Amityville condo project in disarray
In photographs from the grand opening last October, the developer's team is beaming.
Wellington Park Villas, a 61-unit condominium project on Wellington Place in Amityville, had been hailed as harbinger of a new wave of Long Island development, convenient to mass transport, shopping and culture. Developer Gary Passavia, whose family owns the Woodbury Country Club, told reporters that 20 percent of the project was already sold.
Fast-forward to August: Wells Fargo, the financing bank, has begun foreclosure proceedings. Not a single unit has closed, according to the Amityville village clerk's office. Passavia owes the village more than $180,000 in fees. People who once wanted to move in say they have given up, angry and baffled after closing dates were repeatedly deferred. Court records show at least one lawsuit filed against the developer by a would-be buyer who claimed Wellington Park Villas took a $33,500 deposit but couldn't close.
Village officials and would-be buyers say Passavia explained little to them. Passavia would not comment for this article.
Amityville village attorney Bruce Kennedy said he was present at a spring meeting when the developers said they were having trouble with the financing bank, though they would not tell officials the name of the bank. "They indicated they want to do the right thing, but they haven't followed it up with action," Kennedy said.
Copiague resident Sean Caldwell, 29, and his wife, Alison, 34, who recovered that $33,500 in a recent settlement, thought in 2009 they'd found an affordable home big enough for them and their first child, and happily wrote checks for binder and down payments toward a $335,000 unit.
But two years later, the Caldwells -- both teachers -- were no closer to owning a home. "They dragged this process out," Sean Caldwell said. "They were very resistant to giving us our money back." He estimates they lost $10,000 in rent, storage and legal fees.
Nicole VanManen, 27, a marketer, said she and her husband, Adam, 28, a pilot, were overjoyed when they first saw a two-bedroom, two-bath unit at Wellington in 2009: "It was something we could have started a family in," she said.
But promised closing dates came and went. VanManen said the couple asked for their down payment back in January, but didn't get it until April.
"During this first year of marriage, we've been living with our parents," VanManen said. "We've been nothing but lied to. . . . They strung us along."
Both the Caldwells and the VanManens have found housing outside of Amityville.
Jerry O'Neil, an agent for Copiague-based Harbor Light Realty who sold Newpoint Estates and Village Estates -- the two other major Amityville condominium projects developed in the last decade -- said those developments have mostly sold out. Wellington Park, he said, may have simply been too late.
Amityville officials say they are eager for the project to succeed but are determined to recover money owed to the village. If Passavia does not pay, Kennedy said, the next step "would be some sort of litigation."