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Letter: Legislator Gonsalves on Friendly Farms Property

I am taking this opportunity to write to you about an important matter to the community that has been the subject of some misinformation lately. That matter is the future of the vacant parcel of land located on Merrick Avenue, which is currently being operated as Friendly Farms.

In 2008, I worked with the Mark family, who had owned the property, to ensure that this property, which is one of the last substantial pieces of vacant land in the community, was protected from imminent development. Under the Nassau County Environmental Bond Act I nominated the parcel for purchase and preservation by the county. I am extremely proud that in my role as both legislator and environmentalist I was able to have this parcel included in the list of properties to be preserved and that it has been purchased and will be preserved from development.

Once Nassau County took ownership of the property, the then-operators of the land entered into a license agreement with the county to temporarily continue their use of the land, solely for agricultural purposes and the operation of a farm stand.  

As set forth in the Environmental Bond Act, Nassau County’s Real Estate Department prepared a request for proposal (RFP) seeking those interested in expanding educational opportunities and farming on the property. Proposals were received, including one from the current operators of the farm stand and were reviewed by an independent committee established by the Real Estate Department. This committee recommended that the not-for-profit Cornell Cooperative Extension be retained to operate the property.  

In addition, I have secured funding to make substantial improvements to the property. In this way, the land will be farmed and the produce that results will be sold on site. These improvements should begin in 2011 and will open up educational and community farming opportunities for youth and adults alike.

While I know that the current operator is not happy with the determination of the County’s Real Estate Department, I cannot now interfere with this unbiased determination, as I have not interfered up to this point. I am also aware that some misinformation has surfaced with regard to the RFP process, which was not and should not be handled by the legislature, as this body has the obligation to approve any final agreement between the parties. I can give you my assurance however, that this process was handled by the committee in a professional manner, without outside interference in an effort to achieve the goal of preserving and improving this valuable asset for our community.

I am extremely proud to have been at the forefront of protecting this parcel of open space and look forward to seeing even greater things in the future.

Norma L. Gonsalves
Legislator, District Thirteen