The Town of Babylon is moving forward with plans to develop a maintenance building near a protected waterway despite objections from a local environmentalist.
Laurie Farber runs the nonprofit Starflower Experiences, which teaches children about ecological issues and includes the Rangers of the Earth program for Wyandanch elementary school students. She has been asking to use the site near the Carlls River for her group to run a sustainability center to focus on environmental education.
The town purchased the 1-acre property on Grand Boulevard in Deer Park, across from Geiger Park, for $690,000 in 2014 to be used as part of the town’s Wyandanch Rising revitalization project, which includes the park. Deputy Town Supervisor Tony Martinez said officials were unclear on the property’s use when they bought it, but envisioned a connection between Geiger Park and a greenbelt that leads to Belmont Lake State Park in West Babylon.
Last spring, town officials decided to build a maintenance facility to house landscaping equipment, with a plan to tear down a vacant building on the site, believing it to be structurally unsound. But in September, the town paid Sidney B. Bowne & Son of Mineola $24,394 for an engineering inspection and additional work that found the building is sound, so the town now plans to renovate the building.
The town bonded in December for $250,000 for the work and plans to go out to bid this month for the construction.
Farber called the site a “perfect spot” to teach children about ecological processes by going out into the nearby woods. She also worries that having a maintenance building so close to the Carlls River could lead to contamination of the protected waterway.
“Why would you take such an impressive place next to a wetland and use it for a maintenance facility?” she said, calling it “a lost opportunity.”
Martinez said the redevelopment of Geiger as part of Wyandanch Rising has led to an increased need for equipment on site. He said there may be an opportunity for Farber to use space at a planned building within the park. “We don’t have a facility nor can we invest in a facility solely for Starflower at this time when we still have major projects to develop,” he said.
The building will not house heavy equipment, town officials said, and a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation is not required.