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Town Issues

As election time draws near and Town of Oyster Bay residents gear up to choose their next Supervisor, the Hicksville Illustrated took a look at the town’s most pressing issues. The Cerro Wire Property, town finances, and the brownfields are on the forefront of voters’ minds as they go to the polls November 5.

Cerro Wire Property

For nearly two decades residents and mall developer Taubman Centers have been fighting over Taubman’s plans to construct a luxury mall on the former Cerro Wire property bordering Robbins Lane and the Long Island Expressway in Syosset.

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.

Taubman already owns a chunk of the land, and wants to build an upscale mall—the company’s first in New York. That would threaten Simon, which owns Walt Whitman Shops and Roosevelt Field Mall nearby. It would also threaten one of Simon’s partners in the Syosset project, Castagna Realty Co., which owns Americana Manhasset.

The Town of Oyster Bay and Taubman have been in court over the proposed mega mall since 2001. The majority of residents feel another mall is unnecessary on Long Island and would only create traffic problems pollution, quality of life issues and lower surrounding property values.

A State Supreme Court judge last week dismissed Taubman’s lawsuit challenging the town’s sale of the adjoining property to competitor Oyster Bay Realty, backed by Simon Property Group, for $32.5 million.

“The court will not substitute its judgment for that of the town, which was responsible for making a determination to sell the premises,” Justice W. Gerard Asher wrote in his ruling. “This is especially true where the residents of the town have spoken so clearly on the issue.”

Town of Oyster Bay residents approved the sale of the property to Oyster Bay Realty by a 2:1 ratio during an August referendum forced by Taubman.  

“It is unlikely that anyone but Simon or Taubman would agree to pay in excess of $30 million for the property, which includes a ‘Superfund’ site,” the judge continued. “The town acted properly in marketing the premises as it did.” Although Taubman’s lawsuit was dismissed, the developer says it will appeal.

Town Finances

The Town of Oyster Bay, New York State’s sixth-largest bond issuer, has faced years of deficits and a sinking credit rating due to the town’s reported debt of more than $800 million.

In July, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services placed The Town of Oyster Bay on ‘credit watch,’ as the battle over the future of the Cerro Wire Property heated up. S&P analyst Lindsay Wilhelm said it “reflects our view that if a voter referendum for a property sale fails to pass, or the sale does not otherwise proceed as planned, the town could have difficulty meeting its financial obligations if it further fails to receive state approval to issue deficit bonds on a timely basis,” referring to the Cerro Wire Property referendum that was voted on by residents in August. “If the referendum is successful and Oyster Bay is able to close on the sale quickly, we believe that the proceeds should help stabilize the town’s deficit reserve position.”

The Town of Oyster Bay reacted in a statement, saying “any statement about the potential of a compromised cash flow is premature,” and the most recent report from Standard & Poor’s “reiterates what we’ve known to be true with respect to our financial recovery process - while maintaining our ‘A’ general obligation credit rating.”

The Town added ity had, “developed a plan to see us through these difficult times, and to help keep the burden off the backs of our already hard-pressed tax-paying residents.”

The Town of Oyster Bay Democratic Committee released a reaction statement via e-mail, opening with: “The fiscal insanity in the Town of Oyster Bay continues.”

Oyster Bay residents overwhelmingly approved the sale of the town’s adjacent public works property for $32.5 million. The sale of the property is extremely important to improving the town’s financial situation and $17 million from the land sale has already been included in the current budget.

Brownfield Opportunity Area

Town of Oyster Bay officials and residents continue their quest to revitalize brownfields, industrial areas which are deemed to be underutilized vacant properties. The current focus is on the Northwest Hicksville Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), bounded by the Northern State Parkway to the north, Old Country Road to the south, Cantiague Lane to the west, and Routes 106/107 to the east.

In 2005, Hicksville received $20,800 in state funding to clean up and reuse brownfields. Hicksville used the funding to complete a Pre-nomination Study for its northwest area, which contains up to 10 potential brownfield sites. After those sites are officially designated brownfields, the next step in the cleanup of those sites could begin.

“Brownfields are environmental and public health threats that place heavy financial burdens on communities,” said NYS Sen. Carl L. Marcellino (R-Syosset), Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. “The funding for Hicksville will allow for the designation of up to 10 brownfield sites. After this step, our community will be able to create a plan to clean up these sites and ultimately create jobs and bring about a revitalization of our local economy.”

Along with the project team, which includes H2M, Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, and Sustainable Long Island, the Town of Oyster Bay has been examining land use and other existing conditions as well as analyzing sites for potential inclusion on the list for revitalization. Input and preliminary ideas generated from meetings held throughout the past year and surveys will ultimately be used to help create a draft vision, goals, and objectives for the study area.

The public can give input through the online Northwest Hicksville Community Survey available at www.surveymonkey.com/s/Northwest_Hicksville_Community_Survey. Survey results will be tabulated and analyzed and will be used in developing the community vision. A public workshop was held in January 2013 and there will be an additional workshop prior to completion of the study. For more information visit sustainableli.org/what-we-do/brownfields/hicksville-boa