Garden City developer Wilbur Breslin has rejected Suffolk County’s latest offer to buy land he owns in Middle Island, dealing a setback for plans to build a park on the property.
The county had offered Breslin about $1.8 million for the 21-acre parcel on Middle Country Road, formerly the site of a Kmart store. Breslin rejected a similar offer for the site last year.
County and Brookhaven Town officials and Middle Island residents had hoped to build ballfields for local youth sports leagues on the property. Under the deal, the county would purchase the property, and the town would build the park, which would be managed by a community group.
County Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said Breslin's asking price was more than what the county could offer. By law, the county's offer could not exceed an appraisal conducted to establish the site's value.
“He wanted more money. He basically wanted the county to pay more for the property. I said that’s impossible,” Anker said, adding Breslin has talked to Brookhaven officials about his plans for the site. “They may be negotiating a development, and he wants to develop that property.”
Breslin did not return phone and email messages seeking comment.
The vacant property, which spans about 75 acres, has had a troubled history since the Kmart closed more than a dozen years ago. The body of a murder victim was found in a wooded section of the parcel in April 2016, days before Breslin demolished the abandoned store.
Town and county officials in 2017 announced a deal in which the county would buy 21 acres, and the state would purchase 28 acres and preserve it as open space. Breslin would keep the remaining 26 acres for potential development.
Middle Island Civic Association president Gail Lynch-Bailey said Breslin's rejection of the county offer was "very disappointing."
“I think we should look elsewhere for a field of dreams park," she said. "What‘s the point? This is more than a decade of looking at this horrible, blighted property in the middle of our community, and it’s just wrong.”
Anker said she would ask the Legislature to prepare a new bid for the property next year. “Maybe the third time’s the charm,” she said.
Town Councilman Michael Loguercio said he, Breslin and Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine have discussed development ideas for the site, which is zoned for residential and commercial uses. But he said Breslin has not filed a formal application for the property.
“We’re talking about bringing a quality project that would include business and recreational. It would include open space and some housing. Unfortunately, this gets hindered by offers from the county, which doesn’t have any money,” Loguercio said. “He hasn’t brought anything to me that I feel would be the right opportunity for the community.”