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Hauppauge voters reject plan to sell former Whiporwil School

The former Whiporwil School in Hauppauge, where a

The former Whiporwil School in Hauppauge, where a developer had planned to build luxury condominium units for a senior living community. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Hauppauge school district voters on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected a plan to sell the former Whiporwil School for $13 million to a Jericho developer.

Residents voted 294-1,293 against the proposal to sell the site to become a senior living complex.

Hauppauge Superintendent Donald Murphy said the vote likely ended efforts to sell the property. The building, which includes school district offices and storage and receiving facilities, will continue to be used for those purposes, he said.

"We respected the decision of the voters," Murphy told Newsday. "The board, they just wanted to give the residents the opportunity to decide the fate of the building.

"At this point, we’ll have to decide what comes next in the coming months," he said. "The fate of the building has been decided by the residents."

The Whiporwil School closed about 41 years ago amid concerns about potential harm caused by a nearby landfill.

Hauppauge officials put the property up for sale after a study last year found district enrollment is likely to decline over the next decade, officials said.

Some Hauppauge residents had voiced opposition to the proposed sale, saying district sports teams and cheerleaders used the field and gym for practices. The building also has been used as a church and polling site.

Patty Citro, a retired special education teacher, said she and other residents felt Hauppauge officials failed to provide sufficient information about plans for moving district offices and replacing storage space that would be lost if the building closed. No district officials spoke at recent information meetings to discuss the sale, she said.

"The response from the community is, we’re using the building," Citro said Friday after voting against the referendum a day earlier. "There was lack of confidence among the residents that the [school] board was prepared to make that transition and what it was going to cost us."

The Beechwood Organization — one of the nation's largest real estate developers, including completed projects in Plainview, Yaphank, East Meadow, Southampton, Westbury and the Rockaways — had planned to purchase the school and build as many as 128 luxury condominium units at the 12.8-acre site at 495 Hoffman Lane.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Beechwood principal Steven Dubb said talks with the school district likely were over and would not resume.

"Other than exchanging pleasantries when I spoke to board members today, I think this is the end of the road and the people have spoken," Dubb said. "I imagine it’s up to the school district to decide the next steps.

"I really thought it was good project. I still believe it was a good use of a building that was underutilized."

Beechwood officials had said the project would have generated about $1 million in annual property tax revenue for the district.

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