MSA President Bill Sheeline, Commissioner Castro was presented with a framed map of Oyster Bay by Joan Mahon, MSA executive director; Councilwoman Mary McCaffrey, NC Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs, Gaye Vietske and Legislator Chuck Lavine. In the rear is architect Joseph Reilly who gave a presentation on the proposed carousel.
Bernadette Castro, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation urged the Town of Oyster Bay to become a Certified Local Government (CLG) as she spoke on April 13 at a meeting of the Main Street Association held in the Doubleday Babcock Senior Center. Commissioner Castro is very involved with preservation and has been active in working with the Long Island North Shore Heritage Area planning commission. Attending the meeting was LINSHA co-chair Lori Bahnik. Ms. Castro said "LINSHA is creating a common thread, a wonderful story line that runs through the 64 municipalities on the North Shore of Long Island. We are currently contacting all 64 municipalities about the plan. They have to approve it. It's voluntary and is for preserving the heritage of Long Island. It has ideas for those communities who want them: ideas that are offered by professional planners. The plan comes with potential grant money for municipalities along the heritage area."
Ms. Castro said preservation funds can also be gotten from the federal government, if the town is a CLG - a Certified Local Government. "You are so near," she said. "You need a preservation commission and guidelines. No inventory of properties is necessary. You just apply to the National Park Service who shepherds the system. Ten municipalities on Long Island have gotten the designation - you are not one of them. You are a great little town. If you were a CLG your audio tour [the Talk of the Town tour] would have qualified for a grant. They also give grants for maps and for publications," she said. "There is no downside to that."
[The Town of Oyster Bay does have a Landmarks Preservation Commission but has chosen not to apply for a CLG saying they would lose control and that the grant money available is small. They have not adopted the necessary federal historic preservation guidelines.]
Ms. Castro said there is a new program created by President George Bush and his wife Laura. It is called Preserve America. "It is a brand new program and it is even easier to be a member of the Preserve America Communities. Great Neck Plaza is the only one so far, locally. PA is a connection with preservation and quality heritage visitorship. There is an easy application for it on the web," she said.
She said Vincent Simeone, Planting Fields Arboretum Historic State Park superintendent has more information on the program. The website said that the Bush administration's fiscal year 2006 budget includes a request for $12.5 million in grants for which Preserve America Communities, CLG, and others will be eligible to apply. These matching grants of $10,000 to $100,000 would be distributed on a competitive basis to projects that preserve and use important historic resources for promotion of heritage tourism and other economic revitalization projects. If enacted by Congress, the PAC grant program will begin in the fall.
Tom Kuehhas, director of the Oyster Bay Historical Society said, "I heartily endorse the Town of Oyster Bay becoming a CLG because while researching the material for the Journal for the recent exhibit on architectural preservation I talked to Bob MacKay, of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island's Antiquities. He gave me a few reasons why it is good to be a CLG. The first is the need to conform to federal standards for local landmark controls. Next, there would be more autonomy for the landmarks commission because right now, whatever they do needs the approval of the town board. If they were a CLG they would be accountable to the New York State Department of Parks, Preservation and Historic Preservation. You would also be eligible for federal funds that are made available for CLGs."
Mr. Kuehhas said, "Another benefit of being a CLG is that then there are things available that will help in the landmark process. That includes handbooks and information about doing survey work that is needed to designate a landmark. There isn't a problem with the process, it's just that we have to be more proactive in nominating properties for landmark status as opposed to being reactive. Another plus is that the grant moneys are available annually so they add up over the years."
At the meeting Ms. Castro said, "Historic preservation doesn't really survive without you. I serve as a state historic preservation officer. When a building goes for landmark nomination we don't do it until the owner of the property gives their personal endorsement. If it comes in for nomination without a letter of endorsement from the property owner, I kick it back." She said in the case of nominating historic districts, "If there is a 10 percent negative response or if nine or more property owners object we withdraw the nomination and I dispatch a team to go and talk to people about the designation. It (the negative vote) is usually because of a misunderstanding," she said added that there is a benefit for getting a landmark designation from the state.
"If you go on the Register you can get a historic preservation grant. Ms. Castro said the state had helped in the preservation work for the Nassau County Courthouse, the Christeen and to preserve the 7.8 acre KeySpan property adjacent to Tappan Beach."
She said to MSA, "I think you are right on track in wanting to step back and re-create the liveliness of Oyster Bay. It is a jewel, and the Oyster Festival is a wonderful happening although a lot of you like to get out of town that weekend."
As for the benefits of being a CLG, Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli recently announced grants to support historic preservation efforts in communities throughout the state, including three on Long Island.
"I am pleased to be announcing the recipients of the Certified Local Government Program. These grants provide funding for historic resource surveys, public education programs, design guidelines, and local preservation plans," said Assemblyman DiNapoli. "I look forward to the continued operation of this program and to working with the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation in safeguarding our state's historic treasures." The grants include $8,185 to the Town of North Hempstead, $5,000 to the Village of Great Neck Plaza and $7,500 to the Village of Southampton.
Mr. DiNapoli explained that the grants "Provide funding for historic resource surveys, public education programs, design guidelines, and local preservation plans." The Town of North Hempstead will receive funds for a project to update its 1999 driving tour brochure, as well as install identifying curbside markers as part of the tour. The grant will also provide signage that will identify local landmark districts. The town has designated two landmark districts in Port Washington and Roslyn that cover irregularly shaped areas over several blocks. The project will allow the town to install signage identifying the historic districts at the entrances along each street. Additionally, the Village of Great Neck Plaza will receive funds to create a publication for residents and historic property owners about historic preservation programs.
Although the Town of Oyster Bay considers the grants small, as Mr. Kuehhas observed, "The grant moneys are available annually so they add up over the years."
Bill Sheeline, president of the Oyster Bay Main Street Association introduced architect Joe Reilly to report on their carousel project. Joan Mahon MSA executive director and Mr. Reilly have been going to local groups to present their proposal and to show them a model of the new home for the restored Nunley Carousel to be located in Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. Mr. Reilly explained it will be located on the nearside of the park on the edge of the current picnic area. The plan necessitates moving one of the picnic buildings to a new location, nearer to the marina and across the lawn.
Mr. Reilly said, "Our mission is to tip the balance in improving the town. That part of town is a little run down. The town always has its back to the park and it's not easy to get in. The vision is to open up the entrance to the park."
The plan calls for moving the park entrance a few feet further east to create a view, from the Derby-Hall Gazebo down Audrey Avenue into the park - with the flagpole at the end of the vista. They envision a tree-lined path from the new entrance, along which the proposed carousel building will be located, to the marina and continuing along the bulkhead and beach areas. Mr. Reilly spoke enthusiastically about the project saying that County (the current owner of the carousel) has all the parts of the Nunley Carousel stored in a hanger at Mitchell Field including the ticket booth, decorative panels, hand carved wooden horses and the machine that gives out the brass ring to the winner of a free ride.
Before Mr. Reilly's presentation, Commissioner Castro had left the meeting. She said the project will come before her so she had to remain neutral. She added that there is a carousel at the Hempstead Lake State Park and added, "It brings pride to the local community and it's a magnet for children and families." She said that the discussion about the carousel could be "intense and I'm glad I won't be staying." She said "the best government is from the bottom up", [when there is a request from the community saying what they want done].
There was no "intense" discussion since there was no question and answer period after the presentation. Instead Mr. Sheeline told the audience to read the pamphlet given out as people signed in at the reception desk, that listed the most frequently asked questions and their answers about the project. He said the committee is still working on questions such as the hours, days and months of operation for the carousel. He said he couldn't discuss the funding at the present time and that both the Town of Oyster Bay and the Nassau County Legislature would have to sign off on the proposed project. [The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park is all in the floodplain. The Town of Oyster Bay will be in charge of making sure the structure is built according the federal guidelines in a floodplain, according to the DEC and the town.]
Ms. Castro said she had earlier attended a Main Street Association reception for community leaders held before the MSA meeting at Wild Honey restaurant, and said that she met a lot of community leaders there including Gene Pelland, the Billy Joel representative, the Bahniks and Mr. George O'Neill. She said, "You have some great folks here. When we get the word on what you want to do we will help you. We take our lead from you." With that, there was a quick presentation of a map of Oyster Bay to Ms. Castro by the MSA and Ms. Castro left the meeting.