Town parking proposal raises ire in Manhasset

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Mary Jane Davies Green in Manhasset

Manhasset civic leaders last Wednesday sharply criticized a proposal by the Town of North Hempstead that would permit the Manhasset Park District to add 16 to 18 parking spots in a lot adjacent to Mary Jane Davies Green in exchange for a yearly fee.   

The plan, proposed in early March, would allow the district to remove a fence and make curb cuts on the eastern edge of the park district’s parking lot between Manhasset Avenue and Memorial Place, which neighbors a town parking lot that serves visitors to Mary Jane Davies Green.

In exchange for use of its property, the town would charge the park district $1,000 a year over the first five years of the agreement and, if renewed, it would charge $5,000 a year for each of the subsequent years, Elizabeth Botwin, a town attorney, said.

“It’s plain and simple extortion this town is putting upon the park district,” said Richard Bentley, president of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations. “A lot of residents are furious with the town.”

In addition to creating 16 to 18 parking spots, the reconfiguration would alter exits and entrances to the lot, which is home to the two-story park district office.

 Botwin said the proposed agreement allows the park district “to break through where there’s currently curb and to create a drive through to the Mary Jane Davies parking lot.”

“Because they’re using property owned by town as a whole, we need to charge for that,” Deputy Town Supervisor Aline Khatchadourian said. “It’s something all town taxpayers paid for.”

“What it costs is for the initial five years to cover initial wear and tear on the parking lot,” Botwin said. “If we wanted to renew after five years we would charge $5,000 per year to incorporate the license fee for using town property.”

Botwin called the proposal a “draft” and said the park district lawyers “had some issues to discuss.”

“They say where they have a problem and you finalize a deal,” she added. “We haven’t heard back from them yet.”

The Manhasset Park District declined to comment.

“This is not even a starting point,” Andrew Schwenk, the first vice president of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, said of the proposal. “Their strategy is so far out of the ballpark it’s a disaster.”

Schwenk noted a condition of the proposal was  “that if all was agreed to, and the [park district] made the changes to the curb cuts, [the Town of North Hempstead] could at any point in the future ask [the park district] to bring the road back to its original layout.”

“Clearly this is not a condition acceptable to [the park district],” said Schwenk, who attended a park district meeting in March at which the proposal was discussed. “Who else would ever agree to this condition under a modification change?”

Botwin said such clauses are routine for town agreements in which another entity alters town property.

“If you have a lease to change town property to accommodate, we say at the end of the lease you need to restore it to what it was,” she said.

Botwin said conversations between the town and the park district about the reconfiguration of the parking lot go back to at least 2014.

At its meeting last Wednesday, the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations passed a motion to a write a letter registering its “extreme displeasure” with the proposal.

Addressing Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, who was in attendance, Bentley said, “We have to be in this together, Anna.”

“I am with you,” she replied, though earlier she had said she “can only look to legal for what can be done.”

“I want to fight for this,” she added. “This is something I believe in.”

The proposal is one element of discussions between the park district and the town in an effort to alleviate parking congestion in and around Plandome Road. Other initiatives included increased parking enforcement and the re-allotment of spaces in the town lot behind Mary Jane Davies Green.

The town and the park district have yet to reach agreement on any of the initiatives.

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