Written by Long Island Jobs Now Thursday, 08 August 2013 00:00
Our democracy demands that elected representatives serve the best interests of the people. But recent actions by the Oyster Bay Town Board have undermined this basic principle. They must be stopped.
On May 21, the Oyster Bay Town Board voted to sell 54-acres of Town property to Oyster Bay Realty LLC – a group headed by Roosevelt Field Mall owner Simon Property Group – through a noncompetitive process that had no public notice or input.
The Town never conducted hearings about this sale, never publicly discussed why this land is being deemed surplus, and quickly rubber-stamped necessary environmental reports. The Town did not town engage in a public bidding process, or even issue a request for proposals. They thought they could take us for granted and no one would notice.
Anyone who has ever tried to sell a house knows that the best course of action is to put it on the open market and hope that it attracts multiple bids. The Town’s refusal to engage in a public bidding process eliminated this opportunity and has cost Oyster Bay millions of dollars in additional revenue. The money could have helped keep taxes low and finance vital government functions.
The contract of sale also has no language as to what will be built. Even the Town’s own official documents note that no zoning changes are contemplated for this land. Statements or remarks in the press about supposed intentions are not in fact legally binding.
If Oyster Bay Realty, has a plan for this land- why didn’t they present it to the Town Board? Consider that Oyster Bay Realty is comprised of two mall developers, one of whom bankrolls the “community opposition” (aka the Cerro Wire Coalition) to a new mall in Oyster Bay, while the other is a large campaign donor to the Town Supervisor, one can only wonder what their true intentions are?
And the manner in which the Town manipulated its public process to sell the land should appall most residents. The Town Board only added the land-sale to its May 21 meeting calendar the day before that meeting took place – an action that required the Town to suspend its rules and belying claims that the deal was not secretive.
To approve the land-sale, the Town declared the site “surplus property.” However, the contract allows the Town to continue to use the site for at least the next five years without cost, and then for an additional three years by paying rent to Oyster Bay Realty.
That’s right. It will be close to a decade before anything happens if this deal is allowed to proceed, and who knows by that time what these developers may have in store.
Thankfully, more than 8,000 Oyster Bay residents came forward to sign petitions demanding a chance to weigh in on the Town’s secretive deal. The petitions forced the Town to hold a public vote – that they hoped to avoid- on whether residents want this deal.
Between now and August 20, Long Island Jobs Now! LLC will shine some sunlight on the Town’s dark of night deal. We are confident that as soon as the residents of Oyster Bay see that they are being taken advantage of, the Town will hear a resounding “No” vote.