"Thank heavens for Facebook," is not something I normally say, but the words escaped my lips as it brought news that the Old Bethpage Village Restoration may close due to Nassau County's $120 million budget gap. Having grown up in Plainview, which is next door to the Old Bethpage Village Restoration, it was a staple of my childhood and shaped my Long Island identity.

Concurrently, Suffolk County officials are considering doubling the county hotel room tax to generate an estimated $4.96 million. According to Rick Brand's recent article in Newsday, Presiding Officer William Lindsay said that the aim "is to keep our cultural institutions alive during this economic crunch."

This must be done in Nassau County. Putting nostalgia and childhood fancies aside, the Old Bethpage Village Restoration is a historic landmark that truly embodies the Long Island identity. Families enjoy the restoration throughout the year, hundreds of thousands of school children have experienced its living history, thousands of tourists visit, and a freshly started community supported agriculture program has blossomed with success.

Our cultural, historical, and environmental landmarks make Long Island a distinctive region. It is a landscape laden with stories of war, immigration, entrepreneurship, pioneers, natural beauty and more.

As sprawl consumes open spaces and development threatens the "renewal" of dilapidated historic structures with chain stores, Long Island loses more of its unique character. It will become just another ubiquitous American space to drive through rather than to experience. It is essential in these economically turbulent times that we don't sacrifice the foundation of our quality of life. Let the strip malls wither, if they must, but our buildings and institutions of character must be preserved.

I urge you to contact your local legislators and County Executive Suozzi. Even as union negotiations may have helped to avoid layoffs, as of February 24 County Executive Suozzi would not confirm if the proposed parks and museum closings were now off the table. So put on your civic hat, take up the noble pen (or mouse), and protect the places that make Long Island what it is.

Juliana Roberts Dubovsky

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