New Hyde Park divided on pool project’s future

Noah Manskar
Jim McHugh, a New Hyde Park civic activist, speaks at Monday's meeting on the Clinton G. Martin Park pool renovation at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

New Hyde Park residents are divided on whether a swimming pool renovation should continue as planned despite a $9 million cost increase.

At two community meetings, many residents said they want the Town of North Hempstead to seek new offers to renovate the Clinton G. Martin Park pool after two bids for construction came in at more than $19 million last week, making the total project cost about $23 million, up from an estimated $14.1 million.

But many others said they would rather pay the extra taxes that come with the higher price than wait for new bids and delay the reopening of the pool.

The Town Board is set to decide at a May 8 meeting whether it will accept one of the two bids or solicit more, which would take at least two months. Town officials said community feedback will guide their decisions.

“The problem that we have is all of our problem,” town Councilman Angelo Ferrara (R-New Hyde Park) told about 125 residents at a meeting at New Hyde Park Memorial High School on Monday night. “The solution that we’ve got to come up with is a joint solution by all of us.”

Monday’s meeting, sponsored by the town, followed a similar gathering held last Wednesday by the Lakeville Estates Civic Association after the two bids were opened April 18. Wyandanch-based Philip Ross Industries bid $19,035,000, and Wantagh-based Gramercy Group offered $19,474,000.

If one of the bids is accepted, residents of the town’s Clinton G. Martin Park District, which operates the park, would shoulder the extra cost.

Median park district property taxes would rise to about $140 from about $40. The district covers North New Hyde Park, the Village of New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, Herricks and Searingtown.

Residents at both meetings questioned the speed of the process, saying the community should not have to take a more expensive project or nothing at all.

Many said they would be willing to wait longer if it meant their tax bills would not rise as much, and suggested that the town scale back the project to cut costs.

“I hate having a gun to my head, and that’s how I think everyone feels, no matter what side you’re on,” said Jim Gounaris, a Manhasset Hills resident and Herricks school board trustee.

But town officials said they need to move quickly if residents want construction to start this summer so the pool could reopen next year.

Putting out another bid would delay the process and cause the 55-year-old pool to be closed for two years, said Victor Thomas, the town’s deputy public works commissioner. The pool will be closed this year no matter what because several parts of the facility no longer meet county health codes, he said.

Several other residents said the renovation, first proposed in May 2016, would reinvigorate the pool, which they called a community asset that has the power to boost property values.

New features such as a water slide and enlarged kiddie pool could increase membership and attract more new residents to the area, supporters said.

“It would be dumb to get rid of these things that are good for us in the community and would be used a lot,” said Rob Spina, a resident who started a petition asking the town to accept one of the bids.

Monday’s meeting was heated at times — residents often shouted at town officials and each other.

Town Councilman Peter Zuckerman (D-East Hills) physically confronted Bill Cutrone, president of the Lakeville Estates Civic Association, when Cutrone criticized him for texting during the meeting. Zuckerman called the criticism “obnoxious,” saying he was trying to get updates about a sick relative.

Town officials and Jason Pontieri of J.R. Holzmacher Engineering, the firm that made the cost estimates last year, expressed regret that the figures were so far off.

The estimates were based on the most recent available construction data, but officials cannot see what specific costs were higher until they award a bid, Pontieri said.

Mitchell Pally, CEO of the Long Island Builders Institute, said cost estimates consider several factors that could have changed in the year since the first estimates were calculated, he said.

And Long Island’s construction industry is “substantially stronger than it’s ever been,” driving up competition and costs, Pally said.

“Estimates, even in the best of times, are very difficult to ascertain with any certainty, and in today’s times when lots of factors come into play to change what it’s going to cost, it’s very, very difficult,” he said.

The Town Board will hold a special meeting on the pool project at 7 p.m. Monday, May 8, at Town Hall, located at 220 Plandome Road in Manhasset.

About the author

Noah Manskar

Noah Manskar is the assistant managing editor for Blank Slate Media and a reporter covering the Willistons, New Hyde Park and Nassau County government.
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