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Editorial: News On That Mall Nobody Wants

There hasn’t been much hard news on the battle over the old Cerro Wire property in Syosset lately, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is going on. The Taubman Company, the developer that has been trying to push through a spectacularly unpopular proposal to build a mega-mall on the former hazardous waste site for going on 20 years now, is still plugging away.

It’s a little convoluted, but basically after the New York State Court of Appeals upheld the Town of Oyster Bay’s original decision to turn down the project in 2009, Taubman has been trying to take the decision away from the town. In 2010, spokesmen from Taubman convinced the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council (LIREDC) to add the project to a short list of “regionally significant” projects, next to the Nassau HUB. LIREDC recommends that the state assume control of the environmental review process for projects on the “significant” list in order to circumvent a lot of local red tape, which could take the mall decision out of the town’s hands.

LIREDC’s recommendation to override local control for the sake of expediency is controversial in and of itself, but add the fact that opponents of the proposed mall (such as the Cerro Wire Coalition) believe that Taubman got the mall project added to the list under false pretenses, and the situation is as volatile as ever. Now, the Coalition is collecting letters from residents in order to petition LIREDC to get the project removed from its “significant” list; to participate, visit www.nomallhere.net.

Over the past 18 years, we’ve had plenty of time to talk about many of the perceived downsides of the mall: greatly increased traffic, safety concerns for the children of Robbins Lane Elementary School just down the street, and a potentially crushing effect on smaller stores not only in Syosset, but in the shopping centers of Plainview and other nearby retail destinations. However, in light of this attempt to circumvent the Town of Oyster Bay’s environmental review process, I wonder if the environmental concerns have gotten enough attention; after all, the site was once listed by The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as a hazardous waste zone. It was removed from the list of Superfund sites in 1994 after a clean-up effort, but just because an area isn’t on an official list of toxic waste dumps doesn’t make it clean and safe.

I spoke to some of the organizers from the Cerro Wire Coalition a few years ago about this, and they said they had no idea how polluted that land still is, nor what toxins might be stirred up during construction. There’s probably no way of knowing without doing new environmental studies— precisely what Taubman seems to want to gloss over.

It’s important to note that the community is not anti-development; there’s plenty of support for developing that land into housing and smaller retail units (after proper studies and, if necessary, more environmental clean up.) But Taubman is effectively holding the property hostage, assuming they will eventually overcome local opposition as they have in so many other areas.

Nothing about this situation should be funny (or if it ever was, it stopped being funny about 17 years ago), but I have to admit; I find it kind of darkly humorous that they don’t seem to realize they’ve picked a fight with a community that actually has the time, money and expertise to oppose them. How they could still think, 18 years on, that fighting the residents on this is anything other than a colossal waste of everyone’s time is beyond me.

- Karen Gellender

News

One local playwright and his company — The Plainview Project — seem to be headed to the big leagues.

Claude Solnik of Plainview, the Plainview Project’s writer, is married with two children. While he has a master’s degree in dramatic writing from New York University, after graduating he ended up going into journalism, which currently remains his day job. But in his free time he indulged in his true passion, hammering out numerous play scripts until the day they he realized that he needed to stop sitting on these works he was creating and put them in the hands of actors that could give them life.

Even as they hoped the parties would reach a last-minute settlement, commuters across Long Island were scrambling last week to devise alternate plans for getting to work if Long Island Rail Road’s 5,400 workers go on strike July 20. And they were vocal in their anger with the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The strike, it seems, has roused commuter ire over a wide range of LIRR issues, from timeliness to cleanliness to costs.

“I’ll have to figure out a new way home from work,” said Marco Allicastro, a 20-year-old Queens resident waiting for a train home at the Bethpage station after a day’s work at the local King Kullen. “Long Island doesn’t really have a lot of options in terms of transportation. Maybe I should get a new job.”


Calendar

Sonny And Perley

Saturday, July 26

Women Artists You Should Know

Thursday, July 31

Adult Summer Reading Club

Through Aug. 7



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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