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Big crowd attends hearing on Heartland development in Brentwood

Brentwood resident Robert Mickens speaks out regarding the

Brentwood resident Robert Mickens speaks out regarding the proposed Heartland Project during a Town of Islip Public hearing at Islip Town Hall West. April 26, 2017 Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Dozens of people argued for and against the controversial Heartland Town Square development Wednesday night at a packed public hearing at Islip’s Town Hall West.

Developer David Wolkoff, son of principal developer Jerry Wolkoff, hailed the massive Brentwood mixed-use project in comments before the town board.

“This board will have the legacy of enriching the lives of thousands of its residents, as well as in the county and the region,” he said.

Lois Fricke, a Port Jefferson Station retiree, said Heartland is the type of development she could call home.

“There’s no place here on Long Island that has a place like this,” she said.

But Nancy Gamby of Commack said the development would make traffic unbearable. “Twenty- to 30-thousand more people in a small area will exacerbate it even more,” she said, drawing boos from those supporting Heartland.

More than a hundred people signed up to comment at the hearing — one of the last steps before Islip board members vote on the project.

Jerry Wolkoff has been trying to launch the development at the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center site for 15 years. He is seeking a zone change for the site off the Sagtikos Parkway from residential to a newly established Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District.

Wolkoff purchased the 450-acre plot from the state in 2002 for $20 million and originally intended to build a development that included 9,000 apartments, 3 million square-feet of office space and 1 million square-feet of retail.

The Islip Planning Board last year granted approval for a modified version of the plan, with an initial construction phase on 133 acres monitored by the town for potential traffic and infrastructure impact. The height of buildings in the first phase is limited to five floors, which reduced the original proposal’s overall square footage by nearly 1.9 million square feet. The Suffolk County Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the zoning change.

Planning, construction and economic growth officials spoke in favor of the development Wednesday.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association and co-chair of the Long Island Regional Economic Council, said the development offered “an opportunity to do something transformative and significant.”

Opponents, including officials from the Brentwood school district, said the influx of new residents could overwhelm the school system and local infrastructure.

There were also multiple calls for the Wolkoffs to commit to using union labor.

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