Town of Huntington

Laurel Hill Road at Elwood Road in Northport. Photo from Google Maps

A traffic study of Laurel Hill Road conducted following a serious September accident found that drivers’ “poor behavior” makes roadway conditions significantly worse outside Northport High School, according to Town of Huntington officials.

The town’s Department of Transportation and Traffic Study conducted a study following the Sept. 4 accident involving 14-year-old Miles Lerner. Miles was an incoming freshman walking to cross-country practice at Northport High School when he was struck by a 2005 Honda sedan traveling eastbound on Laurel Hill Road at 8:06 a.m., according to Suffolk County police. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University
Hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

Following the incident, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R), a citizen’s advocate and town employees met with members of the Northport-East Northport school district and Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct Sept. 14 to discuss the accident and pedestrian traffic in the area. As a result, the town decided to undertake a traffic study of Laurel Hill Road, which is in the town’s jurisdiction, the result of which was shared with school officials and police officers at a Nov. 27 meeting.

The next steps are to meet with the school district’s architect, Suffolk County and residents to discuss the town’s traffic study and plans for improvements along Laurel Hill Road and on the school property.”

— Scott Spittal

“Our Traffic Safety team has been carefully analyzing the data they collected from vehicular as well as pedestrian bicycle traffic to formulate a recommendation that will make our roads safer for student walkers, reduce driver frustration and achieve an overall traffic calming effect, especially during those critical pick-up and drop-off times,” Lupinacci said.

From Sept. 19 to 27, town employees placed traffic counting devices along Laurel Hill Road and the driveways that provide access to and from the high school to collect data on traffic volumes and speed. The data showed an average of 420 vehicles traveled eastbound and roughly 500 vehicles westbound on Laurel Hill Road during the peak morning hour of 7 to 8 a.m. weekdays, compared to an average of 40 to 50 cars on weekends. The 85 percentile of vehicles were clocked traveling at approximately 45 mph eastbound and 39 mph westbound, nearly twice the school speed zone restriction set at 20 mph. The average number of vehicles counted traveling on Laurel Hill Road during the peak 2 to 3 p.m. hour was between roughly 220 to 240 cars in each direction.

“Conditions are made worse due to poor driver behavior that was observed, including drivers speeding, dropping off students in the westbound Laurel Hill Road shoulder area and travel lane, and using the westbound Laurel Hill Road shoulder to bypass the queue of vehicles waiting to enter the school’s westernmost driveway along Laurel Hill Road,” read the town’s report.

In addition, Huntington transportation and traffic employees noted that buses and vehicles made “precarious” left turns out of the school’s easternmost driveway on Laurel Hill Road, close to the intersection with Elwood Road.

Based on these findings, the town had produced a concept plan that suggests adding an exclusive westbound left turn lane on Laurel Hill Road to reduce driver frustration for westbound motorists looking to travel through the area, which would be achieved by reducing the width of the existing shoulder areas on both sides of the roadway. This would have the added benefit of eliminating the ability of drivers to use the shoulder to bypass the travel line and drop off students in the westbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road, according to the town’s report.

“The next steps are to meet with the school district’s architect, Suffolk County and residents to discuss the town’s traffic study and plans for improvements along Laurel Hill Road and on the school property,” said Scott Spittal, Huntington’s director of transportation and traffic safety.

One downside to the Town of Huntington’s proposed concept plan is it would eliminate on-street parking in the eastbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road, or approximately 25 spaces.

“The superintendent is appreciative of the town’s efforts in conducting the traffic safety study, however, it is too early to render any reaction since the preliminary recommendations were just released Nov. 27,” Mike Ganci, spokesman for Northport school district said in a statement.

The Northport power plant. File photo

Town of Huntington officials made the decision Tuesday to take Long Island Power Authority’s proclaimed value of the Northport Power Station at $193 million as an invitation to investigate purchasing the facility.

Huntington town board approved a resolution offered by Councilman Gene Cook (I) to authorize the town attorney’s office to formally research into its legal options in utilizing eminent domain to take ownership of the Northport plant by a 4-1 vote.

“It’s for the people, to look out for the future of the Town of Huntington,” he said. “I have done a lot of research and I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s for the people, to look out for the future of the Town of Huntington.”

— Gene Cook

The councilman first raised the possibility of turning to eminent domain back in May, days after LIPA submitted documents to Suffolk County Supreme Court in its pending tax certiorari lawsuit against the town, which disputes the current annual tax-assessed value of the plant at about $80 million. The utility company has alleged the structure only has a fair market value of $193,680,000 as of July 1, 2013, based on a market value report from Tarrytown-based Tulis Wilkes Huff & Geiger.

“I looked at that appraisal not as a fair evaluation, but an invitation for the town to explore condemnation of the plant,” Councilman Ed Smyth (R) said. “The price is so ridiculously low that it would be negligent of us to not explore the possibility of acquiring the plant.”

Smyth said that he believes the Northport Power Station, which is actually owned by National Grid, is underutilized by LIPA, perhaps intentionally to devalue it given the ongoing tax certiorari lawsuit.

Cook had previously stated he believes the Northport facility is one of the largest power plants in the Northeast and will become more valuable with future improvements. He said his research shows the facility has the potential to operate and generate electric for another 15 to 30 years, up to a maximum of 40 years before closing down. Cook previously estimated the power station could produce as much as $5 billion in revenue per year for the town.

“The price is so ridiculously low that it would be negligent of us to not explore the possibility of acquiring the plant.”

— Ed Smyth

“What I like if the town buys it now at this rate is, when the plant is closed, we could shut it down and give the property back to the people for reaction or environmental uses,” he said.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the lone vote against an official resolution requesting the town attorney’s office to conduct research into the possibility of eminent domain. He called the legislation an unnecessary act of “grandstanding,” stating any board member could have simply verbally requested the town attorney to look into the matter.

“We are creating false hope this is a viable option, if it really were an option our lawyers would have suggested it a long time ago,” he said. “It is not a possibility to operate the LIPA plant as municipal power authority.”

The councilman also stated that under New York State General Municipal Law, if the town were to take over daily operation of the power station it would not pay any taxes to the Northport-East Northport School District — which currently receives approximately $56 million annually from the utility company.

If the town were to initiate the process of obtaining the power plan via eminent domain, it would not resolve the town’s lawsuit with LIPA. In addition to seeking a 90 percent reduction of taxes on the power plant, LIPA is asking for the town to reimburse it for alleged overpayment of taxes each year since it filed the claim in 2010 — totaling more than $500 million.

“We are creating false hope this is a viable option, if it really were an option our lawyers would have suggested it a long time ago.”

— Mark Cuthbertson

Sid Nathan, spokesman for LIPA, said the company had no comment as it is continuing negotiations at this time. 

Huntington, Northport-East Northport school district, LIPA and National Grid all agreed to sit down with neutral third-party mediator, Port Washington-based attorney Marty Scheinman, in nonbinding arbitration this July to see if all parties could reach a potential settlement agreement over the tax-assessed value of the Northport plant. The trial on the tax certiorari case is scheduled to continue in February 2019, according to Cook. 

Tom Kehoe, deputy mayor for the Village of Northport, commended Cook and the town board for their decision to move forward with investigating the legal potential of utilizing eminent domain to take over the plant.

“Whether it ever gets to the point of the town acquiring it through eminent domain, it’s another piece of the puzzle that will put a little pressure on the utility and LIPA to come to an agreement that’s good for all of us,” Kehoe said.

Former legislative aide alleges then-state assemblyman forcibly touched him in Albany hotel rooms

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

A former staff member of Chad Lupinacci, Huntington town supervisor, has filed a lawsuit alleging the then-state assemblyman of sexual assault and harassment during his employment.

Brian Finnegan, Lupinacci’s former legislative aide and chief of staff, filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court Dec. 4 alleging that Lupinacci forced non-consensual sexual acts and inappropriate touching on him during overnight trips to Albany in December 2017.

“I was forced to forfeit my career in public service, something in which I took much pride in making our community a better place,” Finnegan said in a statement. “At the drop of the hat, my hard work was meaningless and I was unemployed, all because I was the target of a sexual predator. My life was shattered.”

“At the drop of the hat, my hard work was meaningless and I was unemployed, all because I was the target of a sexual predator. My life was shattered.”

— Brian Finnegan

Brian Griffin, a Garden City-based attorney with Foley Griffin LLP representing Lupinacci, said Finnegan’s allegations were “unequivocally false and completely without merit,” and an attempt at “an unjust and unwarranted financial payday.” The attorney said that despite the alleged incidents having occurred approximately a year ago, no complaint was ever filed with the New York State Assembly.

Finnegan worked as legislative aide for Lupinacci for three years while he represented the 10th state Assembly District and traveled with him to Albany at least once a month for work responsibilities. During that time, Manhattan-based attorney Imran Ansari, of Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins PC, said his client, Finnegan, was subjected to “a pattern of somewhat bizarre and inappropriate behavior” culminating in an alleged sexual assault.

“Mr. Finnegan was subjected to unlawful and unwanted sexual contact by Mr. Lupinacci that amounts to nothing less than assault,” the attorney said. “He endured harassment and abuse over his time working for Mr. Lupinacci and in order to escape this hostile work environment gave up a position in public service that was personally, professionally and financially rewarding. He’s suffered economic damages and pain and suffering, but most importantly, he seeks the justice.”

The lawsuit filed this month claims that Finnegan frequently was asked inappropriate questions about his personal life, including the women he was dating, from the then-assemblyman, and found evidence his employer went into his cellphone and computer without permission.

“Supervisor Lupinacci has spent over a decade educating our students, serving on the local school board, working in the [state] Assembly and as the supervisor of the Town of Huntington,” Griffin said in a statement. “Supervisor Lupinacci denies these claims and will continue to serve the people of the Town of Huntington in the same professional and dedicated manner that he has done throughout his career in public service. He will vigorously defend himself against these false allegations.”

On Dec. 5, 2017, Finnegan said he was sharing a hotel room at Hilton Albany with Lupinacci, who allegedly insisted it was for “budgetary reasons,” when between the hours of 2 to 5 a.m. he woke to finding his employer standing over him. The former aide alleges that he felt Lupinacci touching the zipper of his suit pants and attempted to bat him away, according to the lawsuit. He claims to have confronted Huntington’s supervisor-elect asking “What are you doing?” before falling back asleep, and a second time tried to confront him but Lupinacci allegedly jumped back into bed.

Supervisor Lupinacci denies these claims and will continue to serve the people of the Town of Huntington in the same professional and dedicated manner that he has done throughout his career in public service.”

— Brian Griffin

Finnegan claims he was reluctant to make a second overnight trip to Albany Dec. 12, 2017, and share a room with the then-state assemblyman at the Renaissance Albany Hotel. The ex-staffer said he awoke around 2:30 a.m. in the morning to find Lupinacci kneeling at the side of his bed. Lupinacci allegedly replied something about “checking to see if [Finnegan wanted food] and left,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges Finnegan’s boxers had been moved and manipulated to expose his genitals, and said he believes Lupinacci had inappropriate and nonconsensual sexual contact while he was asleep amounting to sexual assault.

“You’ve been touching me in my sleep and I’m not going to take it anymore,” Finnegan said confronting Lupinacci, according to the lawsuit. “This is done, this is over, I can’t work for you anymore.”

The ex-staffer said he left Renaissance Albany in the early hours of the night, purchased an Amtrak ticket home and waited as the politician allegedly attempted to repeatedly call his cellphone before driving around the city of Albany in an effort to find him.

“I was terrified and felt hunted,” Finnegan said.

The former staffer said he gave his resignation to Lupinacci days later and declined a position already offered to him as an executive assistant and senior adviser in the incoming Huntington administration.

The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation from the Huntington town supervisor for economic damages, in addition to pain and suffering, Ansari said. While a specific dollar amount was not cited, the attorney argued his client could have been earning considerably much more working for the town with better benefits. Finnegan is now employed by Todd Shapiro Associates Public Relations in Manhattan.

Family members of the late WWII veteran Michael Colamonico and elected officials stand together at the corner of McKay Road and Beau Lane in Huntington Station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Town of Huntington officials and veterans organizations gathered to give thanks for the lifelong work of a late Huntington Station World War II veteran for his commitment to the community.

McKay Road in Huntington Station was officially dedicated as “SSGT USAF Michael J. Colamonico Way” at its intersection with Beau Lane behind Huntington High School in a Nov. 24 ceremony. The signpost stands on the corner near where Colamonico lived with his wife, Lorraine, through his death in December 2013.

McKay Road was dedicated as USAF SSGT Michael J. Colamonico Way Nov. 24. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Mr. Colamonico dedicated his life to his family and veterans affair issues for active military and veterans,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Colamonico was drafted to serve in the U.S. Air Force during World War II where he was assigned a position as a turret gunner on a B-17 bomber. On Dec. 31, 1943, Colamonico was on his first mission — a 13-hour bombing run — when his plane was shot down by a German fighter plane over southern France, according to his son, Michael Jr. He was held as a prisoner of war at the infamous Stalag 17 in Austria for 17 months before being liberated in 1945.

While a prisoner, he wrote poetry and drew illustrations in a bound book he titled, “A Wartime Log,” which his son said is now cherished as a family heirloom.

Upon returning to the U.S., Colamonico settled in Huntington and became a charter member of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board. Its current board members made the request that his home street be dedicated in his name, which was approved by a unanimous vote of the Town Board at its July 17 meeting.

He was always there for the people in the community, no one really realized the impact until he had passed,” his grandson Francis Fanzilli said. “We get so caught up in thinking of ourselves and the world, we forget the impact we can have on the people around us.”

Veterans gathered at the Nov. 24 dedication ceremony salute the flag during the national anthem. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Colamonico volunteered at the Northport VA Medical Center helping and attending to injured veterans. He also was an active member of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Huntington, according to Father Michael Bissex.

“Michael loved the community he helped build, literally and figuratively,” Bissex said prior to blessing the sign.

Colamonico also served as a mentor to Huntington’s youth, in particular helping U.S. Army Capt. Michelle Mudge navigate her way through joining the armed services to become a pilot.

“He was a true mentor, he was one of the ones who believed in me from the time I was 15 years old,” she said. “ He pushed me through some dark times.”

Midge said she keeps a picture of Colamonico and his plane’s crew — that he once gave to her — on the mantle of her fireplace as a reminder. The captain believed her mentor would have been thrilled by the turnout at the dedication ceremony, and his wife agreed.

“I’m very honored and I know he would be, too,” she said. “I’m very happy to see him honored in this way.”

His wife spoke with family and friends with her arm stayed looped around the signpost long after the ceremony was over, as if holding onto a piece of her husband.

Boat mooring fee moves forward, new parks and recreational program fee increases to take effect Jan. 1

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington’s elected officials have adopted a $199.7 million operating budget for 2019 on a party-line vote at their Nov. 20 meeting, as Republicans and Democrats were split over town staffing changes and increases to fees.

The adopted 2019 budget raises $122.8 million through the tax levy, roughly $3 million more than the current year, representing a 2.53 percent increase. It falls under New York State’s mandated tax levy increase cap by approximately $80,0000, including $371,000 in rollover savings from 2018 and accounts for growth in the town’s tax base valued at roughly $400,000.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) amended the 2019 budget prior to approval to reinstate funding for four legislative secretaries — one for each town council member — which had been slashed from his first proposal. Lupinacci said a $200,000 federal grant received for the Huntington Youth Bureau’s drug and alcohol programs also helped free up funds.

I think it’s a good budget that will be very responsible to constituents that keeps within the tax cap…” 

— Chad Lupinacci

“I think it’s a good budget that will be very responsible to constituents that keeps within the tax cap, and it had good planning for the future in capital expenses and programs, so we can continue to hold our triple AAA credit rating that is very important,” he said.

Democratic council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol voted against the supervisor’s 2019 operating budget, arguing it was too much for Huntington’s taxpayers.

“The supervisor is asking residents to accept a double whammy: increased taxes and high, in some cases, first-ever fees for services they rightly feel are already funded by their taxes,” Cergol said.

Cergol proposed a series of changes to the supervisor’s 2019 tentative budget Nov. 20, seeking to reduce the tax levy increase from 2.53 down to 1.85 percent. Her proposed changes would have eliminated 12 town jobs — three confidential secretaries, a chief of staff, three executive assistants and five deputy department directors — many of which were created in August. The councilwoman said slashing these positions would save the town approximately $800,000 in salaries, increasing to nearly $1 million when including the cost of health care insurance benefits.

The supervisor is asking residents to accept a double whammy: increased taxes and high, in some cases, first-ever fees for services they rightly feel are already funded by their taxes.”

— Joan Cergol

“Naturally, I would prefer to have no tax increase at all, but I well understand we have contractual obligation expenses and a 9 percent increase in health care insurance costs the town has no control over,” Cergol said. “For the sake of every taxpayer, we have an obligation to exercise control when it comes to the hiring of personnel, specifically jobs that are exempt from civil service, otherwise known as patronage jobs.”

She also sought to strike and remove the town’s plans to implement a boat mooring fee in Huntington Harbor. Cuthbertson voiced his support for Cergol’s proposed amendments.

“At a time when homeowner’s budgets are squeezed, and they have lost most of the state and local deduction on their income taxes, the Republican administration should not be asking for increases that serve no purpose other than doling out patronage,” the councilman said.

Despite his support, Cergol’s first proposal to slash $1 million from the budget failed by a 3-2 party-line vote. Her second proposal to eliminate $200,000 by cutting staff positions and the proposed boat mooring fee failed to find any support among the board members.

Lupinacci defended his staffing decisions, stating the Town of Huntington will have less full-time employees going forward next year, and changes were in line with his goals that include improving transparency and efficiency by cutting “red tape.”

New 2019 Park & Recreational Fees
Below are few of the new 2019 park and recreational fees
Adult Resident Recreational ID Card, 2 years      $40
(new) Adult Resident Recreational ID Card, 1 year     $25
Resident Recreational ID Card – Senior/Disabled      $15
Golf Card, valid for 1 year     $45
Golf Card, every 2 years        $60
Beach Resident Daily Permit      $30
Non-Resident Daily Permit         $75

“I think these are all worthwhile goals that we will continue to accomplish, and to meet these goals we need to have staffing changes,” he said.

The board also voted 3-2 to increase and add several additional park and recreational fees next year. Some changes in the legislation include increasing the cost of a two-year resident recreational card from $20 to $40, increasing the cost of a daily beach pass for Huntington residents from $25 to $30, and implementing new special event permit fees for John J. Walsh Memorial Park in East Northport, Peter A. Nelson Park in Huntington and picnic site fees for Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood.

The registration costs for several town-run summer programs including Camp Bright Star, Teen Leadership and preschool camps were increased as well.

“We’re always looking at and reviewing fees every year as part of the budgeting process to ensure the fees actually cover associated program costs,” the supervisor said. “We revise rates for various programs and actions, to make sure taxpayers are not on the hook for programs they don’t use.”

Lupinacci said costs of the town’s recreational ID card fee, $20, had not been increased in more than a decade, and the new $40 fee more accurately reflects its “true value going forward.” The town will also be offering a new one-year recreational ID card for $20.

Cergol and Cuthbertson were against increasing recreational fees, which will take effect Jan. 1.

The threat of rain may have dampened activities, but hundreds bundled up to watch the 9th annual Huntington Holiday Parade Nov. 24.

Huntington Town officials called off the afternoon festivities as weather forecasters predicted a freezing rain would start sometime in the afternoon. Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) decreed the parade would happen, rain or shine.

Luckily umbrellas were not needed as highly decorated floats and parade marchers proceeded from the Big H Shopping Center on New York Avenue to Main Street, winding its way along West Neck Road, east on Gerard Street before ending on Wall Street for the annual tree lighting.  The most anticipate, at least by children, were Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus who arrived in Huntington Village at the end of the parade.

Click through the photos above to see the photos from the festive performance and parade. 

Craig Turner, Town of Huntington’s principal planner; Matt Suter, a founder of the Save the Village civic group; Emily Rogan, a former Huntington school district trustee; and Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, discuss affordable housing issues in Huntington. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Huntington has made efforts to tackle the lack of affordable housing in the past, but the best method to do so isn’t always clear. Town officials attempted last week to open public channels of communication, as housing legislation proposing additional changes is being put up for public feedback.

That question and more was discussed at a Community Conversation on Housing for All held at the Cinema Arts Centre Nov. 17. Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the issue has only become more apparent with time.

“If you look at renting someone’s basement, the average cost is $1,200,” Lupinacci said. “If you go for living in some of those beautiful new apartments in the village or elsewhere its $2,500.”

“If you look at renting someone’s basement, the average cost is $1,200.” 

— Chad Lupinacci

Huntington has hosted numerous lotteries for affordable housing, including a Sept. 5 lotto for a four-bedroom house in the Harborfields Estates housing complex in Greenlawn for $221,000. The supervisor said more than 800 applicants came out that day hoping their name would be chosen, but of course only one would be so lucky.

The town passed legislation in 2017 that required all new mixed-use developments in C-5 shopping center and C-6 general business zoning to consist of 20 affordable housing units. Yet, a 2018 study conducted by Huntington Township Housing Coalition found there are only 729 units of affordable housing in the township. The town would need 2,798 affordable housing units to meet demand by 2020, according to a 2016 HTHC report that used information from a 2005 Rutgers University study.

“In the private market, supply and demand will dictate what a property will sell for, but it’s important that once a home is built and it is offered as affordable, it stays affordable,” Lupinacci said.

Town officials, local advocacy groups and community members came to the forum in the early morning hours to hear what can be done to address affordable housing issues. The event featured information sessions on
issues of accessory apartments and how housing and apartment developments impact the town from an environmental, parking and community character perspective.

Accessory apartments

Since 1991, Huntington has allowed residents to acquire a permit to partition their households to use them as rental space. While this has allowed for an increase in the number of inexpensive living spaces within the town, it has also faced pushback from neighbors.

Joe Rose, the deputy director of the town’s public safety department, said there are approximately 1,750 accessory apartments spread evenly throughout every hamlet in Huntington. Yet, residents have complained about tenants taking up on-street parking spots in front of neighbor’s homes, as well as fears of illegal or problematic connected apartments.

“It’s the mystery of the accessory apartment, its ‘Who’s going to be living there, what are the conditions of it?'”

— Ed Nitkewicz

“We want to keep the integrity intact as far as single-family dwelling having very minimal impact,” Rose said. “Every single complaint is investigated by code enforcement.”

Ed Nitkewicz, an attorney who serves Huntington as the accessory apartments hearing officer, said residents often come to hearings arguing why these apartments should not exist in their neighborhoods. He frequently hears concerns about potential illegal or problematic rentable spaces. In response, Nitkewicz said most concerns are due to the mystique of these partitioned residences, and many issues can be directly reprimanded by town officials, unlike issues some might have of their regular neighbors’ homes.

“It’s the mystery of the accessory apartment, its ‘Who’s going to be living there, what are the conditions of it?’” Nitkewicz said. “Let’s say the applicant sells their house to the Brady family… And they all have cars — all of them park in the driveway, and you have no control over that. You can’t tell the Bradys to pump their cesspool, you can’t tell the Bradys the numbers on the house are viewable.”

The town board is considering new legislation that would allow residents to live in the smaller partitions of their homes, which would typically become the accessory apartment, and instead rent the majority of the available living space. A public hearing was held Nov. 20 at 7 p.m., after this publication’s press time.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said she was very much in support of such an idea, but accessory apartments only address a small part of the affordable housing issue.

“The crux of it is that Huntington village sits atop a watershed that is 1.9 square miles. Anything you build on the watershed impacts this local ecosystem.”

— Matt Suter

“It’s one way to make an impact, but I think it’s easiest to have because we’re talking about existing inventory versus new inventory,” she said.

Impacts of new housing

While most elected officials and advocacy groups agreed there is a problem with a lack of affordable housing, several speakers said one cannot underestimate the environmental and community cost of increased development.

Matt Suter, one of the founders of the Save the Village civic group, has helped circulate a petition requesting that the town restrict allowing developers to build above existing storefronts in Huntington village by adding apartment space on top of existing retail or commercial spaces until a environmental review on the area is completed. He said he fears the increase of hundreds of apartments being built in the village could go on to escalate the already high amount of nitrogen in areas like Huntington Bay, which has led to a rash of dangerous algae blooms during the summer 2018.

“The crux of it is that Huntington village sits atop a watershed that is 9.4 square miles,” Suter said. “Anything you build on the watershed impacts this local ecosystem.”

Huntington’s Department of Planning and Environment is in charge of conducting the town’s State Environmental Quality Review Act surveys on any new developments. Craig Turner, the department’s principal planner, said stormwater and the nitrogen filtration is a problem in Huntington village, these new developments are not having that much of an effect because they are built on already developed sites.

“SEQRA asks us whether there are significant environmental impacts, not if there are any environmental impacts,” Turner said.

When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them.”

— Eric Alexander

One project that was often referred to was the Avalon Huntington Station venture, which started nearly a decade ago. Developer AvalonBay Communities looked to build a large-scale apartment complex as well as change the property’s zoning to Transit Oriented Development. Opponents feared the project would raise taxes and create higher population density.

Emily Rogan, who served 12 years on the Huntington school district’s board of education and was on the board when the Avalon Huntington project was underway, said one of the biggest fear residents expressed was that the project — if it went through as originally proposed — would increase the number of students in an already overflowing school district.

The town board ultimately voted down the initial proposal in favor of a revised version that Rogan said had no impact on the number of children in the district once completed.

“You can’t get stakeholder buy-in unless there is communication all throughout the process,” she said.

Eric Alexander, the director of regional smart growth planning organization Vision Long Island, said there are ways to build residential developments to minimize the impact on both the surrounding community and the environment.

“When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them,” Alexander said.

*This post has been amended to reflect Suter’s groups intentions and actual square miles of the Huntington watershed.

The Northport power plant. File photo

Huntington’s elected officials are calling for changes to the structure of Long Island Power Authority despite being engaged in mediation with the utility company.

Huntington Town Board unanimously decided to send a message urging New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state Legislature to enact the Long Island Power Authority Ratepayers Protection Act at its Nov. 8 meeting. The legislation, if passed, would require eight out of the utility company’s nine board members to be elected by public vote, among other changes.

“It is in the best interest of Town of Huntington residents to have a LIPA board that is elected by and answers to the ratepayers.

— Nick Ciappetta

“It is in the best interest of Town of Huntington residents to have a LIPA board that is elected by and answers to the ratepayers,” Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta said.

The bills were first introduced to the state Legislature in February 2017 by Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor), co-sponsored by a coalition including state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport).

“I’ve been calling for the election of LIPA trustees forever, ever since there was a LIPA,” Raia said. “The best way to control our electric rates is to make LIPA trustees elected.”

Currently, LIPA’s nine-member board of trustees consists of five individuals appointed by the governor, two selected by the president or majority leader of the state Senate, and two chosen by the speaker of the Assembly.

The proposed ratepayers protection act calls for the state Legislature to create eight districts roughly equal in population based on the last U.S. Census, by May 1, 2019. A resident of each district would be elected to LIPA’s board to serve a two-year term as trustee, with the first elections to be held in December 2019. Candidates on the ballot would not be chosen by the political parties. Those elected to the board would not be paid, but could be reimbursed from the state for their related expenses, according to the draft of the bill.

In addition, proposed legislation would require LIPA to hold public hearings before making future rate changes, give residents 30 days advance notice of the hearing, and hold the event in the county it affects — Suffolk or Nassau. It would prohibit the utility company from increasing its rates to offset any losses from energy conservation efforts.

“It would make LIPA a whole lot more accountable than they are now,” Raia said. “Without a doubt.”

The best way to control our electric rates is to make LIPA trustees elected.”

— Andrew Raia

The legislation, despite being proposed in 2017, has not made it out of committee to a vote before either the state Assembly or Senate, according to the Legislature’s website.

No action can currently be taken on the legislation, though, as the state Assembly’s 2018 session ended in June. There are no plans to reconvene before year’s end, according to Raia, particularly with midterm elections flipping the state Senate to Democratic control. The bill cannot be enacted by Cuomo without getting the legislative body’s approval. Raia said he suspects Huntington’s elected officials are hoping the governor will consider working it into his 2019 budget, which is currently
being drafted in Albany.

“I’m not the biggest fan of putting policy into the state budget, but many times it’s the only way to get things done,” he said.

Huntington Town officials had no further comment on the timing of the message. Mediation pertaining to the value of the Northport Power Station between the town, Northport-East Northport school district, LIPA and National Grid is ongoing, according to Ciappetta, as he anticipates the next mediation session before the end of November. The tax certiorari lawsuit’s next date in court is Dec. 5.

Huntington residents gathered in the blustery cold Sunday morning to pay solemn remembrance to those who have served our country.

The Town of Huntington held its annual Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 11 at 9 a.m. in Veterans Plaza on the front lawn of Huntington Town Hall in order to honor local veterans and those across the nation. Bill Ober, chairman of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, served as this year’s master of ceremonies.

“We are celebrating the service of our veterans on the Centennial of the World War I Armistice, which occurred at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the incessant boom of artillery abruptly went silent along the Western Front in France,”  Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Lupinacci said that the town was recently contacted by the family of Walter Marshall, a service member from the Town of Huntington who served in World War I, whose name is in the process of being added to the World War I memorial plaque inside Town Hall.

“On Veterans Day we recognize, honor and thank the brave men and women who have served in our Nation’s armed forces,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “We must always remember their sacrifice in the name of our freedom not only on Nov. 11 but also on the other 364 days of the year.”

There are approximately 8,500 veterans living in the township, according to Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D). One of whom is a member of the town board.

“It is humbling to stand amongst other veterans who live in Huntington,” Councilman Ed Smyth (R) said. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps reserve. The Corps has done far more for me than I could ever do for the Corps.”

Republican challenger Jim Leonick will take on incumbent Councilwoman Joan Cergol, on right, Nov. 6. Photos by Kyle Barr

There’s a hot race for a one-year term on Huntington Town Board that could tip the scale of the council’s political leaning.

Incumbent Joan Cergol (D) is a lifelong Huntington resident who was appointed in December 2017 to the seat vacated by former councilwoman Susan Berland, who was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature. She previously served as the town’s director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, executive director of the Economic Development Corp. and executive director of the Local Development Corp.

Republican challenger Jim Leonick should be familiar name with Nov. 6 voters. The East Northport attorney unsuccessfully campaigned for Town Board as a running mate with Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in 2017, coming up just short by less than 650 votes. Now he’s back, seeking to fill the remaining year of Berland’s term.

“I’ve heard more and more complaints of things wrong with the town,” Leonick said. “There are many people complaining about things that don’t have the wherewithal to do something, but I do and that’s why I’m running.”

LIPA lawsuit/Northport Power Station

The Republican challenger said he believes the most important issue in this election is Long Island Power Authority and National Grid’s lawsuit against the town over the tax-assessed value of Northport Power Station.

“It will have the greatest financial impact on town residents, and the tax bills of the Northport-East Northport school district,” he said.

Leonick said he supports levying a fossil fuel tax on the plant to recoup any lost tax money, believes the plant is not currently properly assessed for taxes given its gas and electrical transmission lines should make it more valuable, and is in favor of spending money investigating if using eminent domain to take control of the plant is feasible.

“I agree it’s an anvil hanging over the town’s head for seven years,” Cergol said. “We need to be a unified front.”

She agreed more information would be needed before considering proceeding with eminent domain, as it would require a townwide referendum. Cergol chastised the topic being used as a “political divisive tactic.” The councilwoman said she has been following the advice of the town attorney on how to proceed.

Development

Cergol said the most common issue she hears about is Huntington’s overdevelopment and its impact on the character of the town. She wants to see changes made to C-6 zoning code that affects apartments over commercial space and wants to require all parking needs to be contained by each individual project or on private lots. The Democrat also supports construction of a parking structure or other means to alleviate the village’s parking issues.

“Residents are not happy with downzoning, the town should stick to what the master plan says,” Leonick said. “People who have lived here 30, 40 years and paid taxes don’t want their community to start looking like Nassau and Queens.”

The Republican said a simple fix to the C-6 zoning issue would be to increase the number of parking spaces needed to build apartments. Leonick also criticized the town for not constructing a parking structure for Huntington village, suggesting a modular unit could be purchased and easily constructed.

Government Transparency

On issues like the LIPA lawsuit and parking, Leonick said he feels the town lack’s transparency on its actions. Cergol responded by saying the town’s website has an entire section dedicated to the LIPA lawsuit.

The councilwoman said she authored and co-sponsored the bill that led to live streaming of the town’s meetings and events. She also offered to host monthly forums at Town Hall to delve into topics like 5G cellular service transmitters, where residents can ask questions of town officials and discuss the issue.

Leonick said the town’s web page on LIPA doesn’t go far enough and suggested development of additional electronic communications with residents, like a blog.

2019 Tentative Budget

In review of the 2019 tentative budget and government costs, Cergol said the town has
reduced expenses by using technology to allow residents to apply for affordable housing and register for recreational programs online. She is willing to negotiate the number of full-time staff members per council member, which the tentative budget calls to cut from two to one each with a shared secretary.

Leonick said that he’s glad the proposed budget stays within the 2 percent tax cap but believes there should be an increase in personnel in the town attorney’s office to help reduce outside legal fees and that each council member should have two full-time staff.

Social

9,202FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,132FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe