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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo vetoes Freeport Armory transfer bill

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013.

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013. Photo Credit: Ian J. Stark

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Monday night vetoed a controversial bill that would have transferred the former Freeport Armory to a church-affiliated nonprofit, citing lack of consensus.

Separately, Cuomo approved a measure ordering the state Department of Environmental Conservation to outline a plan to contain a toxic waste site in Bethpage.

This is the second-straight year Cuomo, a Democrat, has nixed the Freeport Armory transfer because of ongoing community disagreement about what to do with the facility on Babylon Turnpike. While the transfer to a nonprofit is backed by Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), it is opposed by Freeport Mayor Robert T. Kennedy and other local officials.

"I urged the interested parties to reach consensus on this matter so that a new bill supported by both sides could be passed this year," Cuomo said in a veto message issued late Monday night. "Stark divisions within the community remain . . . Until said time as consensus is reached, I will not approve the conveyance of this property."

For the past two years, Hooper has attempted to transfer the armory to the Cedarmore Corp., a nonprofit that shares space with Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ, for $1. The church sits across from the armory. Hooper said that Cedarmore could use the facility to offer programs for at-risk youth and provide space for other nonprofit organizations.

Kennedy said the village should get the former National Guard facility in the same way that other decommissioned armories in the state have been transferred to local governments. He wants to use it to store the village's public works equipment to move it out of a flood zone -- its equipment was damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The armory formerly housed a National Guard unit. The Bethpage site centers on contaminated underground plumes traced to aircraft manufacturing operations by the U.S. Navy and Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., now Northrop Grumman.

More than a year ago, DEC announced a $60 million cleanup plan, concentrating on "hot spots" of contamination. The bill, sponsored by Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) and Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), directs the DEC to prepare a plan to "hydraulically contain" the plumes.

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