Oyster Bay considers municipal land sale

The Cerro Wire water tower falls to the

The Cerro Wire water tower falls to the ground as it is demolished on Robbins Lane in Syosset on Sept. 21, 2004. (Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile)

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Oyster Bay is considering the sale of vacant municipal property -- including a former Syosset landfill adjacent to a controversial proposed mall -- to generate $17.5 million next year for the financially strapped town.

The adopted 2013 budget includes that figure as a one-time revenue source. Town officials say they are conducting an inventory of available land but no decisions have been made and nothing is for sale yet.

The most prominent sites being discussed in development circles are the former Syosset landfill and part of the adjoining town public works complex. That land is adjacent to the former Cerro Wire site, where a developer has been trying for 17 years to build an upscale shopping mall over the objections of the town and neighboring residents.

Leonard Genova, town attorney and deputy supervisor, said $17.5 million represents what officials believe can be garnered from selling some of the available land.

"We are in the process of evaluating everything we own to determine if anything is excess or we can consolidate to create excess property," he said. "We are looking at all of our properties, which would include the public works facility."

The town owns hundreds of parcels of empty land, many of them small.

The 15-acre landfill, used now for parking town vehicles, and the adjacent public works complex are legally one lot so any sale would require a subdivision after hearings.

Development experts say the town's financial crisis with a $13 million deficit, recent employee buyouts and the threat of 200 layoffs could make the mall project more appealing to officials. And, the experts add, a sale of some land to Taubman could reduce the project's density by spreading development over a broader area.

"In this economy, all options are on the table," said Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a business group.

But Supervisor John Venditto has been outspoken in opposition to the mall, saying he would favor only a mixed-use project advocated by neighbors.

Gary Lewi, spokesman for the developer of the 750,000-square-foot mall, Michigan-based Taubman Centers, said, "We are in litigation with the Town of Oyster Bay so I am not going to comment in regards to that property."

Todd Fabricant, of East Norwich, chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, the group fighting the mall, said, "There is a financial void in the town budget. But after 17 years, my coalition of 26 civic groups, boards of education and fire districts is going to fight this to the end."

He said building the mall on a larger site would not mitigate the additional traffic created on Robbins Lane and the Long Island Expressway North Service Road.

The fight over the 39-acre Cerro property has raged since Taubman bought the property in 1994. The town rejected the project on environmental grounds a decade ago. After years of litigation, a state appeals court upheld that decision in 2009.

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