General manager of Woodbury Common says a train station at the outlet ‘is simply not realistic’

Central Valley. Lawyer for Woodbury Planning says with Sen. James Skoufis demand to withhold approval of the outlet’s expansion without a train station would be ‘illegal.’

| 24 Oct 2019 | 01:28

    David Mistretta, the general manager of Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, disputed claims by state Senator James Skoufis that Simon Properties, which owns Woodbury Common, walked away from $5 million in state funding for a train station at the outlet mall:

    "Woodbury Common Premium Outlets has always enjoyed an open, cooperative and constructive relationship with both members and leaders of the community. As such, we have engaged in multiple discussions with Senator Skoufis and his statement today does not represent the true nature of these conversations, nor our position with respect to the proposed train station.

    “Our point of view has been clear and consistent as it relates to the proposed train station and its true cost as well as the associated enhancements required to make it feasible. Within the existing infrastructure, a train station at Woodbury Common is simply not realistic.

    “To be clear, while we appreciate Senator Skoufis’ efforts to secure $5M toward this idea, the necessary infrastructure upgrades would cost tens of millions of additional dollars and requires the input, support and funding by a broad range of relevant stakeholders.

    “Woodbury Common’s long-standing wide deployment of multiple daily bus runs from Port Authority in New York City already provides a successful mass-transit model.

    “The Village of Woodbury is currently reviewing Woodbury Common’s application for expansion, which would further position this outlet center as a leading tourism destination in the state and create more than 1,000 additional jobs. It is notable that the study of a train station was not requested by the Village, New York State Department of Transportation or MTA as part of the environmental review, despite Senator’s Skoufis’ demands to the Village of Woodbury Planning Board in a December 8, 2018 letter.

    “... To question our commitment to the well-being of the communities we serve is unfounded, particularly given we’ve recently invested $300M to further elevate and enhance the property.”

    Skoufis: Double-speak

    Meanwhile, Skoufis, said the $5 million in funding is still available, responded to Mistretta’s statement with one of his own:

    “Neither Simon Properties nor their PR firm can double-speak their way out of this one. Since securing both the MTA’s support for the project as well as the $5 million in funding back in April, there have been exactly zero conversations between Woodbury Common representatives and me. In fact, my office and I have repeatedly tried to get the mall’s management to meet with the MTA, local officials, and me - Simon Properties has inexplicably refused.

    “Simon Properties further argues that $5 million does not cover the full cost of a new station. Of course it doesn’t. They need to pony up and contribute towards the project. Only a corporation that is so disconnected from reality would fail to understand that this needs to be a public-private partnership. While both the local community and MTA stand to benefit from a Woodbury Common train station, the outlet mall would reap the most significant dividends with a new, convenient way for shoppers to visit. The MTA has even offered their technical expertise to ensure the new station would be built at the most cost-effective price. Yet, Simon Properties won’t even take a meeting.

    “Local officials and I are urging the Woodbury Planning Board to reject the outlet mall’s latest expansion unless they move a train station forward. It really is telling that Simon Properties included a ridiculous, out-of-touch helipad in their proposal but refuses to advance a train station.”

    Lawyer to senator: The Woodbury Planning Board 'cannot do what you demand'

    There has emerged another voice in this scenario, that of Richard B. Golden, the lawyer for the Woodbury Planning Board. In an Oct. 21 letter to Skoufis, Golden wrote:

    “On behalf of the Woodbury Planning Board I am responding to your press release dated Oct. 17, 2019. This will also address your prior letter of Dec. 8, 2018 to the Planning Board to the same effect.

    “In your press release and prior letter to the Planning Board you request that the Planning Board deny Woodbury Common's pending application unless it agrees to allow, and largely fund, a new MTA train station off-site of Woodbury Common's property. As you ought to know, it would be illegal for the Planning Board to do what you demand under both New York and federal law. I will advise the Planning Board that if they follow your illegal direction that they will expose the Village to substantial liability.

    “You tout that you have secured $5 million in funding for such a train station project. As you are well aware, the cost of such a train station project will likely exceed $20 million dollars and such a project would require that Woodbury Common's owners transfer their own property or provide an easement over their property, to the MTA.

    “New York land use law prohibits the Planning Board from withholding or conditioning an approval unless and until such off-site improvement of a State Authority's property is included in a project by an unwilling applicant.

    “Perhaps most insidious, however, is your suggestion, echoed in your press release by the present Town Supervisor Palermo, that the Planning Board has the power to deny an application (whether by Woodbury Common or any other property owner in Woodbury), regardless of an applicant's rights under State and local law, simply because you believe that a property owner should fund and transfer private land interests to a public project.

    “The Planning Board is legally not allowed to be swayed by the political interests or generalized opinions of others.... The Planning Board cannot do what you demand. To suggest otherwise wrongfully puts the Planning Board in a role it cannot legally perform. You are asking the Planning Board to act illegally. It is improper for you to do so.”