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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Nassau Republicans try to take the high ground on parks

Nassau County Republicans are waging what they see as a battle against rapacious private contractors who were given permits during the previous Democratic administration to run recreation programs in county parks.

The battle had been fomenting for several years, but bubbled into public sight on Jan. 4th when Republican county Legis. Peter Schmitt of Massapequa was sworn in a presiding officer.

Schmitt said he would introduce a bill to “bar the privatizing or contracting-out of our parks to private operators who have been using them for private businesses.”

A few days earlier, on Jan. 1st, Republican Edward Mangano was sworn in as county executive and never mentioned the topic in his speech.

Then, 10 weeks later, Mangano said in his maiden State of the County speech on March 15th, that “we are taking back our parks” from the private contactors.

On April 12, Schmitt introduced a measure to ban private operators of summer camps from getting permits to operate in county parks. The full legislature voted its approval April 19th.

It turned out the legislation accomplished nothing because Mangano had already — on his own — not renewed the permits of the two private firms that operated three camps.

Those non-renewal notices had gone out on Jan. 27th,  but were not publicized at the time, Mangano aides said this week.

Aides to Mangano and Schmitt argued that the legislation was significant because it codified Mangano’s decision — but it fixed a problem that no longer existed.

\[For the view of a parks advocate, read Bruce Piel’s blog here.\]

Which leads to a related issue. Mangano has inherited two leases to operate private tennis facilities in county parks, and he is wrestling with what to do with them.

He voted against the leases last year when he was a Republican county legislator, but they were approved by the Democratic majority at the time.

One of those lease holders has already spent money on creating a year-round facility in Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn, but has missed a contractual deadline, Mangano said in an interview last week.

Mangano said he has made no decision on how to proceed. “I have to understand it (the contractual situation) better,” he said. “The vendor expended planning dollars for capital improvement, but did not meet the timetable.”

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