$2.4M earmarked for security enhancements at Elmont schools


A total of $2.4 million from the Belmont Park Redevelopment Project’s funding agreement has been allocated to the Elmont school district for security enhancements of doors in the district’s six elementary schools.

A Feb. 5 news release from the district reported that the money, generated by operations at Belmont Park, was received by the district and earmarked for the purchase and installation of security doors in classrooms throughout the district. According to Candace Gomez, the school district’s attorney, the funding agreement with the New York State Urban Development Corporation, also known as Empire State Development, was finalized in June.

Interior doors in the school buildings will be replaced with secure doors that will offer more protection in the event of a lockdown.

“The doors also will have sensors on them with latches,” Thomas Galante, a business consultant for the district, explained at the Feb. 6 Board of Education meeting. “So you can hit a button and the entire building on the interior — no one’s going in and out of any doors or any classrooms.”

Asked by Elmont resident Trecia Wong how the board decided that the funds from ESD would be used to enhance security, and what other measures were considered, Galante said that other schools were bolstering their door security.

Even though the funding agreement was reached eight months ago, Galante explained that the installation of the doors could take 18 to 24 months. The school still needs to have details drawn up and sent to the state for building permit approval, after which vendors will submit bids to do the work, the bids will be reviewed and a vendor will ultimately be approved by the board.

According to redevelopment project estimates, roughly $154 million, the result of an agreement between the state and Nassau County, will go to the Sewanhaka and Elmont school districts over the next five decades. Sewanhaka will have to negotiate its own agreement with the developers, according to the Elmont school board.

The leases negotiated for the development of the Belmont Park property included payments to be made to ESD for the benefit of the affected tax jurisdictions, including the school districts, the Town of Hempstead and Nassau County.

“By entering into the critical funding agreement, ESD has secured and delivered much-needed resources for the community,” Empire State Development’s downstate communications director, Emily Mijatovic, said. “As the project moves forward, ESD will continue working diligently on behalf of the Elmont community to ensure the delivery of promised funds and benefits from the development.”

At the Feb. 6 meeting, Simmonie Swaby, of Elmont, who advocated for the redevelopment project, expressed concerns about whether the agreement satisfied the benefits negotiated for the community.

“I live in the community — people hold me accountable, hold others accountable who went out and said this was a good idea for this town,” Swaby said. “So if there are benefits as it relates to these payments, I want to fully understand it to make sure the district is getting its just desserts.”

Galante said that the funding agreement is to the schools’ advantage. The school district’s news release stated that additional funds would be determined each year for the duration of the 49-year agreement between the district and ESD.

“I think when all is said and done — and this is my own gut — but over 49 years, at the pace that this revenue is, this will be the largest amount of funding this district will receive by far from any organization other the state of New York,” Galante said. “So it really is going to be important to help offset taxes here and add educational services.”

School board Vice President Tiffany Capers responded to attendees’ questions about the press release sent out by the district, and said that it had not been cleared with the school district’s attorney or a majority of the board. The release, Capers said, was sent out by board President Nancy Garlick and Trustee Michael Jaime.

Some community members were outraged, and one audience member called out that “people are being froze out” of decision-making.

Dwayne Palmer, of Elmont, said, “To have a trustee say in an open meeting that there were two members that are unilaterally making decisions that affect the funding sources of this community, right? — not their money, our money — is wholly unacceptable.”

Gomez clarified that while the release was not approved by the entire board, the funding agreement itself was voted on by the board. Garlick said that a release does not have to go to the board vice president before it is posted.

“That statement speaks for itself,” Garlick said. “Every statement does not need to be approved by the vice president and the president.”