Gloomy skies did not stop Nassau County Legislators from gathering at Eisenhower Park to discuss Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s decisions regarding park fee hikes on ball fields without legislative approval.
Legislators Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn), along with Chairman of PARC Nassau Bruce Piel, stood in font of The Ed Dressler Memorial softball field questioning the Mangano administration’s intentions.
“It is incredible to increase fees without legislative approval,” said Denenberg.
Field-use permit fees would increase from $15 an hour during the day to $35. Night game fees would increase by $25 from $50 an hour to $75. Park fee increases must be approved by the legislature in accordance with state and local law.
Denenberg argued that the people who use the taxpayer fields should have the opportunity to speak out against and debate about the fee hikes.
“What we are seeing here is a quick pitch at the county legislature,” said Wink.
Aside from field permit increases, Mangano has provided plans to launch Nassau County-run adult recreation leagues, however there is opposition by the legislature on how the league fees will be divided. More than 50 percent of the fees will be put into the Friends of Nassau Recreation account and just a small portion will be allocated into the county’s general fund.
The Friends of Nassau Recreation was founded in 1982. The mission of the group is to raise money from donations and private companies to help fund recreation programs the county is unable to afford. But that divvying of funds to a select group didn’t have supporters at the Park today.
“We don’t run public facilities for the benefit of private friends groups,” Denenberg concluded.
The league fees that would be provided to the friends group would be unregulated and unsupervised. The parks department is able to spend the funds without legislative approval.
“They are raising the fees on the private leagues and then they are going to start country leagues which are going to be less expensive,” says PARCnassau Chairman Bruce Piel. “That is unfair practices.”
Piel says there are more than 200,000 ball players in Nassau County. Private leagues provide certain services the county may not be able to accommodate. This includes such things as websites, online league standings, awards dinners and so forth.
“Keep the fees down where the county residents can afford them,” added Piel.
“The legislature is supposed to be there as a check and balance,” Denenberg said. “By not coming to us there is no check, no balance.”
Mangano shot back. “The former Democrat Majority and prior administration allowed for-profit leagues to overtake our parks while eliminating county run programs,” he said in a statemet. “The abuse of our fields was so prominent that one private company had every single field on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“These past practices resulted in high costs for residents using our fields for recreation. Just as the county took back our parks from for-profit camps, I will forward a pilot program to the Legislature that takes back our fields from for-profit leagues. Under this program, the county will receive more revenue than last year while running its own league with lower costs for players.”