A petition with over 1,600 signatures, along with several residents, are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to stop the controversial $49 million sale and rezoning of Freeport’s Clevland Park to a developer.
The petition was created by local Activist Myles Hollingsworth.
“We’re clearly saying we want the preservation of green space,” said Hollingsworth. “If that means allowing for some kind of hybrid model of not intruding on green space, while also developing business, that’s a conversation we’re ready to have. But if the model looks like removing any inch of green space, it’s a full strong no.”
Specifically, the petition calls for Gov. Hochul to veto bill A10002A/S8541A, which allows the village of Freeport to alienate and discontinue the use of certain parklands.
On July 25, the village board met and voted in favor of selling the 9-acre athletic fields to the Delaware-based 20-month-old firm PDC Northeast LPIV, LLC, for the company to use as a commercial distribution center. This comes after the park was listed on Costar, a real estate website, by the village board.
Originally, the board was considering selling the land to Amazon, but the deal fell through back in February. In order to make up for the loss of Cleveland Park, the village plans on directing activities and putting money into Cow Meadow Park. The goal according to Village Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy with this sale is to increase jobs and lower taxes annually.
“Five percent a year for the next four years – 20 percent,” said Kennedy. “During COVID now and inflation and fuel and food, people need this additional assistance.”
Several residents have opposed the idea. Over 20 protestors gathered at Freeport municipal building at 46 Ocean Avenue soon after the village approved the sale. Opposition was also voiced during a public meeting stating the sale takes away green space that has long served the community and youth in particular.
“It erodes the quality of life,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer a local branch of the international labor union, Teamsters. “Congestion, pollution—they live out in the suburbs because they want to get away from the congestion and the rushing around. That’s all going away.”
Residents also say moving all activity to Cow Meadow Park isn’t necessarily the best solution.
“Back in my day, it was very convenient to get to the central location which had become Bill Ashley’s Field,” said Freeport Resident Bill Watson. “I think that stretching the kids, going further from the central part of the district, presents problems concerning buses or bikes, which is primarily how some of us got around.”
Even though the village board’s vote went through, the sale of the park is not final.
A lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James and a legal battle with the Freeport School District has held up the sale. In August, James filed a lawsuit against the Freeport village board, temporarily blocking the sale of the park.
In September 2021, the Freeport School District sued the village board over their claim to the fields. Since 1949, the Freeport School District has had a parkland easement, a right to use and enter the park for athletic purposes, by the Long Island State Park Commission. The village board legally challenged the district’s claim a month later with their own $45 million lawsuit. The legal battle between the school and village is expected to be a long one.
If the village does win, they still must meet certain criteria, which includes hosting hearings before zoning and planning boards and fulfilling certain environmental studies. This criteria must be met within the next 10 months for the contract to officially go through.
If you are interested in signing the petition, you can click here.