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Copiague building slated for redevelopment damaged in fire

A fire in Copiague Monday damaged an abandoned

A fire in Copiague Monday damaged an abandoned factory, seen here on Thursday, April 13, 2017, once slated for a $12 million redevelopment as a craft beer business incubator. Credit: Johnny Milano

A fire in Copiague last Monday tore through an abandoned factory once slated for a $12 million redevelopment as a craft-beer business incubator.

No one was injured in the blaze, which owners said will not deter their plans to renovate the blighted former missile-parts factory at 1305 S. Strong Ave., a brownfield site saddled with around $1.75 million in liens.

But officials say the fire underscored the dangerous nuisance the 25,000-square-foot building has become and lent credence to the Suffolk County Landbank’s plans to seek a new developer for it.

The fire began around 5:20 p.m., according to a spokesman for the Suffolk County Police Department, and caused “substantial damage” before it was extinguished.

“There was evidence squatters may have been inside,” the spokesman said.

The cause of the investigation was unknown as of Thursday, according to another department spokesman.

The fire followed the announcement last month that the Babylon Industrial Development Agency’s plans to buy the building, demolish it and build a facility for up to 10 brewers fell through.

Agency CEO Matthew T. McDonough said the agency and the property owners could not settle on a price and grants needed for the project would have been slow in coming.

Amy Keyes, the executive director of the Suffolk County Landbank, said the fire does not change the Landbank’s plans to market the site to developers.

The Landbank will put out a Request for Proposals for it and other properties in the next month, Keyes said. Once the county approves a redevelopment proposal for the property, the Landbank would transfer its $1 million in property tax liens at a discount to the new developer, who would then assume ownership of the site as well, Keyes said.

Because of an agreement with the state, Keyes said, the new owner would not be on the hook for the $750,000 cleanup bill attached to the site due to prior groundwater contamination from old cesspools.

Meanwhile, the Babylon Town Board Wednesday passed a resolution hiring BBS Architects & Engineers of Patchogue to conduct an engineering study of the property.

“If it’s not structurally sound it should be torn down,” Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer said.

That’s a fate the building owners are hoping to avoid.

The site is owned by Crescent Group Realty LLC. Kenneth Auerbach, one of the owners, said he still hopes to turn the building into an “industrial flex space” for electricians, carpenters and other contractors.

That plan has stalled, Auerbach said, due to disagreements within the ownership group about the building’s future.

“We understand their frustration,” he said of officials and neighbors waiting for the blighted site to be cleaned up.

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