Village And Belmont Battle Over Land Space

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With just one month until the USB Arena opens its doors to the public and with the overall redevelopment of Belmont Park being well underway, the Village of Floral Park has urged the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) to allow some development space be left alone in order to become a barrier for village residents whose houses border Belmont’s property.

“For the past two years, including a number of recent requests this past spring and summer, the village has proposed to the New York Empire State Development Corporation a series of proposals designed to mitigate the impact of this project on the surrounding community,” Mayor Kevin Fitzgerald said in a letter to residents. “Included among the village’s proposals is a plan to preserve a small portion of space just east of Belmont Park’s North Lot—east of Belmont Park Road—as open space to serve as a buffer for the adjoining residents. This is not a large parcel of land, but for many decades it has served as an open space buffer and has been an important quality of life safeguard for the Floral Park-Bellerose School and nearby residents.”

Fitzgerald said that preserving that parcel of land is important now more than ever once Belmont Park’s North Lot will be utilized more often to accommodate people who travel to the USB Arena for events.

“Officially preserving as open space, the area east of Belmont Park Road in the North Lot to the residential property lines in the West End would not seem to be an extraordinary request,” Fitzgerald added. “This small area has been unpaved and tree filled as long as anyone can remember. Further, the development plans in ESD’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Belmont Redevelopment Project indicated that this area would be left untouched by construction and that privacy-screening would be placed along the eastern edge of Belmont Park Road boundary of the North Lot.”

According to the village, this hasn’t been the case. The village has been seeking to preserve a small triangular piece of property adjoining the dead end of Crocus Avenue and the playground at the Floral Park-Bellerose School. The village was alerted by residents who live in the West End that significant construction activities were encroaching across Belmont Park Road into the triangular piece of property. State representatives, Senator Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages stepped in on the village’s behalf and engaged with ESD and its representatives.

“Based on this productive engagement, Senator Kaplan’s and Assemblywoman Solages’ proposal was for this area to be preserved as green space with appropriate fencing and plantings, and for the Floral Park-Bellerose School District to be granted an easement over the ‘triangle’ for use as a future outdoor classroom and new evacuation route for the Floral Park-Bellerose School,” Fitzgerald said.

The village was informed by ESD that it had confirmed that the ‘triangle’ would be completely fenced in to prevent access from the North Lot and that it would remain unpaved. The village was informed that consideration was also being given to granting an easement to the triangle to the Floral Park-Bellerose School District for use of the space for school purposes.

“If at any time the district is provided access to additional green space, our Board of Education and staff would assess our options to maximize opportunities for our students and community,” Floral Park Bellerose Superintendent Kathleen Sotille said. “Specifically, we would want to offer outdoor classroom space to our staff and students and utilize the area as an emergency egress in the event of an evacuation.”

In a statement to Anton Media Group, Senator Kaplan added, “The Belmont redevelopment project is nearly done, and despite the pandemic, it’s on-time, on-budget and it’s going to be ready for the Islanders’ first puck drop in just a few short weeks. It’s truly a testament to the workers building it, and all the stakeholders involved in planning its construction. As with any project of this magnitude however, there are bound to be a few bumps along the way, but under no circumstances does that mean it’s okay to steamroll over the concerns of my constituents. Along with Assemblymember Solages, I’ve been forcefully advocating for additional green space to be set aside for the Floral Park-Bellerose School District, and with the assistance of Governor Kathy Hochul, we were able to stop the land from being paved over and are continuing to fight for this property to be given to the school. I know this is an important issue to my residents, so it’s important to me, and I will not stop fighting until we get the resolution we’ve been seeking.”

It may not come as a surprise to some that the village and ESD locked horns when it came to the refuted land space. In the past, the village and ESD had been locked in ongoing litigation with the Village of Floral Park accusing ESD of having a lack of transparency when it comes to the development project.

In order to prepare for the possible influx of people traveling through the village to get to the arena, the village board has also been meeting with its police department to discuss the possible impacts to preserve residents’ quality of life.

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