Lawmakers delay parkland deal with Molloy College

An aerial view of the Nassau Coliseum/Mitchel Field An aerial view of the Nassau Coliseum/Mitchel Field Complex in Uniondale. In the foreground is Hofstra University and Hempstead Turnpike. (May 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Nassau lawmakers Monday delayed approval of a permit for Molloy College to use a baseball field in Mitchel Field for as long as 30 years in return for the school making $1.3 million in improvements.

The legislature's Rules Committee unanimously voted to table the deal proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano to give the independent office of budget more time to review it.

Democrats said they thought the 20-year "use and occupancy permit," which could be extended an additional 10 years, was really a lease. The county charter requires leases to be implemented by ordinance after a public hearing and be approved by at least 10 of 19 legislators. In addition, state lawmakers must approve leases of public parkland.

Mangano officials said the permit is a license, which only needs Rules Committee approval and does not trigger questions about "alienation" of parkland through transfer, leasing or other means. County Attorney John Ciampoli said the agreement is not a lease because the public continues to have access to the field and the county can revoke the deal at will.

Backup material indicated the college will use the field primarily between 3 and 6 p.m. from Jan. 10 through May 25, and Sept. 2 through Nov. 1. Molloy's $1.3 million would pay for design, plans, excavation and drainage, purchase of fencing, dugouts, bullpens and installation of an artificial turf field. The college also would pay 50 percent of county fees for field use.

"We think this is a great example of a public-private partnership," said Molloy spokesman Edward Thompson, "We're investing $1.3 million in a field that definitely needs that investment. Over 80 percent of the time that field will be used by residents of Nassau County, not Molloy College. We think that's a good deal for the taxpayer."

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Mangano aide Brian Nevin called it "a win-win for the taxpayer."

But Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury), who noted the permit was not put on the agenda until Friday evening, said "something of this magnitude should go out for publication and notification. It should be by ordinance, it should be ten votes. . . . I think we're circumventing some pretty important steps here."

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he was concerned the county had not approached other schools to ensure it was getting the best deal. Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick), who is not on the Rules Committee, said the deal is a lease. Bruce Piel, head of PARCNassau, a park advocacy group, said his group opposes the deal. "What is being proposed is an alienation of parkland issue. They cannot do it without permission of the New York State legislature," Piel said.

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