A crowd made up of mostly Inwood residents shared their displeasure with Nassau officials Tuesday night about a plan to close the county garage in the neighborhood, saying the move would effectively slow road and snow removal services severely.
“This is a Five Towns issue and it affects everyone in the area,” said Frank Mistero, leader of the Inwood Republican Club and a host of the meeting at the . “We’re not going to get the same service.”
At a county meeting a week earlier, officials announced a possible plan to consolidate highway services by closing the Inwood garage and transferring all manpower and machinery to the facility in Bay Park. The move, which comes solely at the discretion of County Executive Ed Mangano's administration, is an attempt to save the county money and profit off a potential sale of the property.
It is unclear if the of the county’s finances by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority will have any effect on the potential move. However, 7th District Legislator Howard Kopel said that for the most part, the county is still in charge of its affairs.
“There’s a plan, proposal, something on the table to consolidate the work of the yard into another county facility,” Kopel said at the meeting. “The administration feels that is more efficient. Everyone knows the county is, how do you say, broke. We are going to look for ways to save money.”
The roads department was given the assignment of sewer maintenance in November, according to Nassau Superintendent of Highways John Gallo, who spoke at the meeting. The Inwood garage is not big enough to accommodate all the services, he said.
Additionally, the Inwood facility needs repairs that would cost about $7-$8 million.
“This garage was probably a bad idea when it was put in,” said Richard Millet, deputy commissioner of operations at the Department of Public Works. “I understand this is your garage and they do your stuff, but it’s a balance” with the rest of the county.
Not only is the Bay Park garage more modern, it is also centrally located, making it easier to serve communities such as Elmont and Long Beach and everything between, he said.
“There will be no lack of service to the [Five Towns] community,” Gallo said.
However, audience members said the Five Towns, especially Inwood, would be cheated if the plan goes through.
“The problem is traffic is a nightmare over there,” Inwood Civic Association member Peter Sobol said about the drive from Bay Park to the Five Towns. “Equipment breaks down, people get sick — you can’t say the response will be the same.”
Sobel added later on, “We feel like we’re step children and the one thing we had is a yard that services the community.”
The back-and-forth continued throughout the meeting.
“We’re not an agency that waits,” Millet said. “Before the first snowflake hits the ground, we’re there. We’re not the Town of Hempstead — we don’t wait until there’s a foot of snow.”
The garage is still open, and the county is in the process of “surplusing” it and other properties, said Carl Schroeter, director of the Nassau County Department of Real Estate’s Planning and Development office. Despite what some residents thought initially, Nassau is not shutting down or selling the Inwood boat ramp or parts of the , he added.
The county will most likely hold on to a piece of the property for a salt dome if the garage gets shut down, officials said.
The Nassau County Planning Commission will meet on Feb. 3 to discuss what happens to the property if the administration chooses to close the garage. The administration also gets to decide whom to sell the property to, although any real estate transactions have to be approved by the legislature.
“You guys are going to tell me and Kopel what you want to do with the property,” Schroeter said. “There’s no pre-conceived notion of what we’re doing with this property.”
Kopel added, “If I’m not happy, I’m pretty sure it won’t go forward.”
Still, many in attendance at the meeting were concerned about the short-term, especially if there are more snow days like there were on Thursday.
“At a time when we need to think of our downtowns,” Woodmere Republican Club leader Ann Salpeter Schockett said, “we can’t be hurt anymore.”