Written by Daniel Offner Friday, 21 March 2014 00:00
After proposing to develop 147 to 250 condominium units for seniors 55 and up on 11.3 acres of property currently housing the Stephen E. Karopczyc and Geneva N. Gallow schools, members of the Levittown Property Owners Association invited Superintendent Dr.
Charles Murphy and the Island Trees Board of Education to attend a special meeting, on March 11, to address concerns surrounding the district’s transparency.
According to LPOA Vice President Brian Kelty, out of seven commercial real estate appraisal vendors that responded to the district’s request for professional service, only five were contacted by the district’s purchasing agent. Based on documents posted on the school district’s website, one estimate from Breslin Appraisal Co., Inc., was submitted to Dr. Murphy a day in advance of the notice being sent out to bid.
“I didn’t know if [Breslin’s bid of] $4,750 was a good or bad amount for the appraisal,” Murphy said.
According to Murphy, since the district did not know if the quote was a reasonable estimate or not, it put the request out to bid.
Bill Fitzgerald, a trustee with the Island Trees Public Library—which is located within the Stephen E. Karopczyc facility—also expressed outrage with the school district’s efforts to poll the public through its Farmedge Vision Facebook poll.
A key factor behind the proposed development of senior housing, the poll indicates that 64 percent of residents polled feel limited availability of housing for seniors is a more important priority than housing for youth. According to David Panetta, with the district’s real estate firm Oxford and Simpson, the poll results were based on approximately 102 to 103 residents polled.
However, in a district with approximately 2,525 students, several residents have asked why the public was not more informed of the online survey.
“It didn’t get a great number of sponsors,” Murphy said. “Is it an exact science? No.”
In light of the concerns from the community, school officials say the district will go back to the drawing board and plans to create a committee of community stakeholders.
“We heard you,” said Board Vice President Kristen Daum. “We haven’t signed contracts to sell anything.”
Although school district officials say they plan to restart the process, they have refused to release the name of a developer or the estimated cost of the project.
“If [the school district] has disclosed information to people in the community, it doesn’t matter if they haven’t signed an agreement,” said Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government. “I don’t think that they have any basis to withhold information.”