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TONH Approves Pool Acquisition

Roslyn residents support move to reopen pool, tennis courts

Sporting stickers that read “TONH Vote YES,” dozens of local residents packed into the June 19 Town of North Hempstead board meeting to support a vote approving the sale of the Roslyn Country Club to the town, one that would reopen both the pool and the tennis courts.

And that is what happened as the board voted 5-2 to approve the acquisition of the 7.2 acres of land on the Roslyn Country Club in Roslyn Heights. The cost of the acquisition is $7.5 million as the board also approved a bond for that same amount. Voting to approve the resolution was Supervisor Jon Kaiman, plus board members Thomas Dwyer, Lee Seeman, Viviana Russell and Anna Kaplan. Voting in opposition were Angelo Ferrara and Dina DeGiorgio.

According to a town spokesman, the next step will be the approval of $2 million from the town’s Environmental Legacy Fund, one that will be also used to purchase the property’s open spaces.

Once completed, the pool and tennis courts will be open to all residents in the Town of North Hempstead. The fee, which has not yet been determined, has, at previous public discussions, been set at $1,000 per year. A town spokesman said that construction is still “months away.”

Most of the residents who attended the meeting, which saw a crowd that spilled out into the lobby, supported the acquisition. Those in opposition also made their case, mostly in more extended public comments.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman called the pool and tennis facilities “a resource that should be open” to all residents in the town. He added that there was nothing unusual in the acquisition, noting that the town is always “in the business of building pools, facilities [and] developing open spaces and recreation [areas]” to benefit the larger community.

Concerning economics, Kaiman said that low interest rates convinced the town that the acquisition was “a deal that we think makes sense.” The ownership of the clubhouse, Royalton Catering, will remain with the current proprietor, Manny Malekan of Corona Realty. The acquisition, Kaiman added, would entail no changes in zoning laws. The bond for improvements, Kaiman said, is estimated at $6.8 to $7 million, a number that he said was “well within the bonding ability” of the town’s finances. The debt service, the supervisor also estimated, would take 15 years to pay. Kaiman also noted that Roslyn Heights taxpayers pay into such pools as Michael J. Tully and Manorhaven, plus various community centers and senior centers. The agreement with Corona Realty, Kaiman admitted, was a “long time coming.”

According to information on the town’s website, the annual facility operations will total $656,650 per year. The principal and interest payment on the 15-year bond totals $596,000 per year. The town estimates that revenue through membership fees will total $1,255,000 per year, with $980,000 coming from pool fees and $275,000 from tennis revenue. Construction costs are estimated at $6,800, while contingency funding and engineering costs are $700,000.

As proof of those wearing stickers, most, but not all of the Roslyn residents in attendance, supported the acquisition. Those who did, including Burt Roslyn, praised the town for its due diligence studies and for giving residents of the Roslyn Country Club neighborhood a pool and tennis courts that have been denied to them for years. For instance, one resident, Jeff Perry, praised the board for the “tremendous time and effort” that went into the acquisition negotiations. Jeff Kaplan added that the acquisition was a bargain for town residents. Another resident, Regina Stone, said the town’s action was tantamount to “making a dream come true,” that is, the reopening of the pool and tennis courts.

Voices In Opposition

However, there were a number of opponents who called for the motion to be tabled upon further study and more information being released to the public.

The most vigorous opposition came from civic association leaders in East Williston and New Hyde Park, plus from residents in Port Washington, one of whom called for a referendum on the issue.

Joyce Lew, president of the East Williston Civic Association brought 300 signatures from that village in opposition to the acquisition. While she agreed that Roslyn deserves its own pool, only 800-900 families, at most, would use it, she claimed. “[We’re] basically providing a private club for Roslyn,” she said.

Ms. Lew also criticized the town’s revenue projections as not being specific enough. Pointing to a lack of ball fields and soccer fields, she also said the facility would have “no use” unless one joined as a member. Kaiman responded by claiming that revenue estimates were based on those from other pools in the town. Ms. Lew herself responded by noting that such facilities as Eisenhower Park and Echo Park are open year round and any comparisons were “apples and oranges.” In all, Kaiman said that there are plenty of town amenities that are only used by a specific number of residents and that the Roslyn pool would give residents a “different experience.”

More opposition came from Jim McHugh of the Park Civic Association in New Hyde Park. McHugh said that his organization had done extensive research on the acquisition and came to the conclusion that it isn’t realistic that the pool and tennis courts can pay for themselves, much of this having to do that people, according to McHugh, don’t play tennis as much as they once did. The town, he added, was underestimating operating services. The pool and tennis courts, he said, would bring in about $670,000 in revenue as compared to Clinton G.  Martin pool which totals $1.1 million. Further, in its previous life, the Roslyn Country Club, McHugh said, brought in $550,000 in its prime years and only $400,000 when it was forced to close down. McHugh claimed that his own research—-which he claimed were “realistic numbers” and not “lowball projections” that he said the town was working with—-came to a deficit of $741,000. The pool, he added, would need 1,500 members to break even.

Kaiman reiterated that Roslyn residents pay for other pools. He added that even if McHugh numbers came to fruition, it would still represent a tax increase of $2.70 a year per resident and business.

Another opponent, Dr. Steven Morris of North Hills, said the town should use any surplus to pay down town debts and lower taxes. He added that if there is a deficit, the town should tell residents how they would pay for it. Kaiman said that any surpluses would be reinvested back into the town’s coffers “for the town good.”

As noted, nearly all Roslyn residents who spoke came out in favor of the acquisition. One exception was Jane Greenstein, who also called for more specifics from the town. Ms. Greenstein lamented the fact that Roslyn Heights residents did not purchase the pool and tennis courts for $2 million when it was available. She was seconded by Angelo Ferrara, a town board member who said that he usually votes against bond issues, but that he would have supported a bond for Roslyn Heights residents to purchase and operate the pool and tennis courts.

An Ongoing History

The country club goes back to the late 1940s as the Roslyn area was being transformed. During that time, the Roslyn Country Club, along with up to 600 residential homes, was constructed by the famed developer Levitt & Sons, on 10.5 acres of land, one complete with pools, tennis and basketball courts, a playground and a clubhouse. For an annual fee, residents in the country club neighborhood were able to use the club.

The Malachit Group of Mineola, later renamed Corona Realty, purchased the club in 2003. The group made its acquisition after the previous owner, CCR of Roslyn, lost a legal battle with the civic association to raise fees; a move they claimed was necessary to meet increased operating expenses. And now Corona Realty has made its own sale as the pool and tennis courts will be out of private hands and into town stewardship.