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Nassau Expressway project in Lawrence half done

Will Five Towns batting range get the boot?

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Two decades after New York state said it planned to auction off the Five Towns Mini-Golf and Batting Range, on Rockaway Turnpike in Lawrence, owner Marty Rosen said he has been told by state Department of Transportation officials that once the $130 million renovation of a .57-mile stretch of State Route 878 — also known as the Nassau Expressway — is completed, the state will move ahead with the auction.

“I hope the DOT lets us continue to serve the community as we have for more than 40 years, supplying the type of business we have,” Rosen said of the business he started in 1976. A long-term lease would help secure a bank loan, he added, and help him to make improvements.

This is not the first time Rosen has had to battle to maintain his 30-day lease on the state-owned property. In December 2015, Rosen, who runs the seasonal business with his son Matt, received a letter from the DOT informing him that the monthly rent was increasing from $4,750 to $12,435, a 160 percent jump, to reflect the DOT appraisal of the land’s value at the time. After a year of wrangling with DOT officials, the rent boost was kept to 35 percent, rising to $6,412.50 per month.

The DOT sent Rosen a letter last June outlining the road renovation project’s impact on his business, which included the loss of several parking spaces. As work got under way, there were also problems with lighting and signage. Rosen said that all the issues had been rectified, and credited DOT officials with being helpful.

In 1997, then State Sen. Norman Levy wrote a letter to the DOT in support of excluding the batting range from a state auction, and it was. State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, wrote a similar letter on April 23. “We’re having good conversations on how meaningful his business is,” Kaminsky said.

On March 8, a motorist crashed into the plastic retaining wall the DOT installed alongside Rosen’s business. The vehicle, he said, rolled over and came to a stop against his cyclone fencing, and the woman at the wheel survived. There are now solid concrete Jersey barriers along Rockaway Turnpike.

Kaminsky said he continued to discuss with the DOT what he described as a “very tricky” traffic pattern that is “dangerous” and “problematic.” The road renovation project aims to improve traffic flow and reduce flooding along a portion of the Nassau Expressway between Rockaway Turnpike and Burnside Avenue, and at its intersections with Bay and Peninsula boulevards. The 10-mile-long state road, which stretches from Ozone Park, Queens, to the Atlantic Beach Bridge, in Lawrence, is an evacuation route for more than 40,000 people and a vital connector for more than 56,000 vehicles that use it on weekdays.

Part of the roadway is to be raised three to four feet above the flood plain to increase resiliency, and rebuilt to combat ongoing aging and stress with roughly 4,5000 timber pilings dug down to a depth of 55 feet. Turning and auxiliary lanes and traffic signals will be added to enhance safety and relieve congestion.

Stephen Canzoneri, the state DOT’s Long Island region spokesman, said that the work, which will also include a shared pedestrian and bike path, is halfway completed. “Work is on budget and scheduled to be wrapped up by the end of the year,” he said. “Once the project is completed, NYSDOT will evaluate its property needs in the area.” The property adjacent to Rosen’s has been vacant for nearly 12 years and is a blighted site. It was auctioned in 1997, and a Toyota dealership operated there until 2007.

Long Island officials have mounted a separate campaign to have the traffic signals along the Nassau County portion of Rockaway Turnpike, which runs perpendicular to Route 878, and Rockaway Boulevard, at the Queens border, synchronized, to improve traffic flow.

Have an opinion about the Nassau Expressway project? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.