Suffolk to demolish abandoned Sachem school property and make it a county park

LAW

Suffolk County and Brookhaven officials have struck a deal to demolish an abandoned Sachem school and turn the property into a county park, officials told Newsday.

The deal, which awaits approval by the Sachem school board, comes three months after the district had initially agreed to sell the 4-acre property on Union Avenue in Holbrook to a nearby food market. The purchaser later backed out.

Under the plan, Brookhaven will tear down the former school building and Suffolk will purchase the land for about $1.7 million, Assemb. Douglas Smith (R-Holbrook) told Newsday. Smith added he is seeking a $250,000 state grant to build a playground on the site.

The Brookhaven Town Board on Thursday voted 6-0 to approve the demolition.

Developing the park was “vital” to ensure the property would not be used for commercial or residential development, Suffolk Legis. Anthony Piccirillo said.

“It’s a relief for me,” Piccirillo (R-Holtsville) said. “There’s so much development going on around our neighborhood.”

Previous proposals for the property included a gas station, multifamily housing and an assisted living facility, Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley said.

Smith in December requested a state Department of Education investigation after the Sachem school board called a Dec. 22 emergency meeting, at which it voted 5-3 to approve selling the property to Bello Poultry Market in Holbrook.

In a Dec. 27 letter to Education Commissioner Betty Rosa, Smith said the hastily called meeting violated several sections of the state open meetings law, adding community members were “robbed of the opportunity to provide public comment on this resolution with such short notice.”

An education department spokeswoman was unable to comment Friday on the status of the investigation. 

Two weeks after the school board vote, Bello officials backed out of the plan, saying the property no longer was worth the $2 million it offered. The company threw its support behind the park plan.

Once a school, the building had been used as an administrative facility before it closed a decade ago.

In a statement Friday, Sachem Superintendent Christopher Pellettieri  said school officials were “aware that the Town of Brookhaven has approved the demolition of [the] building at 245 Union Ave. in Holbrook. This is the first step of many towards, hopefully, the final sale of the land, which has been vacant for over a decade.” 

The statement did not indicate when the school board would vote on the park plan.

Foley said he supported the park, adding the property, zoned for residential use, was not suitable for houses or businesses because it lacked sewer connections.

“All the ideas that were proposed just weren’t fit for the property,” he told Newsday. “After a long journey with this property … this is the best use that can happen for the area.”

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