Long Island ABATE, a motorcycle safety group run by a high-ranking Suffolk County parks official, has abandoned efforts to use a building on a county preserve as its headquarters, the group's president said.
The reversal follows an outcry from residents of Calverton and Baiting Hollow, who expressed concern about a potential conflict of interest.
"We are a part of the community, and we want to respect the wishes of local communities just as we seek respect," Long Island ABATE President Jim Barr wrote in a letter to Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) on Thursday, one day after a raucous community meeting at which residents blasted the proposal.
Barr works as the county's superintendent of parks, the second highest-ranking official behind Commissioner Greg Dawson, in the department that manages the property where the group was seeking to relocate.
The Suffolk County Legislature on May 13 voted to allow Long Island ABATE, a nonprofit that advocates for motorcycle awareness and safety and organizes charity fundraisers, to use a dilapidated clubhouse on the former Long Island Beagle Club property in Calverton as an office and meeting hall.
Long Island ABATE agreed to fix up the clubhouse and help clear trails through the 150-acre preserve, which is not open to the public. The county purchased the former hunting-dog training grounds for $8.9 million in 2012.
Krupski, who sponsored the bill authorizing the agreement last month, said he saw it as a partnership intended to help the financially strained parks department open the property to hikers. He said he planned to introduce a bill Tuesday asking other nonprofits for expressions of interest in using the property and helping maintain it for public use.
"The people in the community were pretty clear," Krupski said. "For them it was a quality-of-life issue. I thought it was great that people came out to express that."
Nearly 100 residents attended a Greater Calverton Civic Association meeting Wednesday, often shouting and saying they didn't want motorcycles gathering in the preserve. They also worried that the parks department would not force one of its highest-ranking officials to follow rules governing the group's use of the preserve.
"The parks department will set their own limits, but this gentleman [Barr] is very high up in the parks department," said Deb Doherty, 44, who lives in Baiting Hollow near the property.
Barr said after the meeting that he "would be stricter on ABATE than any administrator is going to be."
"I personally saw it as a perfect fit," Barr said. "Suffolk County Parks needs this work done. Long Island ABATE loves doing charitable work. I never once in a million years thought of a conflict of interest."
Long Island ABATE has about 900 members, about 100 of whom typically attend monthly meetings at Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island, said Nick LaMorte, the group's legislative liaison.