By Sophia Guddemi
Four Village of Northport residents objected to a plan to expand the basketball court at the two-acre Cow Harbor Park and pleaded with the Huntington Town Board to stop the process on Oct. 17. Now Northport officials are reconsidering the scope of the project, according to Newsday.
Northport Village Trustee Meghan Dolan and two members of Northport High School’s 1995 Long Island Championship boys’ basketball team, Doug Trani and Chris Wiebke, outlined plans for the expanded court, which, as proposed, would enlarge the court from 53-by-40 feet to 66-by-55 feet.
Trani and Wiebke were among the organizers of a private fundraising campaign that collected $65,600 for the larger court, according to Newsday.
Phase one of the two-phase expansion project was to be funded with a $75,000 state grant, and phase two with $200,000 of Huntington Town open-space money. Huntington’s Environmental Open Space and Park Advisory (EOSPA) Committee, however, denied the funding request, sending Northport planners back to the drawing board. Now it is unclear how phase two of the project would be funded.
The court expansion project is estimated to cost $336,000.
Community members said that after EOSPA denied the funding request, Committee Chair Mark McAteer advised proponents of the expansion to rewrite their funding application because, as stated in EOSPA rules, the same project cannot be voted on twice. The village was expected to file a new application by the end of the year.
Kevin Kavanaugh, a Northport resident and certified arborist, began the public comment portion of the Oct. 17 Huntington Town Board meeting by saying the expansion project, as proposed, would not live up to its initial promises.
“We were promised that no trees would be cut down, the picnic areas [would be] safe and that no village funds would go into this project. All of this now is untrue,” Kavanaugh said.
The arborist said he was for the expansion plan when he first heard about it, but after careful review, he noticed inconsistencies in the number of trees on drawings for the planned court versus the actual planting schedule.
“This is a little seaside community where people go to walk their dogs and eat lunch and sit across from Copenhagen’s [Bakery] and have a peaceful time,” Kavanaugh said. “Now it’s going to be all changed to invite an athletic field.”
Kavanaugh began a change.org petition against the expanded court. As of press time, it had garnered 437 signatures.
Don McKay, who grew up in Northport and played on the basketball court growing up, said he supports approval of the expanded court. “There is a very large number of people in the village who support this project,” McKay said. “This is an active park. There’s a commercial fishing dock on the other side of the park, so it’s not like it’s this passive, grassy area. If we need to plant more trees, plant more trees. That’s an easy one.”
Community members raised other potential environmental concerns, including the possibility that residual waste from an old Long Island Lighting Company power plant that was once on the site could be dug up if an expanded court were constructed.
“We believed that if this location was dug up for this renovation, there would be nothing but problems, and I think a dangerous situation would arise,” Northport resident Blair Beaudet said.
“Northport Village has no money in its budget for this project,” Josephine Rizzoni said. “Our village has been riddled with misinformation from the beginning of this project.”
“I have attended village meetings for many years and have never been so misled by our village board as now,” said Margie Beaudet, a 43-year Northport resident. Beaudet accused Trustee Dolan of not considering all members of the Northport community and not making information about the expansion project accessible to all.
“There appears to be two stories being told: one [Dolan] tells the EOSPA of Huntington and one she tells the board [and] residents of Northport,” Beaudet said.
Huntington Town Supervisor Edmund Smyth said the town board had received an email from Kavanaugh regarding expansion of the court and would review it.