Nassau County has entered into a tentative deal with Molloy College to jointly invest $6 million in renovating Bay Park in the southern part of the county where the school's teams would have priority for tennis matches, field hockey, baseball and softball games.
The county says the plan marks the largest investment in a county park in recent memory, but the proposal would cost the school only one-fourth of what it was willing to invest two years ago to gain the use of a separate plot of vacant county-owned land in Baldwin.
The school is building dorms on the old athletic fields on its cramped Rockville Centre campus and has been desperately seeking off-campus playing fields. The latest proposal has gone through preliminary public review, but has not come up for final approval by the county legislature.
Some parks advocates object to allowing a private entity to have priority over county residents and local teams, but aides to County Executive Edward Mangano say it would result in a major upgrade to the park at a time when the county is strapped for money. The park is located off Marjorie Lane in Bay Park and is adjacent to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.
Molloy failed two years ago to lease an abandoned 35-acre county plot off Coes Neck Road in Baldwin Oaks after local residents objected. Molloy had offered to invest $12 million at the time to clean up the site, a former asphalt plant.
This time, Molloy would have to invest only $3 million to use a portion of the 96-acre Bay Park. The county would match that with $3 million from its capital budget, which is funded with long-term borrowing.
Molloy would also bear some of the annual cost of the park's upkeep for the 20-year lease period, and would pay reduced permit fees for use of the fields.
Deputy County Parks Commissioner Robert Dwyer said the latest proposal was "good for the county, good for the parks, good for the community and good for the kids."
The college said there was no comparison between the two projects.
"Totally different property, totally different issues. Bay Park is an existing facility . . . Coes Neck was undeveloped and contaminated," Edward Thompson, the school's vice president for advancement, said in an interview.
Some residents and civic groups support the plan, but there have been objections.
"I once remember when park systems in Nassau County were for the people, not for private colleges to come and take away the usage of our parks," Vincent Esposito, past president of the Bay Park Civic Association, said at a December hearing on the plan by the Nassau County Planning Commission.
Trish Louw, a member of the Green Bay Parkers, a civic group, said notices about the December hearing went only to homes near the park.
Dwyer said follow-up letters have since been sent to thousands of households in the areas, and that parks officials will hold a community meeting Thursday at East Rockaway High School before it sends the proposal to the county legislature for final approval.
County Legis. Howard J. Kopel (R-Lawrence), who represents the area, said he liked the concept, but wanted more information about how often the fields would be available for local residents."It's great for the county to be able to afford to do it in this period of fiscal austerity, but I want to make sure the community is satisfied," he said.