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Developer targets Islip green space for senior apartments

Edward Silsbe, left, president of the Blue Point

Edward Silsbe, left, president of the Blue Point Community Civic Association and the group's vice president, Tom Nasca, stand near the entrance to the Fairway Manor apartment complex off Sunrise Highway in Patchogue on Monday, July 21, 2014. The civic association is against a proposed expansion of the development. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A proposal to expand a large senior apartment complex in Bayport has drawn the ire of neighbors who oppose the construction on 21.5 acres of open space.

The plan calls for adding 260 apartments at the 516-unit Fairway Manor Apartments, a 75-acre development on Sunrise Highway near Nicolls Road, on the border of Islip and Brookhaven. The complex has a waiting list of seniors ready to move in, said lawyer Don Rettaliata, co-owner of Fairway Manor Inc.

In addition to building more residences, "We're also seeking to upgrade the apartment mix" with 11/2 bedroom and 2 bedroom units, Rettaliata said at an Islip planning board meeting earlier this month. The plan calls for 20 percent of the new units to be open to residents 45 years or older, with the rest remaining restricted to those 55 or older. Those restrictions prevent a strain on local school districts, Rettaliata said.

But neighbors said after supporting the development when it was proposed in 1988, years of unmet promises have left them skeptical. "Honestly, it's embarrassing to stand here and look at my community and explain why I backed this thing," said Edward Silsbe, president of the Blue Point Community Civic Association.

Bob Draffen, president of the Bayport Civic Association, said problems started with "promises of owner-occupied condos." "Now we have hundreds of rental units," he said.

Islip required green space when Fairway Manor built 394 apartments in the first phase, and the plans called for either 19 acres of open space or a golf course with a putting green, practice tees and club house. No golf course has been built. The open space remains heavily wooded and undeveloped.

Town codes do not require open space but mandate landscaping and/or green space for all development proposals.

Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, said more communities prefer expanding existing developments rather than building new projects. "It's less obtrusive to build where a development has already occurred," he said.

But Amy Engel, executive director of Sustainable Long Island, said Fairway Manor won neighborhood support with the vision of open space. "The community bought into that idea because they were comfortable with" the open space, she said.

Resident Dennis McCarthy defended the development. "I do believe there's a need for more senior housing and I think Fairway Manor does create a good example of senior living," he said at the planning board meeting.

Board member Joseph DeVincent said he was concerned that "to give away that open space . . . in return for nothing, allows the applicant to build hundreds of apartments."

Rettaliata said the open space land is privately owned and pointed out that 10.5 acres would be retained if the application for more density is approved.

"To allow this applicant to develop this property so intensely, in return for nothing . . . is just an inequity that I couldn't accept," DeVincent said.

Rettaliata said the developer would work on a compromise.

The board voted unanimously to reserve decision. No new hearing date has yet been set.

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