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Freeport Armory transfer to nonprofit draws opposition

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013.

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

More than 100 Freeport residents have asked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to veto a bill that transfers ownership of the state's Freeport Armory to a local nonprofit.

The State Senate approved the bill -- which would give the armory to Cedarmore Corp. of Freeport for $1 -- in the early morning hours of June 22, the final day of the legislature's session, four weeks after the bill passed in the Assembly. The bill states that Cedarmore will use the property for educational and recreational programs for at-risk youth.

The residents who oppose the sale -- a group that includes Mayor Robert Kennedy -- cite a battery of reasons why Cuomo should block the transfer. Kennedy notes that the village has been trying to acquire the property for years.

Some say the 52-year-old armory should be sold to a private developer to expand the village's tax base, while others say they oppose placing services for at-risk children in a residential neighborhood that includes a nearby summer day camp.

Kennedy said more than 100 residents told him they have sent letters or called Cuomo's office to encourage a veto. The mayor said the village needs the armory for a new Department of Public Works building, as the current public works facility was damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Peter Chambers, a village resident, said he opposes the sale because of the last-minute nature of the vote and because the community was not consulted. "This was done in the middle of the night when no one was watching," he said.

Cuomo's office is "still reviewing" the bill, said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor. The Assembly hasn't formally sent the bill to Cuomo yet, and the governor will have 10 days to act on the legislation when he receives it, Azzopardi said.

Numerous calls to Assembly sponsor Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) were not returned.

Cedarmore is a nonprofit that shares space with Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ, which is across the street from the armory.

Cedarmore might use the 27,873-square-foot, 3-acre armory property for a charter school and community programs, but hasn't made a decision, executive coach and evaluator Renee Charles has said. She did not return calls for this story.

The church and nonprofit are led by Bishop Frank O. White. He did not return calls for comment.

The armory, on Babylon Turnpike just west of the Meadowbrook Parkway, formerly housed a National Guard unit, but the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs vacated it in fall 2011, division spokesman Eric Durr said. It now is being leased to Nassau County to store highway equipment, he said.

Kennedy sent Cuomo a letter last month urging a veto because of "the last-minute passage of this bill, without consultation with the village."

He said the building belongs in the village's hands. "It's a win-win situation for the village to move the DPW in there," Kennedy said. Giving the armory to Cedarmore, he added, "just doesn't make sense."

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