For my Syosset family, Ralph's Famous Italian Ices has always been a summer tradition. In fact, my siblings and I have become so fixated on the taste that we will brave the confines of our mother's Toyota Sienna minivan (and the outdated sounds of Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart) just to get some. But no matter how hectic the trip is, one point among the route always gets our attention: the barren wasteland that has become the Cerro Wire Plant on Robbins Lane.
There the land sits like a cemetery to industrialization and progress. During the ride can only imagine the past inhabitants of this land and the future possibilities. We recall the destruction of the area and the town meetings to halt future construction but wonder whatever happened to the development of this land. Day by day, we pass the land until finally I decided to investigate this grass monument.
The 39-acre plot was once owned and operated by the Cerro Wire Company. The site once employed more than 600 people but was abandoned in 1986 and not occupied since. In September 2004, the Cerro water tower was leveled.
The Cerro Wire Coalition fought against the proposal of a mega-mall by the Taubman Company in the late 1990s. To date, the coalition includes 27 civic, business and educational groups representing over 40,000 Town of Oyster Bay homeowners and 6,000 small business owners countrywide. This group is adamantly opposed to the mall project due to the negative effects it would have on the community from quality-of-life and environmental standpoints.
The Taubman Company's plan ultimately calls for an 860,000 square-foot upscale mall housing approximately 150 retailers. To put the size in perspective, this would extend longer than the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington.
The development of this $40 million dollar plot has been in and out of the courts. In fall 2009, the Cerro Wire Coalition and the Town of Oyster Bay scored an enormous victory for the project. In a unanimous decision, the New York State Court of Appeals denied the request by the Taubman Company to hear an appeal of an earlier appellate court ruling.
This decision ultimately put the fate of the mall in the hands of the Town and the community. The court insisted that in order to move forward with the project the Taubman Company would need to submit detailed environmental studies on the area and reduce the size of the mall by more than 100,000 square feet. The community would have the right to intervene at any time during this reapplication process.
The Cerro Wire Coalition (led by the Alternate Development Committee) is "continuing to advance its alternate development concept that calls for redeveloping the 39-acre property using a smart-growth, mixed-use approach involving sorely needed senior and next-generation housing, a hotel, offices and a small retail component." (Please visit www.nomallhere.com for more information.)
The opinions that surround this project have been both far and wide. On one hand, town residents feel strongly about the preservation of the land. On the other, the "highly controversial" mall project has also been commented upon on the Syosset Wikia page in which an anonymous author states, "Doesn't sound terrible. Southern Syossetans should move north, east or west, to avoid the feared traffic which will surely increase."
As my family passes the proposed mall site my sister's shirt is now a vibrant blue color. All at once we snap out of the trance and begin arguing over possible ideas for the site. I suggest a park with some baseball fields but my sisters overwhelm me with notions of massive playgrounds and outdoor concert venues. There is one thing we can agree on: My mom really needs to stop belting out the lyrics to "Copacabana."
I guess we are about as conclusive as the project itself.