Nassau Legislature votes to hike wide range of fees

Eugene Nickerson Beach in Lido Beach has special Eugene Nickerson Beach in Lido Beach has special events and a summer recreation program for children ages 5-12. Photo Credit: Flickr/Jim Groom

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The Nassau County Legislature voted Monday to hike fees for a wide range of services, including golf at Eisenhower Park, permits for home renovations, admission at Old Bethpage Village Restoration and cabanas at Nickerson Beach.

The increases and new fees -- ranging from a $1 admission bump at county museums to a $275 contract registration fee for county vendors -- were proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano as a way of generating an estimated $15 million in new revenue, and helping to offset the cost of new labor contracts.

County department heads said the fee increases were necessary to cover higher maintenance expenses at county parks and losses from traffic ticket scofflaws.

"The fees bring the county on par with other municipalities and represent the costs associated with delivering services," said Tim Sullivan, deputy county executive for finance.

But the plan sparked opposition, with Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) joining eight Democrats in voting against the increases.

Several county residents, including seniors and veterans, spoke out against the increases during public comment, arguing that they would add up for residents who frequent county parks, golf courses and beaches.

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"I pay full taxes -- I own the facilities, not the guy who comes from New York City to play a couple of rounds," of golf, said Bob Young of Merrick. "I understand that it may be necessary to raise fees, but I've got a problem with them."

With Venditto and county Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) competing for an open State Senate seat, the fee increases provided fodder for political debate Monday.

Denenberg blasted the increases as "backdoor tax increases." Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) shot back that Denenberg and other Democrats had approved fee increases when former Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi was in office.

"The fee increase today is what we are debating," Denenberg responded. "Talking about 10 to 15 years ago doesn't change what we're debating now."

Claudia Borecky, a South Shore civic activist and former legislative aide to Denenberg, asked Venditto during a public comment period why he had been absent when the Finance Committee, controlled by majority Republicans, had voted earlier to approve the fee increases.

"You could have stopped these fees in committee," she said.

Venditto did not respond from the dais.

The fee increase bills, which Mangano is expected to sign, would raise the price for a daily parking pass at Nickerson Beach for Nassau residents with a Leisure Pass from $8 to $10. More than 15,000 Nassau residents paid the daily beach parking fee last year, according to county figures.

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Admission for adults at Old Bethpage Village Restoration would go from $10 to $11, and maximum admission at Tackapausha Museum and Preserve in Seaford would go from $3 to $4. Prices for a cabana at Nickerson would rise from $3,400 to $3,750.

In a 13-6 vote, the legislature also approved new processing fees for the county's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, including $15 for scofflaws who fail to respond to tickets and $75 for motorists who don't appear for hearings. Vehicles with two delinquent unpaid traffic tickets could be booted.

Majority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), Legis. Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck) and Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) joined Republicans in voting for the measure.

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