Longstanding plans by Molloy College and Nassau County for the use of county facilities at the Mitchel Field Sports Complex were put on hold last week when the County Legislature delayed approval of the college’s permit to use the facilities.
The plan called for Molloy to spend $1.3 million to renovate the complex, and was set to go into effect this spring. In return, the college’s teams would be able to use the baseball field for 20 years, with the option to extend the agreement for an additional 10 years, at a decreased fee. The college would also have the field reserved for its games.
The Legislature’s four-member Rules Committee voted to postpone the agreement, which was proposed by County Executive Edward Mangano, to give the budget office more time to review it.
The deal was opposed by several members of the Legislature, including Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick), who does not sit on the Rules Committee. In a press release, Denenberg said that the proposal amounted to a lease that would require a vote by the entire 19-member Legislature. He also said that the agreement created an “alienation of parkland,” which, under state law, would have to be approved by the State Legislature.
“New York State Court decisions make it absolutely clear that even a so-called permit that provides exclusive use is an alienation of parkland that requires state legislative approval,” Denenberg said in the release. “This 30-year agreement to provide exclusive use of a ball park at Mitchel Field is the same as a lease and therefore an illegal alienation of parkland.
“This is an attempted 30-year give away of county property by the Mangano administration,” he added.
Mangano defended the agreement, saying that Molloy’s use of the field predates his administration. “Molloy College is investing $1.3 million in this public-private partnership that grants greater public field access than ever before to residents and students while also improving the fields,” he said in a statement to the Herald. “It’s a win-win for the taxpayer.”
According to Carnell Foskey, the county commissioner of parks and recreation, Molloy would design and prepare the plans for the field, and the improvements it would make would include excavation and drainage work, acquisition of materials, fencing, dugouts, a bullpen, installation of artificial turf, electrical upgrades and a drinking fountain.
According to Mangano’s office, Molloy paid $4,987 to rent the field at the Mitchel Athletic Complex last year. Under the proposed agreement, the college would pay half the usual fee for baseball, while paying the full fee for use of the track and the cricket field. All told, it would pay about $4,000 a year in rent. Mangano pointed out that, over 30 years, the school would receive a discount of around $30,000 in rental fees.
Molloy’s hours of use of the field would remain unchanged: 2 to 6 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday for games, all by permit. And Molloy teams would not be the only ones using the new field. Nassau County youth baseball, Nassau County Community College teams, clinics and leagues could use the upgraded facilities when their use would not conflict with Molloy’s.
At the Rules Committee meeting last week, committee members decided to table the deal until the independent budget office could draft a report about the arrangement for consideration by legislators, and so the public can weigh in.
“We are investing $1.3 million to significantly improve the field, and Nassau County residents will use it more than 80 percent of the time,” said Edward Thompson, Molloy’s vice president of advancement. “We think this is a good deal for the taxpayer and a great example of a public-private partnership.”