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Woodcrest Club members vote to sell property

File photo of the Woodcrest Country Club in

File photo of the Woodcrest Country Club in Syosset. (January 2010) Credit: Pablo Corradi

Preparations to auction off the bankrupt Woodcrest Club in Syosset are under way after vested members voted to sell the 107-acre property.

The decision Thursday night was unanimous from the 17 members present with voting rights, said the club's attorney, Ken Silverman, who declined to detail the "serious expressions of interest" from potential buyers.

"We're going to retain a broker," he said. "I anticipate that this process is going to move very quickly."

The auction might mean the death of the club, a private nonprofit that's owned by members and whose 300 dues payers have exited in droves over Woodcrest's uncertain fate. The club has an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and other facilities.

Member John Bennardo, who did not have voting rights but was present, said people feel "beaten up" by what's happened but are "hopeful" about getting buyers who would preserve Woodcrest.

Assets in bankruptcy cases are usually auctioned off, with the judge picking the most qualified bid. There's no guarantee the future owner would preserve Woodcrest as it is.

"There's a lot of people with a lot of memories there, and it would be a shame to see it anything else but a club," said Bennardo, whose interim agreement to run the club and lend it funds was terminated by the board last week after talks for a long-term deal collapsed.

David Shaw, a Greenvale-based financial consultant for country clubs, said Woodcrest's auction price will reverberate in the club circle.

"When these sales go through, all of a sudden valuations for other clubs go down," Shaw said. "Clubs are in general under pressure with credit lines. That's the major complaint I'm hearing. Credit lines are being reduced or removed."

A few years ago, Woodcrest was one of the strongest clubs around, but the high-spending country club industry suffered after the Wall Street meltdown and financier Bernard Madoff's stock scams swindled investors.

The Syosset club had a discounted-dues drive that beefed up the number of newcomers last year but didn't bring in enough money to meet expenses.

Last month, Woodcrest filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows it to reorganize and pay debts over time. Court documents show it had more than $1 million in unpaid vendors and payroll, along with a $6.5-million mortgage.

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