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OpinionEditorial

A missed opportunity in Syosset

An aerial view of the former Cerro Wire

An aerial view of the former Cerro Wire plant located north of the Long Island Expressway in Syosset on May 11, 2011. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Disappointment after disappointment. Failure after failure. “No” after “No.” That’s the story of the former Cerro Wire site in Syosset.

And now, even the “yes” is disappointing.

The latest plan for the vacant industrial site is probably the easiest one to get done without a zoning change, or more kids in the school district, or much traffic, or anything to object to. But it also doesn’t meet Long Island’s needs.

That’s because the current property owner — Simon Properties — now plans to turn the land into an Amazon warehouse.

The best we can say: It’s better than nothing.

An Amazon warehouse likely will create about 200 low-paying jobs on site, plus hundreds for drivers. The demand is there, as this will be the Island’s fourth such warehouse. And the jobs and activity could be significant as the region makes an economic comeback.

But the cloud of what could have been will linger over the vacant site, one of Nassau County’s prime pieces of land. It’s a sad song — one Long Island has heard before and will hear again. But there’s an opportunity to learn from the saga, so that other key properties don’t fall victim to the same fate.

Indeed, a warehouse is a far cry from the meaningful previous plan, known as Syosset Park, which included 625 condominiums and town houses, two hotels, retail, restaurants, offices and a park. The developers — Simon and Castagna Realty in Manhasset — faced roadblocks, as the community cited environmental concerns, the school district impact and traffic.

The death of Syosset Park is just the latest sad chapter in a depressing tale that began in 1987, when copper manufacturer Cerrowire left the site. The land was bought by Tribune Co., then sold to Taubman Centers, which wanted to build a mall. Years of ugly town meetings, litigation, and confrontation left the community with nothing. Then there was the town’s poor decision to sell its adjacent land for $30 million to Simon, in an attempt to fill its budget gaps, which led Taubman to sell its property to Simon, too.

Last year, Simon stopped the town land sale, and sued the town, a lawsuit settled earlier this year. Earlier this month, Simon pulled its zoning application, and hope dimmed again.

Making the whole situation more disappointing was recent word that there was another idea in the works — a concept of a high-tech hub to be developed by Blumenfeld Development Group. But there, too, a year of extensive discussion and planning resulted in … nothing.

There’s blame to go around, but much lies with the town of Oyster Bay, as former Supervisor John Venditto fought development, and current Supervisor Joseph Saladino lacked the vision, urgency and courage to push the right plan forward.

Now, a warehouse. We don’t know how much tax revenue the Amazon project could bring in, especially since the company likely will apply for tax breaks.

But we know it won’t have the same impact as what could’ve been.

— The editorial board

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