The battle over the Cerro Wire Site in Syosset rages on after 6,000 petitions were delivered to the Town of Oyster Bay Board in support of the Taubman Company's proposed up-scale mall.
Jack Kennedy (left) of the Nassau Suffolk Building Council, leads the delegation to Oyster Bay Town Hall bringing thousands of petitions supporting the building of an up-scale retail mall on the Cerro Wire Site in Syosset.
Supporters and opponents of this proposed mall, considered "up-scale" because of the stores it would be bringing in, such as Neiman Marcus and Lord and Taylor, have recently intensified their protesting efforts with the town board growing closer to a decision. The Taubman Company recently sent mailings to over 20,000 residents of the Town of Oyster Bay encouraging them to fight for this mall.
Jack Kennedy of the Nassau-Suffolk Building Council delivered those 6,000 petitions that were returned by Town of Oyster Bay residents supporting the construction of the mall to Town Hall. The 6,000 petitions, which were delivered last week, were issued to Supervisor John Venditto in Neiman Marcus bags, one of two anchor stores to be included if the proposed mall is built.
Those against the mall are not against building on the site, but rather against building a retail store. Office space and light industrial use are some of the other suggestions that have been made.
"You have to be very naive as a developer to think that if a mall goes away and an office development complex is proposed, that you are going to sell it," said Gary Lewi, spokesperson for the Michigan-based Taubman Company. "I think they are just using this as a tactic so they do not give the appearance of being unreasonable in the opposition. When you stand outside of the gates and say 'we don't want a mall,' you need to have an answer for what you do want. Nobody in the development committee believes that they will truly want anything else on the site."
Lewi's comments contradict what those in opposition to this mall have been publicly stating.
"We are in support of a development of that parcel and we do not want it as an eyesore. We are in favor of light manufacturing, for example, but we just do not think that it is the best venue for retail," said Todd Fabricant, chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, which represents 23 civic and other community-based organizations, including joint council of civic associations of the Massapequas, Syosset and Jericho school boards and the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, which represents 25,000 homeowners and 6,000 businesses.
The recent mass mailing by the Taubman Company adds new players to this controversial battle: Taubman's mailings imply that the Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, which owns the Roosevelt Field Mall and three other retail shopping malls on Long Island, is the powerhouse behind those opposed to the mall's financial battle to fight this construction.
Taubman's mailings call residents "willing pawns in a war declared by Roosevelt Field Mall." The mailing says, "the lawyer who tried and failed to expand Roosevelt Field Mall is now the attorney opposing the Cerro application." This statement is made in reference to Herbert Balin, co-council to the Birchwood Civic Association, who had been the biggest adversary to this proposed mall.
"Every lawyer has been on both sides of the fence and has multiple clients," said Fabricant. "The Birchwood Civic Association hired two of the best zoning lawyers in the business."
In a Jan. 19 article in Newsday, Billie Scott, a spokeswoman for Simon Property Group said, "We acknowledge we are a contributor to the effort because we feel that mall is ill-conceived, but no more than a contributor." One source knowledgeable with the debate suggests that in the event there is a lawsuit, Simon Property Group is beginning to come clean publicly with their quote in Newsday to suggest that they have in fact contributed money to the opposition. Scott was unavailable for further comment.
"The funding is coming from numerous interested people," said Howard Avrutine, an attorney representing the Birchwood Civic Association. "We have 25 groups, all of which do fund raising. We have been able to put together quite a bit of support. The owners of Roosevelt Field have shown us support as have numerous other groups. It is really not anyone's concern as to the amount of funding or anything else.
"The one thing [Taubman's people] don't talk about is the merits of the case - they don't talk about the traffic, the municipal planning issues or the pollution issues. Their application is flawed," said Avrutine.
The Town's Environmental Quality Review (TEQR) Commission, which analyzed all of the different environmental areas including traffic, groundwater, soil, noise, air pollution and economics dealing with this application directly, recently issued a 42-page report after reviewing the final environmental impact statement that was submitted by the developer along with the comments and all of the testimony from the public hearing. The TEQR Commission's findings are now under review by the Town of Oyster Bay Town Board.
The town board is currently reviewing the TEQR Commission's findings and will decide to formally accept the findings or send them back for further work. The town board will probably announce their decision at the first town board meeting in February, according to a spokesperson for the town, although nothing is officially on the calendar as of yet.