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Editorial: Fern Place Parking Lot: This Is Really Our Big Issue?

It was a coincidence that I happened to write an article on ACDS just now when all the drama about possibly adding a parking lot to The Fern Place School erupted. For those who don’t know, ACDS rents the building on Fern Place from the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, thus is “the tenant” frequently referred to during discussions of the proposed additional parking lot at the Fern Place School.

The 2012-13 budget calls for $80,000 to go toward maintenance of the existing Fern Place parking lot, and the construction of a new lot. According to district administrators, the actual cost would be more like $40,000, since ACDS is expected to pay half. However, this is a controversial item for two main reasons: One, some residents with homes near Fern Place are against it, saying the parking lot will create an eyesore right in their backyards and does not represent the best solution to the parking problem. Two, some residents don’t want the district to pay $80,000 (or even $40,000) on something that doesn’t directly help the children of Plainview-Old Bethpage, stating that it will be a waste of money if “the tenant” (ACDS) does not renew its lease in a few years. Some are even planning to vote “No” to the budget over this item.

While I can sympathize with the residents who have criticisms of the parking lot plan and want to be involved in the process, I have to admit I’m somewhat baffled by those who have made an issue of the second point. More specifically, I don’t see why they’re so convinced the extra lot is a waste of money, no matter what happens when the lease is up. If the district is put in a position where they have to rent out the property again, won’t it be easier to do that if the available parking is adequate for the size of the building? Is it really wasteful to provide proper upkeep and maintenance to the district’s own property so it can continue to make a profit by renting it?

I’m glad that Superintendent Dempsey has invited the residents who live near the school to speak with the administration about their concerns, so those with legitimate criticisms of the parking lot plan (and alternate solutions to offer) will have an opportunity to influence the project for the better. But threatening to vote down the budget over a parking lot addition, which will either help encourage a current tenant to stay or help attract another tenant in the future to a property that brings in millions of dollars for the district? I just don’t see it.