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Sale of Oyster Bay public works site OKd

Simon Property Group has sided with residents near

Simon Property Group has sided with residents near the 39-acre former Cerro property in Syosset in their fight to stop the 750,000-square-foot mall proposed by Taubman Centers Inc. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile, 2004

The Oyster Bay Town Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the $32.5 million sale of the public works complex in Syosset to a group of buyers that includes a rival of the developer seeking to build an upscale mall on the adjacent former Cerro Wire property.

Despite the likelihood of renewed litigation from the mall developer, the board declared the property surplus and authorized town Supervisor John Venditto to prepare and sign a contract to sell the 54-acre site on the Long Island Expressway north service road.

The six board members rejected mall developer Taubman Centers Inc.'s request to delay the vote, ignoring its threat of litigation and an offer to beat the price.

Besides any lawsuits that may delay or prevent the sale, the move could be voided by a referendum if enough voters sign petitions asking for one within 30 days and then voted against the deal.

Taubman attorney Ronald J. Rosenberg of Garden City told the board it was "inappropriate" to vote on the sale only a few days after making public its intention to sell the land in what he called a "product of backroom discussions and negotiations, and not the product of public bidding or a public process."

"As the adjoining property owner, we are able to and prepared to beat any offer for this property," Rosenberg added.

He read a letter from another Taubman attorney, Anthony Guardino of Hauppauge, that stated that the sale to Simon Property Group, which owns Roosevelt Field, Walt Whitman and other malls on Long Island, and its partners in Oyster Bay Realty LLC would "leave Taubman with little choice but to take legal action."

But the board voted to sell the land to Simon, Castagne Properties and the Albanese Organization.

"We . . . look forward to developing this site in a way that will bring significant benefits to the community," the buyers said in a statement.

Taubman has been trying to build a 750,000-square-foot Mall at Oyster Bay on the 39-acre former Cerro property for 18 years, but has been thwarted by the town and court decisions. The town and nearby civic organizations want a mixed-use development instead.

Venditto told Rosenberg that Taubman "had ample time -- many, many months -- to make an offer," but never got beyond a verbal offer of $30 million. That offer also was conditional on a special-use permit from the town that would allow the mall project to go forward.

Venditto added that getting the type of development residents and the town want was a key factor, along with price.

He said the town was not obligated to conduct a formal bidding process and had talked to many developers. An appraisal showed the property is worth about $26 million, he added.

Todd Fabricant of East Norwich, chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, made up of groups fighting the mall, said the buyers "are going to be good partners for the community."

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