Harborfields school district debates fate of park
The Harborfields school district is in a pickle over a park it owns.
The school board is considering selling Library Park, also known as Pickle Park, as costs to maintain it rise, and some neighbors complain about the quality-of-life issues it creates.
For decades, the district has been the steward of the 11/2-acre parcel behind the Harborfields Public Library on Broadway in Greenlawn. But since basketball hoops were installed in April 2012, as part of a student's Eagle Scout project, some residents have complained about noise and young people congregating after hours.
With the district's budget tightening and park maintenance costs rising, officials are trying to decide what to do with the plot, and will continue discussions about it at a school board meeting Wednesday night.
The board is studying three options: continue to manage the park; hire a real estate agent and sell it to a developer; or get the town to buy it.
"We are constantly asked to come up with alternative sources of revenue," district Superintendent Diana Todaro said at a recent special school board meeting. "Any of these could be a possibility."
The park is behind a former school that was deeded to the library district in 1976. School officials said the library was not legally allowed to manage a park, so the district retained the land behind the building that had been used as a playground.
The installation of basketball hoops triggered complaints and calls to police about marijuana smoking, drinking and other disturbances.
Last spring, the school district assigned a security guard additional hours to patrol the park, bringing the annual cost of maintaining the site to about $20,000.
Police Insp. Edward Brady, commander of the Second Precinct, said that patrols in April, May and June were beefed up at the request of the school district. He could think of only two arrests since then.
"Although there were a number of occasions of young people hanging out, many times there was no criminal activity taking place, it was just kids hanging out," Brady said.
Residents packed the special board meeting, mostly to oppose selling the park.
"The plan is poorly thought out and has no basis in terms of consistency with your mission statement and no consistency with basic finance and accounting," district resident Barry Sosnick said.
Last fall, the school district applied to the town's Environmental Open Space and Park Fund Advisory Committee to have the lot considered for purchase. Town officials say they have received about 25 letters or emails encouraging the town to purchase the park.
The board meeting starts at 7:45 p.m. at Oldfield Middle School.