Two high-profile political leaders — friends despite party differences — are at odds over Nassau’s plan to charge more than $1 million in fees to Little Leagues and nonprofit organizations that have used county parks for free for years.
Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, majority leader of the Republican-controlled town board, in a news release Thursday said Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s decision to impose fees “without any warning is outrageous and an affront to hard working taxpayers.”
The county on Feb. 27 ended its tradition of waiving park fees for sports groups and nonprofits, citing a “fiscal crisis.”
The Seaford Little League received a $16,000 bill on March 1, due March 12, to play in Washington Park, which is two blocks from King Sweeney’s childhood home in Seaford — where her father, GOP Rep. Peter King, still lives, and where her brother played Little League.
“Nassau County residents already pay some of the highest taxes and exorbitant fees in the nation,” King Sweeney said. “This money grab demonstrates how out of touch the county is with the needs of middle class families.” She urged Curran “to abandon this absurd plan.”
Curran responded in an interview, “The councilwoman must believe the Town of Hempstead taxpayers can subsidize not-for-profits in their parks. Nassau County taxpayers can’t afford to do that. We are tightening our belts and, as I said from the beginning, it’s going to be painful.” She said there would be no change in the fee policy.
King Sweeney was a member of Curran’s transition team after the November election.
During the campaign King Sweeney offered wardrobe tips for Curran’s news conferences. Their county and town districts overlapped and the two had worked on projects together for years, including Baldwin redevelopment.
“She happens to be a Republican, I happen to be a Democrat, and we are 100 percent in agreement with this,” Curran told the Long Island Herald in July 2016, referring to her work with King Sweeney on the Baldwin project. “She’s a little bit of a rebel and I’m a little bit of a rebel, which is good.”
Asked about King Sweeney’s comments, Curran responded, “It’s her job. She has to do what’s best for the Town of Hempstead. I’ve got to do what’s best for county taxpayers. It looks like she thinks those taxpayers in the Town of Hempstead can afford it.”
King Sweeney replied, “I consider the county executive to be a good friend and I think she’s a very well-meaning person. We disagree on this issue and I am very hopeful it can be resolved.”