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School bus parking contract will not be renewed for North Hempstead town park

School buses parked at North Hempstead Beach Park's

School buses parked at North Hempstead Beach Park's parking lot on July 28, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

North Hempstead Town will not renew a contract allowing the Manhasset school district to store buses and vans at a park in Port Washington, after objections from local leaders and residents.

The district, which has a permit to use as many as 70 spaces in the northern portion of a parking lot at North Hempstead Beach Park, must relocate by September 2015, five years after town officials approved the parking arrangement.

The decision not to renew the contract is part of a plan to revitalize the 60-acre town-owned park and attract visitors to the Hempstead Harbor waterfront. The town will lose about $55,000 in annual parking fees and the district needs to find new space to store its fleet.

North Hempstead leaders and parks advocates have objected to the buses being stored at the park, which includes a beach, nature trail and a waterfront used by kayakers.

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth has hired a consultant to study the waterfront and said she hopes to boost park attendance so the site becomes "a destination." Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio has called the park a "jewel" that has been "underutilized."

The buses interfere with that effort to increase park use, officials said.

The town acquired the park property in 2010. Officials notified the district in April that the contract, which expires Aug. 31, 2015, will not be renewed.

"It's very challenging for us to find an alternate location," said Manhasset schools Superintendent Charles Cardillo. "Hopefully the town and government officials will help us . . . it's not that easy right now to be able to find an area like the one that we had."

Cardillo said officials are "exploring different available areas" with Huntington Coach Corp., the district's transportation company.

Before using the park, the district kept the buses at a school garage, Cardillo said. But enrollment has increased and that garage can no longer house the district's fleet, he said.

Representatives for several other Nassau County and Suffolk County school districts said they have parked on district-owned land or on property owned by a transportation company, which often owns the fleet.

Town board members last month said they also plan to not extend a separate licensing contract with Pierce Coach Lines Inc., which uses the park for buses from Roslyn Heights-based Pierce Country Day Camp. An extension granted on that contract ends in November. The camp is currently paying about $3,900 monthly to the town.

Bosworth said the town is exploring options for using the space now occupied by the buses, including adding an athletic facility, restaurant, or more beach area. The lost parking revenue could be recovered through sponsorships for concerts and events at the park, officials said.

John Budnick, a former Nassau County parks ranger who lives in Massapequa Park, has been urging town leaders to remove the buses.

"It turns a lot of people off that there's all these buses there," Budnick said. "They don't want to go to a bus terminal for a good time."

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