An East Rutherford, New Jersey, developer plans to build a...

An East Rutherford, New Jersey, developer plans to build a 390,000-square-foot distribution center about a mile east of Route 112 in Medford, on the Long Island Expressway South Service Road. Credit: Lincoln Equities Group, bld Architecture and Langan Engineering

Suffolk County OTB is on the verge of selling the Medford property along a Long Island Expressway service road that once had been eyed for a video lottery casino.

But the proposal by an East Rutherford, New Jersey, developer to buy the vacant, 30-acre property and build a warehouse there is facing opposition from neighbors — not unlike the circumstances that led OTB to instead build its casino in Islandia.

Three neighbors of the site, about a mile east of Route 112, said the proposed 390,000-square-foot distribution center would create too much traffic and truck noise. They want developer Lincoln Equities Group to expand a proposed 75-foot buffer of trees and shrubs between the warehouse and their homes.

“It’s good that they’re developing something,” Sam Asfar, who lives near the property with his wife, Natalie Amaro, said Thursday during a Brookhaven Town Board public hearing on the proposal. “[But] there’s no way that there’s enough of a buffer. It’s impossible. We’re going to be hearing noise at our house all night and all day.”

Another neighbor, Leonard DeCostanzo, called the proposal a “massive trucking facility” and said too many trees would have to be removed for its construction.

The neighbors’ worries interrupted what had appeared to be the imminent end of a saga that began in 2014, when Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. bought the Medford site for $10.95 million and announced plans to build a 98,000-square-foot casino.

Community opposition led OTB to scrap the Medford plan and instead open Jake’s 58 casino at an Islandia hotel in 2017.

Since then, OTB has struggled to sell the Medford property as various proposals, including a hockey rink and car dealership, collapsed. OTB flirted the past three years with a new Medford casino proposal before abandoning that plan.

OTB president Tony Pancella told Newsday last week that the agency has a tentative deal to sell the site “at a considerable profit” to Lincoln Equities. He declined to cite a specific purchase price, adding that the deal is contingent on Brookhaven approving the plan.

Selling the property would be “a relief,” Pancella said. “It’s great for Suffolk County. It’s great for Brookhaven.”

The town board voted 7-0 on Aug. 11 to approve the zoning changes; the project still requires site plan approval from the town Planning Board before construction can begin. The Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, which had led opposition to the casino, has backed the warehouse proposal.

Before approving the zoning changes, some town board members expressed skepticism when Melville lawyer Garrett Gray, representing Lincoln Equities, said he could not identify potential future tenants of the building or state its hours of operation.

Councilman Neil Foley said neighbors had “a valid concern” about noise and said the company should build a wall between houses and the warehouse.

Lincoln Equities president Joel Bergstein told Newsday he was confident the plan ultimately would receive all approvals.

“There are always questions” when large projects are proposed, he said Monday. “We’ll work on the details in the site plan approval process.”

Suffolk County OTB is on the verge of selling the Medford property along a Long Island Expressway service road that once had been eyed for a video lottery casino.

But the proposal by an East Rutherford, New Jersey, developer to buy the vacant, 30-acre property and build a warehouse there is facing opposition from neighbors — not unlike the circumstances that led OTB to instead build its casino in Islandia.

Three neighbors of the site, about a mile east of Route 112, said the proposed 390,000-square-foot distribution center would create too much traffic and truck noise. They want developer Lincoln Equities Group to expand a proposed 75-foot buffer of trees and shrubs between the warehouse and their homes.

“It’s good that they’re developing something,” Sam Asfar, who lives near the property with his wife, Natalie Amaro, said Thursday during a Brookhaven Town Board public hearing on the proposal. “[But] there’s no way that there’s enough of a buffer. It’s impossible. We’re going to be hearing noise at our house all night and all day.”

Another neighbor, Leonard DeCostanzo, called the proposal a “massive trucking facility” and said too many trees would have to be removed for its construction.

The neighbors’ worries interrupted what had appeared to be the imminent end of a saga that began in 2014, when Suffolk County Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. bought the Medford site for $10.95 million and announced plans to build a 98,000-square-foot casino.

Community opposition led OTB to scrap the Medford plan and instead open Jake’s 58 casino at an Islandia hotel in 2017.

Since then, OTB has struggled to sell the Medford property as various proposals, including a hockey rink and car dealership, collapsed. OTB flirted the past three years with a new Medford casino proposal before abandoning that plan.

OTB president Tony Pancella told Newsday last week that the agency has a tentative deal to sell the site “at a considerable profit” to Lincoln Equities. He declined to cite a specific purchase price, adding that the deal is contingent on Brookhaven approving the plan.

Selling the property would be “a relief,” Pancella said. “It’s great for Suffolk County. It’s great for Brookhaven.”

The town board voted 7-0 on Aug. 11 to approve the zoning changes; the project still requires site plan approval from the town Planning Board before construction can begin. The Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, which had led opposition to the casino, has backed the warehouse proposal.

Before approving the zoning changes, some town board members expressed skepticism when Melville lawyer Garrett Gray, representing Lincoln Equities, said he could not identify potential future tenants of the building or state its hours of operation.

Councilman Neil Foley said neighbors had “a valid concern” about noise and said the company should build a wall between houses and the warehouse.

Lincoln Equities president Joel Bergstein told Newsday he was confident the plan ultimately would receive all approvals.

“There are always questions” when large projects are proposed, he said Monday. “We’ll work on the details in the site plan approval process.”

MEDFORD MELODRAMA

Development plans for the site of a shuttered Medford movie theater have come and gone over recent decades:

  • Nov. 27, 1985: Brookhaven Multiplex Cinemas opens at 440 Express  Dr. South. The theater closed on May 1, 2003.
  • November 2014: Suffolk OTB buys property for $10.95 million, announces planned 98,000-square-foot casino.
  • March 2015: Medford Taxpayer and Civic Association and other groups sue OTB to block casino.
  • 2016: OTB withdraws casino plan. (Jake’s 58 casino opens in Islandia the following year.)
  • December 2019: OTB unveils 160,000-square-foot casino proposal.
  • January 2022: OTB says it’s in contract to sell Medford site, doesn’t identify buyer.

SOURCES: cinematreasures.org, news files

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