Family feud will not slow Serota project
After an emotion-filled public hearing in March on the proposed Serota Properties Islip Pines development, the attorney for the project, Bram Weber, says he does not expect the application to be back before the Islip Town board for several months.
And a legal battle between members of the Serota family will not impede the progress of the proposal, which seeks a zoning variance for a planned 140-acre mixed-use site at Veterans Memorial and Sunrise highways in Holbrook, said project spokeswoman Judy White.
Two sons of the late Long Island real estate titan Nathan Serota filed a lawsuit this month against Lighthouse Realty Partners, alleging that company executives, along with Serota's second wife, exerted "undue influence" to gain control of the developer's assets before he died in 2010.
One of the defendants in the suit, Lighthouse Realty chief financial officer Joseph Scimone, is the trustee of Serota Islip Llc, which owns Islip Pines. Because Scimone has sole stewardship over Serota Islip, the project will not be impacted, White said.
Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci said Wednesday the litigation is a Serota internal matter. "To the extent that the application continues to remain in the process and all of the commitments continue to be met, it doesn't affect the process," he said.
Meanwhile, White said she is still meeting with community members and has knocked on about 200 doors to gain input on the controversial project. Islip Pines calls for more than 400,000 square feet of retail space, including two box stores.
It would have a 2,500-seat cinema complex, a 200-room hotel, more than a million square feet of industrial space, some office space, 250 residential units and a 4.1-acre park to accommodate athletic fields and public recreation.
It would bring 900 construction jobs and 2,600 permanent jobs, the developer has said, as well as increase annual property taxes paid by the site from $500,000 to $6 million per year.
"The Serotas have made a commitment to include the community, to include their ideas and suggestions; and those meetings are going forward," she said.
Weber, an attorney for Serota Islip, said he is reviewing commentary from residents and waiting for the transcript from the March public hearing. "We'll take all of that information and respond to the comments in the final environmental impact statement," Weber said.
While Weber said residents' concerns about traffic and other issues were understandable, there "were no issues that anyone brought up that we had not studied," he said.
At the public hearing, Councilman John Cochrane said the plan had "too much blacktop and not enough green." Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt criticized the placement of industrial elements and asked if Serota would consider "wiping the slate clean" and starting over.
"I'm not sure it's in anyone's interest to start over," Weber said Wednesday. "We're going through a process by which we're evaluating the plan, and we very well may make changes."