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Editorial: Freeport Armory should be turned over to the village

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013.

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

The passage of last-minute legislation to turn the Freeport Armory over to a non-profit favored by Deputy Assemb. Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) is becoming a tradition. Hopefully, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's veto, which killed the deal last year, will be repeated.

The armory should be turned over to the village, which needs it to house its Department of Public Works. Moving the DPW there would let the village sell its current location, which Mayor Robert Kennedy estimates could bring in up to $5 million. Also, Freeport would avoid paying $500,000 to $600,000 annually for flood insurance: FEMA reimbursed about $5 million in damages after superstorm Sandy but now says the village must get its own insurance, move the DPW or mitigate the flood risk.

Hooper favored giving the armory to the village while her political ally, Andrew Hardwick, was mayor. When he lost to Kennedy, she changed her mind, and has since wanted the property ceded to the Cedarmore Corp., which is led by yet another ally, Bishop Frank White.

The armory has been up for grabs since 2011. Intergovernmental transfer is the norm in such cases, and it's what happened with no-longer needed armories in Riverhead, Huntington and Brookhaven.

What's best for the village is to get the armory, move the backhoes and trucks there, and sell the old DPW site. That opens a prime piece of land for development, gets it back on the tax rolls and provides a sensible new location for the village's needs.

But it doesn't do anything for Hooper, who got support for her plan this year from Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano after she sponsored a hurried bill to change the county's commercial property tax appeal process. That plan needs more study, but Hooper's armory bill doesn't. It's not markedly better than it was last year and it still puts the interests of Hooper's friends above the needs of the village.