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Fate of Freeport Armory in governor's hands

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013.

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013. Credit: Ian J. Stark

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has until midnight Wednesday to sign or veto a bill that transfers ownership of the state's Freeport Armory to a local nonprofit -- a move opposed by village officials.

The State Senate approved the bill, which would give the armory to the Cedarmore Corp. of Freeport for $1, in the early morning of the final day of the legislative session, four weeks after the bill passed in the Assembly.

Cedarmore's leaders said they would use the building for recreational and education programs for at-risk youth. Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) sponsored the bill.

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy has pushed Cuomo to veto the bill, because the village has been trying to acquire the Babylon Turnpike property for years and could use it for a much-needed new Department of Public Works facility. Other residents have said the building should be sold to a private developer, while others said they opposed placing services for at-risk youth near a residential neighborhood.

"We should have the right of first refusal on this," Peter Chambers, a village resident, said in an interview.

But Bishop Frank White, leader of Cedarmore, said the facility would bring educational tools to local children. Cedarmore is a nonprofit that shares space with Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ, across the street from the armory.

"It's better for me to keep them out of jail than for all of us to pay for them to be in prison," White also said in an interview.

Cuomo is still reviewing the bill, Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, said. The governor received the bill Dec. 6, giving him until Dec. 18 to make a decision, Azzopardi said.

"We have until midnight Wednesday to figure it out," he said.

The armory is just west of the Meadowbrook Parkway and formerly housed a National Guard unit, but the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs vacated it in fall 2011, state officials have said.

Hooper did not return a call seeking comment.

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