Hooper's armory proposal confounds Freeport leaders

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013. Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013. Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

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Freeport Village officials are again at odds with Assemb. Earlene Hooper over the future of the Freeport Armory on Babylon Turnpike.

Hooper (D-Hempstead), who represents part of the village, on Wednesday proposed a bill that would transfer the 3-acre armory property to the village for use by community groups and the village police department.

The proposal came about two months after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed an earlier Hooper bill that would have transferred the state-owned armory to a local nonprofit that planned to use it for programs for at-risk youths.

Cuomo issued a statement at the time that he wanted to "give the parties a chance to resolve any differences between themselves" and craft a plan for the property. But Freeport officials said they were not consulted about Hooper's new proposal and they don't support it.

The village wants the property for a new department of public works facility, Mayor Robert T. Kennedy said. Hooper's new proposal doesn't allow for that, he said.

"The village would have no control of it whatsoever," Kennedy said. "It doesn't meet the requirements of the village."

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Hooper's bill states that the armory would house the Long Island Youth Foundation, Imani Dancers, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Dr. Stanley L. Ralph Creative Arts Center Project. A Quonset hut on the property also would be used by the Freeport police department, the bill states.

Hooper's bill was referred to the governmental operations committee. Attempts to reach Hooper Thursday were not successful.

The bill states that "Freeport is situated to help develop, maintain and operate the facility as a refuge focusing on educational endeavors that have specialized programs for at-risk youth."

The armory formerly housed a National Guard unit, but the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs vacated it in fall 2011, and it now is being leased to Nassau County to store highway equipment, a division spokesman said.

Lois Howes, vice president of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce, said she hoped Hooper would consult with the village before proposing a new bill.

"I just can't believe she would put this back up," she said.

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