Car-storage site plan appears to stall

Cars damaged by Superstorm Sandy are stored at Cars damaged by Superstorm Sandy are stored at the Calverton Camelot Industrial Park. (Nov. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

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Thousands of cars damaged by superstorm Sandy could have wound up in temporary storage at a 44-acre site in Kings Park, under a plan proposed by the property's owner.

Smithtown Town officials expressed skepticism Tuesday when they discussed property owner Anthony Santilli's proposal at a work session at Town Hall. No decision was made, and it was unclear whether Santilli's idea had enough support to go forward.

Santilli and his attorney, Leonard Shore of Commack, said a company working with insurance companies for the car owners would pay the town $100,000 to allow storage of the vehicles for up to a year at Santilli's Old Northport Road property.

But hours after the board discussed that pitch, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based Insurance Auto Auctions, the company backing the plan, said the deal was "officially off."

A company spokeswoman said officials decided Tuesday to scrap the idea. In an email to Newsday, she said Santilli's property was not suitable for car storage.

"It was not a site that worked for IAA," said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified.

Town officials said at the work session they were concerned about potential environmental harm to groundwater caused by vehicles on the land. The town zoning code bars outdoor storage on Santilli's land, which is near Indian Head road.

"I'm not sure any consequences from this are worth $100,000," Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said. "This is private enterprise trying to make a dollar."

The state has issued an order to have thousands of Sandy-damaged cars removed from grassland at the former Grumman site in Calverton over concerns that oil and gasoline would leak into the ground there. In the order, the Department of Environmental Conservation expressed concerns about damage to nearby habitats for protected tiger salamander and owl and rabbit species.

Shore said Santilli's site is not as environmentally sensitive as the Calverton property, which is in the Pine Barrens. Santilli said his property could store up to 9,000 vehicles.

Santilli's proposal drew some support from town councilman Robert Creighton. "There are cars all over New York City that have to go somewhere," he said. "There's no place they can go in Nassau County or New York City."

Santilli has paid nearly a half-million dollars in state fines over the past four years for illegal mining and overexcavating. He has proposed building an athletic complex at the site.

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