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Suffolk legislature votes to transfer liens on blighted property

The eyesore, at 1305 S. Strong Ave. in

The eyesore, at 1305 S. Strong Ave. in Copiague, is seen April 13, 2016. The 25,000-square-foot building has sat vacant for at least a decade and was the site of a former missile-components factory. Credit: Johnny Milano

The Suffolk County Legislature voted Wednesday to authorize the transfer of more than $1 million in tax liens on a long-blighted Copiague property to the Suffolk County Landbank Corporation, which plans to sell the liens and thus the parcel at a discount to a potential developer.

But a state court in late May has temporarily blocked the county from transferring the deed to the developer, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed the day before by the property’s current owners, who say they still want to revitalize the derelict site.

The plot in question, at 1305 S. Strong Ave., hosts a 25,000-square-foot former missile-components factory that has sat vacant for at least a decade, according to Andre Bermudez, an economic development specialist at the Landbank.

The crumbling building is saddled with nearly $1.1 million in unpaid property taxes, interest and penalties, plus a $750,000 bill from the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a protracted environmental remediation, Bermudez said.

Crescent Group Realty, comprised of Eugene G. Smith, Dominick Mavellia and Kenneth Auerbach, has owned the land since 2005 — long enough to have cleaned up the eyesore, county and Babylon Town officials have said.

The Landbank, a nonprofit corporation that sells discounted liens to get languishing properties back on tax rolls, put out a request for proposals to develop the site in the spring, and received an offer from Brook Avenue Lumber, a company based nearby, according to the legislature’s resolution.

The company would pay the Landbank $325,000 for the liens and thereby acquire the tract — an “unjust travesty,” Mavellia said.

“We have a beautiful plan” for the site, he said. “We’re willing to go forward.”

The owners want to renovate the structure, creating small offices in the front and a warehouse in the back, Mavellia said.

As for the mountain of liens, “we’re prepared to pay the taxes in full,” Auerbach said.

Crescent sued the county in late May, arguing that the Suffolk comptroller has “not agreed to an installment payment of eligible delinquent taxes, although duly required and authorized by statute to do so,” according to court documents.

The legislature’s resolution describes the suit as “in contradiction to the Suffolk County Tax Act.”

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer, who sits on the Landbank’s board of directors, was also skeptical.

“If they have that check, then we should be all ears. But I don’t think they have that,” he said.

“There’s been plenty of opportunities” for the owners to improve the site, he said. “The neighborhood’s tired — we’re all tired of this.”

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