In a special meeting of commissioners on July 26, the Great Neck Park District officially approved a 10-year lease agreement with the Village of Kings Point that can be extended in the future to a total of 40 years. The lease is set to continue the district’s responsibility from what was a month-to-month basis over the 173-acre Kings Point Park and allow for future park projects.
The district serves all of Great Neck except the villages of Saddle Rock, Great Neck Estates, and Lake Success, and the neighborhoods of Harbor Hills and University Gardens. As a special district, the park district is under the supervision of the Town of North Hempstead.
After managing the park without a lease since 2015, the district finally struck a deal with the village following a year of negotiations, Park District Superintendent Jason Marra said during the meeting. Under the new agreement, district residents will retain access to the park, and the district will make an annual payment of $350,000 to the village. Both the village and park officials confirmed that they independently obtained appraisals before settling on this amount.
Throughout the past eight years without a lease agreement, the district had been making approximately $37,000 in annual payments, according to Marra.
Marra explained the details of the lease agreement at the packed special meeting. The chosen insurance policy is from Chubb, providing coverage for potential hazards such as chemicals, hazardous waste, hazardous air pollution, asbestos, radon, radioactive materials, terrorism and more. The insurance comes with $5 million in coverage and a deductible of $10 million.
After the insurance and lease terms were read, a resident in the audience began to yell expletives at the commissioners while saying it wasn’t a fair deal.
For 15 years, the park district had been functioning on a monthly basis as tenants of Kings Point Park. During that time, the district was hesitant to invest in the park’s facilities, fearing a loss of their investments.
The lease has a duration of 10 years, adhering to the maximum term allowed under New York State legislation enacted in 1967. This legislation ratified and authorized the village to lease Kings Point Park to the park district. Moreover, the lease includes options for renewal, granting the park district the ability to extend the initial 10-year term for three additional 10-year periods, or a potential 40-year lease.
Starting in year 11, there will be a 10% increase in the rental rate and other modifications as certain markers are reached. The additional revenue from the lease will play a role in enabling the park district to invest in the park’s facilities and recreational potential.
A significant aspect of the lease involves the possibility of obtaining a bond from the Town of North Hempstead. If the district succeeds in securing this bond financing, it will commit to investing $10 million in Kings Point Park and an additional $5 million in any other park district property within the village of Kings Point. Kings Point will require the district to obtain $15 million in bonds for improvements within the first two years of the agreement.
However, the commitment to invest will be nullified if the district fails to secure the bond financing.
In the event of early termination of the lease by the village or the village’s refusal to accept a renewal option, the village will be obligated to reimburse the park district for their investments, including the bond financing, amounting to $10 million.
With a change in leadership and the election of Mayor Kouros Torkan in Kings Point last year, renewed discussions between the governments paved the way for an agreement. The parties have conditionally reached an arrangement that both believe is equitable and enables the park district to make significant investments in the park, turning it into a recreational asset for the community, said Marra.
The park “has not been improved,” said Torkan at the meeting, “It needs improvements for the community, our children. It is and it could be even better. It could be phenomenal for all the kids in our community.”
Included in the agreement are 27 pre-approved potential projects and amenities that Kings Point has approved but will need public input in the future. Residents spoke to the board and made comments on how they don’t want the park subdivided into 27 pieces, but Marra made note that all projects like adding a bike path, pickleball court or dog park would be discussed further in the future with the public. He explained that they were pre-approved because the district did not want to ask the village for approval every single time they thought of another project.
Torkan agreed with residents worried about park division at the meeting, saying “none of the values that we want are for redevelopment. It’s ludicrous. It’s a parkland, it’s going to remain parkland.”
With a real estate background, Torkan called the lease “the lease significantly fair.”
“Again, what is good for the park district is good for the entire peninsula. That is part of the park district and Kings Point by the way is the largest contributor of all the villages to the park district budget.”
Resident Sabine Margolis said her main concern is the $15 million requirement.
“There are many reasons why that can be jeopardized,” said said. “And I don’t see any holding hands to help make sure this happens or understanding that no you will not lose the park.”