Valuable privately owned waterfront land overlooking Manhasset Bay may soon be seized by the Village of Kings Point through eminent domain, a process that has seldom been used on Long Island to create parkland.
The village is seeking to acquire 15 parcels for the proposed East Shore Park. Village Attorney Stephen Limmer said more than 80 individuals would be affected, including property owners and others with easement rights, liens and mortgages.
Homes on East Shore Road are valued at more than $1 million, according to Nassau County land records. The waterfront property along the bay is across the street from property owners’ homes.
The process has been turbulent since the January public hearing where village officials announced their plans. Limmer said the village is awaiting formal approval from Nassau state Supreme Court to take more than 6 acres.
Residents have questioned the need for the park and oppose the use of eminent domain, saying the village is violating their property rights and leaving them without any recourse.
“The way the village has handled themselves is very sneaky and backhanded,” said Steven Dianat, 31, whose family owns one of the properties affected. “Whatever we said they dismissed it very easily, and I could see that they really just had their mind set.”
Limmer said that he has only received positive phone calls from residents.
Village Mayor Michael Kalnick said at the January public hearing that the park would provide “magnificent vistas” exclusively for residents, emphasizing that few changes would be made to the existing waterfront. The passive park aims to preserve the natural habitat, and unlike other parks, recreational activities such as playing catch, fishing and walking dogs will be prohibited.
Eminent domain is a multistep legal process enabling governments to condemn private property for public use, with proper compensation. Formal appraisal offers for properties are forthcoming, Limmer said. Other Long Island municipalities have rarely created parks using this method. In 2014, Huntington Town expanded a Centerport park by acquiring a 0.52-acre parcel owned by the Greenlawn Water District. In 2010 and 2011, the Town of Oyster Bay condemned two vacant lots that are being considered to expand a Massapequa park.
Kings Point property owners facing the loss of some of their land said they felt powerless to halt the village’s plans.
“It pretty much looks like they’re doing whatever they want,” said Michael Khodadian, 34, who purchased his home on East Shore Road last year. “They’re forcing me to sell my property and I can’t do anything about it.”
David Manesh, who also owns property on East Shore Road, filed a lawsuit against the village in February, alleging that officials were masking the true intent for creating the park, which he said is to pave the way for “private, for-profit development of non-blighted land.”
The lawsuit has since been settled, after the village’s agreement to plant a buffer zone between Manesh’s property and the parkland, and the passage of restrictions governing the park, Limmer said.
Legislation signed in July by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requires that Kings Point officials create the park to continue using an acre the village holds in the 175-acre Kings Point Park for Department of Public Works storage.
The legislation followed years of litigation over the village’s previous plans to build a 12,000-square-foot public works facility in Kings Point Park and then sell its main public works facility on Sunset Road to private developers. The village board no longer intends to sell the Sunset Road facility, because the Kings Point Park parcel is too small for its public works operations, Limmer said.
Residents contend that the park to be created from their property is not an adequate substitute for land at Kings Point Park, which is more than 2 miles away. Kings Point Park is open to all 27,000 residents in the Great Neck Park District, which includes Kings Point residents, said Park District Superintendent Jason Marra. The passive park will only be accessible to the village’s roughly 5,000 residents.
Kings Point Park is one of the area’s “premier” parks, offering residents 5 miles of hiking trails and a picnic area, basketball and tennis courts, a soccer field and more, Marra said. Those activities, and others, will be banned in East Shore Park, which is designed to be a “tranquil and quiet respite from the pressures of everyday life,” according to a set of more than 20 regulations passed last month by the village board.
Limmer said the village was responding to the restrictions the community had asked for. At the January public hearing, many residents said they often spotted trespassers such as fishermen on their land.
Several owners lamented losing the allure of their waterfront views. “I’m sitting on my porch, I see the water without any obstruction of the view,” said Virendra Shah, who owns more than an acre of waterfront land. “That’s the main reason why I moved here.”
Randy and Alexandra Sperling, property owners on East Shore Road, said that while they were initially wary of the park proposal, they are now optimistic that the village may clean up the waterfront area and keep trespassers at bay.
“They’re going to win anyway,” said Randy Sperling, 61. “Anything to beautify the area and make it look nicer is a good thing.”