TPL Backs $50M Nassau Co. Bond (NY)

Mineola, NY, 8/24/04 Scores of Nassau County environmental, civic and business groups rallied at a special meeting of the Nassau County Legislature to support the placement of a $50 million Environmental Bond Act on the November 2 ballot. If approved, the Clean Water, Open Space and Parks Trust Fund would protect water, preserve open space and farmland, and improve parks.

Under the proposed measure, the average Nassau family would pay just $7 per year to fund a wide range of water, land and parks projects. The funds generated could be used only for this purpose and their expendi-ture would be overseen by an Environmental Trust Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by the county executive and county legislature. The Bond Act would make funds available for land preservation (with a focus on protecting water quality); acquisition of new parkland and expansion and improvements to existing parks, including park safety; and capital improvements including controlling storm water run-off.

“Nassau voters overwhelmingly support this initiative. In poll after poll and referendum after referendum, Long Islanders regularly agree to make investments in open space and environmental protection, following national trends,” said Erik Kulleseid, director of the New York State Program of the Trust for Public Land. “To date, Nassau and Suffolk are the only New York counties to put this issue on the ballot, compared to New Jersey, where all 21 counties have gone to the voters to create an open space trust funds to combat sprawl and preserve their quality of life.”

Across the country, county governments routinely seek voter approval for open space ballot measures, in most cases general obligation bonds. Between 1999 and 2003, 97 of 123 county open space ballot measures were approved by voters, with 79% support.

“There is no question that voters will overwhelmingly support this excellent Environmental Trust Fund, just as Suffolk voters have time and time again,” said Richard Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “It would be a bargain at three times the price,” he added.

A recent public opinion survey found that Nassau County voters strongly support significant funding for open space and parks and believe it can improve quality of life. Several towns in Nassau County have either approved open space ballot measures or indicated support for pursuing future open space funding; county funding could spur other local governments to follow suit.

“We must make an investment in Nassau County’s open space, parks and recreation facilities in the interest of every Nassau family,” said Neal Lewis of Long Island Neighborhood Network.

Establishing a county open space and parks matching fund could yield conservation activity totaling $75- $100 million; this is critical at a time when the window of opportunity to protect remaining open space is closing.

Lisa Ott, Executive Director of the North Shore Land Alliance added, “We have so little open space left in our county that we must do all we can to save what’s left.”

“The Environmental Trust Fund will help protect Nassau’s supply of pure fresh drinking water for our chil-dren and grandchildren,” said Joseph Lorintz, Executive Director of the Long Island Drinking Water Coalition explained.