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Citibank pledges $100,000 to save LI's state parks

Shoreline erosion is seen at Jones Beach following

Shoreline erosion is seen at Jones Beach following a storm on March 16, 2010. Credit: Kevin Coughlin

Citibank said Wednesday it will donate about $100,000 to help buffer Long Island's state parks from about $1 million in budget cuts.

The deal with the New York State parks office is not yet finalized, but it's expected to revive threatened programs and finance park operations, including at one park on the closure list. The funds would go to children's magic shows, concerts, extension of the season at a Jones Beach swimming area, restoration of a decaying, historic mosaic map of the Island at Jones Beach, and more.

"When we heard that the parks service and the recreation programs were going to be eliminated, we knew right away that this would be a perfect partnership," said Michele Imbasciani, Citibank's director for Long Island. "It's a way to stay connected with our customers and the communities that we serve and to thank our customers for their business and their loyalty . . . after some rough times for us and rough times in the entire industry."

Bank officials contacted the state more than a month ago and left it up to parks officials to decide what to rescue, as long as the wealth was spread.

That's partly why the carousel at Hempstead Lake State Park could be open beyond weekend hours. Many schools had been making field trips to ride the hand-carved figures, park officials said. But the park is slated to close if contingency plans fail, and it's not clear what would then happen to the carousel funds.

"We are thrilled and gratified that Citibank's generous donation will touch so many state park programs and services," said Carol Ash, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "With Citibank's help, we are now able to offer a full schedule of programs this summer season."

As much as 90 percent of the funds would go to Long Island, Imbasciani said. The rest would go to Westchester and Rockland counties, officials said.

A bank-park partnership may sound like strange bedfellows, but with taxpayers seeing red after all the green they've given the financial industry, Citibank started last fall to rev up its customer appreciation and nonprofit partnership campaigns.

In Citibank's "Our Promise" campaign, almost all of its Long Island branches, or 71 locations, hosted "Main St. Small Business Expos" with various themes two weekends ago. On May 15, the campaign will have a tree planting celebratory event at Jones Beach.

Imbasciani, who lived in several communities on Long Island while she was growing up, said so much of the lifestyle here revolves around the parks and beaches, the stuff of childhood memories: "It's ingrained in us and we live for that. It's a heartfelt type of association and it really is about giving back to the community."

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