalled at the idea of looking at a house from Steppingstone Park instead of foliage. We must act now to save open space. That's a priority.''
Mr. Lincoln adds, ''Kings Point should receive a substantial increase in their tax rolls with the development of the proposed houses on the other two lots. I hope the board of trustees will grant approval to the park district to proceed.'' Mr. Lincoln encourages all residents to communicate their ideas and suggestions to him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kings Point Mayor Michael Kalnick has stated that he and the trustees will make a decision on the matter by the July 20 meeting.