Plan to revitalize North Amityville's 'corner' in jeopardy
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The Town of Babylon is considering rescinding a bid awarded to a developer to revitalize a beleaguered corner in North Amityville.
Babylon has for several years sought to redevelop town-owned land at the intersection of Albany Avenue and Great Neck Road after the 2010 closing of a Rite Aid there, which left two corners vacant. Long known as "the corner," the area was a notorious spot for drug trafficking and prostitution in the 1970s and '80s, but saw a brief revitalization in the late '90s, when residents joined forces with police to better monitor the area and a bank moved in.
The town held community meetings in 2010 and in 2012 sent out a request for proposals for the nearly 3 acres of property, seeking businesses such as a grocery store that would be in line with a community plan.
The town board in April approved the selection of Summit Real Estate Development Corporation of Manhattan. But Deputy Town Attorney Afreen Rizwan said Babylon officials became concerned recently after Summit officials said that "they were not going to be sticking to the plan" and were considering a White Castle restaurant and check-cashing business for the site.
Rizwan said the town also is concerned about the impact a recent burst pipe in the shuttered Rite Aid building might have on the project. "They might not want to continue with the development at this parcel," she said.
As a result, the town board is holding a public hearing on Feb. 18 at Town Hall at 3:30 p.m. to hear from the developer about the future of the site.
Rosemarie Dearing, a longtime activist in the community, said she is worried about yet another setback in improving the corner. "We're tired of waiting," she said. "I just hope somebody at the hearing has some good answers and will be upfront with us."
Summit manager Jim Kaplan said the company had not been told of the burst pipe but that it wouldn't affect plans. In a statement read by Kaplan to a reporter, Summit said relations with the town were good until Dec. 17, when the company signed the contract with the town.
"We have made several attempts to resolve any questions or issues the town may have, but they have not responded," Kaplan read. "It is a shame that vital services and amenities for North Amityville will be further delayed due to some sort of political shenanigans."
Kaplan said Summit had assured the town that White Castle and a check-cashing business "aren't our tenants."
"We don't have any connections with either of them and haven't talked to either of them," he said, adding that White Castle was "one of the hundred tenants we sent marketing materials to." Kaplan said that the town was told that Summit "would be amenable to excluding those two tenants" from consideration.
"It just seemed like one day [the town was] ready to consummate the contract and the next day out of the thin blue air they mentioned these two red-herring items," he said.
Rizwan said the company "never mentioned to us that they would completely remove those tenants as possibilities."
She said the town has not signed the contract and that Summit threatened litigation Dec. 24. As a result, the town no longer is in direct communication with Kaplan, she said.