Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman was thrilled with the turnout for the first of three open forums designed to create a solid plan for the future for the Port Washington peninsula.
The Shared Vision for the Port Washington Peninsula hit the ground running on March 7, when over 250 people attended the first open forum at Weber Middle School. Obviously, many Port residents wanted to share their concerns and ideas about open space, the waterfront and water quality.
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman was quite pleased with the great turnout for the first of the three open forums scheduled. "There was a fair cross-section of Port Washingtonians with many new faces, which I believe will generate a fairly accurate vision for what the larger community wants," said the supervisor. He also said he liked all the energy in the room and knows that the brainstorming and interacting of the various groups will lead to a higher level of awareness of the needs of our community.
Following a presentation on existing conditions, the audience split up into groups of approximately 10 people and tackled the topics with the following discussion questions in mind:
* What are your top five concerns and opportunities related to each topic area?
* What are the forces that help create these conditions?
* Have these concerns and opportunities changed in the past decade?
* In 2020, what would you want residents in Port Washington to see and experience?
* Are there any obstacles to changing these conditions? If so, what are they?
After formulating their concerns and suggestions, each of the 20 or so tables made presentations. There were common threads throughout most of the various groups' findings, with a few exceptions. Anyone unable to attend this or the other sessions can still let their feelings be known either by calling April Brown Lake at 627-4062 or emailing the town at www.northhempstead.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following is a distillation of the discussions that took place on March 7.
Across the board, protecting remaining open space in Port Washington was a top priority. Ways of achieving this included enacting moratoriums on new development, identifying and mapping locations of open space resources, preserving the 17 acres owned by the school district near the Guggenheim School and preserving undeveloped land for passive recreation to help improve water quality.
Many reported a desire to add new open space and recreational amenities, like establishing small neighborhood parks (vest pocket parks), creating independent state-of-the-art playgrounds and adding benches, swings and tables where possible.
Some other additions community members would like to see are dog-runs/parks, volleyball courts, sports fields for youth and adults, skateboard parks, stables at Sands Point Preserve, aerodrome and Hempstead Harbor Park for PW sports, track, tennis courts and horse facilities (educational uses, physical therapy).
Increasing passive space into an exercise, jogging or nature trail was suggested.
Developing Hempstead Harbor Park was also discussed. Residents suggested some quality of life improvements such as an indoor pool, kayak launch, rowing, skateboarding, exercise stations, climbing walls, educational facilities and athletic fields with synthetic turf. Bowling was also mentioned at the Bar Beach parks.
Also mentioned was converting the Manorhaven Pool to an indoor/outdoor facility and establishing a park for BMX bikers and mountain bikers.
The subject of trails was brought up. These include a mountain bike trail, a VISTA to Hempstead Harbor and small trails through different areas.
Some suggested establishing shared use trails, interpretive trails with historical markers and connecting high school to land across Hempstead Harbor. However, a full trail was considered too ambitious, and a preference for using existing parks was stated.
Some would like to see greenways to connect LIRR stations with neighborhoods and downtowns to reduce automobile use, and from Leeds Pond along Stonytown Road to LIRR Station to eventually connect with the summit vista trail.
Another comment gleaned from the open space brainstorming was that our kids cannot ride their bikes to school or to friend's homes because of the lack of a safe bike path along much of PW Blvd, especially connecting town to Flower Hill. This is due, in part, to the speed limit that exists before cars enter "town." Walking/riding by the North Hempstead Country Club was mentioned as a "dangerous" area for pedestrians.
In terms of our existing open space parks, maintaining and cleaning them up was cited as a priority. Initiatives like Adopt-a-Park school program and community organization cleanup days (with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts) were suggested. Better overall maintenance, management and monitoring of athletic fields, restrooms and facilities in general was urged, while prioritizing available funding was stressed.
Some feel that Port has insufficient ball fields. The use of synthetic turf (as NYC is doing) could cut down on maintenance and make the fields available as much as possible. Also, a synthetic turf field could be used through much more of the year and with lights, much more of the day.
Others point out that Hempstead Harbor Park contains DEC wetlands that need to be protected. Someone else pointed out that a walking tour of Hempstead Harbor Park would reveal very little in the way of seeing the potential because the trails are overgrown at this point in time.
Public access, beautification, public boating concessions (i.e. row boats, kayaks, etc.) with "blue" trails and, in general, water privileges for everyone topped the lists. A more accommodating public dock was suggested.
The need for comprehensive planning, including things like a community-wide consensus on open space and development and enacting stricter private and public zoning restrictions, especially on Port North's recently acquired public access to the village's waterfront.
In general, slowing down traffic, anticipating what young people want/need in terms of facilities and recreational opportunities, accessibility (parking, mass transit) and enhancing maps and signage were considered to be important by the various groups. Building underground parking to increase availability of public parking was mentioned.
Enhancing water quality topped some lists. Concerns about storm water runoff and pollution impacting water quality were stated. Our goose population and its negative impact on water quality was noted. Placing catch basins to catch debris runoffs on each outflow was suggested as a means of attenuating pollution.
Maintaining the waterfront landscape offered some good suggestions, like cleaning up Sheets Creek, the shoreline and upgrading beaches with clean sand and landscaping. Mill Pond was said to not be an "attractive" place to visit. And while the water in the bay is clean enough to swim in, some say it's not a very appealing activity.
Ideas about developing the waterfront were mixed. Some wish to keep the waterfront open and uncommercialized, without condos, hotels and apartments near the water. Fears of converting the marinas to these uses were expressed.
However, some suggested building a hotel on the waterfront, creating a ferry from the town dock to New York City and attracting businesses that thrive on a waterfront.
This topic also included a discussion of dredging. Dredging should be limited, most agreed, with the suggestion to take the dredge spoils from the channels only and created playing fields adjacent to PAL. Also suggested was building an island for waterfowl with the dredge materials.
In terms of boat usage, cutting down on misuse/abuse by boaters was spoken of, along with noise restrictions for power boaters. Banning jet skis was also suggested.
Offering water safety training courses was a popular idea also.
Of great concern is the water quality of Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor. Overall, the community wants to address nitrogen runoff into Manhasset Bay (i.e. promoting non-use of fertilizers), increase the number of filters and storm drains, stop litter in the bay and devise storm water management plans.
Other suggestions include implementation of vegetative buffers along the waterfront, adding catch basins for sewage overflow, requiring laboratory testing of bay waters and publish the results weekly and installing mandatory marina hook-up for heads.
Swimming in the bay is another concern of residents. While it is "safe," to swim, many choose not to. One table reported that after swimming in the bay they were covered with oil from boats and algae from storm water runoffs. Large fish kills, because of nitrates in the water, were also mentioned.
Another way of improving water quality in the bay is to increase enforcement of boating regulations and stricter enforcement on houseboats that are dumping waste. Testing the waters more frequently and upping the fines for those found contributing to pollution were also suggested.
Many want to see a reduction in the use of non-organic fertilizer and pesticides. Creating regulations to ban chemical fertilizers and pesticides is one way. Another is to create incentives for homeowners to use organic products on their lawns. Negotiating lower landscaping rates with environmentally friendly landscapers could also help.
Under the heading of water quality, drinking water is a major consideration. Addressing saltwater intrusion into drinking wells, requiring more laboratory testing with weekly published results and eliminating cesspools in new construction were ways of ensuring better drinking water.
Water conservation is also an integral part of any plan to improve drinking water. Suggestions included encouraging all the golf courses to use recycled water, promoting low filter toilet bowl water and xeroscaping (landscaping without water), promoting use of gray water for irrigation and preserving open space for natural water drainage.
In general, education about all aspects of water quality and stopping overdevelopment ranked high on the lists of recommendations.
* Create a review board for all villages to address future development issues. (All villages agree on any future development.)
* Create open space advocacy group.
* Change zoning.
* Promote nonprofit participation in trail and open space maintenance.
* School/camp participation
* Enhance trails that we have and put markers on them (i.e. identifying nautical, trees, etc.) Create historical and nature walks.
* Create local park districts.
* Provide transportation to large parks. Enhance local mass transit (i.e. jitney, trolley.)
* Redevelop Alvin Petrice and Stannards Brook Parks.
* Expand Town Dock Park.
* Reopen Manorhaven Beach for swimming.
* Maintain waterfront access.
* Develop additional kayak and small boat launches.
* Clean up Sheets Creek
* Rehabilitate Mill Pond.
* Inspect water lines to fix brown water problems.
* Enforce water sprinkling rules.
* Remove minerals from tap water.
* Utilize space to incorporate wide variety of activities (i.e. dog runs, fields, paths.)
* Develop more integrated bike and walking paths.
* Address the pigeon problem on Main Street and Irma.
* Create a dashboard for environmental concerns so that the targets set by the visioning can be monitored and reported on.
Finally, proposed walking tours for the design event weekend were presented.
The next open forum will be held on Thursday, March 31, at 8 p.m. at the Weber Middle School. The topic for that evening is development. (The third open forum was held on March 16, and the results will be included in an upcoming issue.)
Following the open forums, a community presentation will take place on Thursday, April 14, at 8 p.m. at Weber Middle School. The next phase of the visioning, The Community Design Event, is scheduled the weekend of April 16-17, with an evening design event slated for Monday, April 18.
The Vision will be unveiled at a date to be announced.