Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi last week addressed the county's budget woes and outlined a plan to close an unexpected budget gap that could be as high as $150 million.
Suozzi called on union leaders and both county and state legislators to take immediate action toward mitigating the county's plans to lay off nearly a thousand civil service employees, police officers, corrections officers, and other county employees.
Also as part of the plan, the county is threatening to revoke the titles of all museum staff in Nassau County. These proposed layoffs would force the county to close six museums owned by the county and operated by county employees, including Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
Suozzi is asking union leaders to agree to a 7 percent pay cut across the board in order to prevent massive layoffs, drastic cuts in services and the shutdown of county parks and other facilities.
Action on the layoff proposal was deferred until Feb. 23 at the request of Suozzi.
Local residents have started showing their support of Old Bethpage Village Restoration by calling their local officials. Also, a group called "Help Save Old Bethpage Village Restoration" was formed on Facebook with updates on the budget as well as names and addresses of local officials.
Group creator Christopher Thomas writes, "Thank you all so much for already deciding to help keep Old Bethpage Village Restoration open for future generations. However, nothing will be resolved by just joining a group on Facebook. With this in mind, we would ask that you contact County Executive Thomas Suozzi, and other legislators, in one of the ways that we have suggested. This will hopefully encourage the proper solution to this situation. Thank you once again. Let's do this!"
Old Bethpage Village Restoration provides visitors with a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience life in a recreated mid-19th-century American village. The 209-acre village includes an assortment of homes, farms and businesses.
Old Bethpage Village Restoration (OBVR) came into existence in 1963, when Nassau County acquired the Powell property, a 165-acre farm located on the Nassau-Suffolk border. The acquisition of the land and the plan to develop a historic restoration were timely, as rapid post-World War II development on Long Island had taken a toll on the area's landmarks.
Although OBVR never existed as a historic entity, it represents a typical rural Long Island farm village of the mid-19th century - one whose roots can actually be found in the earlier Dutch and English settlements of Long Island.
During the 1640s, the colonial settlers founded town "spots" throughout the region that functioned as commercial and social centers where taverns, general stores and meeting houses were built. Townsmen received a centrally located town lot as well as outlying fields to use for grazing livestock, growing crops or harvesting firewood.
By 1700, the English had gained control of Long Island, townships controlled whatever land had not already been distributed, and the economy had expanded to include trades dependent on the sea and land. Life remained quiet, unhurried and closely tied to nature - patterns that were evident until well into the 19th century and that can be experienced at OBVR.
In 1963, Plainview's Historic Manetto Hill Methodist Church was the first structure to be saved and moved to the Powell property. Today, there are 51 historic buildings and seven reconstructions and the site encompasses 209 acres. Buildings were selected based on their architectural detail and historic significance, with the goal of establishing a representative sampling of historic structures.
After buildings were moved to the village, they were carefully restored to a specific point in their history, and the lives of the former occupants thoroughly researched. Each structure has been scrutinized for clues to its role in community life, and authentic hardware, shingles and glass sought - with the help of wills, deeds, and inventory lists - so the structures could be authentically furnished (in some cases with pieces original to the building).
Among the historic buildings is the Schenck House, built around 1730 and one of the oldest Dutch farmhouses remaining in the U.S. The house displays typical massive Dutch framing, particularly on the first floor ceiling joists, which span 32 feet. Other notable features include a side gabled roof with flared eaves, round butt shingles, heavy window sash, and a massive stone jambless fireplace.
Another is the Benjamin House, built in 1829 by William F. Benjamin, a Congregational minister, farmer and pastor to the Shinnecock and Poosepatuck Native American tribes. (One of Benjaman's brothers, Simeon, was a prominent merchant and a founder of Elmira College, the first institution of higher learning for women.) The Benjamin House was constructed in the late Federal country style and its furnishings reflect the lifestyle of this relatively affluent farmer and respected minister.