Deepdalers didn't take the talk seriously. "We figured it was too
preposterous," says Wilson. Then Natiss succeeded Lentini and the rhetoric
started sounding like a policy statement. "As bizarre and surreal as it
seemed," Wilson says, "we started to become very concerned."
Wilson is the
force behind the Coalition for Deepdale, a group that has waged a large-scale
public relations campaign on behalf of the club. The alliance accuses Natiss of
colluding with real estate developers, a charge that Natiss denies. A
condemnation, the coalition claims, would increase property taxes, not property
values. "The plan to seize Deepdale is socialist!" Wilson says.
"It's Communist! It's Bolshevik!" Village mailboxes brim with
anti-Natiss propaganda. "Even I have been invited to join the Coalition to
Bash the Mayor," says the mayor. "Obviously I haven't joined."
Lenin of North Hills has been a Republican for nearly 40 years. "I wasn't
looking for trouble," Natiss says. "Really, I wasn't." He's a
practicing lawyer and a former town judge with a good sense of humor and a bad
hip. "I don't pay attention to what I'm called by the millionaires and
billionaires of Deepdale," he says defiantly. "Stick and stones may
break my bones, but names will never harm me."
that he hasn't decided whether to invoke the principle of eminent domain.
"I'm still gathering data," he says. "I've never said I would
pursue this, yet the club has threatened me and backed me against the wall. I'm
an elected official. I will not be scared off or intimidated."
He bristles at
the notion of seizure. "This would have nothing to do with seizing
property," says Natiss. "Eminent domain requires fair market
value." But Deepdale's value is a subject of considerable debate. According
to the club, the 175-acre property is worth more than $100 million. Natiss says
county assessors recently valued Deepdale at less than $13 million. "I
think [the value is] somewhere in between," he says. "However, if the
actual figure turns out to be $100 million, the village couldn't afford the
For now, the
takeover has been tabled. When Wilson tried to raise the issue at the town
meeting in March, Natiss overruled him. Deepdale is not on the agenda for this
month's confab either. "A condemnation may never happen," Natiss says.
"Still, in my reading of the law, it would be perfectly legal. If
Deepdale's members don't like the law or the evolution of the law, let them
original Deepdale course in Lake Success was ravaged by public domain--three
holes were surrendered for the Long Island Expressway--and rescued by that
village's legal high jinks. In 1955 residents of Lake Success voted to purchase
the club at "a fair and reasonable" price and put the parcel on the
open market. The community then prevented the new buyer from subdividing the
land into a housing development by rezoning the township and passing an
ordinance that forbade the removal of sod from local property. Reluctantly, the
builder sold Old Deepdale to the village. It's now a municipal course.