If all goes according to plan, the 1.5 acre plot of land known as Alvan Petrus Park . The future of the park was the subject of a four-hour Town of North Hempstead Board meeting three weeks ago. Port Washington residents filled the Town Board room to capacity and over 30 people spoke out against development on the site.
Many speakers noted that the park perched on a steep hill, high above the surrounding residences was unsuitable for more housing development. During the meeting, the North Hempstead Housing Authority sought approval to build a 48-unit development to replace the park. About a year ago, the Housing Authority erected a fence around the space and allowed the park to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the children of Harbor Homes were forced to play in the parking lots of their small community.
After the long and emotional Town Board meeting that lasted past midnight, the crowd was told that the Board would reserve decision on the issue until March 8. Two days later, Town Supervisor, Jon Kaiman, met with me and two other community leaders and announced that the Board would not allow the park to be destroyed.
The effort to stop the project was led by the Port Washington Parks Conservancy and other community organizations including Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, the Harbor Hills Residents Association, Littig House, and the League of Women Voters. There is no doubt in my mind that the Town Board made the right decision. Our elected officials should be applauded for listening to the people on this important issue.
Our local government must go one step further however. To ensure that the park is preserved for future generations, it should be deeded to the town so that it can be properly cared for by the town Parks Department. And, of course, the fence currently surrounding the property must come down. As former Town Supervisor May Newburger and then Councilman Wayne Wink Jr. said during a hearing involving the park in 2003, Alvan Petrus Park is "an integral part of this little community" and must be "restored" for the children. The Port Washington Parks Conservancy is currently raising private money to revitalize the park and restore it to its rightful place as a community institution.
By voting down the Housing Authority's site plan on March 8, the Town Board will once again protect Alvan Petrus Park from destruction. Now the town must take the necessary steps to ensure that the park will remain recreational space forever. The people of Port Washington deserve nothing less.
Note Myron Blumenfeld is a founder and board member of the Port Washington Parks Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization.