Vote on Cerro Wire property expected Tuesday

Simon Property Group has sided with residents near Simon Property Group has sided with residents near the 39-acre former Cerro property in Syosset in their fight to stop the 750,000-square-foot mall proposed by Taubman Centers Inc. Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile, 2004

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Oyster Bay officials Tuesday are expected to give initial approval to selling a public works facility in Syosset to bring $32.5 million to the financially troubled town while continuing to block a long-contested upscale mall on the adjacent Cerro Wire property.

The town plans to sell the 54-acre site on the Long Island Expressway north service road to a corporation that includes Simon Property Group, a mall developer opposed to the controversial shopping center proposed by Taubman Centers Inc.

The proposed sale could bring new litigation from Taubman, which has been trying to build the Mall at Oyster Bay for 18 years, but has been thwarted by the town and the courts.

Simon has sided with residents near the 39-acre former Cerro property in their fight to stop the 750,000-square-foot mall proposed by Taubman. The other partners in buyer Oyster Bay Realty LLC are the investment group Castagne Properties and the Albanese Organization.

The town board Tuesday will vote on declaring the property surplus and authorizing Supervisor John Venditto to execute a sale contract.

Venditto said the sale is an "as-is transaction" so the buyers would get the buildings that house the public works, highway and public safety departments. The current industrial zoning would remain in place.

The buildings are quickly becoming obsolete, so "we need to relocate that complex, land sale or not," Venditto said. Officials are looking for a new site.

Taubman wanted to buy the property to address concerns about density, insufficient parking and traffic congestion because of a lack of direct access to the LIE.

"We did have ongoing discussions with Taubman over several months," Venditto said. "But we were never even close to having a deal." He said they never got beyond informal discussions of price -- $30 million -- and the developer wanted the zoning changed so the land could be used for the mall.

Venditto has backed residents who want smaller-scale, mixed-use development.

Taubman criticized the proposed deal, saying it is willing to pay more than the prospective buyers.

"There are enormous legal, financial and ethical questions that surround this deal," Ronald Rosenberg, the Garden City attorney for the Michigan-based mall developer, said in a statement. "For the moment, the Oyster Bay Town taxpayer needs to ask why the town is rushing to accept an offer that is less than what Taubman is prepared to offer. Town Hall may see this as a fast, politically expedient payday but, in fact, due process may prove otherwise."

Simon Properties and Todd Fabricant of East Norwich -- chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, made up of groups fighting the mall -- had no comment.

Town officials had included $17.5 million from expected land sales in the 2013 budget.

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