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Auto dealer loses permit to store cars in park's lot

Westbury Jeep car dealership's Jeeps and cars stored

Westbury Jeep car dealership's Jeeps and cars stored in a Hicksville parking lot. (Oct. 23, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau has revoked a permit granted to a Westbury auto dealership for storing cars at Cantiague Park after a parks advocacy group complained the county had illegally transferred parkland.

Bruce Piel, chairman of the advocacy group PARCnassau, filed a formal complaint Friday with state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman asking that he prosecute Nassau for blocking the public from using parking field 2 at the Hicksville park while allowing Westbury Jeep Chrysler Dodge to store new and used cars there.

Piel wrote that the county administration agreed to allow the dealership to store cars from Oct. 1 until April next year without prior approval of the county or state legislature. "NY case law clearly states that municipalities must obtain enabling legislation from the NYS legislature to alienate parkland and this was not done," Piel wrote.

Schneiderman's office did not return a call for comment.

After Newsday inquired, an aide to County Executive Edward Mangano said Wednesday that the county on Friday had revoked its "use and occupancy agreement" with Westbury Jeep, which must remove its cars by Nov. 20.

Mangano spokeswoman Mary Studdert said the agreement was "not alienation of parkland" because the county could revoke it at will and because use of the parking lot "did not substantially interfere with the park." She did not provide a copy of the agreement.

Studdert said Westbury Jeep paid the County $4,000 rent for October and had submitted a $4,500 security deposit, which will be returned when the lot is vacated. She said the parks commissioner revoked the permit after determining the lot will be needed for tournaments that are booking time at the park's ice rink.

Randy Sporn, co-owner of Westbury Jeep, said he got notice in the mail Wednesday that his permit had been revoked. He said he had approached the county parks department about short-term use of Cantiague's back lot after the dealership lost its long-term storage area. He said his company erected a fence and maintained the lot.

"Of course I'm disappointed on such short notice that I have to leave," Sporn said. "It's a parking lot not used during the winter months. They're collecting revenue. It's a win-win for everybody."

Told about Piel's complaint, Sporn said, "Alienation of parkland? It's a parking lot."But Piel said, "Obviously what occurred was illegal alienation," citing the state parks department handbook that says alienation occurs when a municipality sells, leases or uses parkland for another purpose.

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