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After a long-running battle, New York's top court Thursday ruled that the Village of Kings Point cannot construct a public works facility in Kings Point Park.
In a 7-0 decision, the Court of Appeals said the land is clearly "dedicated parkland" and cannot be used for other purposes unless "authorized by the State Legislature." The court rejected the village's primary argument: that a lawsuit seeking to block the public works facility was filed too late and, therefore, barred by a statute of limitations.
The dispute centers on a 5.5-acre parcel in the western corner of the park. The village in 2008 proposed to deforest, regrade and pave part of the parcel, and construct a 12,000-square-foot public works building, according to court documents.
In 2009, three neighbors sued to block the plan; eventually, the state joined the lawsuit on behalf of the neighbors. A lower court blocked the village proposal while the lawsuit continued.
Daniel Capruso, 51, a plaintiff and Great Neck Village resident who lives 50 feet from the site, hailed the decision Thursday.
"There's very little mature forested parkland left here in Nassau County, and we're glad that the courts prevented the village of Kings Point from destroying it," he said.
Stephen Limmer, an attorney for the village, said he must discuss options with the board's trustees. Two public works facility structures are already on the site, including a salt shed, Limmer said.
"It's obviously very disappointing; we think it's an unfortunate determination," Limmer said. "It represents very bad problems for the municipalities in the state, because people can come out of nowhere and claim something was a parkland in the '20s, when nobody knew about it, and suddenly you have to take down a building that was there."
The village didn't dispute that the western portion of the park is dedicated parkland and that its proposal to convert it hadn't been authorized by the state. Instead, it noted that, since 1946, it legally has used a portion of the park to store highway materials and supplies, and that the proposed facility amounted to "nothing more than a change in the nature and scope of an ongoing, non-park use."
The village also claimed that any lawsuit intended to block "non-park" uses should have been filed within six years after the village began to store highway materials in the park. The neighbors' lawsuit, the village claimed, came way too late.
The court disagreed, upholding a ruling by a midlevel court.