Written by Linda Portney Goldstein Friday, 01 July 2011 00:00
The purpose of the meeting was to open a dialogue as to the future of Alvan O. Petrus Memorial Park. In his opening remarks, Supervisor Kaiman said that he wanted to grow the dialogue in order to get information as to what the community wants and determine how to achieve that goal. He went on to explain that the legal status of the parcel of land, as the town council understands it, is that the housing authority owns the property through a limited LLC in which the authority is a minor shareholder with JPMorgan Chase being the major shareholder at 98 percent. Under current state law the property must be used for affordable housing. “Can the town purchase it? Maybe, but the state law would first need to be changed,” said Kaiman.
Members of the Hands of Change Civic Association have been lobbying the Town Council since March to take down the fence surrounding the property and re-establish the acre and a half parcel adjacent to the northwest corner of the housing development as a park. The park has been enclosed by the fence for two years and is now in an overgrown and dilapidated condition. Executive Director of the Housing Authority Rainey said that the fence was erected before his appointment to the Housing Authority and he could not in good conscience support the removal of the fence at this time because the condition of the parcel makes it unsafe and the housing authority would have a liability if an accident occurred. He further explained that regardless, of how the property may have been used and maintained in the past, the Housing Authority cannot legally use their funds for parks.
It was clear from the attendees at the meeting that the re-opening of the Alvan O. Petrus Park has support throughout Port Washington. Many attendees spoke passionately about the history of the park and the need for open play space for the older children residing in the Roberta Nixon Houses and the surrounding community. Port Washington resident Joel Katz said that the people of Port would never allow housing or anything else to be built on the land in question. “Residents are prepared to raise whatever funds are necessary to obtain the parcel of land, he said.” He asked the town officials to hear the voices of the community and move forward toward the goal of obtaining the land and restoring it as a park. He hoped that at the end of the meeting there would be a plan in place to achieve this goal.
Councilman Fred Pollack informed the attendees that State Legislators Schimel and Martins have already been approached to introduce legislation eliminating the requirement that the parcel of land be used for housing. If the legislation is successful, the way would be clear for the town to attempt to purchase the land.
At the end of the evening Supervisor Kaiman proposed the next steps based on the community’s input. There will be legal analyses to verify ownership, and address how the town might obtain the property. There also needs to be engineering and environmental analyses. There will be two resolutions on the agenda at the July 12 Town Council meeting authorizing the use of funds to hire an attorney and an engineer.
After the meeting, Supervisor Kaiman and Councilman Pollack were asked by this reporter if JPMorgan Chase had been approached about donating the land. Pollack said that was a good idea and once the law had been amended a donation could be pursued.
Many attendees, who came to the meeting wanting the fence to come down immediately, seemed to understand that although it went up overnight, the fence could not be taken down overnight. Most people were happy that an immediate plan of action had been articulated.