Oyster Bay residents overwhelmingly approved the sale of the town's...

Oyster Bay residents overwhelmingly approved the sale of the town's public works property adjacent to the former Cerro Wire site for $32.5 million on Aug. 20, 2013. Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

Daily Point

Is Amazon a tool in the fight over Cerro Wire site?

It was back in the last century that the folks at Taubman Centers Inc. first came up with their bright idea for a new business venture: a 1-million-square-foot luxury shopping mall at the 39-acre former Cerro Wire site just off the Long Island Expressway in Syosset.

The saga continues to this day, and the plot twists never get stale as the players occasionally interrupt their Hatfield-McCoy-level feuding with attempts to work together that inevitably blow up. The latest episode was the announcement this week that a deal for one side to buy the other out of the mall business entirely has fallen apart, but industry insiders say even this may not be the last word. 

And the latest idea for the site they battled over for decades, an Amazon warehouse the Town of Oyster Bay now has plans for, only adds to the tale.

From the start, the road to redeveloping the Cerro Wire site was rocky, and it never got smoother, thanks in large part to the wagons full of boulders rolled into Taubman’s path by Simon Property Group, which owns Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, and Castagna Realty Co., which owns the Americana Mall in Manhasset.

The obstacles included a Simon-funded community group called the Cerro Wire Coalition that organized neighbors from nearby Robbins Lane against the Taubman plan and an endless series of legal challenges that caused Taubman to repeatedly downsize and alter its vision.

In the end, after 15 years of fighting, Taubman sold the property to a company formed by Simon and Castagna in 2014 after the duo blocked Taubman from buying an additional 54 acres used by the Town of Oyster Bay Department of Public Works. Simon and Castagna bought the land themselves for $32.5 million after yet another legal battle, and a public referendum on the sale.

So …. nuff said, right? 

Nope.

Simon recently agreed to buy Taubman for $3.4 billion, a deal that sent Taubman stock skyrocketing. Then Wednesday, Simon pulled out of the deal, citing a deterioration in the indoor mall market Taubman specializes in, thanks to COVID-19, and Taubman taking on more debt, which violated the sale agreement.

Onlookers say it could be a play to drive the Taubman stock price down to a level where the deal is still viable, or the parties might be headed back to their familiar opposing corners in court.

And the Cerro Wire property and DPW land? The town bought the DPW land back from Simon and Castagna last year, which essentially turned the $32.5 million into a long-term loan to the needy town that also allowed Simon and Castagna to stymie Taubman.

And not a thing has happened at the Cerro Wire site, vacated by Cerro Wire in the mid-1980s. Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino says the planned Amazon facility would provide 150 warehouse jobs and 400 delivery jobs.

Should be a piece of cake, right?

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Fighting dirty

With less than two weeks to primary day in New York, things are getting ugly in Suffolk County. 

Take the piece of campaign literature that brands Southampton Town Board member Tommy John Schiavoni, a candidate for State Senate, as a “chauvinist” for allowing “a culture of workplace harassment to go on unchecked,” among other complaints. 

It appeared to be a reference to allegations in a March Facebook post from a former Schiavoni staffer who said she had been fired after other individuals spread rumors about her romantic life. Schiavoni’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The campaign literature has no information about who paid for it or sent it, but Democratic opponent Laura Ahearn’s campaign admitted responsibility to The Point. 

“We did and we stand by every word. Laura’s been fighting for victims like this for her whole career and is not going to stop now. The omitted ‘paid by’ line was just an oversight on our end,” said Jonathan Yedin, an Ahearn consultant. 

That oversight appears to be illegal. A 2019 state law that went into effect Jan. 1 requires a “paid for by” statement on political communications with limited exceptions. The law includes civil penalties. 

Yedin says he was looking at apparently outdated guidance from the state Board of Elections website.

The harshness out East continues in the federal elections as well. There’s 314 Action Fund, a PAC associated with the pro-scientist group that endorsed CD1 hopeful Nancy Goroff in the tight race for the Democratic nomination. The group’s  mailers include negative attacks on Perry Gershon, who was the 2018 Democratic candidate against GOP incumbent Lee Zeldin and is seeking another run.  The claims included allegations about the climate costs of some Gershon investments and that Gershon “said his solution for Long Islanders threatened by climate change is to move away.” That last is a gloss on a statement from a 2018 appearance when Gershon said in full: "Long-term, as sea levels rise, we’re going to need to move further back from the shore," adding the need for the Paris climate accord and alternative energy sources. 

In an email, Gershon’s campaign describes the investments not as an “offshore deepwater port” but “an infrastructure investment in a public utility structure that allowed oil to be brought to the US cleanly and without leakage and risk of massive contamination”; and not a “coal plant” but “an infrastructure bond of a public Ohio power company that is needed to supply electricity to residents of that state. Coal happens to be the primary source of midwestern electricity.”

Gershon on Wednesday tweeted his displeasure about the intraparty tussling and called on Goroff “to immediately denounce the dark money negative mailers that repeat the same baseless lies Zeldin used against me. Even down to the fake photos. Democrats shouldn’t attack each other just to win a primary.”

Gershon himself has recently benefited from some outside money. On Thursday, a pro-Gershon ad hit TV from BLUE TIDE NY-1 LLC, a single-candidate independent expenditure group created just this month whose public filings show it spent $164,850 on media production and purchase. But the filings don’t yet indicate where the group’s money comes from.

Goroff’s campaign manager, Jacob Sarkozi, referred questions about the anti-Gershon ads to 314, and said that Goroff “has run and will continue to run a positive campaign throughout this primary because as a Stony Brook scientist with deep roots in this district, she is ready to put her record up against anybody else's."

314 Action Fund spokesman Matt Erwin, however, was happy to keep up the attack, saying that Gershon “chose to make money off of fossil fuel investments for years” and “It’s time to elect someone we can trust in climate change.”

Oh well, there is plenty of time for positivity down the stretch.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Be careful while protesting

Rick McKee

Rick McKee

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Biden bets big on social media marketing in New York

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has spent some $20 million in Facebook ads since the platform’s ad archive opened in May 2018. In the last week ending Tuesday alone, the former vice president dropped $5,515,909, more than four times what President Donald Trump spent over the same period. 

One interesting thing about the big social bump is that it includes a hefty sum spent in non-battleground states, including New York. 

Ads recently run in New York include explicit efforts to gather information about voters.

“We are gathering data in your state today and asking you to take our new general election poll,” says one. “Your response is critical in helping us form our general election strategy.”

Another promises that Biden will “see to it that you’re one of the first to know who I choose as VP” if you add your name to a list. 

New Yorkers often get targeted by political campaigns begging for dollars, and the Democratic stronghold is a center of national media and fundraising. But at this very moment, Biden also faces a June 23 primary in the state. The outcome is not really in doubt, but he can still run up the delegate count. 

The ads specifically running in New York don’t take many risks, featuring Biden’s usual rhetoric about “restoring the soul of the nation” and what he calls Trump’s message of “hatred, division and calls for violence.” 

One is almost apologetic: “We’re sorry to interrupt your scrolling, but we really want to hear from you.”

The soothing-style tone is a far cry from the sturm und drang of Trump’s ads. The milder, cornier tone is visible even in some of the direct attacks, such as one ad that says, “In honor of Donald Trump's (hopefully) last birthday in the White House this month, we're putting together the perfect present: a HUGE list of Americans who can't wait to vote him out of office in November.”

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano