Suffolk County took ownership of a Main Street parking lot after its former owner failed to pay property taxes, then blocked it off with concrete barriers — temporarily frustrating people in downtown Sayville, county and local officials said.
Industrial-sized barriers blocked the lot at 49 N. Main St. for 2 1/2 months, jeopardizing safety while negatively impacting business owners' bottom lines, said Eileen Tyznar, president of the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce. Lack of access to the lot, leading to the Sayville Plaza, prompted the Sayville Chamber to collect about 2,000 petition signatures and successfully lobby Suffolk County lawmakers to intervene, Tyznar said.
"It was my biggest worry going into the summer. It was a huge safety issue. Business owners were seeing a loss in sales," she said. "Regardless of anybody's politics, this was just the most incredible feat. Everybody worked really well together."
The county recorded the tax deed on the property on May 13, county officials said. The Suffolk County Legislature voted 18-0 on July 16 to retain ownership of the parking lot for "superior governmental interest," officials said. The vote prevents the lot’s former owner, Jeremiah Brown, 73, of Bayport, from applying to redeem the property, officials said.
Suffolk Legis. William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) said the move alleviated a parking burden.
“Without the parking on Main Street, it was a huge disruption, not only to business owners, but also to residents,” Lindsay said. He added that Brown had not paid property taxes for two years.
Brown could not be reached for comment.
The lot has about 70 spaces, officials said.
Lindsay said the former owner had once rented the property to Islip Town but had placed barriers in front of entrances because of a lease dispute.
Islip spokeswoman Caroline Smith said the town’s lease on the property expired in 2017.
“The Town Board didn’t feel comfortable entering into an agreement” with Brown because property taxes went unpaid, Smith said in a statement.
A representative for Suffolk County said while the lot is now being used for parking, it is also being evaluated for downtown revitalization efforts.
Lindsay said he hopes the county maintains the property as a free parking lot.
"My goal is to make sure the parking stays open in order to support the businesses on Main Street,” he said.
Tyznar said the barriers were in place from the first week of April until June 20. She said Brown told her he couldn't take the barriers down because he was worried about liability.
Giovanni Barone, owner of Umberto’s of Sayville, a pizzeria at the plaza, lauded the county’s move to take ownership of the property.
“It’s good for everybody,” he said. “It’s not just for my business, it’s for everybody else in Sayville.”