Islip Town officials met yesterday with an attorney representing more than 50 property owners who want their tax assessments reduced, claiming contamination from toxic coal-tar plumes in Bay Shore have devalued their properties.
The move is the latest in a series of attempts since 2006 on behalf of property owners living above four groundwater plumes originating from a former Long Island Lighting Co. manufactured gas plant. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is working with the state and Suffolk County health departments to oversee KeySpan/National Grid's cleanup at the site, an effort the state and utility have acknowledged could take decades. National Grid inherited the site when it bought KeySpan in 2007.
Irving Like, a Babylon attorney for residents and businesses who separately are suing KeySpan in State Supreme Court for damages and a quicker cleanup, argues the contamination has blighted neighborhoods and that affected property owners are entitled to a reduction in assessments.
Like and three experts -- a hydrogeologist, chemical engineer and property appraiser -- met Thursday with Islip Town Assessor Ron Devine and senior staff from the town attorney's office to present evidence in favor of lower assessments.
Town officials are "unconvinced" property devaluation has occurred as a result of the contamination and maintain -- based on state reports -- that cleanup efforts are going well, said spokesman Kevin Bonner.
The meeting follows a call last week by Suffolk County Legis. Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) for a comprehensive settlement with the utility that would include compensation for property owners and for local taxing jurisdictions for the lost tax revenue -- as well as insurance benefits covering latent health hazards to residents.
Under that proposal, the town would agree to reductions on assessments for residents, avoiding lawsuits. Residents would agree to reimburse the town should they succeed in winning damages from the utility -- providing the town assessor agrees to testify in support of their damages claim in Supreme Court.
Like would not discuss Thursday's meeting.
Ted Leissing, National Grid's project manager for remediation on Long Island, said, "We have not seen any evidence with respect to the Bay Shore site that impacts from the site have affected property values."
Bay Shore resident Tom Stringer disputes that. "Both myself and my broker are constantly asked by potential buyers, 'Is this on the plume map?' and then they leave," he said. "I can't blame them."
site is one of the biggest toxic cleanups in Long Island history. is set for April 26 at 7 p.m. KeySpan signed a 1999 consent order with the DEC agreeing to clean up the site.