Nassau County will not renew its lease for the Five Towns Community Center and has received proposals from nonprofits to operate the facility, the county executive told Newsday.
The county owns the Lawrence Avenue property where the center has operated with a 50-year lease since 1974. The lease, which expires in July 2024, will not be renewed, County Executive Bruce Blakeman said Tuesday, citing ongoing issues with maintenance and disrepair at the center.
“We are definitely not renewing it,” Blakeman said. “There’s no question about that. … It’s not the type of place I want the Nassau County seal on.”
The county on Jan. 2 announced it was seeking proposals from nonprofits that can invest a minimum of $5 million in the facility and revamp services. Two organizations have submitted proposals, which Blakeman said he has not seen and remain in a sealed envelope. He plans to appoint a committee in the coming weeks to analyze the proposals and make a recommendation, Blakeman said.
News about the center's lease expiration has galvanized supporters, who have held protests and addressed the Nassau County Legislature about their desire to keep the center under the current operator. An online petition in support of the center has garnered more than 4,300 signatures.
The community center, a nonprofit, has roots stretching back to 1907, when the Margaret Sage Industrial School was established to meet the needs of Inwood's immigrant population. The effort grew into the Nassau Industrial Arts Trade School before becoming the Five Towns Community House in 1942. That organization merged in 1969 with the Economic Opportunity Council for the Five Towns Inc. to become the Five Towns Community Center Inc. Since then, the organization has offered community-based services related to education, hunger, foreign-born residents and health.
The center is in dire need of immediate repairs, Blakeman said. He identified the roof, flood damage, basketball court, lighting and grounds maintenance as top priorities.
Center executive director K. Brent Hill did not respond to Newsday inquiries seeking comment.
“I want the people in that community to have a much better experience than they’re currently having,” the county executive said. “The place is run down. It’s falling apart. There are some issues with some of the programs.”
Blakeman said the center sought a lease extension with the previous administration but was denied. He said his office alerted the center 10 months ago that the county was not renewing the lease.
New management must include preschool programs, youth athletic leagues and a newly built soccer field for the local soccer league, he said.
“After 50 years, I felt that we needed to get some fresh blood in there and we needed to get an entity that would invest back into the community,” Blakeman said.