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Venditto: Town To Go Ahead with Land Sale Referendum

Supervisor issues detailed statement on history of the site and background on 18-year mall fight.

Credit: File photo
Credit: File photo
Written by Joe Dowd

Opting not to take appeal a court ruling, the Town of Oyster Bay will go forward with a referendum on the sale of surplus property in Syosset on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

On the town's website, Supervisor John Venditto issued a detailed statement Tuesday about why the town wants to sell its DPW complex and the 18-year-old battle between two mall giants over a proposed mega mall on Robbins Lane. 

"You may have recently heard some defamatory and false information regarding this issue," Venditto said. "I believe it’s time that you heard who these falsehoods are coming from and what their motives truly are."

The statement recaps nearly two decades of legal wrangling between Taubman Centers, Inc., Simon Properties and the town over Taubman's proposal to build a mall just off the Long Island Expressway at Syosset. 

It also explains the town's reasoning for selling the property: Oyster Bay Realty LLC, which is financed by Simon Properties, developers of the Walt Whitman Shops and Roosevelt Field, offered the town $32.5 million, which was 25 percent more than the property’s appraised value, the supervisor said. 

The purchaser indicated it would not build a regional mall on the property and would work with the town to develop the property in some other way. The Simon people agreed to give the town five years to remain on the property at no cost, and a potential three additional years to make necessary arrangements to consolidate and relocate town operations.

Opponents have said that is Simon's way of keeping Taubman out of the mall business on Long Island. Taubman is behind the efforts to block the proposed sale of the town’s surplus property. The two mall giants have been battling each other since the beginning over the former Cerro Wire site and adjacent town-owned land that sits over a capped town dump. 

As with any municipal land sale in New York, the law allows for a "permissive referendum" of the public to OK the sale, providing sufficient signatures can been gained on a petition. A Nassau judge ruled Friday that the signatures, garnered by a group known as Long Island Job Now, were sufficient and valid; on Monday, the judge approved the language of the referendum. 

“Today is a victory for transparency, said Kyle Sklerov, a spokesman for Long Island Jobs Now. "Those opposed to allowing a public vote on Oyster Bay's secret land sale have finally realized that their legal challenges lacked merit and are not appealing the judge's ruling."

Venditto and others have said Taubman wants the surplus property to improve their chances of building the mall. 

Long Island Jobs said it will continue to "educate voters about why they are getting a bad deal," Sklerov said "The public deserves better than this backroom deal that could cost Oyster Bay millions of dollars.”

Venditto again questioned Taubman's tactics:

"While no offer was ever submitted by Taubman, the only thing made clear was that any sale to them would have to guarantee a building permit for a regional, mega shopping mall on the adjoining site," Venditto said. "This is something the town cannot and will not agree to." Venditto said the town could use the revenue from the sale of the land, given current fiscal conditions.

And Venditto, an outspoken opponent of any mall on Robbins Lane, again used stern language about Taubman's efforts through Long Island Jobs Now.

"In an attempt to block the sale to another entity, Taubman has made every effort to deceive the residents of the Town of Oyster Bay, including claims that they submitted a higher offer (which they did not) and making accusatory robo calls," Venditto wrote. "They have alleged that the sale of this land was the result of a ‘backroom deal,’ when in fact a court of law (Suffolk Supreme Court, where Taubman chose to bring (a second) lawsuit) indicated that the town acted lawfully, appropriately and reasonably."

See Venditto's entire statement here.

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