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Pols: Suffolk County should buy, preserve part of Gyrodyne site

Assemb. Steve Englebright, center, with Town of Brookhaven

Assemb. Steve Englebright, center, with Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn and George Hoffman, co-chair of the citizens advisory committee for the Route 25A corridor on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Suffolk County legislator on Friday announced a proposal for the county to buy and preserve a portion of the 62-acre Gyrodyne property in Smithtown and Brookhaven.

Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), flanked by elected officials and Stony Brook-area civic leaders on the steps of Smithtown Town Hall, warned that pending plans for development of the property — now mainly fields and woods — would lead to heavy traffic and contamination of North Shore waterways and bays.

The site, a rough triangle mostly in St. James formed by Route 25A, Mills Pond Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, is one of the largest undeveloped tracts remaining in western Suffolk County.

The county legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture committee on Monday will take up Hahn’s bill, co-sponsored by Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). It calls for the county to get appraisals of three parcels of the property totaling 41 acres — the first step before it can use open-space funds to purchase the parcels. The full legislature could take up the matter Nov. 21.

By selling to the county instead of to a developer, Gyrodyne would leave a “legacy to the community,” keeping the land “forever preserved,” Hahn said. A Gyrodyne preserve could join a greenbelt stretching from Stony Brook Harbor to Setauket, she said.

Gyrodyne, a former defense contractor, announced plans over the summer to wind down its operations and sell the site. It submitted conceptual plans to the town that envisioned an assisted-living facility, hotel and office buildings on the site, as part of a $150 million development.

A Smithtown planning board hearing on Gyrodyne’s proposal to subdivide the site is scheduled for Wednesday night.

In a statement, Gyrodyne chief operating officer Peter Pitsiokos said under the company’s plan, 30 acres of the site would remain open space, “forever preserving historic vistas.” The rest of the development, he said, “will primarily serve our community’s senior citizens, our children and others.” He did not address the proposed legislation.

Trotta said in an interview that the county appraisals could at least supply a price per acre for the site, providing a starting point for talks about a project “with minor development and open space, working with the community to find a solution for everyone involved.”

Cindy Smith, a Brookhaven resident who heads the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, said several civic groups were against development, which she said would bring the benefits of tax revenue to Smithtown while adding traffic and other burdens to Brookhaven.

“The civics of the Stony Brook area are vehemently opposed” to development, she said.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard also have said they were concerned about development at Gyrodyne.

Smithtown Town councilman Tom McCarthy said in an interview he would support partial preservation, keeping “the 25A historic corridor natural and scenic” and building in the middle of the site.

The town would require an environmental-impact statement before any major development, he said, a process that can take years.

Hahn said in an interview that opposition, combined with the uncertainty that the company or a developer could win town and county planning approvals, might encourage the company to negotiate with the county.

“It would probably be years of fighting,” she said. “Selling it would be a better option.”

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