Brookhaven, NY, Approves $20M for Open Space

Brookhaven, NY, 11/6/02Voters in the Town of Brookhaven passed a bond measure yesterday that will provide $20 million for the preservation of open space and environmentally important lands that protect drinking water and the water quality of rivers, bays and harbors. The measure was one of 93 put before voters in 22 states nationwide offering the opportunity to create more than $5 billion in new funding for parks and open space. The measure continues the preservation effort started with the $10 million open space bond act approved three years ago.

Brookhaven, like many Long Island communities, is developing quickly, and facing pressure to convert open space to new subdivisions, schools, strip malls and office parks to support rising populations. Most experts agree that in five to 10 years almost all of the remaining open space and farmland will be gone. In the next five years, approximately 10,000 new houses are expected to be built in Brookhaven, bringing with them 20,000 more cars and the necessary infrastructure.

“The limitless creation of strip malls and subdivisions is not a sustainable future for Long Island,” said Erik Kulleseid, director of the New York State program of the Trust for Public Land. “TPL lauds the commitment of Supervisor LaValle and Brookhaven voters to spending tax dollars to contain sprawl, even in uncertain economic times. Smart growth is no longer a luxury item—it is now a necessity of civic life,” said Kulleseid.

“We are thrilled that the referendum passed overwhelmingly with more than 70% of the voters giving the Town Board approval for a new round of funding to continue our aggressive open space acquisition program by purchasing environmentally sensitive parcels of land throughout the Town,” Supervisor John Jay LaValle said. “These acres, large and small, reinforce our quality of life, enhance our property values, protect our precious drinking water, and most importantly, give us room to breathe in our own neighborhoods. Open space is a finite resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. We must balance the rapid development in Brookhaven by preserving what land is left.”

The cost of the bond to residents will be $34 per year for four years. In addition to providing $20 million for open space preservation, this new local source of funding can also be used to draw county, state and federal monies for new conservation projects. In addition, the town is now eligible to apply for special state low-interest conservation loans. To use funds from the new bond, parcels recommended for preservation must meet criteria regarding ecological and local importance and will be reviewed by a bi-partisan committee of local residents.

“For minimal financial impact, residents have not only ensured preservation of open space, parkland and wildlife habitat, but also a brighter future for their families and communities,” said Paul Rabinovitch, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Chapter.

In putting this measure to a vote, Brookhaven was in the company of other Long Island towns including East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold, all of which proposed a two percent tax extension on real estate transactions to protect open space. Measures in East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold all passed, yielding approximately $360 million for open space protection.

The total number of state and local measures in November 2002—93—is up from 86 last November. Earlier this year, voters in 47 communities in 14 states approved ballot measures creating $2.7 billion for open space.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit organization that conserves land for people to improve the quality of life in our communities and to protect our natural and historic resources for future generations. In 1998 and 2000, the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit land conservation organization, worked with the Town of Brookhaven, Nassau County, the state and federal government to protect two parcels containing nearly 140 acres on Montauk Highway in the Carmans River watershed in Shirley.

For more information on conservation finance measures throughout the country, visit LandVote 2002.