Taralynn Reynolds at the Dowling College Aviation School on Tuesday....

Taralynn Reynolds at the Dowling College Aviation School on Tuesday. Reynolds, a Shirley resident who lives near the site, said she doesn't think the town needs another warehouse. Credit: Tom Lambui

A New Jersey developer's proposal to build Brookhaven Town's first major skating rink at the former Dowling College aviation school in Shirley could be on thin ice because of a distribution center that also would be built at the site.

Supervisor Dan Panico said Wednesday he and other town officials share some residents' concerns that the 596,000-square-foot warehouse would add to the proliferation of distribution facilities across Long Island in recent years.

Morristown, New Jersey-based Hampshire Development Corp. would build the warehouse and the ice rink at the 105-acre Dowling site on William Floyd Parkway. The site has been mostly unused since the Oakdale-based college filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2016.

The skating rink and a 30-acre section of the property, including Dowling's former baseball and lacrosse fields, would be donated to Brookhaven to be used as a town recreational facility. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A planned ice skating rink in Shirley may be imperiled by concerns over a distribution center that also would be built on the former Dowling College property on William Floyd Parkway.
  • Brookhaven Supervisor Dan Panico, citing a 2022 study, said he shares concerns that warehouses are "oversubscribed" on Long Island.
  • A public hearing is on hold while Brookhaven officials and the property's owner discuss repairs to athletic fields, which would be donated to the town as part of the deal.

But Panico said the town is "becoming oversubscribed when it comes to warehouses." Other warehouse projects in Brookhaven have been proposed or are under construction in Yaphank, Bellport and another site in Shirley.

A 2022 report prepared for the Brookhaven Town Industrial Development Agency predicted a glut of distribution centers that would lead to widespread vacancies.

"Ultimately, the dedication of the sports field [to the town] and the potential for an ice hockey rink — the first of its kind in Brookhaven Town — is certainly appealing to Brookhaven residents, but there are other factors that factor into the redevelopment of a site like this," Panico said. "We care about the concerns of the community.”

Attempts to reach Hampshire Development were unsuccessful.

The company is in contract to buy the property for an undisclosed sum from its owner, Triple Five Aviation Industries LLC, said Triple Five's Hauppauge lawyer, E. Christopher Kent. The sale is contingent on Triple Five obtaining zoning changes to permit construction of the warehouse, Kent said.

A public hearing to discuss the zoning changes has been postponed at least twice since February and has not been rescheduled, Panico said. He said the hearing is on hold while Brookhaven officials and Kent discuss plans to repair the athletic fields, which have deteriorated since Dowling closed.

Kent said he and the town are "very close" to striking a deal. 

“The objective is to deliver to the town and the community a very nice 30-acre property,” he said.

Taralynn Reynolds, a Shirley resident who lives about 10 minutes from the site, said she doesn't  believe the town needs another warehouse, adding large industrial facilities raise environmental concerns such as water quality and deforestation.

“These megawarehouses are taking up space. … You can’t not notice," said Reynolds, who is in her 40s and works for Group for the East End, a Southold environmental nonprofit.

“I’m looking at all these changes happening," Reynolds said. "I don’t like what I’m seeing and I don’t know that the town boards, not just [Brookhaven], across Long Island are working for the benefit of the people who elected them.”

The project has received support from some civic and business leaders, who say the community would receive a boost from the rink and the warehouse.

Raymond Keenan, president of the Manor Park Civic Association in Shirley, said there has not been widespread opposition to the project, though some residents questioned whether it would redirect traffic through a residential neighborhood on nearby Flower Hill Drive East.

“I haven’t heard anybody opposed to it,” Keenan said, adding the neighborhood did not have problems when Dowling operated the aviation school for about 20 years. “Dowling was pretty quiet back there,” he said.

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