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Lindenhurst board of education to decide fate of former Bower elementary school

The Edward W. Bower Elementary School on Montauk

The Edward W. Bower Elementary School on Montauk Highway was closed in June 2011. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The Lindenhurst board of education is getting ready to make a decision on whether to sell a shuttered elementary school.

In three weeks, the board will vote on whether to sell the Edward W. Bower Elementary School, and if so, to which of the three developers who have made offers.

The Montauk Highway school was closed in 2011 because of the building's age and declining enrollment. Since then it has been rented out to a handful of organizations but still costs the district more than $100,000 a year to maintain.

In 2013, the board voted to put the property on the market for nearly $6.5 million. The district received five offers, most for senior housing, ranging from $2.8 million to $5.2 million. Plans for the site did not progress, however. Last year the board hired Plainview real estate agents Greiner-Maltz to market the property and from those efforts three possible developers have emerged: The Engel Burman Group of Garden City; Mill Creek Residential, based in Dallas; and Blumenfeld Development Group of Syosset.

Engel Burman is offering $5.5 million to build 99 units of senior housing to be sold for about $400,000 each. Mill Creek is offering $6 million for 150 multifamily rental units. Blumenfeld, working for Children's Learning Adventure of Arizona, is offering $6 million to build a child care and day care center serving children 6 weeks to 12 years old.

The board is "absolutely split" on whether to sell, board president Donna Hochman said. "It definitely will not be a unanimous decision," she said.

With some members questioning whether enrollment might rise in the coming years, necessitating that Bower be used for classes again, the district recently commissioned Western Suffolk BOCES to conduct a demographics study. The study found that the district lost 1,318 students, or 17.6 percent of its enrollment, from 2004 to 2014. The study anticipates that the district will lose another 663 students, or 10.7 percent, by 2019.

Speaking for Lindenhurst's three civic associations, Daniel Street Civic president John Lisi said the study "closes the case" on the matter because he doesn't see "any situations that would merit keeping it open." Even if enrollment did increase, he noted, the district still has another closed school, Kellum, which is being partially rented by Just Kids Early Childhood Learning Center.

"There are just so many difficulties in holding on to it," said Lisi, who, referring to maintenance costs, called Bower a "financial albatross" for the district.

Hochman said the boiler and sections of the roof need to be replaced and a steam pipe needs to be repaired, with a tab that will likely run close to $1 million on top of annual custodial and energy costs.

The board will vote on whether to sell the property at a community forum on Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. at William Rall Elementary school on Wellwood Avenue. If the board decides to sell, it will also pick a developer at this meeting. Residents will have to approve the sale in a future public referendum.

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