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Governor Hochul Announces Opening of Environmental Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park

Written by Chris Boyle  |  29. September 2021

Governor Kathy Hochul has announced the opening of the $8.3 million Environmental Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park in Nassau County. The 8,000-square-foot center offers hands-on learning on the topics of storm resiliency and environmental management; provides space for community outreach; and serves as an emergency coordination center during disaster response. The center is part of a $35 million parkwide project to reduce flood risk, improve water quality and enhance recreational access along the Mill River corridor as part of Rebuild by Design—Living with the Bay, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
 
"The Hempstead Environmental Education and Resiliency Center is an example of New York State's innovative work to protect the environment in this era of climate change and expand access to healthy outdoor recreation," Governor Hochul said. "Long Islanders know firsthand how the devastating effects of extreme weather are impacting our communities. This Center will equip visitors with knowledge they need to join the fight against climate change, protect our environment for future generations, and encourage people to get out and enjoy this wonderful park."
 
Each year during Climate Week, New York State raises awareness about the impacts of climate change in conjunction with local, national, and international partners. Climate Week offers the opportunity for the State to continue its leadership on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve infrastructure resiliency to extreme weather.
 
The Environmental Education and Resiliency Center is located near the western entrance of Hempstead Lake State Park, close to Lakeview and the Village of Hempstead, two historically underserved and ethnically diverse communities. The Center will serve as a focal point of the park's improved trail connections to the waterfront, as well as direct access to the lake and ponds with kayak launches and fishing piers. The Center features exhibits and information explaining climate change impacts, community resiliency processes, and environmental stewardship, and includes a deck overlooking Hempstead Lake. Additional year-round education programming will enhance the community's understanding of and relationship to the Mill River Watershed.
 
The Center includes community space for environmental education, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and community organizations. The Nassau County Law Enforcement Explorer Program, run by the Nassau County Police Department, plans to use the Center for local community outreach, combatting gang violence positively engaging young people through mentoring and education.
 
The facility can also serve as a storm response "Command Post" for local disaster response coordination for first responders, as well as an area for utility companies coordinate equipment staging, enhancing their emergency response to restore critical utilities.
 
The Center was constructed to reduce environmental impacts with the following key features: 
 
  • High performance building envelope and HVAC system.
  • Photovoltaic roof panels, LED lighting with occupancy sensing and daylight harvesting to offset electrical usage.
  • High-efficiency, low/no water plumbing fixtures.Bird friendly window and door glazing.
 
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "The Center will provide insightful education about our changing climate and help visitors be active, hands on stewards of the environment, while serving as a gateway for the community to explore the Park. I am tremendously grateful to Governor Hochul, and all of our partners for helping bring a much-needed modern educational facility to the community."
 
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "As we battle the effects of climate change, the deeper our knowledge about the challenges we face, the better we can address them safely, sensibly, and effectively. As part of the $125 million Living with the Bay initiative, the state-of-the-art Environmental Education and Resiliency Center is an important investment in disaster response, but also an investment to promote personal resilience, safety, and awareness. Governor Hochul and our partners in state and local government have once again demonstrated that as we strengthen our physical infrastructure to keep communities like Hempstead safe, we can also focus on improving peoples' quality of life."
 
Governor's Office of Storm Recovery Deputy Executive Director for Housing, Buyouts and Acquisition Paul Lozito said, "The Governor's Office of Storm Recovery is excited to celebrate the completion of the new Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park with the residents of Lakeview, Hempstead, and all of Nassau County. We look forward to our continued partnership with New York State Parks as we work together to enhance this vital community resource for years to come and implement the Living with the Bay goals of improving resiliency, environment, and community."
 
The project is part of the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery's $125 million Living with the Bay initiative to increase the resiliency of communities along the Mill River and around the South Shore's bays by mitigating damage from storm surges; managing stormwater to mitigate damages from common rain events; improving habitat and water quality; and increasing access to the Mill River through both educational and increased recreational opportunities. Additional improvements at Hempstead Lake Park now underway include: upgrading the only high hazard dam on Long Island—the Hempstead Lake Dam; Northwest Pond spillway repair; installing floatable catchers in the Northern Ponds to manage floating debris and trash entering the system from the surrounding highly urbanized areas; installing stormwater and water quality improvements in the Northern Ponds; habitat restoration; development of Greenway trails with pedestrian bridges to improve public access to the waterfront; enhancing the trail system through the Park for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
 
Tennis Court Complex Improvements
The Center opening coincides with completion of a multi-phase project to refurbish and upgrade the park's Tennis Court Complex. The $1 million project reconstructed deteriorated clay and all-weather asphalt tennis courts, created six new pickle ball courts, renovated the basketball courts, and refurbished bathroom facilities.

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