By Danny Schrafel
Heartland Town Square, the ambitious “mini-city” proposed to be built on 450 acres of land that was once Pilgrim State Hospital on the Dix Hills/Commack border, is one step closer to shovels in the ground.
Islip Town Councilman Steve Flotteron said that on Nov. 18, the Islip Town Board authorized a findings statement based on the draft and general environmental impact statements on the project.
The town board accepted the final general environmental impact statement as complete on April 24, a decision which largely revived the project after stagnating for several years.
“From here, we can go to the next step,” Flotteron said, listing change-of-zone hearings and scrutiny by the Town of Islip and Suffolk County planning departments as future steps leading to groundbreaking. He said it would take “a couple of years” to get shovels in the ground.
The $4-billiion “mini-city” concept would combine 9,130 residential units with more than 1 million square feet of retail space and 4 million square feet of office space built in phases over 15 years. When completed, prospective developer Gerard Wolkoff said it would bring in 26,000 new jobs.
Residents in nearby municipalities have expressed concerns over traffic, sewage and other issues connected to the potential high-density community.
Leaders of the Melville Plan Advisory Committee have said projects like Heartland could draw businesses away from the Route 110 corridor in Melville unless the town makes sufficient plans for the future. The town is still reviewing responses to an RFP seeking experts to analyze land use and develop an integrated land use-transportation infrastructure plan, Huntington town spokesman A.J. Carter said Friday.
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone has also butted heads with Wolkoff over the project. Petrone argued in April 2010 before the Suffolk County Planning Commission that the towns surrounding Heartland must come together and beef up infrastructure before some of the most ambitious plans were approved.
Otherwise, he said, moving too quickly on Heartland could “devastate” Suffolk County’s economy and environment and pit towns against each other for resources.
Carter said Friday that there have been several recent meetings on the proposal, and that the concerns of years past remain.
“I know that the town still does have concerns over whether traffic issues as they expect are being adequately addressed,” Carter said.
Wolkoff has defended the project as one that will keep young people on Long Island, evolve attitudes about development and reduce dependence on cars.