School sale splits Seaford community

Phil Franco, left, President of the Seaford Harbor

Phil Franco, left, President of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association is joined by Ken Nersesian, VP of the Seaford Wellness Council in front of Seaford Avenue School which has sat vacant for the past year. (Sept. 30, 2012) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

The proposed sale of a vacant school in Seaford has pitted school district residents against one another -- supporters applauding the revenue a sale would generate, opponents decrying the condos that would replace the old building.

Seaford residents will vote Oct. 16 on a referendum to sell the 5.66-acre Seaford Avenue School property for $5.2 million to BK at Seaford Llc, a subsidiary of The Engel Burman Group. Approval would enable the Garden City-based developer to build 113 condominium units for residents 55 and older.

"Nobody wants a vacant school, but this would not match the character of the community," said Phil Franco, president of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association. He added that he would rather see a commercial business or one-family homes on the property. The condos, he said, "would stick up like a sore thumb." Other residents said they worry about increased traffic.


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The property sale would save the district around $100,000 in annual maintenance costs for the building and create $500,000 in additional annual tax revenue, superintendent Brian Conboy said.

"Our district needs revenue and we can benefit from it over the long term," said Conboy, though he said there is no guarantee taxes would fall if the sale is approved.

State law requires the revenue from the sale be placed in a reserve fund to be used over 10 years. That revenue plus new property taxes would be used to retain, restore or expand programs for students and improve facilities, Conboy said.

"We need the tax revenue and we need to stop the bleeding of the maintenance of the place," said Kenneth Nersesian, vice president of the Seaford Wellness Council. He added that he is saddened by the possible loss of three baseball fields on the site.

The 1939 building was last used to educate Seaford students in 1981. It served as the home of Five Towns College from 1982 until 1992, when it was leased to Nassau BOCES until 2010. Since then, the district has been unable to find another lessee, reducing its revenue by about $400,000 a year, Conboy said. Refurbishing the building instead of selling it would cost about $5 million to $6 million.

The proposed two-bedroom condos would be made available first to current Seaford residents and their parents before being offered to outsiders for a selling price of $350,000 to $400,000 each, said Jan Burman, president of The Engel Burman Group.

"We think it is a perfect location to build a senior housing and independent living community," Burman said.

If voters approve the sale, the developer would need to obtain zoning approvals from Hempstead Town. Any reduction in the 113 units would reduce the school district's take by $49,500 per unit, but its total sale revenue cannot fall below $4.95 million, Conboy said.

The district will conduct an informational meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Seaford High School auditorium.

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