Hauppauge residents to vote on proposed sale of shuttered school – Newsday

Hauppauge school district residents will vote next month on a proposal to sell a shuttered elementary school to a development company that plans to build a luxury senior living community there.

The district has a tentative deal to sell the Whiporwil School, which closed about 40 years ago, for $13 million to the Beechwood Organization, which wants to construct as many as 128 condominium units at the 12.8-acre site at 495 Hoffman Lane.

The sale requires approval by district residents in an Oct. 21 referendum. Voting is from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Whiporwil School.

In a statement released through a publicist, Beechwood chief executive Michael Dubb said the development, which the company plans to call Country Pointe Springs, would meet a growing demand for senior housing on Long Island.

“Our goal is to give new life to a property no longer being used for its original purpose by creating a much needed 55+ community for the benefit of all the community’s generations,” Dubb said. “We see our proposal for Country Pointe Springs as a win-win-win for the Hauppauge School District, its residents and seniors.”

Hauppauge Superintendent Donald B. Murphy did not return calls for comment.

Jericho-based Beechwood said Hauppauge officials put the property up for sale after a study last year found district enrollment is likely to decline over the next decade.

District officials in 1980 shut Whiporwil, adjacent to Islip Town’s since-closed Blydenburgh Landfill, after an environmental consulting firm announced it had detected traces of vinyl chloride gas, a carcinogen, in the school cafeteria.

The district sued the town for damages because of the alleged contamination; the town settled in 1990 for $275,000 without admitting wrongdoing. The landfill closed in the late 1990s.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tests concluded that the school was safe, but the school board kept the school closed.

Interviews with residents this week suggested the proposal could face opposition, with some neighbors concerned about the fate of two early childhood education programs based in the building. Another worry was the school’s fields, a precious commodity in the hamlet, which has limited spaces for recreation.

Jennifer O’Brien, a PTA member who owns a Smithtown insurance agency and also has children in Hauppauge district schools, said local children, including her daughters, play soccer on the fields outside the school and have used the building’s gym for cheerleading practice.

“The consensus of community and local families are against it,” O’Brien said.

The former school also serves as a polling place, residents said.

The Beechwood project, if it receives zoning change approvals from Islip Town, would generate about $1 million in annual property tax revenue for the district, Beechwood said.

Islip Town spokeswoman Caroline Smith said officials there were not aware of the proposal and declined to comment.

A study prepared for Hauppauge last year by Eastern Suffolk BOCES said the district’s enrollment had dropped by 19.7% from 2010 to 2020 and likely would decline an additional 12.1% by 2030. The study was based on census data, regional birth records, home sales and other demographic measures.

The study said the district’s five schools are operating at 50% to 57% of their capacity.

Beechwood officials said they could not estimate sales prices for the units. At least 10% of the homes would be set aside as “affordable” units to comply with state and Islip Town law. The state’s Long Island affordable housing law requires some large developments to offer units at prices based on median incomes in the region.

The Hauppauge school board has scheduled information meetings for residents to be held Tuesday and on Oct. 19 at the Whiporwil property and on Oct. 6 at Hauppauge High School.

Carl MacGowan is a Long Island native who covers Brookhaven Town after having previously covered Smithtown, Suffolk County courts and numerous spot news and feature stories over his 20-plus year career at Newsday.