Long Island elected officials and community leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Environmental Education and Resiliency Center at Hempstead Lake State Park on Thursday.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, and others gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 8,000-square-foot facility, which opened on the fourth day of Climate Week. The center will serve as a place to teach the public about climate change and protecting the environment, as well as a command and coordination post during disaster emergencies.
“It’s an incredible resource,” Hochul said. “Over 400,000 people already come here every year. I think this is going to increase the numbers even more when people want to come and see what this is all about.”
The center in West Hempstead will be used by nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and the Nassau County Police Department for its Explorer program, a youth outreach program for young people interested in a career in law enforcement.
“It’s great that this center is right here in this very strategic location to inform, to educate, to get the community engaged, to get the community to come together,” Curran said.
The $8.3 million building is part of a larger, $35 million, parkwide initiative, which is still just a piece of what’s known as the Living With the Bay project being funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Living With the Bay aims to “reduce flood risk, improve water quality, and enhance recreational access along the Mill River corridor,” according to the governor’s news release.
In light of record rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Long Island, officials took the opportunity to speak about the importance of combating climate change for the next generation.
“There’s two things Long Island needs in order to be a sustainable island: clean water and resilience against climate change impacts. This project accomplishes both of those goals,” said Adrienne Esposito, president of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “It’s not only about building this beautiful educational center that will be well used and well attended, but there are other aspects to this project — shoring up and restoring Mill River, which is a major freshwater tributary into the Western Bays, a gorgeous abatement that are degraded but we’ve been working to bring them back for a decade, and this will help us do that.”