An Amityville auto dealership previously accused of "squatting" on a contaminated lot it did not own has purchased and cleaned up the property.
The nonprofit Suffolk County Landbank Corp. had been in a standoff with Security Dodge for years over the lot at 344 Merrick Rd., which the agency hoped to get remediated and back on the tax rolls. Security Dodge has stored vehicles on the half-acre site for decades without a lease after a gas station there was abandoned by owner RAI Realty Co. in the early 1990s, with no further county taxes paid.
"They're occupying a property to which they don't have title … they've effectively squatted there," Dorian Dale, the county's director of sustainability and chief recovery officer, told Newsday in 2019.
Dale said at the time that a "baseline" offer for the property would be $200,000, but last summer 322 Merrick Rd. Realty Llc, a company with the same address as Security, offered $100,000 which the land bank accepted. As part of the deal the company had to pay for the $150,000 to $175,000 estimated cleanup.
Nicole Blanda, attorney for Security, did not respond to requests for comment.
A 2017 appraisal valued the property at $565,000, according to Dale. The land bank has stated that county liens on the lot totaled $512,000. Security had purchased much of the village’s tax liens over the years, but also paid more than $93,000 in back village taxes when they purchased the property, Mayor Dennis Siry said.
Because of the delinquent taxes and remediation needed, the property had not attracted much interest from other buyers, Siry said.
"Some people did look at it but once they realized the intricacies of it, it just stopped them in their tracks," he said.
Dale said in an email that Newsday’s coverage of the standoff between Security and the land bank "catalyzed the community and Amityville trustees to bring pressure on Security Dodge to finally acquire the property" and that the purchase of the property is "yet another positive outcome driven" by the land bank.
The village board of trustees voted on June 14 to renew an automotive license for the lot.
"Unfortunately, there was no way to stop it," Siry said, noting that the property has had an automotive use for more than 30 years. "We could deny it but we’d be wasting our money in court."
The remediation of the lot took place in April. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversaw the work, nine underground storage tanks used for gasoline, oil, and kerosene were removed. Three hydraulic lifts and reservoir tanks were also removed along with approximately 30.14 tons of soil. The DEC collected 19 soil samples and two groundwater samples for analysis and is reviewing the results.