Saturday, March 25, 2017

State-supplied alcohol at park sparks Long Island opposition

Under-development visitors center. (Drawing provided by NYS Parks Dept.)

Ever-expanding efforts by the Cuomo administration's Taste NY program that promotes foods and beverages produced in the state are running into some local opposition on Long Island.

The under-construction Hallock State Park visitors center on the North Fork's Sound Avenue will sell alcoholic beverages and visitors will be able to drink them on-site, according to a document just released by the  New York State Department of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. The patio and picnic area adjacent to the center will designated by the department to allow alcohol consumption, the document says.

The department's document said that while it prefers the Taste NY concession to be operated by the holder of a farm winery, brewery or cidery license, “there may be multiple liquor licensing options available to an interested party and all proposals are encouraged.” That nicety is because the Cuomo people have been encouraging "branch office" licenses, and touting the growing number that have been approved.

The concession will occupy a 600-square-foot room in the 3,800-square-foot visitors center structure now under construction in the winery-rich area. Hallock State Park Preserve, formerly
Jamesport State Park, is a 225-acre park and nature preserve that straddles the North Fork towns of Riverhead and Southold in Suffolk County.

The building also will have an exhibit area, a community room, 20 parking spaces and bathrooms accessible from both outside the building and inside.

Local officials and some residents had expressed concern that the visitors center had  essentially been regarded as a “rest stop,” but news of the state wanting the concession to sell alcohol — and allowing it to be consumed there — surprised and alarmed both Riverhead and Southold town supervisors.

“Clearly this is a rest stop,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said. “Now we have a rest stop with a bar. That seems like an odd combination -- a rest stop in a public park serving booze.”

And, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell also had objections, saying, “It’s highly irresponsible for a state agency to actually promote drinking given the preponderance of it already out here. Will they provide money for the DWI checkpoints we will need to add?”

For those keeping track of such things -- because they do make a difference even though in an ideal world they should not, the governor is a Democrat and both supervisors are Republicans .

According to the community news website RiversideLOCAL, "Southold Town saw its liability insurance cost increase by more than 44% after its longtime carrier declined to renew the policy this year. The insurance company, faced with large claims arising out of the fatal July 2015 limousine crash in Cutchogue that claimed the lives of four young women on a wine tour, cited increased risks associated with the thriving North Fork wine region."

The website also noted that Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional director for state parks, at a March 3 public meeting in Riverhead said, “We’re not going to be in any way competitive with local establishments. Our concessionaire, in our mind -- our vision is they would offer coffee, maybe some sandwiches made locally, not on premises -- a grab-and-go. It would offer things like honey that oftentimes are not offered throughout the community but are made in the community. That’s what the concession is going to be about.”

No mention was made of the potential sale and consumption on premises of alcoholic beverages.

The two town supervisors also have taken issue with the design of the center which, they say, does not provide proper traffic flow, turnaround areas, or other safety factors. And, the state has denied their requests for financial assistance in upgrading that area of Sound Avenue.

“Only under Governor Andrew Cuomo,” Riverhead's Walter said. “From the road signs to the rest stop, his complete lack of respect for the local municipality is just awe-inspiring.”

• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

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