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West Islip voters reject $9.5M sale of school that would have become senior housing

A developer's proposal called for building 26 condominium

A developer's proposal called for building 26 condominium townhomes and 100 one- and two-bedroom rental units at the former Emil D. Masera Elementary School at 650 Udall Rd. in West Islip. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

West Islip residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday against the proposed sale of the abandoned Emil D. Masera Elementary School property, which would have been converted into housing for people ages 55 and older.

The final tally was a 2,667-796 vote against authorizing the West Islip school board to sell the property to Farmingdale-based Terwilliger & Bartone Properties for $8.5 million, plus a $1 million donation that would have gone toward improving and/or replacing the district’s athletic fields.

Steve Gellar, president of the board, said they made the "best proposal" for the community and the decision was clear by the residents.

"We’ll go back to the drawing board," he said, adding that the board will start the process of looking at options at its Feb. 4 meeting.

The proposal called for building 26 condominium townhomes and 100 one- and two-bedroom rental units at the 11-acre property at 650 Udall Rd., where the school originally opened as the Paumanok Elementary School in 1955. The school was renamed in 1987, and Superintendent Bernadette Burns said the building closed in 1992 due to declining enrollment. Eastern Suffolk BOCES, which leased the building from 2000 to 2009 and in 2010 for another 10 years, vacated it in October 2019.

In March 2020, the school board first had an offer with an undisclosed buyer for senior housing, but the two sides could not come to an agreement. This allowed the board to look for other offers, before agreeing with Terwilliger & Bartone Properties in September. In the hamlet, there is no 55 and older rental or ownership housing, said Caroline Smith, an Islip Town spokeswoman.

The vote results produced a mixed reaction among some residents.

Ed Ragan, who went to the school when it was originally called the Paumanok Elementary School, said he voted against the proposed sale because the housing development would eliminate the recreational fields on the property.

"A high-density population is not where that belongs," Ragan said.

Jenny Mantione, a resident of 20 years, said she voted in favor of the sale because she would have rather seen something new at the property.

"I’d rather see that instead of another car dealership," she said.

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