By Kevin Redding
The Smithtown school board is not yet sold on a proposal by the town to buy its administration building on New York Avenue and surrounding property to turn them into municipality offices and a central park.
“The Board of Education has made no decision as to what direction it wishes to pursue with respect to the New York Avenue property,” said the Smithtown school board in a statement Sept. 19.
This comes months after the Smithtown Town Board issued an appraisal of the administration building to the school board for its review in order to kick-start a negotiation process as quickly as possible.
Councilman Tom McCarthy (R), who proposed the town purchase the property to help boost its downtown revitalization efforts, said during a Sept. 5 town board meeting the school’s decision to not sell the property or meet with council members to discuss the topic at this time meant the town could not move forward with anything.
He also suggested the board not proceed with its original plans to appraise six buildings — existing satellite-buildings utilized as office space by town departments — which would be vacated if services could be consolidated into one centralized location on the New York Avenue property.
Nesconset resident William Holst disagreed.
“I would strongly recommend looking at getting those appraisals done, looking at those buildings in terms of being consolidated, [and] reducing the number of buildings in the downtown area so you actually can generate some real revitalization in this area,” Holst said during the meeting.
McCarthy responded by calling the $20,000 for appraisals a waste of taxpayer money at this time.
“To spend money when they really aren’t interested at this time [to sell us the building] wouldn’t be prudent,” McCarthy said.
The councilman said that he has reached out to members of the school board in an attempt to try to schedule a future meeting.
“If we can get them to the bargaining table, I’m sure this board would be more than happy to do the appraisals on our outlying buildings,” McCarthy said.
In an interview Sept. 18, McCarthy said, “It’s in limbo right now but I would get moving on it tomorrow if they got back to us, which I hope they do. I think they’re looking at it from a monetary standpoint for themselves and doing their due diligence. They’re a good board.”
Smithtown resident Bob Hughes, a member of the civics New York Avenue Group and Smithtown United, said he has unofficially acted as an intermediary between the two boards since last year to help them find common ground on the matter.
Hughes believes school board members are holding out on a decision until after town elections are over “so they don’t have to deal with two possible town boards.”
“Once we get past November, there probably will be more interaction between the school and town,” Hughes said, holding out hope the project will move forward soon. “It’s about what the community wants. The New York Avenue property could be a focal point of the downtown revitalization and improve efficiency.”