By Nathaniel Puciato
The Town of Hempstead owns roughly 750 plots of land, valued around $4.85 billion, according to Adam Haber, the town’s executive assistant for economic development and government efficiency. Properties range from Town Hall in Hempstead to its many parks and marinas and parking lots scattered throughout the area.
Haber presented information on the town’s recent effort to catalog all of its properties and assign a rough estimate of their value to them during the Sept. 24 Town Board meeting at Hempstead Town Hall, which led 3rd District Councilman Bruce Blakeman, a Republican from Atlantic Beach, to question the validity of the statement.
Haber, a Democrat from East Hills who previously ran for State Senate, was appointed to his town post by Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, in January 2018. Haber was quick to outline the process by which the town arrived at the $4.85 billion figure.
Mineola-based real estate firm Smith & DeGroat was selected “through an extensive request for proposals” process to undertake the valuation and “create a database to show exactly what the town owns.
“They went through every piece of property,” inspecting Nassau County records to determine assessed value, Haber said. Previously, he said, “Nobody in the town had [any] idea what we owned. Sliver lots, parking lots, vacant lots, things that were not maintained, things that were just sitting there for decades” went unnoticed by town officials.
Haber also made it apparent to his fellow officials that upon his arrival a year and a half ago, there was no accurate documentation of these town-owned properties. The issue arose, Gillen said, after a grocery store in Roosevelt called the town in 2018 asking for repairs on its parking lot, leaving many within Town Hall perplexed as to why the property was not cataloged and was on no one’s radar — and why the town even owned a parking lot for use by a grocery store.
That is when Haber was tasked with accounting for the town’s many properties. “Somebody dropped off three CD’s at my desk that were done 20 years ago with a video camera,” Haber said. “Not by section, lot and block. Not by property, just by video, and not saying the addresses. It’s something I thought was a joke at first, and then I realized it wasn’t.”
Cataloging the properties took about five weeks, with the first rough draft of the list handed in by early July 2018.
Michael Fricchione, Gillen’s press secretary, said cataloging the town’s properties would enable officials to make informed decisions on their future. He noted that the town would likely do nothing with the vast majority of the properties. He noted, however, that some, like a 29-acre parking lot in Lido Beach, could be improved. He also spoke of a possible public-private partnership at the entrance to the town’s Guy Lombardo Marina in Freeport, though he did not offer details.
The town could sell off unneeded and unwanted properties, but Gillen emphasized that the purpose of the cataloging was not to prepare for the sale of any one property.
“This is not just to broker out properties,” the supervisor said. “This is to come up with a comprehensive plan of what properties we think are good to sell because they are not generating revenue, and they should be generating revenue, and properties that we could maybe use for a nonprofit or use for affordable housing, or maybe something beneficial,” Gillen said.
Gillen is now running for re-election against Republican Donald Clavin, of Garden City, who is the town’s receiver of taxes.
Editor’s note: This story was cross-published on liherald.com and in Herald Community Newspapers.