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Editorial: Freeport armory should go to the village

Freeport Armory in Freeport on June 1, 2013.

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

Usually bills passed in Albany in the early hours of the last day of the legislative session are bad ideas, ones sponsors want hidden from public examination. A proposal to transfer the Freeport Armory to a nonprofit group, instead of the village, is one of those.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should veto the bill.

Ever since the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs moved from the armory in October 2011 as part of its effort to consolidate all units in Farmingdale, Freeport's mayors have sought the property. Intergovernmental transfer is the common practice, and it's what has already occurred with surplus armories in Riverhead, Huntington and Brookhaven.

Instead, Assemb. Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) engineered last-minute passage, with Senate Democrats, of a bill to give the armory for $1 to Cedarmore Corp., a nonprofit with an office in the Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ across Babylon Turnpike from the facility. The church says it's exploring what to do with the property.

That's a red-flag switch of position because when Hooper's ally, former Mayor Andrew Hardwick, was in power she introduced a bill to transfer the armory to the village.

Current Mayor Robert Kennedy wants to relocate the village's public works department in the armory. After superstorm Sandy, it's even more obvious this is what should be done. The existing DPW site, more than 3 acres on Freeport Creek, was under 5 feet of water after the storm, causing more than $3 million in damage to the facility and the equipment stored there.

Kennedy estimates the commercially zoned current DPW parcel could fetch more than $5 million, and a sale would get it back on the tax rolls with recurring revenue for the village and school district.

Freeport has been undergoing a stunning revitalization. Transferring the armory to the village would only advance that progress.