Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
A ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Opportunity
We were dismayed by the public discourse at the recent North Hempstead Town Board meeting in apparent opposition to a planned new park in the section of Roslyn Heights called “Roslyn Country Club.” The Town expects to build this park without spending a single thin dime of taxpayer money.
Building and creating bold, thoughtful solutions is hard work. Yet it is so easy to be a critic. In an election year, somehow criticism and even rage become a sort of dysfunctional new vogue. Both seem, unfortunately, to rise nearly to the level of sport (in which we are all losers).
What all too often gets lost in the alluring but vacuous sound bites comprising this culture of criticism is a fundamental role of government—supporting families.
It is laudable to urge government prudence and discipline—in these times more than ever—yet, these imperatives do not lessen government’s obligation to govern. Part of that role, particularly at the local level, is to provide recreational and park facilities. The town has a bejeweled park system with 38 parks and park spaces. In fact, when Money Magazine ranked the town in its Top 100 places to live, nearly half the narrative addressed our park space. The authors recognized that these attributes attract families to our town and provide a basis to keep them here.
The proposed park in Roslyn Heights has more homes within a one- or two-mile bike ride than Bar Beach, Manorhaven, Harbor Links or the Town Dock. For those further away, its proximity to the Parkway is unsurpassed by any Town park, which would make it the Town’s most accessible facility. And when people do arrive, they will find the surrounding community was literally designed and built to facilitate the park.
Significant revenues to cover costs will be generated by families using the park, and eating or playing tennis there. But most critically, the property can likely be purchased cheaper than any other comparable land in the Town. The property’s use is legally restricted to the very purpose to which the Town intends to put it—pool and tennis. Any business other than the existing caterer is also barred. As a result, the potential group of buyers is very small and the purchase price will doubtlessly be very, very reasonable. The bottom line, officials tell us, is that the project is expected to be acquired and built with no impact on taxes. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the people of North Hempstead. This opportunity will not knock twice.
Without additional tax burden, this park would put thousands of homes that never before had access to this facility within a short bike ride of year-round safe, supervised recreation for our children and families. It would provide dozens of communities and tens of thousands of parents and children with the opportunity to build relationships with their neighbors Town wide and enjoy recreation within its borders. Facilities like this build communities out of Towns. They keep municipalities desirable, land values high and property attractive to families.
Anyone can be a critic—which is sometimes a good thing. However, the key criticisms here seem to involve financial models that critics have yet to lay their eyes on—many of the arguments by a few dozen vocal and extremely well-organized opponents seem to contain no factual or logical underpinning whatsoever; they are rooted solely in speculation and fear mongering. As the Town is now negotiating a deal with the seller, releasing financial models would clearly be premature and counterproductive. Perhaps the critics’ cynical logic is that government is always wrong and public works projects are always wrong minded. But the people of North Hempstead won’t likely be deceived. They know blatant politics when they see it.
The only “experts in the room.” the only people with a shred of experience in planning, building and operating recreational facilities, are the Town and its Parks and Buildings Departments. Cynical prognostications of doom by critics are the work of armchair engineers, architects and civic planners—or are politically motivated.
We strongly urge Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Councilman Tom Dwyer and the other Town Board members forward. We hope that they will place substance over rhetoric and, most importantly, be visionaries. We urge them to be builders and problem solvers. Ladies and gentlemen, please build this park.
Todd and Linda Zarin