Monday night's rain did not deter locals from showing up at Littig House to hear new plans for a parcel of land next to Harbor Homes known as Alvan Petrus Park. Pretty soon into the evening, the room was filled with smiling people who would ultimately applaud what they heard.
Standing next to Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman delivered a proposal that was welcomed by the audience – a mix of civic group members, philanthropists, environmentalists, Harbor Home residents and their friends and neighbors.
The plan already had the support of North Hempstead’s Town Board and the North Hempstead Housing Authority, whose director, Sean Rainey, sat close by. Kaiman added that the plan would meet legal and financial needs, as well as the needs of Harbor Home residents, many of whom put in long hours with the mission to restore the park so their children would have a safe place to play.
Explaining the plan, Kaiman said that the town already has an appraisal for the property that came in at $1.6 million.
In trying to arrive at a solution, Kaiman noted that “the housing authority can’t give up an asset and be out property dollars.”
So he proposes dividing the property into a recreational area and an open space portion, which includes trees and cliffs. The town would commit between $200,000-$300,000 to the Housing Authority to restore the park, which would likely feature barbeque pits, a basketball court and more. It would need proper ingress, egress, stairs, access and lighting. And it would require meeting standards put forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Harbor Home residents would be involved in the park’s planning.
The town would be responsible for liability, and the housing authority would be responsible for maintenance. The housing authority would also agree to preserve open space and not develop it for a minimum of 20 years. After 20 years, the tax credits held by First Sterling Bank would expire, and the bank would no longer have claims on the property. The open-space agreement could be extended for another 20 or even as many as 50 years, Kaiman said.
In exchange, the town would give the housing authority a property in New Cassel, where it can build the kind of senior housing it had originally aimed to build on the property near Harbor Homes.
The park would be open to all town residents, but Harbor Home residents would be able to reserve the property for private events.
Everyone in the room seemed to give the proposal high marks.
“I feel the proposal is fair,” one resident said. “But residents should have a meeting and discuss it before we have a definite answer.”
De Giorgio agreed. “And going forward with the layout we want you to have direct input and include anyone in the process” who wants to get involved, she said.
“I thank you and compliment you and Dina,” Hank Ratner told Kaiman. “You listened to the community.”
“This may be your legacy,” Ratner added.
Noting that the European Union had just received the Nobel Peace Prize, Amy Hagedorn said, “You folks might be eligible for next year.”
Mike Blumenfeld offered resources from the Port Washington Parks Conservancy, which recently spearheaded the redevelopment of Stannards Brook Park. “We would make available to Harbor Homes our experts, grant writers, landscape architects without charge,” he said.
Safety, specifically near the cliffs, needs to be discussed. Both Kaiman and De Giorgio noted that there would be opportunity for groups and individuals to sponsor portions of the project – donating a fountain, or a garden, playgound equipment and more.
Next steps include the town board and housing authority board signing contracts, issuing a request for proposals for engineering plans, and dedicating money into the town’s 2013 capital spending.
"I'm very happy," De Giorgio said. "I'm happy for the community and the 161 children who live here." She thanked the member of the Hands Of Change Civic Association for their efforts.
And while area residents do aim to meet before giving their formal ok, they seemed pleased.
As one local new parent said, “It gives my children a future.”