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Editorial: Land sale won't end Oyster Bay mall fight

The Cerro Wire site remains in the hands

The Cerro Wire site remains in the hands of Taubman Centers Inc., which still wants to build a mall, despite the sale of adjacent land in Syosset to a rival mall company. Credit: Newsday, 2004 / Karen Wiles Stabile

Now that it's all over, it isn't over at all.

Oyster Bay Realty was created by mall and development magnates -- owners of Americana Manhasset, the Walt Whitman mall and the Roosevelt Field mega-complex -- to buy 54 acres from the Town of Oyster Bay, and won, by a 2-1 margin, a referendum on Tuesday to allow the sale. They will now pay the town $32.5 million it desperately needs and eventually take possession of the property that houses Oyster Bay's Department of Public Works and animal shelter.

More important to the buyers, they've thrown another wrench into the plans of Taubman Centers Inc., whose 18-year effort to build a mall on adjacent land has faced staunch opposition from Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, nearby homeowners and these competitors.

This vote was portrayed as a referendum on the mall, but developer Bill Taubman won't stop contesting the sale (he's already in court challenging how it was executed) and fighting to build his mall.

Oyster Bay Realty says it will create a mixed-use development on its new property, but may not take possession for as long as eight years because the town has to move to new facilities. The town should hurry, so this land can be dedicated to a higher use. And the town should also get serious about making a deal with Taubman to let the mall go ahead.

The vote didn't end the fighting, or the anti-progress politics that dominate Oyster Bay. But both must stop if the town is to bolster its tax base and move forward.