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Residents voice concerns over plan for Hempstead Lake State Park

Residents and officials on Thursday, July 6, 2017,

Residents and officials on Thursday, July 6, 2017, attend a public hearing hosted in Hempstead Town Hall on the state Parks Department's proposed $35 million project to rehabilitate and improve Hempstead Lake State Park. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Environmental hazards and public safety risks are among the concerns residents have with the Hempstead Lake State Park restoration project.

The $35 million project to revitalize the park, a 521-acre space situated on the northern end of the Mill River, was the subject of a public hearing Thursday night in Hempstead Town Hall. About 30 people attended the New York State Parks Department’s environmental review hearing.

A primary goal of the project is to curtail flooding of waterways in wake of superstorm Sandy, according to project documents. The project includes restoring operation of the park’s three dams, creating storm water filtering wetlands, expanding the path system to increase access to the water, and building an 8,000-square-foot environmental education and resiliency center.

Some speakers said they were not fully informed about the project’s environmental impacts on wildlife. “Birds have specific nesting requirements, and they also require the entire park to survive,” said Betty Borowsky, of Rockville Centre and the South Shore Audubon Society. “Proposed greenway trails and waterfront access will fragment or eliminate that habitat.”

Guy Jacob, conservation chair of the Nassau Hiking and Outdoor Club, said certain plans — trail widening, for example — are “unnecessary; it will instigate the removal of more trees that will further lead to the destruction of the park’s tranquillity and viable wildlife habitat.”

Thousands of trees will be excavated, according to plan documents.

Some residents expressed other concerns. Added recreational activities, such as new piers and kayak launches, could attract loiterers, Mark Albarano of Rockville Centre said. He and others called for a sustainability plan so the restored site doesn’t become “dilapidated.”

“What is our plan for security?” said Albarano, an NYPD lieutenant. “How are we going to secure this establishment? How do we patrol and keep this safe at night?”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who attended to meeting, noted the importance of feedback. “We have this natural jewel that we don’t want to do any damage to,” he said. “ . . . And at the same time, we’re trying to enhance our ability to have great recreational opportunities there as well.”

Residents can offer written feedback on this environmental review until July 17. Federal officials are expected to approve the project by the end of summer with groundbreaking next spring.

The project is one piece of the state’s $125 million “Living with the Bay” initiative, funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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