Residents Speak Out Against New Development

The Town of Oyster Bay Environmental Quality Review Commission (TEQR) held a public meeting last Wednesday to discuss the possible construction of housing in Jericho on property known as the Underhill Estate. Under the proposed plan, Nassau County Developer the Holiday Organization, who are in contract to purchase the Tilles Investment Company, is looking to build 260 housing units on the 81-acre Underhill property.

The proposed development has been highly contested by environmentalists and many Long Island residents, due to the fact that the property is overlying a federally designated Sole Source Aquifer, which has large impacts on drinking water.

The TEQR Commission analyzes any environmental impacts and they then will submit their conclusions and findings in order for them to take action on the proposed re-zoning application.

“Even a small amount of oil, pesticide, or antifreeze could contaminate as much as 100,000 gallons of drinking water and is almost impossible to clean up,” said Esther Ernst, representing the Nassau County League of Women Voters. “Other areas that would be negatively affected by the loss of the Underhill Estate would be ground water contamination, open space, plants and wildlife habitat.”

Contamination of drinking water was a huge issue for speakers at the public meeting saying that droughts across the state have placed a heavier burden on Long Island’s underground aquifers. “We have to preserve this land to protect drinking water for our children and grandchildren,” said Joseph Lorintz, former president of the Society to Preserve Underhill. “The developers will not stop their efforts to develop the land resulting in the loss of our open space.”

Other environmental issues that were addressed included an increase in traffic that would be a direct result of new housing. “Cedar Swamp Road is a one-lane road as it is right now,” said one concerned resident at the meeting. “I can’t see how it could handle more traffic.”

According to those opposed to the re-zoning application, traffic will also increase due to the growth in the number of children attending school. According to Ernst, as it stands, schools will be running a deficit if they continue to take on more students. “School taxes generated by the proposed project are not sufficient to completely offset the increased cost to the school district due to the increase in school children generated by the development,” she said.

Financially and environmentally, speakers sought to prove that re-zoning the Underhill property would ultimately prove unsuccessful. Caroline DuBois from the Action for Preservation Conservation on Long Island had only one solution. “The Town of Oyster Bay should deny all requests to build new homes there.”

This story was originally published in the Syosset-Jericho Tribune.

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