Brookhaven residents contend lack of
details in land sale
Newsday: August 21, 2012
By SARAH CRICHTON
Community members came out in force Tuesday to
question the proposed sale of 230 acres of
Suffolk County-owned land in Yaphank to
operators of Long Island's first truck-rail
Sale of the land is vital to County Executive Steve
Bellone's administration because the county's cash
flow projections already anticipate the $20 million
in revenue in November.
At a nearly two-hour, contentious public hearing
before the Suffolk County Legislature,
several Yaphank residents voiced concerns
about the sale to Oakland Transportation Holdings
LLC, which operates Brookhaven Rail Terminal
on Sills Road directly south of the Long Island
The fledgling private venture built a rail spur that
now takes in flour, crushed stone and biofuel for
distribution locally, eliminating thousands of
long-haul truck freight trips on Long Island
It began operations less than a year ago at the site
contiguous to the 230-acre tract Bellone wants to
sell to help meet the county's $530 million
shortfall. Its operators have said they want to
expand to build a dry and refrigerated storage
warehouse that will also be serviced by rail. The
expansion could enable them to export locally
produced goods, they have said.
But residents and representatives of two Yaphank-based
civic groups expressed anxiety about a lack of
detail on what might happen after the sale.
"There's a whole lot that still has to be ironed
out," said Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley),
who represents the area, adding that community
representatives have told her they weren't opposed
but wanted rail yard operators to address their
concerns about future development.
Richard Amper, of the Long Island Pine
Barrens Society, said, "We're looking at it as a
mystery -- even a secret project -- none of them
will tell you what it is."
The concerns were countered by support for the sale
and depot, including from a range of business groups
and state Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue).
If the sale goes through and the land is developed
as operators have laid out, federal railroad
officials will have the final say over what can be
done at the site.In response to legislators'
concerns that the proposed sale had not gone to a
formal request for proposal process, assistant
county attorney Robert Braun said, before Oakland
Transportation made its offer, only two "extremely
inadequate" responses -- in the tens of thousands of
dollars -- had been received. Oakland's offer would
net the county $19.25 million after commissions and
fees, and exceeds a recent appraisal, he said.
The legislature closed the hearing, which allows for
the possibility of a final vote at its next meeting
on Sept. 13.