The Suffolk County Landbank’s Success Means Revitalization for its Communities
The Suffolk County Landbank is succeeding in its mission to facilitate redevelopment on Long Island.
The Suffolk County Landbank Corporation (SCLBC) is a non-profit entity authorized under New York State’s Land Bank Act, which passed in 2011. A quasi-governmental organization like many other land banks in the U.S., the SCLBC is not a county agency. The SCLBC is operated by representatives from Suffolk County Government, in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding between the two entities and its Board of Directors is confirmed by the Suffolk County Legislature.
The SCLBC’s function is to facilitate the redevelopment and revitalization in Suffolk County. Its specific charge is to bring new life to tax-delinquent properties, particularly brownfields. The SCLBC only acquires real property which is either (1) tax delinquent, (2) tax foreclosed, (3) vacant, or (4) abandoned—but it does not acquire property by eminent domain.
The SCLBC works hard to step in when the real estate market has failed and resuscitate the real estate potential of the more challenging parcels of land in Suffolk County. Properties can slip into brownfield limbo for all kinds of reasons, so each one presents its own unique challenges. But the SCLBC is rising to meet the challenges and address the issues presented by the history of each of the legacy sites it targets.
This year, for example, the SCLBC repositioned the property located at 405 Lakeview Avenue in Bayport, New York. The former gas station and service garage was burdened by sanitary systems that were contaminated with sludge comprised of various automotive fluids. After quantifying the site and better understanding its needs, the SCLBC sourced a buyer willing and able to step in and remediate the site by pumping the sludge of oil, transmission fluids and gasoline to be treated. The existing building is being renovated and now this former gas station and community eyesore will return to productive use.
The SCLBC also facilitated the sale of the property at 95 Eads Street in West Babylon, New York. This former medical waste management facility stored and incinerated medical wastes. Its history was replete with environmental violations. Worse, upon further assessment of the site, a catch basin was discovered that contained gasoline-related contaminants. But the SCLBC was again able to see through the immediate obstacles, see the site’s true potential and shepherd it back on its way to a useful life by cultivating interest in the site and identifying a buyer capable enough to remediate the site’s compound environmental complications.
A third site repositioned by the SCLBC in 2018 may be its most significant, both in terms of size and community impact. A former wood burning power plant at 1600 5th Avenue in Bay Shore, New York, had recorded numerous environmental violations in its operating life. It was eventually shut down by the state, but not before considerable environmental damage was done to the property. Known as the Hubbard Power and Light plant, the property was ultimately abandoned and Suffolk County began paying its property taxes in 1996.
A priority site for the SCLBC, 1600 5th Ave. had been identified as an albatross for intervention since the SCLBC’s creation. And, this spring, the SCLBC successfully closed negotiations with a developer who bought the ~2-acre property for $343,000, which is just enough to cover the money Suffolk County paid in property taxes to the Town of Islip every year plus a little extra.
Soon after closing the power facility infrastructure was removed and remediation got underway on the property’s soil. Treated wood, for example, was found improperly disposed of on-site and required proper disposal. Now the industrial property is on its way to a productive life again. And, with the developer who purchased the property intent on creating jobs, a potentially very productive life.
For the community, such a brownfield flip produces the double benefit of eliminating a negative and creating a new positive at the same time. County Executive Steve Bellone told WSHU that the purchase of the former Hubbard Power and Light plant was a win for everyone. “We are standing on a site now that is going to cease to be an environmental hazard, is gonna cease to be a blight on the community, is going to actually be returned to the tax rolls, is gonna have people working here, jobs created on this site and Suffolk County taxpayers no longer on the hook.”
The SCLBC continues its diligence and important work to revitalize real estate in the many communities it serves. Through the SCLBC, Suffolk County’s inventory of orphaned sites are being polished and repositioned for renewed futures. And, right now, the SCLBC is conducting a number of Phase I and Phase II investigations on sites that will soon be added to its inventory—but not quite ready to be marketed yet.
Check the Suffolk County Landbank’s current inventory under the listings tab on its BL profile, and be sure to check back for new sites in 2019.