Suffolk sued over Yaphank land sale

Brookhaven Railroad Terminal in Yaphank, which opened in Brookhaven Railroad Terminal in Yaphank, which opened in September 2011, has two diesel trains, and one railcar alone can carry four truckloads’ worth of freight. (June 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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Four Suffolk County residents have filed a lawsuit to block County Executive Steve Bellone from selling 230 acres of surplus county property in Yaphank to expand a local rail hub.

The suit against the $20 million sale claims that the county failed to undergo a required public bidding process to get the highest price for the parcel. The plaintiffs ask the court to nullify the sale approved by the county legislature to Oakland Transportation LLC. The company is a partner in Brookhaven Rail Terminal in Yaphank, which is looking to expand its current site.

The lawsuit comes after dozens of people testified against the sale at a public hearing in Hauppauge. Witnesses said the buyers have refused to say what they plan to do with the property, and expressed concern that the expansion will jam local roads and threaten the Carmans River watershed.

"The county had no authority to dispense with competitive bidding where the statute explicitly mandates that the sale of surplus property must be sold only to the highest bidder," according to the suit filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court. The residents also claim that the $20 million sale "constitutes an illegal gift" at a "give away price far below market value."

County Attorney Dennis Cohen said the suit has "no merit" and that the county will press to have it dismissed. He said the county legislature through local law is allowed to supersede the bidding requirement under state law. "I expect the county will prevail," said legislative counsel George Nolan.

Bellone administration officials have said that the county's real estate consultant, Newmark Knight Frank, solicited more than 100 potential buyers and found "no adequate offers."

Judy White, a spokeswoman for Brookhaven Rail Terminal, said, "We haven't seen the papers so we don't have a comment."

With Laura Figueroa

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