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A brighter vision for Cerro Wire site

The former Cerro Wire property, seen in 2004,

The former Cerro Wire property, seen in 2004, has been sold by Taubman Centers Inc. to its rival, the mall developer Simon Property Group. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

For 20 years, the name Cerro Wire was a metaphor for our development wars.

Long Island rarely has seen a battle as intense or long-lasting as the fight over the Syosset site, no small feat in the notorious Land of No.

But today, more than two decades after a proposal to build a luxury mall touched off that epic brawl, the site of a once-contaminated, former wire-manufacturing plant is poised to adopt a new identity. A walkable town center-style community is being pitched for the location. It's the kind of exciting project increasingly embraced by Long Islanders. Its developers have communicated freely with local residents, who have been receptive. What a change.

Still, the community has concerns, mostly regarding traffic and the fact that the site includes a former brownfield and the capped Oyster Bay Town landfill. The developers promise to address all worries, and town officials must carefully vet the process. If all questions are answered, Oyster Bay must let this project move forward.

That seems likely, given the public embrace town officials have given the site's new owners and their mixed-use concepts. This comes after Oyster Bay's fierce opposition to Taubman Centers' mall plan for the site, which is just off the Robbins Lane exit on the Long Island Expressway. In 2013, the town sold its adjacent public works complex to a high-powered group headed by rival mall developer Simon Property Group. Other members are Americana Manhasset mall owner Castagna Realty and the Albanese Organization, which is rebuilding downtown Wyandanch. Last year, Taubman finally gave up and sold the Cerro parcel to the group, which now has 93 acres with which to work.

There is a lot to like about the project, called Syosset Park. It's a well-thought-out mix of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, office space, two hotels with 325 total rooms, and 625 residential units of various types -- plus a 30-acre community park. Parking garages will be mostly hidden, and the mix of uses is designed to spread traffic and parking throughout the day.

Its timing is good. Young people and aging baby boomers are clamoring for these kinds of developments, and governments are responding. Even notoriously hidebound Oyster Bay seems to be on board, as evidenced by its recent approval of an age-restricted, 750-unit housing development in Plainview. Syosset Park's developers will make a preliminary application to the town next month, after which town officials will determine the scope of the required environmental review.

The site has been empty for far too long. The project has immense promise. It's time to leave the past behind and make Cerro Wire a synonym for the future.