Government

A local effort to ban a popular ingredient in beauty products has support on the federal level.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman visited Long Island recently to announce the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, a bipartisan federal bill that would ban cosmetics containing plastic pellets called microbeads, which are frequently smaller than 1 millimeter in diameter and are found in face washes, shampoos, beauty products and other soaps.

Because of their size, most wastewater treatment systems are unable to filter out the microbeads, so they are released into local waterways like the Long Island Sound. But microbeads accumulate toxins in the water, and fish and birds ingest them. Public health could be at risk if the fish are reeled in and eaten.

Schneiderman reported that about 19 tons of the small pellets pass through New York wastewater treatment plants each year.

Gillibrand’s bill has sponsors and co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, most of them from the Midwest, according to a press release from the senator’s office. It is similar to a New York state-level bill of the same name, which is Schneiderman’s effort to prohibit the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads.

“These tiny pieces of plastic have already caused significant ecological damage to New York’s waterways,” Gillibrand said, “and they will continue to do so until they are removed from the marketplace.”

The state bill passed the Assembly in the last session but was not put up for a vote in the Senate, despite having more co-sponsors than the number of votes it would have needed to pass.

New York is not alone in pushing to ban microbeads — Illinois has already given them the axe, and other states are considering similar legislation.

Many local residents first heard about the issue when Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) led her colleagues to passing a law that required the county to study how a microbead ban would affect health and the economy.

She commended officials for their anti-microbead effort on the national stage.

“The threat posed by microbead waste is of national consequence,” Hahn said in the press release. “The cumbersome task of tackling this issue [from] municipality to municipality and state to state will never prove as effective as a federal approach.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the local Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said there are other effective alternatives to microbeads, such as apricot shells, salt and oatmeal.

“The public expects facial soaps and toothpaste to clean our face and teeth, not pollute our waters,” Esposito said. “Plastic microbeads pollute our waters, contaminate our fish and shellfish, and could end up back on our dinner plates. They are completely unnecessary.”

7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals is pushing pause on considering a plan to build a 7-Eleven in Centerport and wants more information on the proposal’s potential traffic and environmental impacts.

The application, which was scheduled for a public hearing before the ZBA today, Thursday, July 30, has been taken off the agenda, according to Robert Riekert, deputy director of planning and environment for the town. The decision came after the town received an engineer’s analysis of the 7-Eleven proposal earlier this week, requesting the applicant, 7-Eleven Inc., respond to a list of issues.

“The meeting was adjourned until a further date due to insufficiencies in their application,” Riekert said in an email.

Plans for a 7-Eleven have been in the works for a few years now. The company had tried to establish a new 7-Eleven store two years ago — the ZBA even granted approval for the business in 2013 — however, the effort was shut down by a lawsuit filed by Huntington attorney Darrin Berger, who worked with residents and the Centerport Harbor Civic Association. According to Berger, both 7-Eleven and the town didn’t properly evaluate the project’s impacts under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, also known as SEQRA.

The New York State Supreme Court agreed that the environmental review was not conducted properly, so progress for the 7-Eleven halted.

7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

If approved, the convenience store would be a one-story, freestanding market on a 21,553 square foot parcel. An existing automotive repair shop currently on that land would be demolished to make way for the business. The proposed public hearing was meant for the ZBA to review a request for a special use permit and area variance in order to demolish the auto repair shop.

Dunn Engineering Associates P.C., a town-appointed engineering firm that reviewed the applicant’s traffic analysis, requested that 7-Eleven re-evaluate several points in its application to build a store on the northeast corner of Route 25A and Little Neck Road. Their concerns predominately had to do with traffic safety issues. Dunn Engineering Associates sent their opinions on the proposal to Christopher Modelewski, chairman of the ZBA, this week.

According to a letter from Walter Dunn Jr., president of Dunn Engineering Associates, to Modelewski, the applicant should request accident data in the vicinity of the proposed 7-Eleven site along Route 25A, Little Neck Road and Centerport Road.

“This data should be analyzed to minimize the possibility of traffic safety concerns created due to the addition of the proposed 7-Eleven convenience store,” Dunn said.

Traffic safety issues also included sight distance. Dunn said the engineers performed a sight distance investigation and concluded that 7-Eleven’s traffic engineer should review and verify the adequacy of the two proposed access points and the engineer’s findings.

In a previous letter, the firm noted that Route 25A and Little Neck Road both have considerable horizontal and vertical curvature in vicinity of the proposed site. In order to make sure that the curvature wouldn’t have a detrimental impact on the operations of the proposed access points, sight distance was evaluated at both locations.

While the engineers’ study discovered that sight visibility was limited at a certain section, it was determined that, due to traffic signals, a car would not be going at a fast enough speed for this to be considered dangerous. “Therefore sight distance at this driveway location is considered accurate,” Dunn wrote

7-Eleven has proposed establishing new turning lanes at the intersection if they are approved, however, the letter urged that 7-Eleven redo their capacity analyses for the separate right and left turning lanes and through lanes. Dunn Engineering Associates said that 7-Eleven should reverse their proposal of a separate right turn lane, and a shared left turn/through lane for more successful traffic flow.

The applicant also submitted a proposal to widen the west side of Little Neck Road to provide a southbound approach to Route 25A. This would provide a separate left turn lane and a combined through/right turn lane. Dunn suggested that this proposal be added into the traffic impact study so the town could further examine this possibility.

A final suggestion engineers introduced involves the issue of delivery trucks coming in and out of the area to supply 7-Eleven.

Kenneth Barnes, regional development director for 7-Eleven, made a statement in an affidavit in May, according to Dunn Engineering Associates, that there would be a commitment to restrict the size and movements of delivery trucks.

It was suggested that this commitment be added into the traffic impact study along with a statement, so that the town’s previous concerns that larger sized trucks couldn’t safely maneuver through the site or entrance of the proposed 7-Eleven are mitigated.

Meanwhile, Centerport residents are continuing their fight against the possibility of a new 7-Eleven.

Gloria Wertheimer, president of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association, said last week her group feels the project would bring additional traffic to an already congested area and a busy intersection. They also feel that it does not fit in with Centerport at all, a small business, local community driven area.

“It doesn’t belong here, we feel it’s going to draw the wrong type of crowd,” Wertheimer said.

7-Eleven did not return multiple calls seeking comment this week.

Concrete slabs sit in the open lot on Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Phil Corso

A vacant lot that used to be home to a lumberyard, across the street from Town Hall in Smithtown, is in the Town Board’s crosshairs.

A recent waiver request from the applicant in charge of the 102 W. Main Street property set off a somewhat heated debate at Town Hall, when Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) called out VEA 181st Realty Corp. for what he referred to as a lack of good faith in bettering the space. In the application, developer Salvatore DiCarlo requested the gigantic pile of concrete slabs at the site be ground on the premises in a move that Smithtown Planning Director David Flynn said could reduce truck traffic in the area.

At a work session earlier this month, Flynn told the board that DiCarlo needed to remove the concrete slabs from the property in order to grind them down and install a roughly 5-foot mound of vegetation in its place, as the property moves forward into development. Flynn said there was likely more material than necessary for future building on the property, thus making it difficult for the developer to have to truck materials back and forth between the property and an off-site location.

“Reducing truck traffic is in the public good,” Flynn said, while discussing the waiver request with the Town Board. “The applicant already agreed to abide to conditions beyond what the town code requires. He’s volunteering to slightly more stringent requirements as it is.”

Vecchio, however, was not impressed by the suggestion, and contended that the request to grind concrete on-site was nothing more than an attempt to save money.

“When is he going to build? What is his endeavor here?” Vecchio said. “When does he show some good faith?”

Vecchio said he would not vote in favor of a waiver request for DiCarlo, and instead said it was time for him “to put the pedal to the metal.”

DiCarlo could not be reached for comment.

Flynn said the applicant had received approval to build three-story apartments at the site, with retail space on the ground floors. He also said he was unaware of any specific target date in terms of construction at the property.

DiCarlo, who Flynn said took on the property about 10 years ago, was granted a special exception back in 2013 that allowed him to build apartments on the site, but he has yet to file an updated site plan for construction. The town approved a site plan for demolition in July 2014 and two vacant buildings on the site have been razed over the last several months.

Town Councilman Bob Creighton (R) said the applicant has been trying to build on the site for years, but has encountered countless obstacles preventing him from doing so on the town level. Vecchio, however, fired back that the town’s hands were clean when it came to the inactivity at the spot.

“He hasn’t done anything in good faith,” he said. “I find it horrible. I think that’s a no-no.”

The discussion was tabled upon request from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) pending a meeting with the property owner, with Creighton ending the debate by calling on his fellow board members to give DiCarlo a chance.

Eight affordable rental housing parcels in the works

Veterans roll up a flag at a press conference on the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative. The county Legislature will vote on a measure to transfer properties to create affordabe housing for homeless veterans at its Sept. 9 meeting. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County has gained some footing in the war against veteran homelessness.

Last week, officials announced a proposal to transfer eight tax-defaulted properties over to nonprofit groups that will be charged with developing them into rental housing for homeless veterans or those who are at risk of becoming homeless. The units will be overseen and managed by the non-profit organizations.

The move is part of the Housing our Homeless Heroes legislative initiative, a package of four bills sponsored by Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills). Officials say there are about 750 Long Island veterans who are either homeless or who are expected to be homeless by the end of 2015.

In a phone interview on Monday, Stern said the county Legislature would vote on the transfer of the properties at its Sept. 9 meeting. He said he expects the resolution, which he is co-sponsoring with County Executive Steve Bellone (D), to gain unanimous support.

Stern, who is the chairman of the county’s Veterans and Seniors Committee, said in addition to housing resources, the veterans will receive additional services through these nonprofits, such as job training and placement; primary and mental health care; disability management and health care coordination; family counseling; financial training and substance abuse services.

“The Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative is the housing part of providing assistance to our veterans and families,” Stern said. “But it can never be just about four walls and a roof.”

Once transferred, the nonprofits would foot the construction bill through roughly $10 million in state and federal grant funding available for such projects, Stern said. Funding for the construction will be provided in part from the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Two parcels in Central Islip will be transferred to the Concern for Independent Living for the construction of three single-family homes. Bay Shore-based United Veterans Beacon House has proposed to rehabilitate an existing home on a Copiague parcel, and build a single-family unit on a Yaphank parcel.

In addition, the Association for Mental Health and Wellness is proposing to build a new four-bedroom house for three senior disabled veterans and a live-in house manager on two parcels in Mastic; rehabilitate a house in Riverhead for one veteran family; and build a new set of four, single room occupancies for veterans on a parcel in Medford.

The Legislature approved the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative last year, and Bellone signed the legislation into law just days before Christmas. The four laws tackle the issue of veteran homelessness from different angles — one establishes a partnership between agencies and community advocates that serve veterans and their families and helps them set up an informational web portal on the county’s website to direct them to services available across all levels of government and within the nonprofit sector. Another maximizes access to available housing for veterans. The third amended the county’s human rights law by adding veterans as a group of individuals protected against discrimination in housing and employment opportunities. The last bill will require a veteran services officer to work at the county’s Department of Social Services on a regular basis. The officers must be veterans as well, in order to establish a peer-to-peer relationship between those they are helping.

“As an agency committed to ensuring empowering people to overcome the impact of health and mental health disabilities, it is our intent to devote these houses to assist male and female veterans who have been affected by service-connected and post-service transition mental health challenges,” Michael Stoltz, chief executive officer of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness said in a statement. “I thank Suffolk County for partnering with our organization to further assist us in supporting our veterans.”

Pols reopen beach after seven years

The shore at the Centerport Yacht Club is open. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The push to clean up Suffolk County’s water quality saw a major milestone on one Centerport shorefront Monday.

Lawmakers and community members gathered at the Centerport Yacht Club on Northport Harbor on a hot summer day to mark the reopening of the beach, which had been shuttered for seven years because of its poor water quality. The harbor is celebrating a cleaner bill of health thanks to multi-governmental efforts to reduce pollution — most significantly through recent upgrades to the Northport wastewater treatment plant.

“Today is unprecedented due to the efforts of many stakeholders,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced at a press conference inside the clubhouse. “…This is the result of a lot of hard work.”

Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Spencer and a number of Huntington Town officials including Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) cut the ribbon opening the beach, and the county officials hand-delivered a beach permit to the supervisor.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, with oversight from the New York State Department of Health, conducted more than 600 tests in 20 locations at the beach since April, Spencer said. The results found that the quality of the water meets “required stringent standards,” Spencer’s office said in a statement.

Northport Harbor, once the “epicenter of red tide in the Northeast,” has seen a dramatic reduction of nitrogen, from 19.4 lbs. per day to 7.5 lbs. And there’s been no red tide in the harbor in the last three seasons, Spencer’s office said.

Officials said a significant upgrade to the Northport sewage treatment plant had a huge hand in turning the tide.

Bellone, who said the county is facing a “water quality crisis,” recognized Northport Village officials for being on top of the issue. He called the rehabilitation of Northport Harbor an “example of what we need to do around the county.”

Petrone and Bellone said Spencer had a big hand in making waves on the issue.

“The doctor’s orders worked,” Petrone said.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The issue of Northport Harbor’s water quality gained steam among Centerport Yacht Club members when Joe Marency, past commodore, was at the helm about five years ago. He praised the beach reopening at Monday’s press conference.

“There’s still a lot to do but this is a big step in the right direction,” he said.

At the close of the press conference, lawmakers gathered outside the club on the water. They excitedly uprooted a “no swimming” sign posted there, and Bellone and Spencer exclaimed, “Who’s going in?”

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) waded into the water, ankle-deep. It took a pair of bold bathers seconds to dart towards the shore and dive in.

“It’s beautiful and warm,” said Randall Fenderson, one of the swimmers who emerged from the water.

Fenderson, who presently lives in Santa Monica, California, said he grew up in the area and has a personal connection to the beach, and was sad to see it closed.

A group of children also made their way to the water, include Greenlawn sisters Paige and Madelyn Quigley. The girls, 6-years old and 10 years old, also said the water felt nice.

“Now we’ll be in here forever,” Madelyn said.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

The Brookhaven Town Board has officially backed Supervisor Ed Romaine’s push for a horseshoe crab harvesting ban at town parks and properties.

At a meeting on July 16, councilmembers unanimously supported a resolution that requests the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation close North and South Shore parks and underwater lands to horseshoe crab harvesting and recommends strategies to reduce the harvesting. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also spoke at the meeting and threw in his support for the effort, as it would help protect the crab population — which, according to some reports, has decreased.

“I support this resolution and encourage its passage and compliment the very fact that it has been initiated,” said Englebright, who chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, right, and a local fisherman, left, speak at a Brookhaven Town Board meeting. Photo by Erika Karp

In May, Romaine announced he would seek a horseshoe crab harvesting ban for areas within 500 feet of town-owned waterfront properties. Fishermen often use horseshoe crabs for bait, but the crabs are also used for medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and supplies.

Advocates for the ban have said the crabs, whose species is 450 million years old, play a vital role in the ecosystem, as birds like the red knot eat the crabs’ eggs.

Local parks covered within the town’s request include Port Jefferson Harbor; the western boundary of the Mount Sinai inlet; underwater lands and town-owned shoreline of Setauket Harbor; and Shoreham Beach.

The DEC already has bans in place at Mount Sinai Harbor and West Meadow Beach.

In addition, the town asked the DEC to consider mandating fishers to use bait bags and/or artificial bait; banning the harvesting of horseshoe crab females; and establishing full harvest bans several days before and after full moons in May and June — the crabs’ nesting season.

Those latter recommendations were not included in the original resolution, but were added after weeks of discussion on the issue.

Local baymen have said their livelihoods would be jeopardized by any further restrictions, and the seamen remained opposed to the resolution last Thursday. Many also disagreed with officials that the crab population was decreasing.

“If you were with us you would know the quantities are there,” Florence Sharkey, president of the Brookhaven Baymen’s Association, said at the meeting.

Sharkey added that alternative baits have been tried, but don’t work.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine holds a horseshoe crab as he calls on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite the testimony, the Town Board moved forward with resolution, which had been tabled for nearly two months. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called the decision a difficult one.

During public comment, Englebright invited the fishers to speak before his committee, as the state is wrestling with the issue as well.

The assemblyman introduced legislation in March that would impose a moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs and their eggs until 2021. While the bill wasn’t voted on in the last legislative session, a different bill, which outlines similar recommendations to the DEC regarding crab conservation and management, was approved.

Englebright said the law would be revisited in two years. He said he hoped the DEC would get better data on the crabs in the future as well.

While the state continues to grapple with the issue, Englebright noted the town’s requested ban is different, as it pertains to parkland.

“This is a park and public expectation is different than [at] the general shoreline,” he said. “A park is usually a place that animals have the opportunity to have refuge.”

Town officials are limiting development at the former site of Lawrence Aviation Industries. File photo

By Elana Glowatz & Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town will restrict development at a polluted site in Port Jefferson Station using a special zoning district.

The town board approved the new zoning for the former property of aircraft-parts manufacturer Lawrence Aviation Industries on Thursday night, several months after approving a land use plan for the site off Sheep Pasture Road that called for the special district.

Adjacent to a stretch of the Greenway Trail and some residences in the northern part of the hamlet, the site requires closer inspection because of its history — Lawrence Aviation dumped harmful chemicals at the site over years, contaminating soil and groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have been working for several years to undo the damage through the federal Superfund program, which cleans up such contaminations of hazardous materials, but it could still take two more decades to completely clean local groundwater.

Brookhaven’s land use plan recommended the special zoning district to limit potential commercial uses at the contaminated site in the future — for instance, some uses that would be permissible in light industry zoning elsewhere in town will not be permitted at Lawrence Aviation, like agriculture, churches, day cares, recreation halls or schools. It does not support retail uses, but does not rule out office uses like laboratories and other research space.

The new district includes two zones — at the property and at nearby residential sites — and seeks to “protect those who occupy the site,” according to Beth Reilly, a deputy town attorney.

In addition to restricting some uses and prohibiting residential development in the former industrial area, it provides incentives such as speedier environmental reviews and eased requirements for lot setbacks and sizes to promote alternative energy production there, particularly solar energy.

To further protect residents, no new homes constructed in the neighborhood area of the special district could have basements, due to the contamination to local soil and groundwater.

Reilly was quick to point out that this didn’t mean the town was moving backward —all existing basements could stay.

The basement ban goes hand in hand with legislation the town passed last year that requires all new homes built near contaminated properties like Lawrence Aviation to be tested for soil vapors before they can receive certificates of occupancy.

The Lawrence Aviation zoning district passed, following a public hearing, with an abstention from Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who reiterated his opinion that the site should remain undeveloped. He also renewed his call for Suffolk County to add the property to its land bank or use it for open space so it could “heal itself.”

When Romaine first made that suggestion in the fall, he pointed to the $12 million lien the county had on the site, resulting from all the property taxes owed on the site. The EPA has another $25 million lien on the property due to the cost of the cleanup.

Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Dan Panico (R-Mastic) have supported the idea.

“I really think the county should consider this for an acquisition into their land bank,” Panico said Thursday.

The Suffolk County Land Bank Corporation, established in 2013, aims to rehabilitate contaminated properties, known as brownfields, to get them back on the county’s property tax roll. The county pays property taxes on abandoned parcels, which causes the tax liens on the properties — and thus their sale prices — to increase, but the land bank lets the county sell the properties for less than the taxes owed, making it easier to get them cleaned up and redeveloped.

Board adopts swifter timelines for removal

Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland's (D) proposal to speed up graffiti removal got the green-light this week. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Rules for dealing with graffiti in Huntington Town just got stricter.

The town board on Tuesday unanimously approved amendments to Town Code backed by Councilwoman Susan Berland (D). The changes create a faster process of all graffiti removal from both residential and commercial properties, and an even speedier timeline for removal of bias or hate graffiti.

Berland’s amendments were subject to a public hearing in early June.

“I’m very glad it passed, especially unanimously,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s important we have graffiti laws that will try to control this issue and also stop graffiti before it gets done.”

Residents of Huntington Town will now have 10 days after they receive a summons to remove graffiti from their property. If the 10 days expire and the graffiti has not been removed, the town can send Huntington Town General Services Department employees in to remove the graffiti. The resident will be charged for the cleanup fee, as well as a $250 administrative fee.

If the owner fails to play the cleanup bill within 30 days, the property will be added to a graffiti blight inventory, which would cost homeowners $2,500, and commercial property owners $5,000. Owners who do not pay the fee will have the bill become a lien on their property.

Berland is most excited about the section regarding graffiti containing hate speech.

“I think people agree that hate language should not be tolerated in any circumstance, so that’s a really important aspect for me,” Berland said.

The time frame is much shorter for graffiti with hate crime, with a total of three days to remove it once a property owner gets notice of violation, before the town takes action.

According to Berland, the amendment could become effective in about 45 days.

“Overall this will encourage owners of properties to make sure their properties are maintained properly,” Berland said.

Northport power plant. File photo

A new Huntington Town citizens group will boost a movement to upgrade the Northport power plant, independently studying the issue and submitting ideas to town officials.

The town board, on Tuesday, unanimously supported a measure co-sponsored by Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) to create the Repower Now Citizens Committee, a group of nine who will weigh in on an analysis the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid are conducting with respect to repowering, or upgrading, the plant.

Earlier this year, the state charged LIPA and National Grid with studying the feasibility of repowering the Northport power plant, the Port Jefferson power plant and others. Having the Repower Now Citizens Committee can only boost that effort, Cuthbertson and Petrone said in interviews with reporters after Tuesday’s meeting.

Local leaders want to see the aging Northport plant repowered so it will remain a source of energy and property tax revenue for years to come. Several local budgets, including that of the Northport-East Northport school district, rely heavily on the tax revenue.

Upgrading the Northport power plant can be done, Petrone said. It will be the new group’s responsibility to support repowering by producing a factual analysis on the issue.

“Our plant is probably the most viable plant to be utilized for that,” Petrone said, explaining Northport’s advantages in being repowered. “It has property available and it can be expanded. The need now is to put together a group to basically put some kind of study together … to support this. And there are many people out there that have expertise that we would wish to tap.”

Membership would include at least one person each from Northport and Asharoken villages, someone from the Northport-East Northport school district and members with engineering and sustainable energy backgrounds.

Repowering has another benefit: It may help settle a lawsuit LIPA brought against the town, challenging it over the value of the power plant.

LIPA claims the plant has been grossly over-assessed and the utility has overpaid taxes to the town. If LIPA’s suit is successful, the judgment could translate into double-digit tax increases for other Huntington Town and Northport-East Northport school district taxpayers.

If, however, the utility chooses to repower by upgrading the facility, the town has offered to keep its assessment flat, preventing those skyrocketing taxes.

“It’s a lawsuit that’s a very, very high-stakes lawsuit,” Cuthbertson told reporters after the meeting. “We have to look at both legal and political solutions, and political being through legislation. This is a part of trying to formulate a legislative solution and come up with a compromise that we might be able to work through.”

Petrone said he hopes to have the repowering citizens group assembled within a month.

Petrone: RFP for parking garage coming soon

The Huntington Town Board authorized a $1.6 million purchase of property to create 66 additional parking spaces in Huntington village. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington village’s parking pickle may soon become a little less of one.

On Tuesday, the town board green-lighted a $1.6 million purchase of property on West Carver Street to create about 66 new parking spaces in the village.

The board unanimously authorized Supervisor Frank Petrone or his representative to execute a contract to purchase a portion of the property at 24 West Carver St. from owner Anna Louise Realty II, LLC— right across the road from the New Street municipal parking lot. The money will be bonded for over a 10-year period, Petrone told reporters after the meeting.

It won’t be the only parking update in Huntington village this season. Petrone said the town is working with the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington Station Business Improvement District to draft a request for proposals to build a parking garage in town — an idea town officials and residents have mulled for years.

“It’s a beginning,” Petrone said. “We made a commitment that parking is a continuum. We changed the meters. We have a different approach. We restriped, we added more spots, we redid lots. And now this is adding like 66 more additional spots, which is pretty substantial given the fact of the needs in the town.”

Town officials are hoping to get the RFP out by the end of summer, Petrone said. Asked where the structure would be sited, the supervisor said there have been discussions about locating it at the New Street lot, right across from the 66 additional spaces.

If a parking structure is to be built, it is likely current spots would be closed down in the construction process. Part of the idea of purchasing the 66 spaces would be to help mitigate parking during the building of a structure, he said.

Town officials had explored creating a parking facility on Elm Street for years. Those ideas aren’t dead, Petrone said, but the feeling is the town might be able to get more spots out of the New Street location. “We begin with New Street,” he said. “I’m not saying Elm will not be looked at.”

Petrone said the town’s been thinking up creative ways to finance a parking structure. Asked how the town would pay for such a facility, Petrone said it could be a private project, with the town providing the developer with a lease to the land, or it could be a public-private partnership. If a private entity were to come in, it would have to be worthwhile to them financially. To that end, he said “we’ve heard all sorts of ideas,” like building apartments or shops into the structure — properties that could be rented out. He said officials have also explored whether the cost of parking in the structure would suffice in terms of paying the debt service on the bond off.

The supervisor said he’s also weighed creating a parking district for the whole village area, with businesses paying into it, “because it’s the cost of doing business, it basically will provide better parking in the village.”

The chamber of commerce has “played an integral part in the push for increased parking options” in the town over the last three years, according to David Walsdorf, a chamber board member and member of the Huntington Village Parking Consortium.

“We view the parking challenge as a positive reflection of the growth and vitality of our flourishing businesses and we continue to support further improvement in our infrastructure to meet the needs and sustainability of our community,” he said in a statement.

Chamber chairman Bob Scheiner praised the news.

“The Huntington Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of this parking consortium and we fully support the supervisor and town board in this acquisition, which will go a long way to help the parking situation in downtown,” he said in a statement “The chamber looks forward to the release of the RFP and thanks the board for their efforts.”

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