Written by Daniel Offner Thursday, 24 April 2014 00:00
While Island Trees School District officials plan to reexamine a proposal to develop senior housing on 11.3 acres of property currently used to house the Stephen E. Karopczyc and Geneva N. Gallow schools, district officials have so far been unwilling to identify the developer.
The plan to sell the Farmedge property was first conceived in 2010, when BOCES dropped its lease on the Gallow school. The school district issued a request for proposals. After reviewing its options, the Island Trees Board of Education selected and presented to the
public a proposal to develop 160 to 247 housing units for seniors over 55.After public outcry against the project, the district said it would go back to the drawing board, re-opening discussions and engaging a wide range of stakeholders. However, despite requests from the public and the press, the district has steadfastly declined to identify the developer of the initial proposal—which may yet end up being the winning bid.
“We’re still in the midst of a potential real estate deal,” said Island Trees Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy.
According to Murphy, the school district’s attorneys have recommended that the developer’s identity be kept confidential so as not to scotch any future sale—in part or in whole—of the 11.3 acre property.
“We don’t want to alienate people bidding,” Murphy added. “We want to keep our relationships with these people.”
But that's got some people's dander up. According to Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, since the district shared the nature of the proposal with the public, the identity of the developer should be public record.
“There is no good reason for delaying disclosure,” Freeman said. “Whether or not [the district] goes through with the proposal or not, it is public record and subject to FOIL.”
According to Dr. Christopher Boiallis, an Island Trees school district parent, the board wasn’t transparent in their bidding process. “Maybe this procedural nightmare could have been avoided if it was done correctly by state guidelines,” Boiallis said during a Levittown Property Association Meeting, last March.
Murphy added that the district’s legal advisors have already been in contact with Freeman, and plan to speak with him again about some of the nuances surrounding the proposal.
After a community forum last February, school officials say they will go back to the drawing board to reexamine the proposal with a committee of community stakeholders. According to Murphy, the district has recently sent out letters to 57 residents, to see if they are interested in participating on the committee to review different options for the property.
“We’re not moving forward with anything until this committee meets,” Murphy said.