A heated exchange erupted during the Oyster Bay Town Board meeting on Tuesday among a disgruntled Syosset resident, Supervisor Joseph Saladino and trustees about a local land issue.
Kevin McKenna, 62, who spoke during the public session, inquired about the progress being made by the town’s Syosset Park Citizens Advisory Committee, regarding testing for contaminants at 150 Miller Place in Syosset, a former landfill, where the town’s Department of Public Works is housed. The committee, formed to oversee and provide input on the planned environmental testing for the redevelopment of the property, comprises representatives of the community who report their findings to the town.
Mall owner Simon Properties bought the former Cerro Wire property, off Robbins Lane, from Taubman Centers in January 2014. The developer Syosset Park Development LLC — a partnership between Simon and the Manhasset-based Castagna Realty Co. — had planned to use the land to build Syosset Park, which would have included residences, retail space, hotels and a park. The developers agreed to test the groundwater, soil and gas emissions on part of the site to address residents’ concerns.
The Citizens Advisory Committee moved forward, hiring Impact Environmental, of Bohemia, in February, to conduct the testing and analysis. But the work never started.
And according to Long Island Business News, Syosset Park Development canceled the sale of the town-owned land in early May and is now demanding the return of its money.
Some of McKenna's concerns appeared to be addressed on the town website the day before the meeting. “At this time, Simon Properties has not officially rescinded their application, nor provided a new plan for the site. As a result, the plans for the site remain in flux and the defined scope of work for environmental testing cannot be completed as any such plans must evaluate the potential impacts of the full project.”
But Saladino did not repeat that information at Tuesday’s meeting, saying instead that he would contact the Syosset resident when he had additional information. McKenna persisted, reiterating his concerns about the progress being made by the Citizens Advisory Committee. When he mentioned the pending lawsuit by Syosset Park Development against the town, Saladino refused to confirm or deny the claim. He did say that the town and the prospective buyers of the property were negotiating the sale.
McKenna continued to question Saladino, accusing him of not giving a straightforward answer. Then Councilman Louis Imbroto came to the supervisor’s defense, as did some residents.
Security was called to escort McKenna back to his seat. Before they arrived, McKenna, who remained at the podium, said he had a right to speak during his allotted time. He demanded that the timer be stopped when Councilman Steven Labriola interrupted him, accusing McKenna of being disrespectful.
“Would you kindly take a seat, Mr. McKenna?” Saladino said. “You make all of us look bad when you disrupt yet another meeting and make the public wait. It’s despicable.”
Marta Kane, a town spokeswoman, wrote in an email to the Guardian that “Public comment is welcome at every meeting however, the Town Board will not tolerate unruly and disruptive behavior from individuals such as Mr. McKenna, who was recently arrested by Nassau County Police for his behavior at a school board meeting and banned from Town Hall last year for lewd public gestures.”
McKenna, who speaks often at town board meetings, is active on social media. He live-streams the town board meetings on his Facebook page, “Town of Oyster Bay News,” which also details his involvement with the board and the issues that are important to him. Often on the page, some residents argue with McKenna, as do some town employees, who denounce his work as “biased” and “delusional.”
After the meeting Mc-Kenna said he believed that his questions are not being answered “because the town is financially liable to perform the testing and since they fear that the land will come back with significantly toxic results, it will trigger the need for a cleanup that they do not want to pay for.”
Kane responded to the accusation, saying, “Mr. McKenna’s remarks are irresponsible, false and based on outlandish conspiracy theories.”