Statement From Senator Flanagan Regarding Commissioner Ash Visiting Nissequogue River State Park

John J. Flanagan

October 09, 2007

Commissioner Carol Ash's visit is another disappointment and further proof of her disregard for the Kings Park community. In addition, it demonstrates the Spitzer Administration’s real intentions for this newly designated parkland.

As the Chief steward for state parks, Commissioner Ash has had ample opportunities and open invitations from the community to show her support for preserving this magnificent piece of property. She could have used today’s visit to meet exclusively with Kings Park and environmental leaders to finally declare her firm commitment to maintaining this entire property as parkland -- something that has been requested of her for the past 10 months.

Instead, Commissioner Ash chose to mark this occasion -- her first visit to Kings Park -- by standing alongside officials from the Long Island Association, an organization whose primary mission is to promote building and development. As they say -- you never get a second chance to make a first impression and the actions of Commissioner Ash speak volumes. Her claims that this is nothing more than an innocent chaperoned tour ring hollow and the people of Kings Park will not be fooled.

Moreover, her last minute invitations this week to local elected officials and community representatives to join this tour are nothing but a disingenuous attempt at restoring public relations that became necessary only after newspaper reports disclosed the details of her private meeting with LIA.

The fact is, there have been countless suggestions that Governor Spitzer plans to reverse the park designation and have the State enter a long-term lease to develop high density housing at this site. This arrangement would allow the State to bypass local zoning and planning laws to maximize building capacity on this property.

Despite our repeated attempts to inform the Spitzer Administration that this type of development would severely impact existing residential property taxes, school district enrollment and the local infrastructure, it is obvious by today’s visit that they continue to completely ignore local concerns. At best this is irresponsible governing -- at worst it is reckless arrogance.

I have made every effort to ensure that this entire property remains state parkland. While I have worked with the community and local officials to stop the sale of this property, transfer it to the care of state parks, secure $25 million towards the cleanup costs, and drafted legislation to establish at least a $500 million bond act for statewide parks improvements, every action of the Spitzer Administration has shown that they have alternative plans for this property.

If the reports about reversing the park designation and developing any portion of the property are untrue, then I call on Commissioner Ash to use this opportunity to declare them false to the Kings Park community. I also call on her once again to use this public event to assure this community that the entire property will remain state parkland forever.

If and when that happens, I stand ready -- as I have always stated -- to join Commissioner Ash and Governor Spitzer to work together at finally getting the job done. Regardless of that response, I maintain my commitment to fighting to "Keep the Park" in Kings Park.