Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 27 August 2010 00:00
When, in the early 2000s, the longtime Air National Guard base in East Hills was set to close down, village officials took a huge gamble on what would replace that 40-acre site. The property was purchased by the village from the US government for $3.10 million and then paid for from the sale of property owned by the village.
The funds were used to finance The Park at East Hills, the most ambitious commercial development in the village’s 74-year history.
The gamble paid off. And on this Thursday, Sept. 2, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., the village will celebrate the spectacular success of The Park with an afternoon of fun, complete with water rides, special attractions by both the village and maybe a player from the New York Islanders plus inflatable rides and major sports competitions.
The anniversary also allows village officials to reflect on how successful The Park has been for East Hills. While some longtime residents wondered if the cost would be worth it in the long run, village officials now contend that the many faceted facilities have made East Hills one of the more desirable places to relocate in all of Long Island.
“The event will celebrate the opening of the park which has brought Roslyn’s largest community…together by building a new heart of the community,” village officials claim, adding that the “extensive sports and recreational facilities have also prompted many prospective purchasers to move into East Hills.”
The park’s biggest attraction is probably its pool, which village officials claim is Long Island’s largest municipal leisure pool, standing at 12,000 sq. ft. and featuring a 100-foot water slide. Other sporting attractions includes six tennis courts, two basketball courts, playgrounds, a senior community center, a theatre, playgrounds, a picnic area, a dog park, and sports fields used for baseball, soccer, jogging trails and concerts and fireworks displays for East Hills residents.
The latter amenity has proven especially popular. When The Park at East Hills opened on Labor Day, 2005, pop star Taylor Dayne performed for a capacity crowd. Since then, the park has hosted several popular acts, including American Idol finalist, Kimberly Locke and Backstreets, the well-known Bruce Springsteen tribute band. Big Shot, a similar band dedicated to performing the music of Long Island native Billy Joel, will perform on Sunday, Sept. 5, the date of the big Labor Day weekend celebration.
Such acts have brought, at times, large percentages of the entire population of the village to The Park. “Ever since the opening of the park, residents have used the facilities and wooded land in record numbers,” village officials said. “It is not uncommon on a weekend or at an event to have 1,000 residents and guests use the pool and the sports facilities.” In fact, over 4,000 people—-the majority of the village residents — attended the recent July 4 fireworks display.
But not all of the park’s land area is used for large gatherings. The entire land usage amounts to over 50 acres. However, 15 of the acres have been preserved for walking trails only.
In the end, The Park at East Hills was designed with a cost of over $20 million. It was opened, as noted, in 2005 after Mayor Michael R. Koblenz, the board of trustees, and 23 community committees planned its layout. It won first place for design by the New York Parks and Recreation Association and the response to its amenities by the public proves that it holds a similar ranking in the sentiments of East Hills residents.