By Jano Tantongco
For one civic leader, the opening of Sweet Hollow Park, on the site of the former Meyers Farm, is the culmination of a decade and a half of community organizing, land use deals and many “twists and turns.”
“We are quite a force and when we work together, we are undefeatable. Just look at what we have accomplished and the beautiful park we have to enjoy forever,” Alissa Taff, president of the Sweet Hollow Civic Association, said.
The park was slated to open to the public Wednesday evening and features a slew of amenities including bocce courts, tennis courts, pickle ball courts, a basketball court, adult exercise equipment, a children’s playground, game tables and picnic tables, all inspired by the input of more than 70 residents.
The $3.55 million, 8.4 acre park, includes five acres of passive parkland that contains a 2,275-foot walking trail. A committee is also evaluating designs for a sculpture that will be placed in the park.
In 2001, Taff said, the town unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the land from the Meyers family to create a park, stopped by the hassle involved in such a transaction.
Then, in 2003, the India-based socio-spiritual organization Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam-Northeast (BAPS) purchased the land to construct a mandir, after a long search for a suitable location.
However, after community discussions, BAPS agreed to wait to build their mandir, in hopes of finding a new suitable location.
And in 2012, Taff said a “miracle occurred, but, life is never that simple.”
A developer, Continental Pinewood Development Partners, was seeking to construct a 261-unit affordable senior housing development, known as The Club at Melville, at 25 Deshon Drive on an 18-acre site. Seeking a density greater than permitted, the town struck a deal.
They allowed the greater density, as well as the subsequent needed I-1 Industry to 3M Garden Apartment zone change, but with the stipulation that five acres of the parcel would be set aside for the construction of the mandir, which opened last year.
BAPS’ development rights were transferred from the original site to the Deshon Drive parcel. Meanwhile, BAPS sold the Meyers farm property to the town to create Sweet Hollow Park.
Taff added, “It only took 16 years and has one of the most complex histories of any park. But it is here. We did it, and it is really great.”