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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signs open-space access bill

Newsday reported in July that dozens of acres of open-space parcels acquired by the county had been closed to the public, were poorly promoted, or lacked adequate signage. 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is joined by

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is joined by members of the county Legislature as she signs open-space legislation into law in Mineola on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed legislation on Tuesday that would expand access to county parkland and better promote scores of open-space parcels.

Newsday in July reported that dozens of acres of open-space parcels acquired by the county with $100 million in proceeds from the county Environmental Bond Acts of 2004 and 2006 had been closed to the public or poorly promoted. Signage was inadequate. The Newsday series also found that many of the parcels were bought from individuals with political connections or ties to the property-selection process.

Republicans in the county legislature, who are in the majority, filed a bill over the summer that required public access to all county parkland. But Democrats and the Curran administration expressed concern about the approach and called the expansion too wide-ranging, citing worries about safety and costs.

The legislature in October approved an amended bill that enabled county officials to identify where public access was appropriate, or where it should be restricted because of health, environmental and safety concerns. The county has 60 days to make the case for continued closure of specific parcels.

The legislation also gives the county up to a year to provide adequate parking at the properties.

Curran said during a bill signing event in Mineola that her administration would open access to the properties “where appropriate.”

She said the county will move quickly to evaluate all of the county’s 6,000 acres of open space or active parkland “to determine where openness and accessibility to the public is appropriate or inappropriate due to the nature and character of the property."

“Some areas will remain protected for environmental and public safety considerations, including critical fresh and tidal wetlands that contain ecologically sensitive vegetation,” Curran said during a news conference. She said she didn’t want to put “fragile ecosystems at risk.”

Presiding Officer Richard J. Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said at the ceremony, “This bill provides a reasonable method for determining what space should be available for the public. This is a reasonable process. We don’t want damage to sensitive properties. We don’t want to jeopardize public safety.”

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