A portion of the massive Heartland Town Square project has been recommended by the Islip Town Planning Board, moving a step closer to reality after 13 years of delays and design and engineering changes.
At Thursday’s planning board meeting, board chairman Edward Friedland and members Joseph DeVincent, Michael Kennedy and Donald Fiore voted to recommend an amended portion of the project to the Islip Town Board, which will need to ultimately approve the development.
Board member Daniel DeLuca abstained from the vote, and members Kevin Brown and Anthony Musumeci were absent.
The approval was not for the entire project but for a 133-acre portion of the first phase of construction, according to Friedland — a measure designed to gauge the impact of Heartland on the Town of Islip as it is built out and allows for modifications to the plan if traffic or infrastructure problems arise.
The planning board also limited the height of buildings in this phase to five stories, which reduced the proposal’s overall square footage by nearly 1.9 million square feet.
Heartland developer Gerald Wolkoff is seeking a zoning change for the site of the former Pilgrim State Hospital, off the Sagtikos Parkway, from residential to a newly established Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District.
He bought the 450-acre parcel in Brentwood for $20 million from the state in 2002, originally intending to build a $4-billion mixed-use development including 9,000 apartments, 1 million square feet of retail and 3 million square feet of office space.
The first phase of development will be built over 12 years and include 3,504 residential units.
DeVincent said at the meeting that he was pleased with the changes that Wolkoff had made over the years of discussions with the planning board and town officials.
“The town board would continue to have the discretion to prevent further development in the event of traffic issues,” DeVincent said. “The town board could continue to require additional infrastructure support ... or scale back the density.”
“Where I couldn’t support this before, I’m very impressed by the changes,” he added.
After the vote, Wolkoff’s son David Wolkoff said he was looking forward to presenting the project to the town board for approval. “We think it’s great for the Island,” he said.
In a statement, the president and chief executive officer of the Long Island Association said that Heartland’s impact on the region will be substantial.
“This is one of the most important, regionally significant projects for Long Island and we are fortunate that [Gerald] and David Wolkoff have not walked away from their plan despite the bureaucratic hurdles that have been thrown at them for more than a decade,” said Kevin Law in an email. “Long Island’s demographics have been changing for the past 20 years. We need to diversify our housing stock to address those changes so we can begin growing again and the Heartland project moves us in that direction.”