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Blue Point convent won’t be purchased for treatment center

The Ursula Center convent in Blue Point is

The Ursula Center convent in Blue Point is shown on Nov. 24, 2017. Credit: John Roca

A Westhampton Beach-based drug rehabilitation center is dropping its controversial plan to purchase a Blue Point convent and turn it into a treatment facility.

Seafield Center chief operating officer John Haley said he had notified the Ursuline Sisters that the company no longer would pursue plans to buy their 8-acre Ursula Center. The company had faced a Wednesday deadline to continue plans to complete its $5.3 million purchase of the Middle Road site, Haley said.

Seafield’s original plan to operate a 76-bed, women-only treatment center had faced opposition from residents and from Brookhaven Town officials, who said they would not approve a zoning change to allow the facility. Haley also had floated an alternative plan to open a 100-bed sober home at the site.“I’m not disappointed. I’m crushed,” Haley said in an interview Tuesday, adding he was disheartened that community leaders opposed the project. “There’s no hope in this there. They’re not willing to help people.”

The Ursuline Sisters, facing a dwindling and aging membership, put the property up for sale last year. Proceeds from the sale, announced in November, would have paid to move the order’s remaining sisters to new homes and subsidize their care.

Sister Joanne Callahan, head of the order, said the nuns were disappointed the deal fell through. She said they turned down the sober house proposal, but had supported the treatment center.

“Certainly we believe that Seafield or a place like Seafield would be a wonderful thing for our property there and a much-needed facility on Long Island with the opioid crisis,” she said. “People did not understand what Seafield was and could have meant for the community.”

Town officials and some Blue Point residents said the community was the wrong place for a treatment center.

“This was a very passionate issue for the Blue Point community,” said Republican Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley, a Blue Point resident. “I truly understand both sides, but it truly came down to one issue and one issue only, and that was a zoning issue.”

Jason Borowski, a leader of the Blue Point Civic Coalition that opposed the Seafield plan, said he was pleased the company had dropped its proposal.

“We were ready to dig in and fight longer if necessary, but we’re glad to see that they recognize that the zoning wasn’t appropriate for what they were trying to put there,” Borowski said.

Ed Silsbe, president of the Blue Point Community Civic Association, said some residents were open to the Seafield proposal. “The big losers in this are the sisters,” he said.

Bayport-Blue Point Public Library officials are eyeing the convent property as a possible new home. A consultant has estimated converting the convent to a library would cost $11.9 million, not including the cost of buying the land, library director Mike Firestone said.

Callahan said the nuns are “praying” the library deal comes to fruition.

“If that doesn’t happen,” she said, “then we will still be aggressively looking for a buyer and looking to sell as soon as possible because we need to.”

— With Bart Jones

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