Written by Daniel Offner Friday, 11 April 2014 00:00
In response to the criticism from the community over the proposed sale of 11.3 acres of school district property housing the Stephen E. Karopczyc and Geneva N. Gallow school facilities, the Island Trees Board of Education has revealed the details of an $18 million proposal to develop housing for seniors (age 55 and up).
“People should be aware of the whole story,” said Island Trees Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy. “There is this perception that [the board] acted hastily... It was not just a quick decision over chump change.”
After losing a $340,000-a-year lease with Nassau BOCES special education preschool program, the school board sought a new tenant for the Gallow school. Unable to find an appropriate tenant, the Board of Education started investigating a sale of the property.
A recent letter from the Island Trees Board of Education states that as a result of its investigation, the board hired Breslin Appraisal Co., which valued the property at $5.5 million. “Remarkably, the first round of real estate bids produced offers far and above the appraisal and what the Board had envisioned for the property,” the letter says.
Last December, the district received an initial bid of $17.2 million for the property, which it said is higher than any Long Island school district has been offered for a similar property.
“In truth, the Board would have been severely criticized for not pursuing their mandated fiduciary responsibility of gaining the highest and best offer for the property,” the board continued, “after all, how could the board not entertain an offer of this magnitude?”
After reviewing the proposal, the school district’s real estate consultant, Oxford and Simpson, negotiated with various bidders, eventually driving the offer over $18 million.
In February, the district held a community forum to announce the proposal to develop 147 to 250 condominium units for seniors. Over 500 parents filed into the Island Trees High School auditorium in vehement opposition to the project.
“[The board] has taken a lot of hits from this,” Murphy said. “They did it with the best of intentions.”
In response to the outpouring of complaints, school officials have said the district will create a committee of community stakeholders to review options for the property. According to Murphy, there are approximately 60 people already interested in serving on the Farmedge committee.
“With this information, the public may understand more clearly that the Board has had the best interests of both the community and the students in mind from the very start,” he said. “We tried to maximize the value for Island Trees residents.”