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Solar developer urges Cuomo to veto Pine Barrens expansion bill

Jerry Rosengarten urges Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to

Jerry Rosengarten urges Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to veto a state bill that would expand the core Pine Barrens to include two parcels on his property. Photo Credit: Newsday

The developer of a proposed 100-acre solar farm in Mastic has begun a campaign to urge Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to veto recently passed state legislation that would expand the core Pine Barrens to include two parcels slated for solar energy.

Jerry Rosengarten, a hotel and condo developer from Southampton who invented the leisure suit in the 1970s, said the recently passed legislation amounts to “theft,” and goes against the premise of Cuomo’s clean energy standard.

“This is a theft of my land and I will not sit still for a theft of my land,” he said, adding he has retained lobbyists to urge the governor to veto the bill, and is threatening a legal action if Cuomo signs it. His spokesman, Michael Woloz, said the proposed law “makes a mockery” of the original Pine Barrens legislation, which protects over 100,000 acres from development.

A spokesman for Cuomo said the bill was among more than 500 that passed the legislature in the final weeks of session and remains “under review by Counsel’s Office.”

The State Legislature passed the bill, authored by Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), overwhelmingly last month. It calls for extending the core Pine Barrens by more than 1,000 acres to include the 100-acres Rosengarten plans for a 19.2-megawatt solar farm in Mastic, and 230 other acres in Mastic. The bill also includes more than 900 acres around the Shoreham nuclear power plant for which National Grid and NextEra currently plan a 72-megawatt solar farm.

The Mastic solar plan calls for removing 60 acres of trees, leaving the remaining 40 acres undeveloped, he said. “We purchased this land because it was outside the Pine Barrens,” said Rosengarten, who estimated he’s paid $3 million in taxes on it over the past 30 years, and spent $2.5 million on designs, engineering and approvals for the solar farm.

Some neighbors and the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization have filed legal action against the project, called the Middle Island Solar Farm, and want Brookhaven’s planning board to block the project.

Rosengarten called the suit “frivolous” but saved the bulk of his ire for the legislation that would expand the Pine Barrens into his property. Rosengarten estimated that he would receive 100 Pine Barrens “credits” for his land were the bill to pass, credits which he estimates he could sell for $70,000 each or less, or $7 million. He said he believes the property is worth upwards of $350,000 an acre, or $35 million.

The solar proposal would place a nearly mile-long array of 67,000 solar panels on two-thirds of the 100-acre wooded lot on Moriches-Middle Island Road just east of Brookhaven Calabro Airport.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said he’s always opposed the project, adding that he recently sent a letter to Cuomo urging that the governor to sign the Pine Barrens bill. “I never, ever backed that site as a solar farm,” Romaine said.

Englebright said Rosengarten’s claim “has no substance.”

“He is like all of the other thousands of individuals who own property in the Pine Barrens,” he said. “We have put a mechanism in place to give them Pine Barrens credits and properly compensate them.”

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