County Executive Laura Curran has called for an investigation into whether the use of a Nassau County police helicopter Sept. 5 to give Floral Park police and a local school superintendent an aerial view of the Belmont Arena project was a “misuse of police resources.”
“The County Executive and the Police Commissioner had no prior knowledge of this helicopter flight with a civilian passenger,” Christine Geed, a Curran spokeswoman, said in a statement. “County Executive Curran has called for a full investigation of this apparent breach of established police protocol by the Village of Floral Park and any misuse of police resources.”
Floral Park Police Commissioner Stephen McAllister said in an interview that the ride was “reconnaissance of the area” to investigate potential evacuation routes from the Floral Park-Bellerose School.
He said that a Floral Park police lieutenant and Floral Park-Bellerose School Superintendent Kathleen Soittle rode with Nassau County aviation officers. McAllister said that Floral Park police had made a call to request the helicopter and were invited to ride on the helicopter on the same day.
The school is located near the parking lot for the recently approved project, which will include a 19,000-seat arena for the New York Islanders, 350,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a hotel containing 250 rooms and parking on 43 acres of vacant state-owned property at Belmont Park.
“We were asking a lot of questions that were not getting answered,” McAllister said. “It’s a good use of police resources to get answers.”
Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi said in an interview that the ride was made in “good faith,” saying, “I would sincerely hope that the county executive would share our safety concerns for the children of Nassau.”
The Nassau County Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
At a board meeting Tuesday, the Floral Park village board said that a planned Sept. 16 meeting about the project with state Budget Director Robert Mujica and other representatives had been called off due to litigation filed by the village.
Longobardi said the village was alerted about the cancellation on the morning of the meeting, with Cuomo officials citing the pending Article 78 litigation filed by the village against Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing the project.
“On advice of counsel, administration officials did not meet with the village on Monday. We will review the complaint and determine when it is appropriate to meet, and with whom,” said Cuomo spokesman Jason Conwall.
Conwall previously called Floral Park’s Article 78 filing “a stunt.”
Longobardi said the village will continue to pursue a meeting.
The Village of Floral Park said last week that it was seeking judicial review of the approval of the Belmont Park redevelopment project in state Supreme Court.
In a newsletter, the village said that the village “commenced an article 78 proceeding in the Supreme Court of the State of New York” into the project’s approval by Empire State Development.
An Article 78 proceeding is used to appeal the decision of a state or local agency to the New York courts, according to LawNY.
“The village was compelled to take this step because ESD failed to address the concerns of our residents and failed to mitigate the very real consequences to our village that will result from the massive size and scope of the project,” Longobardi said in the newsletter.
Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Empire State Development, said that the agency cannot comment on litigation, but said that the agency has been transparent, open to public comments and has adhered to all state laws.
Longobardi said the two parties are scheduled to meet in court Oct. 24.