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Great news for Staten Island’s Goodhue Park

Great news for Staten Island’s Goodhue Park 02/25/2011

By Tom Wrobleski

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Staten Island is emerging victorious in its five-year battle to save Goodhue Park.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preliminary budget, released last week, includes $6 million to begin purchasing Goodhue property from the Children’s Aid Society and turning it into a city park.

That money will augment $1.5 million still in the pipeline from previous City Council allocations, bringing the total current amount up to $7.5 million.

Without the funding, the bucolic land in New Brighton that has served generations of borough children for almost 100 years might have fallen into the hands of developers.

“It should remain a park,” said City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn). “It’s one of the most beautiful places on Staten Island.”

Growing tired of waiting for the city to purchase part of the property, the society had said that it would put the land on the market if public funding didn’t come through. The Manhattan-based non-profit is looking to sell 38 acres of the park’s 42-acre spread.

The society would continue to run its programs on the remaining acres, and it called the funding “a great first step.”

“I am thrilled that the funding was included in the budget,” said society president and CEO Richard Buery.

Aware of the city’s tight finances, Buery said the society had agreed to sell the land to the city in stages, to make the purchase easier.

He said the $7.5 million currently available will move the process forward and will also ensure that the society “can continue to do what we need to do for the children and families of Staten Island.” Buery said he didn’t know how long the full purchase would take to complete nor how much the final price tag would be.

“I am glad the Bloomberg administration saw fit to restore a large portion of the funds,” said Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore). “And, I hope that the process to ensure that the Goodhue property will be preserved as parkland and a community center for our youth begins soon.”

The Children’s Aid Society has run a summer camp and after-school programs for underserved children at its Goodhue Center since 1912, and elected officials were committed to keeping the land from being developed.

About $9 million already allocated by borough officials to save Goodhue was taken by the Parks Department in order to meet mandated agency budget cuts, angering Islanders and nearly leaving Goodhue out in the cold.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe called the Goodhue acquisition a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. “We’ve always wanted to acquire Goodhue,” he told the Advance. “It’s an opportunity that’s not to be missed.”

Parks said that the $7.5 million would go toward purchasing 15 of the 38 available acres, including most of the playing fields and basketball courts, as well as the central ravine woodlands and stream.

Benepe called it “an important chunk” of the ultimate purchase.

He said the previously allocated money had been used when Parks faced a 20 percent budget cut and had to cancel projects “that weren’t ready to advance.”

He said the Goodhue money was removed “always in the hope that it would be restored.”

Officials expressed confidence that the money will be there when City Hall and the Council finish budget negotiations and a final budget is adopted before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

“I’m glad that the administration held up its part of the bargain,” said Oddo.

Buery thanked city officials past and present for helping to make the deal work. Borough President James P. Molinaro had also allocated money, as had former Rep. Michael McMahon and former North Shore Councilman Ken Mitchell.

“Everyone’s played an important role,” he said. “They really stepped up.”