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Residents Voice Concerns Over Mall Plan

On August 20, residents from all the communities in the Town of Oyster Bay will have a voice in the future of Syosset and Jericho.

A town-wide voter referendum will decide whether a 54-acre plot of town-owned land right by the Long Island Expressway can be sold to a consortium of three developers — Simon Property Group, Castagna Properties and the Albanese Organization — which has indicated it plans a mixed-use facility, including apartments and shops.

Another developer, Taubman Centers, currently owns a smaller, neighboring property and has been battling the town for 18 years to get a special permit to build a mall there. Taubman has indicated it wants to bid on the town-owned site, which would allow it to expand its plans, and sued to force this referendum.  

Richard Turkisher, director of the Jericho’s Birchwood Civic Association, a community group at the forefront of the fight to prevent the mall, has plenty of reasons to vote “yes.” Among his concerns: pollution, traffic—there’s a school nearby—and the strain on town resources. He questions what need this plan would fill.

“A shopping mall is very unnecessary in our community,” Turkisher says. “There are too many malls as it is. Just 15 minutes from here is the Walt Whitman Mall and Roosevelt Field.” Planning experts note that when new malls open, they often cannibalize other malls as well as the downtowns, pulling merchants from one site to another rather than bringing in new businesses.

Stewart Lieman, who works in the real estate business, says he doesn’t see how a mall will make money in the current economy. If it fails, the remaining structure would become a blight.

“I see a lot of local stores and businesses with ‘for sale’ signs on them in the area,” he said. “I don’t get how they’ll make money here.” He’s concerned a mall will drag down property values.

Mall proponents say the venue will generate jobs and tax revenue. That’s certainly true. Robin Weissbratten, a long-time Nassau County resident who lives near the two sites and agrees that Long Island is “overmalled,” counters that while such retail jobs might be good for part-time retirees or second incomes, they don’t pay enough to meet the local cost of living. “We’d be better off with new affordable senior housing or houses that are affordable for young adults on Long Island,” she said.

And while a mall would generate tax revenue, John Mullins, director of the Center for Economic Development at the University of Massachusetts, has been studying mall development since the 1980s and says the residential component of mixed-use makes it probably a better bet overall.

“[A mall vs mixed-use] might be a wash in terms of tax revenue, but you’d probably gain because of the investment power of people who live there,” he explains. “The value is greater with residential, and you clearly benefit on traffic. Plus, reinvestment in the property is not so dependent on sales of the stores.”

Barbara Krieger, another Birchwood association director who lives near the site, says “There are much better uses for that property.” Krieger would prefer to see a computer company incubator, which would offer resources for businesses, or something comparable. Mullins also says that large vacant properties near the highway--rare in well-developed areas--are prime locations for office parks or similar high-end business facilities, which would be more likely to bring jobs paying $100,000 a year. He advises: “Don’t take your best spots and kill the golden goose.”

News

After spotting an abandoned cemetery at the corner of Grant Avenue and Rose Street in the heart of downtown Farmingdale, resident Vicki Gruber became inspired to trace the lineage of the Van Cott family—some of the earliest settlers in the Farmingdale community. Gruber, a corporate and securities attorney, said that after approaching the village about the history of the cemetery, she took it upon herself to do the research. Compiling three or four years worth of newfound information, Gruber discovered that each of the 16 plots in the cemetery are direct descendants of Claes Cornelissen Van Cats, a Dutch settler and firm believer in democracy, home rule and civil liberty. 

Farmingdale village officials will be holding a public hearing on Dec. 1, to reexamine school speed zones throughout the village, in order to establish a consistent school speed zone limit. 


Sports

At a special “wrap up “ meeting for the 2014 Marcum Workplace Challenge, Greater Long Island Running Club Vice President and Event Director Mindy Davidson of Farmingdale, presented a special plaque to Winsome Foulkes, team captain of the Farmingdale-based Telephonics Corporation.  Winsome is retiring from Telephonics after a long and successful career and has led the Telephonics Corporation in the Marcum Workplace Challenge since its inception.  

There is simply no better way for runners and their families to celebrate the Holiday Season than by being part of the fun at the Carter, DeLuca, Farrell & Schmidt Holiday 5 Kilometer Run, and on Saturday morning, Dec. 20, the Run will be celebrating its 27th anniversary edition at the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Bethpage. The run will start at 9:30 a.m. on Broadway in Bethpage.


Calendar

Les Miserables - November 21

The Wedding Singer - November 21

Holiday Parade - November 22


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com