Lien talks between Suffolk and the buyer put Wyandanch Rising’s property sale on hold

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Suffolk and Babylon Town’s plans to redevelop abandoned property as part of the Wyandanch Rising project have been put on hold while an investor whose purchase of the property has “blinded virtually everyone” negotiates liens payment.

The property, 50 Commonwealth Dr., should be “the cornerstone” of the next phase of development, said Steve Bellone, executive director of Suffolk County. Bellone initiated the ambitious redevelopment of Wyandanch Rising more than a decade ago when he was Babylon Town Supervisor.

A daycare center had once stood on the one-acre property, but this non-profit organization went down almost a decade ago. Since then, the rundown building has been a community horror and attracts squatters.

“This is a huge thorn in the side and not fair to the neighbors,” said Suffolk Legis. Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon).

City officials planned to build apartments and townhouses or condominiums there. The non-profit Suffolk County Landbank Corp. published a developer call for proposals in July 2020 and received nine responses by October.

But the district and city officials’ plans have been on hold since February when the property went up for auction right below them.

Nearly $ 75,000 had been placed on the property in a lawsuit in 2014 by former daycare worker Elisa Andrews. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is tasked with conducting property auctions in civil judgments.

Westbury real estate investor Joseph Johns and his company 41 Sherbrooke Road LLC bid for $ 25,500 in the auction and took ownership of the property.

“I kind of knew it was worth more money because I saw what the land bank was doing, I saw the development plans they were considering,” Johns said. “So we thought we were risking $ 25,000 here, we’re going to negotiate and we are going to get the same deal that they were going to give either of them.” [RFP respondents]. “

If John wishes to retain ownership of the property, he must repay the $ 1.2 million in county liens that have accrued.

His company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy “to prevent them from doing anything with the property” and to allow for “delays and negotiations,” Johns said.

The district has applied for the bankruptcy proceedings to be dismissed, but the proceedings have suspended all developments. A district spokeswoman confirmed that the district is negotiating the liens with Johns.

According to the sheriff’s office, Andrews’ attorney was responsible for providing a list of all pledges on the property for notification. This Commack law firm, Somer & Heller LLP, listed neither the county nor the state. They did not respond to requests for comment.

“It really threw a big wrench into it,” said Rich Schaffer, Babylon Town supervisor and board member of the land bank, of the sale, adding that he was “upset” that the land bank’s staff didn’t tell other county departments about theirs Plans informed.

“The Landbank is a great group … but I think that was a big mistake on our part,” he said.

Dorian Dale, a land bank clerk and director of sustainability and chief recovery officer for the county, said the sale “blinded virtually everyone”.

“The only person in the litigation who found the mistake was the buyer who picked up a valuable property for less than two cents a dollar,” he said.

Johns claims the property was overestimated by the city at $ 6.5 million. In August, he filed an Article 78 against the city after receiving estimates of between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000. A July appraisal for the county valued the property at $ 1.05 million.

Johns also has to pay nearly $ 1.3 million in mortgage debt from the New York State Housing Finance Authority, which mortgaged the daycare center in 1972, according to a state spokesman.

Johns said he may want to work with one of the RFP respondents to develop apartments on the site, but said Schaffer was unwilling to speak to him.

“We bought this in a county sheriff’s sale that was published in the paper,” said Johns. “It wasn’t a secret. Just because these people don’t know what the other is doing, it’s not our fault.”

Schaffer said that Wyandanch didn’t care about Johns. He said the city would instead focus on other parts of the next phase of development south of the railroad tracks.

“If he thinks we’re allowing someone like him to interfere with all of our progress, no, we’ll just work around him,” said Schaffer.

Anne Stewart, who lives near the property, said she was stunned.

“We’re back to point one,” she said. “I was so excited … but now I’m even angry to a certain extent. We are now in the limbo of what will happen to this building and it is a shame. “

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