The Village of Freeport appears poised to reclaim the National Guard Armory on Babylon Turnpike, which would settle an eight-year tug-of-war with the nonprofit Cedarmore Corporation.
The state now owns the property. The village, which gave it to the state in 1949 to construct the armory, would like it back. The village has proposed moving its Department of Public Works to the site, although that plan is uncertain.
A deal to give the village control of the armory was held up for years because the Cedarmore Corporation, which was founded in 1996 by Zion Cathedral’s late Bishop Frank O. White, sought to purchase it for $1. Former State Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper, the deputy speaker who was voted out of office last year, favored ceding control of the armory to Cedarmore, and proposed legislation to do so that passed in the State Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Taylor Raynor, a fellow Democrat from Hempstead, defeated Hooper in a primary last year and went on to win in the general election in November. Raynor favors a deal that would give control of the armory back to the village.
Raynor and State Sen. John Brooks, a Democrat from Seaford, recently submitted legislation in both chambers of the State Legislature that would return the armory property to Freeport. The measure would need approval by the Legislature and Cuomo.
The village’s DPW, on Albany Avenue in south Freeport, was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when it was flooded with seven feet of saltwater. It sustained more than $10 million in damage in the storm. Mayor Robert Kennedy would like to move the DPW to a site north of Sunrise Highway to prevent future flooding of the department’s vital facilities.
The armory, near the border with Roosevelt in north Freeport, has sat empty since 2011, when the National Guard pulled out of the facility.
Kennedy said his first priority is to have the property returned to the village. After that, he said, he would bring in a group of architects and engineers to evaluate its structural condition and determine the property’s best possible uses.
“The community will be invited to discuss any and all options prior to any final decisions about the property’s use,” Kennedy said.
Debra Williams, a member of the Cedarmore board of directors, disagreed, saying she believed village officials had already decided to move the DPW to the old armory.
Michelle Baptiste, another Cedarmore board member, said the organization would run programs at the site to benefit the community. Among those programs are one for young entrepreneurs, a farmers market and college preparedness workshops, among others.
If the armory were turned over to Cedarmore, Baptiste said, “this particular site would serve the community, and the DPW trucks would not.”
Roberta Coward, chairwoman of the Cedarmore Corporation, said that neither Raynor nor Brooks consulted with the community about the armory before sponsoring legislation to transfer control of it to the village. “To date, not one public forum or meeting has been held. Yet they report the community wants it,” she said. “They haven’t spoken to us.”