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Discussion Regarding Alvan Petrus Park Re-Opened

Councilwoman DeGiorgio offers a compromise proposal to the Housing Authority

More than a year after the Town of North Hempstead Housing Authority withdrew its proposal for affordable senior housing on the 1.5 acre site known to the community as Alvan Petrus Park and more than nine months after the town council authorized funds for an engineering study of the site as a first step in restoring the park to the community, Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio presented a compromise measure to the housing authority during a meeting on April 23.

Since taking office in January, the councilwoman has been researching the situation and meeting with all parties involved to re-open the dialogue about restoring Alvan Petrus Park, the 1.5 acre property adjacent to Harbor Homes that was fenced in by the housing authority more than two years ago.

DeGiorgio’s message at the April 23 meeting to the housing commissioners and executive director of the housing authority, Sean Rainey, was, “It is time to move forward and find a solution that will provide recreational space for the young people of the Harbor Homes community.” In her remarks, she said that she came to the meeting to offer to work with the housing authority and the community to resolve what seems to be a stalled project. During the last few weeks, DeGiorgio has met privately with members of the community, Chairman of the Housing Authority Matthew Cuomo and Executive Director Rainey.

The councilwoman told the commissioners, “I recognize that the housing authority owns the property and can’t legally operate a park, but they could provide recreational space for the residents of the housing complex.” With that thought in mind, she proposed the housing authority consider sectioning off a portion of the vacant space adjacent to Harbor Homes and restoring it to something resembling a park. “I know that the housing authority doesn’t have the funds in its operating budget to commit to restoring the park and I’m not asking you to do that.” She went on to say that with grants, fundraising from private sources and some money from the town, a fiscal plan could be developed “to restore a portion of the space to something usable for the 161 children, including teenagers, living at Harbor Homes.” She stressed that, “We are not asking for the whole open space, but based upon an engineering study, we can come up with a specific plan for a portion of the space.” It is not clear at this point if an engineering study of the property has been started or completed.

Chairman Cuomo stated that the commissioners “are open to consider any manner of different things but can’t commit to set aside any portion of the land.” The bank, J.P. Morgan, actually owns the land, but Cuomo did acknowledge that the authority has a great deal of input on how the property can be used.

Cuomo explained that the mandate for the housing authority is to provide affordable senior housing on the site in question. “After we tabled the project March 11, 2011 because of community objections, we worked with a group of concerned citizens to find an alternative site. There isn’t any. From our perspective, we are looking at a vanishing resource – land to provide affordable senior housing in Port Washington.” It was clear from his statements during the meeting that Cuomo is looking for a compromise that will allow the housing authority to build a scaled down senior development without community objection in exchange for providing recreational space on a portion of the land that was Alvan Petrus Park.

Councilwoman DeGiorgio responded that the housing authority owns the land and is free to propose any use for the property, although she is not a supporter of senior housing on that particular land parcel. She also noted that objection to development of the site for housing was broad-based throughout the community.

All attendees at the meeting agreed that DeGiorgio’s proposal was a step in the right direction and asked her to come back with a plan based upon a completed engineering study. The commissioners noted that this is the first time anyone has come forward with an alternative solution to the problem and they welcome the opportunity to work toward a resolution that would work in everyone’s best interest.