The Town Environmental Quality Review Commission (TEQR) recently released their findings regarding the 39-acre Syosset property known as the Cerro Wire Site. The Michigan-based Taubman Company submitted an application to build an 860,000 square foot up-scale mall including two anchor stores totaling 330,000 square feet and satellite tenants totaling 530,000 square feet.
Local residents have been publicly opposed to this mall for a wide array of reasons. TEQR analyzed the many environmental aspects dealing with this application directly and issued a 42-page report based on their findings after reviewing the final environmental impact statement submitted by the Taubman Company along with the comments and all of the testimony from the public hearing regarding this application, which was held on Sept. 7, 2000.
Included in the report, under the sub-heading of Groundwater Resources, the report states that "The subject property is located outside the Special Groundwater Protection Area, which is designated as being crucial to the long-term maintenance of potable water supplies in the region. The construction and operation of a retail mall would not involve activities that typically pose a significant threat of groundwater contamination... It is concluded that the proposed project would not result in significant adverse impacts with respect to groundwater resources."
The report analyzes the traffic and transportation issues dealing with the proposal and lists all nearby intersections and evaluates them individually. The report states that there will be "a noticeable, adverse impact to traffic flow" at some of the locations. Although the Taubman Company has made many plans to change current roadway conditions to try and alleviate this problem, there are still some intersections, according to the report, that will see heavy traffic flow.
The report states: "It is important to realize that decision makers often are faced with issues that extend beyond the constraints that are inherent to technical assessments of traffic impacts. For example, in the present case, the traffic engineering analyses submitted by the applicant do not fully examine the potential quality-of-life implications of the proposed action. More specifically, it is clear that this project would substantially increase traffic volumes in the vicinity of the subject property, on roadways that are utilized on a daily basis by many local residents."
Brought up at the public hearing in September 2000 was the fact that the applicant did not find, through traffic investigations, that many people would be traveling from the North Shore of the Island to shop at the proposed mall. This caused an uproar from the crowd in attendance and Town Councilman Leonard Symons raised concerns regarding the stereotypes of shoppers that would frequent this up-scale shopping center. Symons pointed out to Taubman's traffic expert, Fred Gorove, that most of the higher income families that are being targeted by Taubman and his experts live north of the Cerro Wire property and would thus travel south on Robbins Lane to get to the shopping center.
It states, in the TEQR report that "this explanation [regarding Taubman's statement than the region directly north of the site has considerably less density that other regions] is not convincing, however, and there remains uncertainty as to the accuracy of the trip distribution pattern on which the assessment of project-related traffic impacts has been based."
A major concern of the residents was the problem of cut-through traffic that would impact local residents and nearby schools. "It does not appear likely that any cut-through impacts which may arise as a result of the proposed project could be mitigated to the satisfaction of the affected communities," according to the report.
Findings on the nearby schools and library were included in the report as well. "Although the overall Level of Service in the intersections in close proximity to Robbins Lane School and the Syosset Library would not be degraded by the additional traffic generated by the proposed mall, relative to the no-build condition, the elevated traffic volumes would incrementally increase the potential for accidents, including those involving pedestrians or bicyclists, especially in the vicinity of the library during the Saturday peak hour due to an almost 50 percent increase in total traffic volume."
The size of the mall was a concern for residents and something that the TEQR Commission investigated further. The report expressed the findings of the commission in table form and stated "the proposed mall would have a higher density.... than any other malls examined... including both of the existing malls in the Town of Oyster Bay, the Broadway Mall and Sunrise Mall, except for Roosevelt Field. The data suggests that the proposed mall is too large in relation to the size of the Cerro Wire Property, when compared to the characteristics of existing malls in the region."
Under the sub-heading of Economics, the report states "even the reduced-scale project entails a variety of substantial economic advantages, which would counterbalance any potential environmental effects on this proposed development."
The TEQR Commission's findings are now under review by the Town of Oyster Bay Board and members can decide to formally accept the findings or send them back for further work. The statements made in the report are not the final word and consist of findings and summations of information provided at the public hearing, through public comment and extensive research and analyses.
A full copy of the TEQR Commission's report is available at the Syosset Public Library, located at 225 South Oyster Bay Road in Syosset.