Owner: 60 acres of Mastic Solar Farm May Sell for Preservation

The owner of a 100-acre parcel in Mastic Woods said he is negotiating with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office and Brookhaven Town to sell up to 60 acres of the planned solar farm for preservation, even as 60 acres have been clear cut.

Gerald Rosengarten, managing director of the Middle Island Solar Farm, said Monday he met with two members of Cuomo’s staff and a Brookhaven Town attorney at the governor’s Manhattan office Wednesday to hammer out a deal, which has yet to be finalized.

Under one scenario, Rosengarten would sell 40 acres of uncleared land that had already been slated for preservation on the parcel, assuring that it would not be cleared after a 20-year LIPA contract comes to an end. Another 20 acres of land that is already cleared would be offered by Rosengarten if Brookhaven agrees to lease 20 acres to Middle Island for property at the Brookhaven landfill or another location.

Rosengarten has already cleared 60 acres of the Mastic Woods property on Middle Island-Moriches Road and Barnes Road in Mastic, a move that riled neighbors and environmentalists such as members of the Pine Barrens Society, which have filed suit to block development. 

Brookhaven Town attorney Annette Eaderesto said a potential deal with the town could hinge on how much leveling Rosengarten does on the 60 acres he’s cleared. Tree clearing in early March left tree stumps, which could grow back if an area is slated for preservation. “If he clears the whole 60 acres of those stumps, then the value really diminishes,” she said.

There’s also the prospect of swapping the Mastic Woods parcel for a Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station, the former Lawrence Aviation, as a potential site, she said, given its proximity to electric transmission lines and years of tax liens on the property.

Whether the money is available to make the purchase and whether Brookhaven is willing to lease its landfill lot remains uncertain. Rosengarten said much will be determined in state budget talks concluding this week, and the deal is likely to include outside funding, possibly from conservation groups and the town or county to make it happen.

Cuomo in December vetoed legislation that would have preserved the 100 acres and another 800 at Shoreham as part of the core pine barrens. Critics blasted the move, noting that one of the solar farm’s chief environmental lawyers, Robert Rosenthal, was a former assistant counsel in Cuomo’s office

A spokesman for Cuomo didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Brookhaven Town spokesman Kevin Molloy couldn’t discuss specifics of any deal with Rosengarten, but added, “I don’t think anything is off the table to maximize the preservation of this land. We are continuing to work with all parties to preserve as much of this land as possible.”

By Mark Harrington, Newsday

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