Following opposition to the proposed sale of the Carman Avenue Sumps expressed last week by residents of Westbury, both the local county legislator for the area and the head of the Legislature have voiced support for those concerned homeowners.
Nassau County Legislator Dennis Dunne (R-15th L.D.) and Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-16th L.D.), when interviewed Friday, said they were opposed to the sale of the land, for which County Executive Thomas Gulotta has apparently received a bid of $10 million.
Residents Lorraine Bauer and Joy MacLeod, whose homes abut the sump property, spoke out against the proposed sale at the May 7 meeting of the Nassau County Legislature, because they feel it would result in over-development of their suburban community, and have an adverse environmental effect.
They also sent out 600 fliers urging the community to oppose the sale of the property, and said many of their neighbors have expressed similar concerns.
The Carman Avenue Sumps, also known as Storm Basin #51, are composed of approximately 30 acres of land consisting of two large twin basins and one smaller basin, adjacent to the Bowling Green Water Supply Pumping Station and Water Holding Tank in Westbury. The $10 million bid was received for 20 acres of the property, leaving the remaining 10 acres for use as the sump, according to Dunne. Dunne noted that this was the highest bid received for property, and entails a proposal to build 120 single family homes.
Bauer said the entire property should be preserved as a recharge basin, because it serves an essential function in the local water management system. "We want to keep it as it is because it is imperative for the water supply," she said. "We're not looking to compromise. We don't want it done."
Bauer added that the underground contamination emanating from the 13 hazardous waste sites of the New Cassel Industrial Area, which includes the Bowling Green Water District, is another important reason not to develop the nearby sump. She also believes that a possible housing development on the land would cause increased traffic and school enrollment.
According to Dunne, although the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) had instructed the county to sell vacant land to pay down debt in the midst of the municipality's fiscal crisis, sale of the sump land is not the way to do it.
"I'm adamantly opposed to any sale of that property or any building on it," he said.
"I came out opposed to it. Most of the people in the area are not happy with it," he added. "I've been in the area talking to people about it. I would say 95 to 99 percent of the people do not want anything there."
Dunne expressed concern about the effect that a housing development, which has been proposed, would have on the school system, traffic, and water district and fire department services.
The proposed sale of the sump land seems to be aimed at generating revenue to pay down debt in the midst of the fiscal crisis. Although County Executive Gulotta was not immediately available to confirm the proposed sale, at press time a spokesperson from his office, John Zaher, said the county is currently experiencing a $76.1 million surplus.
According to Jacobs, the Legislature had not been informed by the county executive that bids had been opened on the land.
"I am very concerned. I would hope that this would not be a way that the county executive is anticipating closing budget gaps - by selling off land that has been set aside as a recharge basin, a sump. Any of this type of land is very environmentally sensitive," she said. "It really concerns me deeply, if we're going to intrude into the environment in order to close budget holes. I don't see any logic in selling off sump land that has been put aside for environmental reasons."
She added, "People are concerned, and I feel that their concerns are legitimate. As the presiding officer, I share the concerns of the residents, and I feel it could open a Pandora's box, in every community, if this is allowed to go through. And I think we have to be aware and vigilant and responsible, in how we address this."
Jacobs assured that she would work to preserve the sump land. "We are looking into the possibility of perpetually preserving sumpland. The point is, that it's there for a reason," she said. "It's there for an environmental reason. And I will be introducing a bill into the Legislature that will perpetually preserve it."
Dunne said he and Legislator Norma Gonsalves (R - 13 L.D.) are also working on legislation to preserve the sump land.