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Foreclosure rehab proposal in Central Islip

A unique proposal in which foreclosed homes in Central Islip would be rehabilitated in tandem with a nearby mixed rental-owner housing development is slated to go before the Islip town board Wednesday.

The development, Coventry Gardens, a town house project on the northwest corner of Eastview Boulevard and Lowell Avenue, is to be built by Central Islip Associates and Jobco Realty Construction on the grounds of the former Central Islip Psychiatric Hospital.

The project was approved as 284 condominiums, but two years ago, citing a tanking housing market and healthy demand for rentals, Jobco president Michael Puntillo asked town officials to change the mix to include rental units.

Some neighbors balked at the idea. "Rental units in [Central Islip] cause nothing but problems -- most of the criminal activity here is connected to people living in rental units," said Debbie Cavanagh, vice-president of a consortium of civic groups in the area.

Islip councilman Steve Flotteron said a mix of 100 rentals and 184 owners might be more palatable for the community if Jobco helps revitalize foreclosed homes in the adjacent Lowell Avenue neighborhood.

"They came back with the concept, and I thought it was a great plan," Puntillo said. "It's a creative approach to dealing with the foreclosure issue . . . which will ultimately benefit the entire community."

If permitted, Jobco would spend $2 million over five years rebuilding and selling distressed and foreclosed homes in the 15-block neighborhood.

A skeptical Cavanagh said the hamlet "needs people willing to invest in the community," and rentals "add to the 92 percent transient population in our school district, which hurts our [school test] scores and real estate values."

Town officials countered that young professionals on Long Island are filling a strong demand for rentals. They need to be able to move where jobs are at a time when the economy doesn't favor home ownership, town officials say.

The concept has the recommendation of the town planning board.

Nancy Manfredonia, director of the Central Islip Civic Council, described it as a "win-win" for the community.

"Market rate rentals are much needed here and should not be feared," she said, adding the developer has agreed to pay another $1 million toward the hamlet's parks, downtown improvements, historic markers and a new firehouse -- as well as preserve an original firehouse, to be used as the condo community clubhouse.

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