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Islip planning board delays action on Heartland Town Square project

Artist rendering of the public area with tower

Artist rendering of the public area with tower at the proposed Heartland Town Square in Brentwood. Credit: Heartland

Developer Jerry Wolkoff's long-planned Heartland Town Square project was delayed again as the Islip planning board asked him to make additional tweaks to his application.

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 south of the Long Island Expressway for $20 million from the state in 2002, intending to build a $4 billion mixed-use development, but the project has sputtered along in fits and starts since then.

The proposed Brentwood development would include 9,000 apartments, 1 million square feet of retail and 3 million square feet of office space.

Wolkoff spoke of his frustration with the delays at the planning board meeting Thursday in Islip Town Hall, where the board was scheduled to issue a decision on his application.

"I've been trying to get the ball off the ground" for 13 years, Wolkoff said. "I've been a partner with the Town of Islip for many, many years on this development."

"It's going to take time to do these things," board member Daniel DeLuca told Wolkoff. "If you're frustrated, I can't help that."

Town planning commissioner Richard Zapolski told the board that he had some lingering concerns with Wolkoff's application about traffic and bike safety in the street designs and subdivisions. Zapolski also proposed imposing a $32 million mitigation fee on Wolkoff to pay the town for use of public resources such as fire and ambulance services during the estimated 30-year construction.

Some board members said they didn't understand why the board had to approve rezoning the entire parcel now, instead of evaluating the progress of the development over the years and rezoning as necessary.

Andrea DeNicola, special counsel to Islip for the project, said the town board accepted the final environmental impact statement last year, so it's too late to "segment" the zoning application into phases.

Wolkoff said he agreed to some of Zapolski's recommendations, but not the $32 million fee, saying that he's already going to pay Islip. "I negotiated $25 million that I'm going to give to the town" for improvements to transportation infrastructure in a previous agreement with former town Supervisor Phil Nolan, he said.

Board chairman Edward Friedland said to Wolkoff, "You need to sit down and resolve those issues."

The board unanimously voted to reserve decision and to bring the application back at its July 9 meeting.

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