Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay have held preliminary discussions regarding the transfer of some county parks and roadways to the town. Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto is excited about the possibility and said that transferring some of these parks and roadways would greatly benefit Nassau County, the Town of Oyster Bay and its residents.
"Every level of government should play to its strengths," Venditto commented about why the town would be interested in acquiring the properties from the county.
According to Venditto, town government is better situated to oversee areas such as parks, roads and beaches, while county government is better suited for the administration of such areas as the police department and social services.
According to Venditto, the county and town first entered into discussions about transferring properties when the issue of the Field of Dreams property in Massapequa arose. The Field of Dreams is located on Old Sunrise Highway in Massapequa, slightly east of the Sunrise Mall. Previously, the land had been owned by Nassau County and was being considered for sale and development with a Lowe's and a BJ's Warehouse considered possibilities for the property. After residents protested, the county transferred the land to the town and the Field of Dreams was built with playing fields for soccer, basketball, soccer and lacrosse.
Arising from that, the county and town agreed to consider working together again in the future. While all county-owned properties are being considered, there are some that seem to be a natural fit, according to Venditto - such as the Stillwell Woods Park in Syosset, which is used almost exclusively by Oyster Bay residents. Others parks such as Cantiague Park in Hicksville and the Old Bethpage Restoration Village are not as likely to be transferred as these facilities are visited by residents from throughout Nassau County. He said it is unlikely that the county would want to take away these facilities from its residents and equally unlikely that the town would acquire these places and pass along the costs of maintaining these facilities to its residents while allowing residents of other towns to utilize them. Venditto also stated that for a transfer to go through, it must reduce costs and not increase the tax burden of Oyster Bay residents.
Deputy County Executive for Parks Ian Siegel confirmed that "the feasibility of this has been discussed but nothing has materialized and there are no plans at this time."
However, according to Venditto, the feasibility study hasn't been completed. It is due soon and that should determine whether this is plausible.
One county park that is receiving a great deal of interest is the Massapequa Preserve. Venditto has expressed a strong desire for the town to take over the park as he feels that town government is much better suited for maintaining this facility than the county government is. However, some have expressed concerns over the possibility of the county transferring the preserve to the town.
Recently, the Friends of Massapequa Preserve held a meeting at the Massapequa Library. The possibility of Oyster Bay Town taking over the preserve was a major area of discussion. The group, led by Richard Schary, has been working for seven years to clean up the preserve and deal with issues that have threatened its existence. His concern is that their work could be undone by a transfer.
"We don't want to change horses in midstream," said Schary. "We've spent seven years getting the preserve into the condition that it is in and we don't want to change anything. It's under control. We want to leave it alone."
Schary also expressed concerns about the future of the preserve if Oyster Bay Town were to take possession of it.
"Why is Nassau County spending $6 million to get rid of something?" questioned Schary, referring to the $6 million in renovations that will soon be done to the preserve. "The town could eventually cut down the preserve if it decides that it wants more soccer fields, housing or memorials," he said.
However, Venditto counters that he has no plans to do anything to the preserve, other than improve the maintenance of it. Explained the supervisor, "Whatever rules are in place now will still exist. We will not develop it in any way, shape or form. We will only improve the maintenance of it."
Furthermore, Venditto cites his record on the environment as evidence of his concern for the environment and his desire to keep the preserve as it is.
"I'll stand by our record on environmental preservation," said the supervisor. "We acquired the Littauer Estate [also known as Hillside Farm]. That are 26 acres that we are having stand as it is. The only thing the town did was to create a nature trail and we are going to keep it that way, open to the public."
Ironically, the issues that the Friend of the Massapequa Preserve have been trying to resolve for the past seven years are the same reasons that Venditto gives for his desire to have Oyster Bay acquire the Preserve. The supervisor said he is well aware of the vandalism, graffiti and other perils that residents encounter when traveling through the Preserve and said that the town can better deal with these issues.
"Rarely does a week go by that a resident doesn't ask me about the problems in the Preserve," said Venditto, who resides near the Preserve. "Some of the things that are going on are disturbing. The Nassau County Police Department cannot patrol the Preserve but the Town's Public Safety and Town's Public Works Department can. The property needs attention."
The supervisor assured that he only wants the residents to continue enjoying the land as a Preserve, if Oyster Bay does indeed acquire it. Said Venditto, "If you love the Massapequa Preserve, you should be in favor of the Town of Oyster Bay acquiring it."