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Angry residents push N. Hempstead to rescind pool offer

Swimmers beat the heat inside Clinton G. Martin

Swimmers beat the heat inside Clinton G. Martin Park's pool in New Hyde Park. (June 30, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Succumbing to pressure from angry residents, the Town of North Hempstead has rescinded its offer to allow children from a Brooklyn-based day camp to use a New Hyde Park pool.

The town had agreed to allow kids from Oasis Children's Services, which operates summer programs in New York City, New Jersey, Westchester and Long Island, to use the pool at Clinton G. Martin Park in New Hyde Park for two hours daily in the summer. The town was to have received $10,000 to $15,000, which Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman said at a Tuesday night board meeting would have offset taxes and costs to upgrade the pool in the future.

But New Hyde Park residents balked, saying it's unfair to allow outsiders to use the pool, in a special district park, because residents pay a special tax and a $250 annual pool fee to use it.

"The pool is specifically for the residents of New Hyde Park and their guests," John Fehling, vice president of the Lakeville Estates Civic Association, said Wednesday. Residents found out about the deal June 24, Fehling said, and collected 800 signatures against it in a few days.

Kaiman said because residents were unhappy with the deal, Oasis had arranged to use the pool at Chaminade High School in Mineola instead.

Oasis officials did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

At Tuesday's meeting, Kaiman cited an e-mail from a civic association expressing concern that the kids would be bused in from Hempstead and Elmont. The e-mail, distributed among New Hyde Park residents, was also sent to Newsday.

New Hyde Park resident Jerome Galluscio said Kaiman mischaracterized the residents' opposition. "He [Kaiman] was trying to make it a racial statement," said Galluscio, who ran as a Republican for town council in 2001 and 2003, and for State Assembly in 2000. "We didn't want people from outside the park district. It wasn't an issue if they were from Elmont or Farmingdale or Mineola."

Kaiman responded: "I was just citing what the fliers and e-mails said."

Bernie Tessler, chief executive director of Oasis Children's Services, said Thursday that 85 percent of the children who would have used the pool come from North Hempstead, with the remainder from other parts of Nassau.

He said a few are from Queens communities such as Little Neck and Douglaston. He said those kids are picked up from Long Island Jewish Hospital, where their parents work.

Fehling, who said he no longer uses the pool because his children are grown, echoed Galluscio, saying residents don't want outsiders to use the pool, regardless of where they're coming from. "Come on, we pay the tax for this place," he said.

He said the town would make only a nominal amount, noting Oasis' website shows camp fees range from $940 for two weeks to $2,900 for eight weeks.

"They're not coming from poor neighborhoods," he said.

Town Councilman Angelo Ferrara, who lives in New Hyde Park, said part of the problem was that residents felt there was a lack of communication from the town about the camp use. Many believed more camp kids would be using the pool than the estimated 60.

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