Evacuation drills at F.P. school near Belmont project successful: superintendent

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Floral Park Bellerose Superintendent Kathleen Soittle, pictured to the right of School Board President Laura Ferone, said that the worksite of the Belmont Redevelopment Project was a "ghost town" during an evacuation drill at the Floral Park Bellerose school.

Floral Park-Bellerose Superintendent Kathleen Sottile said Monday that both schools in the district had successful evacuation drills and that the site of the Belmont Park redevelopment project was a “ghost town” when they were carried out.

Sottile said this success was due to meetings with the groups behind the project.

“All the meetings we’ve held previously with Belmont, Long Island Rail Road and Belmont construction were very productive,” she said. “We contacted our person there and they shut down the entire construction project and during our evacuation drill it was a ghost town.”

Sottile said the drill went “flawlessly.”

In September, County Executive’s Laura Curran’s office called for an investigation to determine if the use of a Nassau County police helicopter by Sottile and a Floral Park police lieutenant was a “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 the Floral Park police lieutenant and Sottile 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.

The Village of Floral Park has often cited safety as one of its concerns about  the project. In August, near the end of the comment period on the project, the village appealed to local legislators to support its call for more time to review the environmental impact of the project.

The call got the support of legislators such as Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) and Legislator Vincent Muscarella (R-West Hempstead), who wrote a joint letter.

Their letter said, “As Nassau County legislators, we represent neighborhoods surrounding Belmont Park, whose residents have enjoyed a peaceful quality of life while living in close proximity to the site for many years.” The letter went on to say that the Village of Floral Park would be “uniquely impacted” by development due to the proximity of the development to an elementary school and high school.

The Village of Floral Park said Sept. 9 that it was seeking judicial review of the approval of the Belmont Park redevelopment project in state Supreme Court. The parties are set to meet in court Oct. 24.

In a newsletter, the village said that the village “commenced an article 78 proceeding” in court into the project’s approval Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing the project.

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.

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