Islandia mayor upset over Suffolk County Water Authority land sale

Street view of Old Nichols Road facing northeast Street view of Old Nichols Road facing northeast in Islandia, north of exit 58 off the LIE, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Suffolk County Water Authority sold 7.8 acres along the LIE in Islandia. The parcel was once slated to become the authority's corporate headquarters. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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The mayor of Islandia criticized the Suffolk County Water Authority's sale of surplus land in the village instead of donating it to a program that builds affordable housing for returning veterans.

The SCWA sold about 8 acres on Old Nichols Road along the Long Island Expressway in Islandia for $1.56 million in its effort to dispose of surplus tracts, officials have said. The agency cited the February sale as one of the reasons taxpayers are facing a 1.2 percent increase in water rates instead of a larger 4.2 percent increase proposed earlier.

Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman had requested the land be donated to build housing for veterans and their families.

"The Suffolk County Water Authority had the chance to take home the gold; instead they took the money," Dorman said in a release. "This land would have provided affordable single-family homes for our returning Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans, most of them with disabilities. How sad is that?"

The SCWA said the sale had been pending for years, and that state law prohibits donating land among municipalities without special legislation.

"As we've explained to the mayor numerous times, it would be against the law, a violation of the oaths our board members have taken, to donate this or any other parcel of authority-owned land, irrespective of how worthy the cause may be," Jeffrey W. Szabo, the authority's chief executive, wrote in an email. "It should also be noted that the Islandia land sale, which has been in contract since 2012, is a big reason the board was able to keep water rates below the proposed increase for all of our 380,000 customers."

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Dorman wanted the SCWA land donated to build 16 to 20 low-cost single-family homes for veterans, continuing a project with Long Island Home Builders Care, the charitable arm of the Long Island Builders Institute, to provide veterans homes built with donated materials and labor.

Last year, the program built six homes for veterans in Islandia on land that was donated by CA Technologies, formerly Computer Associates. Six veterans bought the 1,200-square-foot houses for $199,000, below market value.

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