On Tuesday the Town Board voted 5-2 to acquire the Roslyn Country Club property and borrow $7.5 million to renovate the pool and tennis courts. There was a “standing room” only crowd in the emotionally charged room. Councilman Ferrara and I voted against acquiring the property and borrowing the funds. It seemed to me that many of those present believed that the vote centered on whether the Roslyn Heights community deserved a pool. It also seemed that many residents thought that the 7.7 acres of open space is in imminent danger of being developed.
Both notions are, in my mind, untrue. Understandably the Roslyn Heights community was angry because they interpreted the opposition to the project as a criticism of their community. Longtime community residents recalled fond memories of time spent at the pool. New residents wanted the same positive experiences. Many who opposed the plan did so because they perceived that their tax dollars were going to create an “exclusive pool” that they could not afford. I understand and empathize with both points of view. For me, Tuesday’s vote was not about preserving open space or one community being more deserving than another or creating “country clubs” for the few at the expense of the many.
The vote was about whether the Town, and ultimately the taxpayers, should assume an additional liability which could lead to years of protracted and expensive litigation. Nothing more, nothing less. The current owner cannot develop the site without significant zoning changes and extinguishing the 668 individual easements. There is no real danger of the open space being lost.
The notion that the pool will pay for itself is a fiction. The Town’s own documents confirm that since 1993 the pool never had more than 566 members- even when it was open to the public. The capacity of the pool has historically been 668; but has not reached full capacity in the last 20 years. Moreover, the Town in its SEQRA Negative Declaration (May 15, 2012) states that the conversion from private to public ownership will result in a modest increase in membership and that further growth will be “self-limiting” once the facility approaches capacity (668).
It is unlikely that membership fees and other revenue will pay for all of the pool’s operating expenses. Promoting that concept to the public is disingenuous and irresponsible. Further the “revenue neutral” theory advanced by the Town exacerbated the negative emotion in the room that night. It left many community residents asking, “Why oppose a project that does not cost the Town any money and would benefit the community?” The belief that the opposition results from malice, prejudice or a political agenda is unfair. Tuesday night the Board debated, listened and voted. We did not agree. We will continue to act in what each of us believes to be in the best interest of our Town. Fortunately we live in a society where all of this remains possible.
The opinions expressed are those of the author, Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, and do not necessarily represent those of the Town or other members of the Board.