Crime surges at abandoned 3-acre property


For the past 12 years, Barbara Southard has watched the Oakwood Beach Club turn into an overgrown wasteland.

The club, which closed in 2011, sustained damage in Tropical Storm Irene that year and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Now, over a decade later, the Milburn Avenue property remains an eyesore for neighbors. Southard, who lives a few doors down from the abandoned lot, has seen how it has deteriorated over the years.

The club, which opened in 1962 on roughly three acres of property, once had a pool and a concession stand. After closing in 2011, it was left unmaintained and eventually became unrecognizable.

“There’s rodents in there,” Southard said. “For years, kids would break in there, and there’s graffiti in there.”

Southard said that the property has been up for auction twice. There is now a second real estate sign there, but nobody has purchased it yet. The current owner owes a lot of taxes, Southard said, and although it’s a very slow process, elected officials are leading an effort to revamp the property.

In 2020, County Legislator Debra Mulé wrote to Baldwin residents, saying that her office was looking into ways to transform the land. In a Zoom meeting that September, Mulé and community members agreed that they would like to see it turned into a green space. Changes have come slowly since then, Southard said, but the Town of Hempstead’s Sanitation District 2 has been very helpful.

“I write to Douglas Weidmann, of Sanitation District 2, all the time about the property,” Southard said. “And he comes down and cuts the lawn.”

The main issue that Weidmann has faced in trying to clean up the property is that it is privately owned. He can only maintain the edges, but despite this, Southard said, he has been a “bright light in all of this.”

Southard was clipping the grass a few months ago, when Mulé and U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito happened to be there as well. Southard recalled asking both of them, “Who would want to live here and on this block?” She has since been in contact with D’Esposito’s office, with the hope of getting the property cleaned up.

“Sanitation 2 has posted several notices on the gate of the property that whoever owns it needs to clean it up,” Southard said. “People walk by and rip the notices off the gate, and it’s just horrible.”

She said she hopes that the area can be turned into a green space or park. She doesn’t want it be converted to commercial use — for a restaurant, for example — because she doesn’t believe that the block can handle that kind of traffic.

“The road is very small, and has a lot of curbs in it,” Southard said of Milburn Avenue. “So we’ve already had a few accidents here.”

She said she wouldn’t be opposed to the construction of new homes on the property, but she wasn’t sure if the area has residential zoning. In addition, a large portion of the property has been designated protected wetlands, which could deter developers from buying it, because the designation would prevent construction.

“We’d like to have it cleaned up so it’s not such an eyesore,” Southard’s husband, Bob, said. “And there are kids who do nothing but vandalize the property.”