Oyster Bay: At the mercy of ‘incumbocrats’ – By George J. Marlin

The following appears in the May 21-27 issue of the Long Island Business News:

For 15 years, the Town of Oyster Bay leadership has stonewalled a proposed roughly $500 million investment by Taubman Centers in an upscale mall which would create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs and generate millions in tax revenue for hard-pressed governments. Cowed by a small group of NIMBY opponents financed by mall competitors, Town Supervisor John Venditto has taken every possible step to thwart this investment. Taubman, a New York Stock Exchange real estate firm, is reported to have already spent $150 million pursuing its proposed development at the former Cerro Wire site.

This anti-growth kabuki occurs at a time that Long Island employment is more than 7 percent and the Island is facing what may be an incipient jobless recovery. Oyster Bay has said, “Go to hell,” to the 30 percent of those in Long Island’s building trades that are out of work.. That attitude has stopped lots of investment in Oyster Bay over the years. That’s the Oyster Bay way.

As residents and businesses are being suffocated by exorbitant local taxes, the town that is thwarting private-sector investment has purchased a nondescript, contaminated piece of property for $3 million an acre – more than the price of high end property in Old Brookville or waterfront property on the North Shore – that raises the specter of massive stupidity and waste of taxpayer dollars or worse.

In case the Town of Oyster Bay hasn’t figured this out, we are in the midst of one of the worst real estate markets in recent memory. Despite that reality, Oyster Bay recently bought a 3.5-acre parcel contaminated by heavy metals for three to five times the market price for comparable industrial property. Further, in a puzzling abuse of taxpayer funds the town paid 13 percent more than the inflated value because, as Supervisor Venditto said, “Real estate appraisal isn’t a science,” but more of a bargaining tool to use in negotiations.

That property, which is to be taken off the tax rolls, will be used for town soccer fields after town taxpayers invest another $3 million to build the field and related amenities.

Why are Oyster Bay elected officials on the one hand stifling economic growth by blocking Taubman and on the other giving away the store on a real estate transaction for soccer? Call it the arrogance of power.

Representative democracy rests on the principle that people who enter public life are devoted to civic virtue and willing to serve the common good – not the collective good where only select people or groups benefit from government to the exclusion of others.

The Oyster Bay government appears to have evolved into an operation in which a permanent governing class serves themselves and their cronies. They are incumbocrats: members in good standing of that long-ruling coterie that uses fiscal sleight of hand to convince the public that they are responsibly governing, all the while pandering to special interests and increasing spending, taxes and pork.

Incumbocrat Venditto apparently doesn’t grasp or doesn’t care that his residential and commercial taxpayers are being strangled by high town, county and school taxes and that the commercial tax base that provides the revenue to purchase 3-acre soccer fields at grossly inflated prices is rapidly declining. The damage done by this egregious transaction is worsened by the fact that taking these 3 acres off the tax rolls will force the taxes of all other Oyster Bay taxpayers to be raised.

Long Island is at a crossroads – its very survival is at stake. In the midst of this crisis, Oyster Bay has for over a decade taken a strong stand against private-sector investment and job creation and now favors publicly funded bread and circuses for the voters in which no jobs are created. This cynical game can’t go on much longer.

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2 Comments on “Oyster Bay: At the mercy of ‘incumbocrats’ – By George J. Marlin”

  1. Michael Breitman Says:

    Absolutely right. If one looks at an aerial photo of the Cerro Wire Site, one can clearly see that it is surrounded by other industrial use (or the LIE). A shopping mall is a major upgrade for that piece of land.

  2. Gov'tMule Says:

    You can eliminate people by shooting them, or you can use dollar bills, same result.


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