Another challenge for Taubman’s Syosset mall plan

Another challenge for Taubman’s Syosset mall plan

David Winzelberg

Opponents of a plan to build a shopping mall in Syosset have unveiled their own proposal for the site, adding a new wrinkle to a 13-year-old stalemate.

Representatives of the Cerro Wire Coalition, Roseland Development, the Lennar Corp., Marriott Hotels and SMWM, a New York City-based architectural firm, gathered May 29 at the North Ritz Club in Syosset to present renderings of a residential-heavy, mixed- use community. The proposal was meant as an alternative to the 860,000-square-foot mall Taubman Centers wants to build.

The former site of Cerro Wire, bordered by Robbins Lane and the Long Island Expressway, is owned by Taubman, which seems determined to go ahead with its plans, although Oyster Bay has yet to approve them.

“We feel that there isn’t a need for another regional mall,” said Todd Fabricant, president of the Cerro Wire Coalition. “It’s not a good position to always say no, but we’re asking Taubman to please reconsider. We want them here, we’re just opposed to their concept.”

Fabricant said he had over 4,200 postcards from people who favored the alternative plan, which calls for a Marriott Hotel, “age- targeted housing” and some retail development at the 39-acre property.

The anti-mall group has received support from Simon Property Group, which operates Roosevelt Field and the Walt Whitman Mall and would face obvious competition from a mall in Syosset.

Taubman owns 22 shopping centers nationwide, including the 1.2 million-square-foot Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. Its plans for Syosset have been in and out of court; according to the last decision, the developer must get Oyster Bay’s approval before it can build the mall.

Morton Weber of the Weber Law Group, which represents Taubman, has taken the town back to court because town officials have refused to even entertain the idea of approving the mall. Another decision is expected soon.

“After all the years and vast sums of money spent during this whole process, Taubman is committed to its shareholders and to the public to build a mall,” Weber said. “They’ve owned the property for a number of years. I can’t assure you more. They’re not going anywhere.”

He said the latest filings indicate Taubman has already spent $122 million on purchasing, remediation and clearing the land once occupied by the Cerro Wire factory.

Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto said he thought the alternative proposal by the anti-mall coalition was a step in the right direction. Venditto was a town attorney in 1994, when discussions first began between Taubman and the community. The supervisor has already gone on record opposing the Taubman plan and is now resigned to what the courts eventually decide.

When asked if he might support a further scaled-down version of Taubman’s mall plans, Venditto said he always leaves the door open, but isn’t optimistic about that happening.

“It doesn’t appear that there’s going to be any kind of amicable solution of this problem in the foreseeable future,” Venditto said. “We have the litigation pending. It will wind its way through the courts and I guess we’ll wait and see what the courts say.”

The Town of Oyster Bay has been characterized by builders as a difficult place to get new projects off the ground. AvalonBay Communities has been fighting to rezone a 5.5-acre former car dealership on Route 106 and build 150 apartments in its place. AvalonBay has scaled-down its original proposal twice and has been trying to get the zoning change for three years.

But Venditto said the Taubman project, like any that come before the town, has to be judged the same way. “It’s a balancing act,” the supervisor said.

Weber said the Cerro coalition’s plan wouldn’t be better for the neighborhood. “Five hundred residential units, plus a hotel, plus undefined retail and undefined office, is probably a much more intensive use than what we proposed,” Weber said. “And the traffic is far greater, because 500 homes generates traffic during peak hours when people are going to work or coming home.

“A mall generates its traffic during off-peak hours,” he added.

Copyright 2007 Dolan Media Newswires

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