The Heartland Town Square development proposal will get a public hearing in front of the Islip Town Planning Board during a special meeting next week, held for the hefty number of residents expected to show up and speak.
The hearing, slotted for a 6:30 p.m. start Thursday with speaker sign-up beginning at 6 p.m., will take place in Islip Town Hall West's auditorium, which can hold about 450 people, double what Islip Town Hall's Town Board meeting room can fit, Islip Planning Commissioner Richard Zapolski said.
Gerald Wolkoff, a Brentwood-based developer who bought the former Pilgrim State Hospital land for $20 million from the state in 2002, said the team of planners he hired to work on the plans will present "the vision" at the hearing he has for the 450-acre parcel.
"Let this thing evolve, let it happen. It's only for the better. We can't stay where we're at now. We're in mud . . . young people don't move to the city because it's more expensive, they leave here because they have a lifestyle in Astoria, or Williamsburg, or Long Island City," Wolkoff said. "This is for our young people here in Suffolk County, for our empty nesters, so they can have that lifestyle here and they don't have to leave."
Wolkoff said his $4 billion proposal includes building in phases, which could be finished and occupied in three to four years: the first phase being 1,200 apartments, with 300,000 square feet each of retail and office space. To achieve his complete construction plans, which include 9,000 apartments, 1 million square feet of retail and 3 million square feet of office space, would take 25 to 30 years, he said.
To proceed, the project needs town board authorization to establish a Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District, a zone change from the current Residential AAA District to the newly established district, and the adoption of Heartland's master plan.
Wolkoff has endured opposition from residents for the past 12 years who fear increased traffic in the area and a substantial change to a suburban environment, while others welcome the anticipated jobs and tax revenue. Several people shared their opinions, both for and against the project during an Islip Town Board meeting Tuesday.
George Talley, a Brentwood resident, mentioned Brentwood's unfavorable reputation, but said a project like Heartland could turn that around.
"We've got a guy that comes to Brentwood, who wants to improve Brentwood, who wants to give people jobs, who wants to help the school district . . . he wants to do everything positive. We don't need people from other towns coming in and saying he should build something lower, this, that and the next thing," Talley said. "Let the people of Brentwood decide what he should do."
The planning board will take testimony from the developer and comments from the public and evaluate them before it announces at another meeting a recommendation to the town board. The town board, following another public hearing, will have the final say. Dates for those meetings have not yet been set.