Syosset Cerro Wire mall plan postponed

Syosset residents rally to protest the Taubman company's Syosset residents rally to protest the Taubman company's continued efforts to build a large mall at the old Cerro Wire company site -- a mall that residents say is too big for the area. (Nov. 6, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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The Long Island Regional Planning Council deferred action Tuesday, at the developer's request, on whether to designate as "regionally significant" the controversial proposed Mall at Oyster Bay, in light of the developer's need to find a new anchor tenant.

Yet the timing by the developer, Michigan-based Taubman Centers, of its request for the council to table action prompted questions from council members and criticism from representatives of civic groups opposed to the proposed mall at the old Cerro Wire property on Robbins Lane in Syosset.

In a letter to the council dated Monday, Bruce Heckman, vice president for development for Taubman, wrote: "Due to the recent announcement by Neiman Marcus that they are going to build a store at Roosevelt Field, we feel that it is appropriate to request that our application be tabled until we can bring the council more tangible information on our replacement store anchor."

The council -- voting 9 in favor with 2 abstentions -- adjourned the matter to a future meeting, as yet undetermined, promising to give the public 30 days' notice.

Paul Tonna, the council's vice chairman, said he wanted to ask Taubman officials: "Why didn't you tell us" that Neiman Marcus was pulling out of the project? Heckman was not at the council's meeting, and neither he nor any company representative responded to Newsday's request for comment.

"I just want to know when did they know?" Tonna said during the meeting. "Why did we have to actually first . . . read it in Newsday?" last week.

Howard Avrutine, an attorney representing three civic groups opposed to the proposed mall, said in a letter to the council that Taubman's "failure to disclose" that Neiman Marcus was no longer going to be an anchor tenant raised "serious questions about its credibility and honesty in these proceedings."

In an interview, Avrutine referred to a Long Island Business News report March 1 paraphrasing a Neiman Marcus representative as saying the store had "opted out of its deal two months ago" with Taubman. A Neiman Marcus spokeswoman confirmed this report Tuesday.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a council member, said, "I can't imagine it was a surprise [to Taubman] that two days before this meeting . . . they found out Neiman Marcus was leaving."

But Kaiman had other concerns, such as the negative impact he said the mall would have on town businesses. "This is a very important thing to my community, developing a mall in competition with businesses in my town, of Main Streets in my community," he said.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who has battled with Taubman over the project for 15 years, with a state appeals court upholding the town's rejection in 2009 on environmental impacts, said in an interview: "With or without Neiman Marcus, or any other anchor store for that matter, we have never viewed the proposed mall as having regional significance."

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