Syosset Central School District residents who opposed a proposed shopping center on district land next to a Woodbury elementary school are urging the school board to work with them on an alternative plan now that the board terminated the strip-mall agreement.
The board on Jan. 25 voted to void a contract to sell 2.4 acres of Walt Whitman Elementary School property to Woodmere-based developer Basser-Kaufman for $5.35 million. The board agreed to pay Basser-Kaufman $125,000 to extract the district from the agreement.
A district spokeswoman declined to answer questions as to why the sale was canceled and if it was because of community pressure.
Parents of children at the school and others had accused the board of pushing the sale through without adequate notification. District Superintendent Thomas Rogers said in a written statement in December that the board had offered multiple opportunities for the public to comment on the sale.
Karen Ostrick, who has a son in first grade at the school, said she’s happy the board reversed itself, but still has concerns about transparency. She is frustrated the board “has refused to let anyone know” why it canceled the sale.
Ostrick said a Facebook page started to stop the strip mall is now being used as a way for residents to quickly alert one another about board proposals and actions. She called for the board to establish a community advisory group to discuss possible uses of the land.
The district spokeswoman said in an email that no decision has been made on the land, “but the district will ensure the public is kept informed should discussions start. The board is fully committed to seeking input from the entire community on this matter.”
The land includes a shuttered 90-year-old school, open grass and portions of a playground and ballfield.
Ostrick said she hopes the district refurbishes the old school and uses it for educational activities. Nunzio Cazzetta, an opponent of the strip mall who lives in a senior citizen complex next to the school property, said he would be comfortable with a low-impact use for the school such as a professional office and wants the rest of the land kept as open space.