At a special Northport-East Northport school district board meeting held yesterday, February 16, board president Larry Licopoli read a statement regarding recent news coverage of the district’s three buildings up for sale or lease. The statement, which was also submitted as a letter to the editor for publication in today’s edition of The Observer, meant to clarify comments made in the press since last week’s Northport Village board meeting, at which Mayor Donna Koch talked openly about her interest in purchasing the Brosnan building for use as a new Village Hall. The statement as read by Licopoli is shared in its entirety at the end of this article.
When asked about details surrounding the potential sale/lease of the three buildings – Bellerose Avenue and Dickinson Avenue elementary schools, as well as the William J. Brosnan district building on Laurel Avenue – the Newmark realty group told the Journal that there is no asking price on the buildings; Newmark will solicit bids for evaluation and present all offers to the district, reps said. “Along with the district, we will look at an interested party’s past history and their desired use for the property to vet their offer,” they added.
A common concern voiced by district residents after the mayor’s comments, and again at last night’s board meeting, include a fear of overdevelopment in residential areas in which the buildings currently exist. When asked how they can ensure the buildings will be sold to the best possible applicants, NENUFSD officials reiterated in an email to the Journal that any sale is dependent on a voter referendum, where the community can approve or deny the sale.
“With regard to both sale and lease options for all three buildings, the district is considering maximizing the financial benefit, meeting the operational needs of the district and most importantly, understanding the community impact,” officials wrote. “While all three properties are available for lease or sale, that does not necessarily mean that the district WILL sell or lease all of the available properties. The board will deliberate in public to determine what is in the best interest of both the district and our residents, including which and how many of the properties should ultimately be leased or put to a voter referendum for sale…. There will also be opportunities for residents to voice their preferences for the properties and any concerns during Board of Education meetings prior to any vote regarding a sale.”
The joint statement by Superintendent Banzer and President Licopoli, as shared at yesterday evening’s board meeting, can be read below.
This letter is in response to both the article “Brosnan building on the block” and the editorial “Thank Northport mayor for school sale disclosure,” in the February 9, 2023 edition of The Observer. Please note that the district was not contacted in advance of the article to verify the statements that were reported. On behalf of the Board of Education, we are writing to clarify and correct those statements as well as provide additional context to what was reported at the Village Meeting and in the Observer.
It is important to understand the facts surrounding the informal tour between the Mayor and district administration. Following the district’s retention of Newmark Realty’s services in November, the district arranged a meeting with town and village officials to inform them of this announcement as a courtesy as the properties fall within their jurisdiction. At the conclusion of that meeting, Mayor Koch requested an informal tour of the Brosnan building which took place on February 1.
There are several important points of clarification regarding this meeting:
First, none of the seven elected Board of Education Trustees were present during this informal tour. Second, at no point did the district make any promise or enter into a formal or informal agreement to bear the responsibility of paying for fixing or replacing the roof of the Brosnan building in the event that the property is purchased. Third, the three buildings have been marketed for potential sale OR lease. No decisions have been made about the number of buildings that would be sold or by what date, as many factors influence both the projected timelines and decisions about the future use of these properties. As a result, the location of district administrative offices in the event of the sale of the Brosnan building has not been determined.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the sale of a district building would be dependent on a public referendum, where the community can vote to approve or deny any sale.
With respect to the mention of the Governor’s proposed Housing Compact and proximity of Bellerose and Dickinson to the train station, both buildings, when traveling by car or walking, are more than a half mile distance. Finally, at no point were there, nor are there currently, any formal or informal plans or agreements between district officials and the mayor to sell the property to the village. Should officials from the village reach out with any further inquiries related to the sale or lease of the buildings, they will be referred to Newmark Realty.
We believe much of the confusion as to what took place during the informal tour and what was stated following it could have been avoided if the district had the opportunity to respond to the questions at hand.
The Board and district administration have been entirely transparent about the process of selling or leasing of the three available properties. At a public Board of Education meeting in November, the Board approved and retained the services of Newmark Realty to determine the viability of selling or leasing one, two or three of the available buildings, including the Brosnan building. In addition, the entire front page of the most recent district newsletter “Our Schools” was dedicated to the topic of the potential sale or lease of a building. This publication was mailed to every home in the district earlier this month. It is worth repeating that it is ultimately up to the district residents, in the form of a voter referendum, to decide whether or not a school district building is sold.
We invite all potential parties who have an interest in leasing or purchasing one of the available buildings to contact Newmark Realty at 631-673-0808. The Board and the administration will continue to provide accurate, timely updates when they are available.
Robert Banzer, Superintendent of Schools
Larry Licopoli, PhD, Board of Education President