The Village of Thomaston held a discussion on the controversial new lease for Kings Point Park, providing an opportunity for the board to ask questions about the park and express their concerns, while also gathering questions from the community.
Mayor Steven Weinberg said questions have arisen regarding the lease itself, as well as environmental-based questions.
“The questions may or may not be able to be answered at this time among the board of trustees, but it is something we would then seek answer to or seek what it is, if anything, village residents themselves may wish to pursue with respect in any other form or any other jurisdiction,” Weinberg said.
The mayor said the purpose of the discussion held Tuesday night during the board of trustees meeting was to raise awareness of the lease, which has garnered backlash from community members.
The Great Neck Park District approved a 10-year lease agreement with the Village of Kings Point on July 26 to continue the district’s responsibility in managing Kings Point Park. The lease is able to be extended in the future upwards 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.
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 a parks commission special meeting in July.
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.
Weinberg said that he was informed by Marra that the district is pursuing an amendment to the lease that would change the maximum acreage of alienated parkland from 5 acres to 1.32 acres.
Weinberg said that this is in addition to 1.1 acres subject to the New York State parkland alienation legislation in 2016.
“So what’s the need for the 1.32 additional acres?” Trustee Nancy Sherman asked.
Other concerns raised at the meeting by the board included the amount of funds going towards the park and the tax dollars that are contributed to the park district, saying that it should be apportioned to all the parks not just Kings Point.
Sherman said that the park’s lease is increasing from about $38,000 a year to $350,000 a year.
“One has to question why that would be,” Sherman said. “That’s a very big impact on taxpayers.”
The board also asked about the environmental impact, with plans to cut down trees on the property.
Sherman questioned why a section of the park that will be occupied by the Department of Public Works facility will be designated as parkland, which she said is not actually being used as parkland.
“They want to designate it as parkland but it is not parkland that is available to be used by the public in exchange for a forested area,” Sherman said. “It is a contaminated, possibly, DPW site.”
The village did not allow members of the public to speak during the discussion on Kings Point Park, only permitting questions, citing that it was a discussion item for the board and not a public hearing.
Sherman asked that a public hearing be held for discussion of Kings Point Park in order to allow members of the public to share their comments on the issues.
“I would like to hold a public hearing on this issue because I think people here are very disappointed that they weren’t able to speak, and I think that’s wrong,” Sherman said. “I think we live in a very small community and if people show up because they’re concerned about an issue that they should be allowed to speak.”
Weinberg said that residents have other ways to raise questions without the village having to hold a public hearing on the issue.
Some residents did speak out during the meeting, expressing concerns such as the lack of budgeting for maintenance at Thomaston Park and decreases in employment in tandem with the increased funding for Kings Point Park.
In other news, the village is seeking to replace the roof at the village hall, which the mayor referred to as a “piggyback” contract with the Town of North Hempstead. The board passed the project unanimously.
The board also addressed Tuesday night the need for repaving on Highland Avenue.
“The work done on Highland is necessary in order to repave on an emergency basis in the interest of public safety to avoid tripping hazards,” Weinberg said.
The mayor said the village does not have enough time to put the project out to bid amid the emergency need before the asphalt plants close for the season.
Manhasset-Lakeville Water District had an emergency water leak on the avenue, leading them to only need to patch the road and not repave it curb to curb.
“And we prefer to do it curb to curb,” Weinberg said.
The mayor proposed the ratification of repaving Highland Avenue curb to curb, with the village and the water district splitting half the expenses.
“So instead of Manhasset-Lakeville paying 100% of the patch, they’ll pay for half the road and the village will pay for half the road,” Weinberg said. “And we’ll have the road in good condition without any tripping hazards and we’ll be able to get it done before the season.”
The project in total will cost $40,000, with the village fronting $20,000. It was passed by the board unanimously.
The Village of Thomaston Board of Trustees will convene again on Dec. 11.