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Freeport village sues school district for $45 million in dispute over parcel it plans to sell to Amazon

Freeport Village has filed a lawsuit as the

Freeport Village has filed a lawsuit as the village and the school district are fighting to control the 9-acre Cleveland Avenue fields, seen here on Thursday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Village of Freeport is suing the Freeport Union Free School district for $45 million as the village and the district are fighting to control an athletic field the village said it is seeking to sell to Amazon.

The village filed its suit Oct. 1 in Nassau Supreme Court, two weeks after the Freeport School Board announced plans to pursue a lawsuit against the village to protect the 9-acre Cleveland Avenue fields between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway.

The school district said it is preparing its litigation against the village to control the property.

Village Attorney Howard Colton told Newsday the village is in early negotiations with Amazon to acquire the fields to build a distribution center there as the village pursues economic development. The village has requested to send land surveyors to the area used as practice fields for baseball and other sports for local teams.

Amazon has more than 150 last-mile warehouses across the United States. These facilities are intended to allow for delivery sometimes in a matter of hours.

Village and school officials are at odds over who owns the property and has the right to develop it — or preserve it.

Freeport Village attorneys said the school district is obstructing a potential deal with Amazon, which could generate $40 million in revenue for the village, 320 jobs and could potentially reduce property taxes by 20%.

Amazon officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

"Cleveland Avenue field is property of the Village of Freeport. Without basis in fact or merit, Freeport Public Schools is claiming ownership, unlawfully alienating Village residents from accessing this designated parkland — an action by the School District which is knowingly in violation of the law," Colton said.

District officials said they have used the Cleveland ballfields for decades and has a legal document that grants the right of access dating to 1949.

"In defending the rights of the District we look to protect the safety and well-being of every student and family in our community, and we will not be intimidated from taking these necessary actions," the school board said in a statement last week.

Both the village and the district said they’ve had access to the property for more than 70 years.

School district officials said village officials took down fencing at the park last month.

"Obviously, by this legally deficient lawsuit, the Village is attempting to intimidate the School District — and the community and students it serves — from protecting its 70-year-old legal right to use Cleveland Avenue property for athletics and physical education," the district’s outside counsel John Gross said.

Freeport village officials are pursuing a separate project to acquire and develop turf fields and basketball courts at Cow Meadow Park. The park, which belongs to Nassau County, is in the process of being transferred to the village through pending state legislation.

The district has argued the transfer of Cleveland fields is subject to a voter proposition.

Village officials said the Cow Meadow project is at no cost to the district. Plans call for building a state-of-the-art sports complex and for the district to have first priority, including three, multiuse turf fields with overhead lighting, a locker room facility, and an illuminated baseball field. Village officials said they are planning to build the complex whether plans for the Cleveland field sale to Amazon goes through.

Amazon's footprints on LI

Amazon has at least 10 last-mile warehouses planned or in use on Long Island.

Two facilities in Bethpage and one each in Carle Place and Shirley-East Yaphank are operating.

Warehouse are planned for Melville, Woodmere, Syosset, Holbrook, Westhampton Beach and Hauppauge.

Source: Newsday; James T. Madore

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