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Cerro Wire Controversy Heats Up

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto responded to the continued concern from residents of Syosset and nearby towns on what will become of the previous Cerro Wire site at a town board meeting last Tuesday.

During public comment, various speakers addressed a campaign by Taubman Centers Inc. to have a referendum on August 20 that would benefit their proposal to build a mall on the site.

Taubman Centers Inc. has been seeking to build a 750,000 square foot mall on the former Cerro Wire 39-acre site for almost 20 years - which is adjacent to the town’s property, and recently approved to be sold to Simon Property Group, the Albanese Organization and Castagne Properties, who are competitors of Taubman, for $32.5 million. According to Venditto, the property was appraised at $26 million by Oyster Bay Realty.

Venditto, speaking on the boards behalf as well, made his opposition clear to Taubman’s proposal, and said that they have been “spreading lies” by going door-to-door in an effort to gather signatures to support the referendum, and stating that Venditto is a member of the mafia.

“What they are doing is perverting the words of their questions about the referendum to their own profit,” Venditto said, who laughed at the suggestion of him being in mafia and insisted: “I will get the last laugh, I assure you.”

Describing the campaign as “vile,” Venditto vowed to the residents attending that he will “fight on.”

As a result of the sale, an organization entity incorporated by Taubman, ‘Long Island Jobs Now,’ has opposed the Town’s decision, and has objected to Venditto’s claims about the referendum, stating:  “The referendum will give Oyster Bay residents the opportunity to vote on whether they want the land sale to go through or not. If the majority of residents vote no, they can stop the sale of the land to Oyster Bay Realty LLC.”

In recent developments, a partial ruling was issued by NY State Supreme Court Justice F. Dana Winslow last Thursday, that enough legitimate signatures on Taubman’s petition to put fourth a referendum.

Howard Avrutine, an attorney for civic associations opposing the mall’s construction, said: “Over 3,300 of the signatures submitted by Taubman were invalidated by the court as a result of fraud.”

“That’s over 40 percent of the signatures submitted, and it shows that Taubman will lie and cheat--do anything they have to do--to get their way,” Avrutine said.  “In addition to the issue of all of the fraudulent signatures, the court still has to decide whether the question posed to the people signing the petition was fair, which it purposely left out the 32.5 million dollar purchase price, and whether the lies the signature collectors told people should serve as a basis to invalidate the petitions.”

Long Island Jobs Now spokesperson Kyle Sklerov responded to Avrutine, saying: “Instead of trying to deny Oyster Bay residents the opportunity to weigh in on the Town’s back room dealings, the focus should be on explaining why the sale of this land didn’t violate the public trust. The Town Board’s non-competitive land sale could cost Oyster Bay millions of dollars that could otherwise fund critically important town services.”

“We are pleased Judge Winslow ruled that there were more than enough duly collected petition signatures and decided not to waste time and resources debating the baseless challenges of opponents to the referendum,” Sklerov added.  “We are confident that the Judge will formally allow the referendum to proceed.”

The court was expected to rule on these issues last Monday by 5 p.m.  The Syosset-Jericho Tribune will continue coverage on future rulings and developments.