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Nassau legislature approves funding for $54M police academy

The project was included in more than $150 million in new borrowing projects approved by lawmakers.

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved funding for a $54 million police academy and intelligence center on the grounds of Nassau Community College in Garden City, among more than $150 million in new borrowing projects approved by lawmakers.

The approval sets the stage for Nassau County’s newest officers to train on a roughly 90,000-square-foot facility, a plan that had been discussed -- and delayed -- for years. The department currently spends about $770,000 annually to lease classroom space at the former Hawthorne Elementary School in Massapequa Park.

Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the lack of a permanent academy has meant bouncing from different settings, from a grammar school in WIlliston Park to condemned trailers at the county's jail in East Meadow. Better technology and community building, he said, will prove key to improved policing. Ryder has touted the advantages of partnering with the NCC's diverse student body.

“We will better serve the police department in a more diverse way than we ever have before by putting the academy on the grounds of Nassau Community College,” Ryder told lawmakers before the vote. “We will involve the students from that school, who come from our diverse community, here in Nassau County, and involve them in the growth of our police department. They will see that this is a department that welcomes all.”

Ryder said the academy would be built "on time" and "correctly, without changes." County officials earlier this month projected ground to be broken in the fall. 

County legislators Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck) and John Ferretti Jr. (R-Levittown) each expressed hope that the county would fully re-open the Sixth Precinct in Manhasset and Eighth Precinct in Levittown, respectively, both of which closed after a 2012 consolidation of police precincts.  "We are a very prepared management group, and when the hammer comes down to make any moves that we have to make, we will make them and we'll do it effectively," Ryder said in response to their comments.

Curran said in a statement, "Our police department personnel deserve the best training possible. We will provide that opportunity in this new state-of-the-art academy." Her statement also said the borrowing projects will help "keep the county’s buildings, highways and parks in good repair well into the future. This is a tremendous step forward for Nassau County and its residents.”

The borrowing approved by the county amends Nassau's 2016 capital plan and caps off weeks  of negotiations among members of the administration and both legislative caucuses. Approved projects include the development of a master plan for an opioid treatment center and infrastructure fixes at the county's jail.

The Curran administration in October plans to offer a new, multi-year capital plan covering projects for each of the next four years, said Brian Schneider, deputy county executive for parks and public works. 

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the projects would “move the county forward, create jobs, repair our roads and make our parks better for our residents.”

Minority leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), said, “We want to see the county be able to move forward. You don’t have to be a stranger to Nassau County to see that some of the roads are in disrepair, some of the infrastructure in disrepair.”

Also Monday, legislative committees approved a bill establishing a 24-hour substance abuse hotline, as well a smartphone app with resources for those suffering from addiction. The legislature's Rules committee also approved a $927,000 settlement with Darryl Coggins, a man who sued the county for false arrest. The full 19-member legislature must approve the bills and settlement at its next meeting.

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