Floral Park mayor admits communication lapse on pool memberships

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Floral Park mayor admits communication lapse on pool memberships
Nadia Holubnyczyj-Ortiz, president of Floral Park's Hillcrest Civic Association, speaks at Tuesday's village Board of Trustees meeting. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

The Village of Floral Park’s mayor acknowledged Tuesday night that village officials could have been more forthcoming when they decided to offer some pool memberships to New Hyde Park residents.

Mayor Dominick Longobardi rejected assertions that the village trustees intentionally kept the public in the dark, but said they could have been more upfront about the move.

“No question, we can always do a better job of communicating,” Longobardi told a crowd of about 60 residents at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The village recently offered 40 pool memberships to residents of the Clinton G. Martin Park District for this summer while their swimming pool undergoes a yearlong $23 million renovation. Officials also decided to open memberships to village business owners.

The decision drew a backlash from Floral Park residents, who were unhappy that their pool could get more crowded and that village officials publicly announced the decision after it had been made.

Nadia Holubnyczyj-Ortiz, president of the Hillcrest Civic Association, presented a petition with more than 850 signatures Tuesday night asking the Board of Trustees to rescind the offer.

The problem is not with New Hyde Park residents using the pool, Holubnyczyj-Ortiz said, but with the village’s lack of transparency.

“I think decisions are being made and we’re being told about it after the fact, and that really needs to change,” Bob Chalmers, a resident and village employee, said.

Several residents also worried that the extra people would exacerbate overcrowding and parking problems at the pool, which underwent a $6.75 million renovation in 2015.

Holubnyczyj-Ortiz said it seemed as if the offer of additional memberships was really “opportunistic and an effort to ameliorate budgetary shortfalls” after a slight drop in pool membership last summer.

Longobardi said village officials only considered offering the memberships when the Town of North Hempstead asked them to. They agreed only after determining the arrangement would not hurt the pool’s finances, which are generally in good shape, he said.

“All of that played into the decision, but that wasn’t the sole reason why we did it,” he said.

With the pool opening this Saturday, the village will not rescind the memberships for New Hyde Park residents, Longobardi said. Officials likely would have opened pool membership to local business owners this year anyway, he said.

Officials ran both ideas by the village Pool Committee, which approved both of them, Longobardi said.

So far, Clinton G. Martin Park District residents have purchased 16 memberships, bringing a total of 43 people, Longobardi said.

At $695 for a family membership, Floral Park’s pool is the most expensive alternative offered to those residents this summer. The cheapest is a $248 pass to four other Town of North Hempstead pools.

Some residents acknowledged that the overcrowding and parking problems would continue even if New Hyde Park residents were not coming in. Chris Schneider, a former village pool director, said they’ve persisted for decades.

Richard Pfeiffer, a member of the village Pool Committee, said the recent debate has not been good for Floral Park’s image.

“It muddled our reputation as a Christian and caring community by inviting Newsday and the TV stations to come here and portray us as insensitive to the needs of others,” Pfeiffer said.

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