Suffolk County legislators on Tuesday delayed for at least a month a vote to sell a tax delinquent Kings Park landfill that once held 2.5 million used tires.
The county Landbank deal would have sold the former Izzo tire dump at 294B Old Northport Road to a local businessman whose $1.3 million bid was selected by county officials earlier this year. Michael Cox, principal of Pioneer Landscaping & Asphalt Paving, also based in Kings Park, said he would clean the 5-acre site and relocate Pioneer there, according to legislature documents.
But legislators tabled the matter by a 14-4 vote after strong opposition from Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). Trotta, who represents the district where the former tire dump is located, said the dump could be needed to aid in the cleanup of a larger adjacent site, another former dump known as the Steck-Philbin property. He also asked for time to examine "political undercurrents" surrounding the collapse of a deal regarding that property last year.
Trotta, in an interview, blamed County Executive Steve Bellone for quashing that deal because of the principals' connections to Trotta. Former campaign manager and treasurer, Michael Rosato, and partners had proposed to take over both sites. Since 2013, Rosato has given $5,700 to Trotta’s campaigns and a partner, IGA supermarket magnate Charles Reichert, has given $11,000, according to campaign finance records. Rosato is a Newsday employee. Trotta said he had recused himself from earlier votes on the matter and only became involved after Rosato and his partners had pulled out of the deal.
Trotta said the contract had received legislature and Landbank approval twice but Bellone had refused to sign the contract for years, endangering area groundwater. A Bellone spokesman last year called Trotta's assertions "baseless and devoid of reality."
The Izzo site, formerly owned by Michael Izzo, according to Landbank documents, carries liens, interest and penalties for 21 years of unpaid taxes amounting to $2,413,623. The Landbank put future site cleanup costs at $150,000.
Cox did not respond to a message left at his business. Izzo could not be reached. Smithtown Councilman Thomas McCarthy said the sale of the once “massive” dump would be a positive step. “It will put it back into a productive role,” he said.
The Izzo site was used for sand mining from the 1960s through the 1980s, according to an environmental assessment Landbank officials commissioned in 2016. In the late 1980s, Smithtown officials accused a company called New York Tire Recycling of operating an illegal dump at the site. The company rented land from the Izzos.
New York State officials in 1990 said that the site might have been the largest tire dump on Long Island, with tires spread over 3.5 acres and filling a pit as much as 60 feet deep. Smithtown officials in 1993 declared the site a public nuisance, with possible health hazards, including mosquito infestations, associated viruses and long-burning fires.
Town officials ordered the tires shredded and trucked to the town’s waste-processing facility to be incinerated, tacking nearly $1 million in cleanup costs onto the property tax bill.
“The tax delinquent site clearly has remained a dumping ground,” said Dorian Dale, director of sustainability and chief recovery officer for the county.
He called the deal approved Tuesday “beneficial to both seller and purchaser.” But both Dale and Sarah Lansdale, the county’s planning and environment director and Landbank president, said sites such as the Izzo tire dump showed the need for changes in how taxes are assessed on properties that are contaminated and tax-delinquent for an extended period of time. Those properties lose value, Dale said. “At a minimum,” he said, towns should “reassess properties at a fair market-rate level.”
Before another Landbank site, Bay Shore’s former Hubbard Power and Light plant, was restored to the tax rolls last year, the county was paying $290,000 in taxes annually; the new owner grieved the taxes down to $17,000 as soon as he took the title, Dale said.