Written by Doug Finlay Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00
Members of the Island Trees School Board will receive several bids from developers on transforming 11.3 acres of land containing the Geneva N. Gallow and Steven Karopcyc schools on Farmedge Road possibly by the end of this month.
The bids were sent out by Oxford and Simpson Corporate Real Estate Services of Jericho in September and are due in their offices by Monday, Nov. 25, remarked David Penetta, principal at the real estate service. The completed bids will then be passed to the school district.
He told the Levittown Tribune that bids were promoted several ways to garner the most interest among developers, including listing services for developers and property builders, advertising in publications such as Long Island Business
News other local papers, and through social media on a facebook page titled FarmedgeVision.
District Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy said Gallow will cost the district at least $100,000 annually to maintain now that the BOCES preschool program has been closed because of decreasing enrollment. He said the decision to sell the property was made to allow the community to gain from the tax benefits garnered by the land’s development.
Although two school districts in Nassau County have closed elementary schools in the last year, Dr. Murphy sees no future for the school’s reopening because of increased enrollment.
“When we closed Gallow 25 years ago there were 3,000 students in the district,” he said. Enrollment then went to a low of 2,200 students before fluctuating upward to 2,700 and 2,800 students in recent years before settling at the current 2,400 student enrollment.
“If we closed the building with 3,000 students and haven’t reached that enrollment number since then there is still no need for Gallow,” Dr. Murphy said. He called Gallow a terrific building with many positive attributes for any developer that would consider using the foundation to build upon. He added that the Karopcyc building is too old to be used as a modern elementary school building any longer.
Peter Ray, former school board member with seven children in the district and a former board president, said he had approached the board several years ago about building senior housing on the property and was soundly rebuffed.
But a just-released survey from Oxford and Simpson available on the facebook page FarmedgeVision found that 31 percent of residents who responded to the survey indicated they would accept senior housing, while 35 percent said they would like to see single-family detached homes, which currently dominates the surrounding community.
Thirty-eight percent said they would like to see a community center placed on the property, while only 11 percent said they wished to see commercial development that generates high tax dollars. Although 45 percent said they would consider residential development that generates moderate tax dollars for the community and moderate revenue for the district.
Penetta said the survey was developed to help residents understand the various interests being reflected within their community regarding the land’s use, and also to help developers understand what the community was expecting, or hoping for.
Brian Forman, whose property abutted the school yard, said he used the Gallow school field as a park to play in when younger, and would like to see it now developed to include a community center, or senior housing complex for
seniors. “But it would have to generate income for the community,” he remarked.
Howard Paul, a student at both schools, said he would be open to a library, sports complex and or just about anything that had public benefit as its primary goal. Contemplating moving back into the community after living in California, he also made clear a senior center for residing and/ or activities “seems like a fairly good idea.”
Both residents’ comments reflected Dr. Murphy’s notion that, should senior housing be considered, a new library in the area could help the development flourish. “Island Trees Library trustees spoke to me of their concerns about having to move out of the area and find a new building,” he said.
He reassured them there is a request in to any developer to consider a small portion of the acreage be used for a new library and new school district administrative offices.
Both Schools Being Sold
“We are selling the complete property with the two schools on it with the stipulation that the developer will be agreeable to building new school administrative offices [Karopcyc serves as the district administration office and houses the Island Trees Public Library] and new library,” Dr. Murphy said.
It could be an attractive selling point to a housing developer to promote a development with a library as a central feature, he said.
If developers were not comfortable with that request, he said the district would sell all the property “up to the Karopcyc school building,” because the district needs administrative space. The library would remain at the school.
Penetta said that the district indeed put the stipulation into the bidding.
Rosa Sevedra, living within two blocks of the schools and having sent two kids to them, said the district has tried unsuccessfully throughout the years to either sell or lease the property, and not always to good tenants. “They wanted to put a rehabilitation center in there at one point,” she said.
Also nixing any notion of a commercial strip mall on the property because “it would put more traffic into our streets that we don’t want,” Sevedra said senior housing or at least some sort of housing would be desirable. “It would help maintain the residential character of the neighborhood.”
But Peter Ray told this newspaper that putting single-family homes on the property could upset the balance of the neighborhood, because higher priced homes in the $400,000-to-$500,000 price range would devalue the homes around it.
Bill Sevedra countered Ray’s contention, invoking conventional wisdom that when market values increase in the neighborhood, all property values in that neighborhood increase as well. “All homes in the neighborhood would increase in value with higher-priced homes being built,” he concluded.