Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
The voices of hundreds shouting “No Mall Here!” could be heard all over Robbins Lane in Syosset at noon on Sunday, Nov. 6. At the Cerro Wire Coalition’s No Mall Here Rally, residents of all ages turned out to demonstrate that despite what Bill Taubman and representatives from the Taubman Company might say, community opposition to building a 750,000 square foot upscale mall on the old Cerro Wire property has not waned in the midst of the economic downturn.
Among the assembled residents were many elected officials and community leaders such as Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia, Receiver James Stefanich, County Legislator Judy Jacobs, Syosset Board of Education President Marc Herman and vice president April Neuendorf, Jericho Board of Education President Joe Lorintz, and Carol Meschkow of Concerned Citizens of Plainview-Old Bethpage, among others.
Some, like Jacobs, have been involved in the ongoing legal battle between Taubman and community opposition to the mall for nearly eighteen years.
Venditto, who picked up the megaphone early in the rally, stated what many reiterated throughout the rally: that the community was willing to stay vigilant and fight the mall project for as long as necessary. “Our determination to stop this insanity is greater today than it was 17 years ago, and if necessary, it won’t be as great as it will be 17 years from now,” said Venditto.
After the State Court of Appeals made a final “no mall here” decision in the summer of 2009, Taubman was put in the position of either abandoning the project, or starting the application process over from the beginning with a new proposal, which would require the completion of new environmental studies. While Taubman was silent for a year following, statements by Mitchell Pally of Weber Law Group (which represents Taubman) to the Nassau County Planning Commission in November, 2010 made it seem as though Taubman was indeed gearing up to present a new proposal for the controversial project.
Recently, Bill Taubman himself has been quoted in various news outlets stating that the mall project is something the community needs in these difficult economic times.
Venditto, who did not mince words, made it clear that he did not believe that Taubman had the community’s best interests at heart. The outspoken supervisor accused the developer of exploiting people’s fears in the wake of the global economic downturn, claming to care about creating jobs when its only motive is profit.
“If you really do care about us, listen to what we have to say, and stop trying to balance the economic woes of the world on the backs of our quality of life,” said Venditto, calling Taubman’s claim that the company is motivated to build the mall due to the poor economy “intelligence insulting.”
“Take this project somewhere else, where it may do good; where it might make sense,” Venditto urged.
Todd Fabricant, Chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, who characterized the Taubman Company as “Arrogant, obnoxious, underhanded and non-communicative,” pointed out that the community has put forth it’s own alternative development proposal: a mixed-use, smart growth plan that will include next generation housing, senior housing, a retail component, and an upscale Marriot hotel.
“Alternate development does exist: we do not need a mall. This turnout needs to remind them you can’t come to Long Island and throw around your checkbook, tell us you’re shovel-ready when you’re not, and think you’re going to push it down our throat for the eighteenth year. Not happening, Mr. Taubman.”
In addition, Fabricant pointed out that the community is by no means opposed to development; Lifetime Fitness, and the Jericho Athletic Association’s soccer field, both within easy walking distance of the site on Robbins Lane, were recently built by Blumenfeld Development Group with the community’s support.
Robin Grossman of the Syosset Council of PTAs, who said she spoke to Taubman at a meeting the previous week, also spoke to the crowd.
“I said ‘you know something Mr. Taubman, you don’t live here. Would you please sit down with the community and see what we want- listen to what we have to say. He flatly refused,” said Grossman. She went on to comment on the danger to the students at nearby Robbins Lane and South Grove Elementary Schools with the traffic the proposed mall would create, and to point out that the alternate development plan would create jobs the same way that Taubman’s plan would.
Legislator Jacobs also praised the alternate development plan. “It’ll bring jobs, it’ll add to the economy, it will do exactly what he’s saying he’s going to do- difference being, it will not leave empty stores in it’s wake,” she said.
While the tone at the rally was obviously anti-mall, Taubman’s viewpoint wasn’t completely absent: midway through the event, a U-Haul truck with a pro-mall poster drove up to the protest on the property in question, leading to enthusiastic boos from the crowd and renewed chants of “No Mall Here.”
“You saw it first-hand: this is what they’re like,” said Kevin Ryan of the Cerro Wire Coalition, referring to the truck. Fabricant and Ryan stated that this was Taubman’s style: no communication, just a sign outlining what they plan to do.
Fabricant wrapped up the event with a warning that Taubman would be sending a lot of propaganda their way, and the community’s participation would be needed again to continue the fight. Jacobs also encouraged the community to stay strong.
“Progress that leaves destruction in its wake is not progress, and that’s what I believe this would be,” said Jacobs.
To find out more about the proposed mall, visit www.shopoysterbay.com. To find out more about the Cerro Wire Coalition and the alternate development plan for the site, visit www.nomallhere.net.
The Syosset-Jericho Tribune contacted Weber Law Group, which represents Taubman, to ask for their response to the rally; as of press time, they had not returned a call from Anton Newspapers.