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Freeport leaders, residents take stand against bill to give old armory to village

Community leaders and local residents protest on Sunday

Community leaders and local residents protest on Sunday proposed legislation to give the Freeport Armory property to the Village of Freeport, which would use it for its Department of Public Works. Credit: Jeff Bachner

On Sunday, around 100 opponents of a proposal for New York State to transfer ownership of the former Freeport Armory to the Freeport Village government called on state lawmakers to reject the plan.

Speakers at the rally decried the bills, A05406 and S1665, introduced earlier this year by Assemb. Taylor Raynor (D-Hempstead) and Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) that would give the 3-acre site to the village. They said the village's plan to use the property as a Department of Public Works facility would threaten the environment and safety and property values in the neighborhood.

"Historically, the northeast sector [of Freeport] has been a dumping ground for current and past village administrations," said G. Dewey Smalls, vice president of the Long Island chapter of National Action Network, a civil rights nonprofit.

As protesters waved signs and chanted "No D.P.W," Smalls appealed to legislators to "vote against this bill and protect us, the residents."

Raynor, Brooks and Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy did not respond Sunday to requests for comment.

In a memo accompanying the identical bills introduced by Raynor and Brooks, the lawmakers wrote: "In the wake of Superstorm Sandy the Village of Freeport sustained millions of dollars of damage to its Department of Public Works, and this transfer would permit, among other things, the Village to relocate its Department of Public Works to an area outside of the flood zone."

If passed, the bills would end years of political quarrels over the site, which the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs vacated in 2011.

Former Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) pushed legislation repeatedly to transfer control of the site to the Cedarmore Corporation, a nonprofit that shares a space across the street from the armory with Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ and organized Sunday's rally.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoed those bills in 2013 and 2014, saying the move lacked community support. Hooper withdrew the bills in 2015 and 2017 because they lacked the votes needed in the Assembly.

The state has previously transferred old armories to local government control in Huntington and Riverhead.

Neither the Senate nor the Assembly has voted on the new bills, according to their websites.

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