Town of Huntington

Town of Huntington, Northport-East Northport and Port Jeff school districts lose third-party lawsuits

Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano and Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. The two districts had legal challenges shot down by a judge Aug. 16 pertaining to property tax assessment claims made by LIPA. File photos

By Sara-Megan Walsh & Alex Petroski

A New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled Long Island Power Authority “made no promises” to the Town of Huntington, Northport-East Northport school district and Port Jefferson School District not to challenge the taxes levied on its power stations.

Judge Elizabeth Emerson dismissed the lawsuits brought forth by the Town of Huntington and the two school districts Aug. 16 which alleged LIPA broke a promise by seeking to reduce the power plant’s taxes by 90 percent.

“The court’s decision affirms our customers’ right to pay reasonable taxes on the power plants,” LIPA said in a statement from spokesman Sid Nathan. “We remain committed to reaching a fair settlement for both the local communities and our 1.1 million customers to put an unsustainable situation back on a sustainable path.”

Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

The judge’s ruling is a big victory for LIPA as it allows tax certiorari cases to continue to trial, rather than being dismissed, and could have a widespread impact across Long Island for other municipalities with similar disputes against the utility.

“Obviously, we disagree with this decision and plan to appeal,” Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer wrote in a letter to district residents. “Please understand that Justice Emerson’s decision is not the end of our fight in this case.”

Port Jeff school district also responded to the development.

“While this decision is not the outcome the district was hoping for, we vow to continue to explore our options as we work to protect our school district’s financial future and the needs of our community,” the district said in part in a statement. “The district will work to keep the community apprised of any updates on the matter.”

In her 24-page decision, Emerson denied any notion that chapter 21, section 16 of the 1997 Power Supply Agreement signed by LIPA when it took over Long Island Lighting Company — which has been referred to as the 1997 Promise – was intended to benefit the school districts by preventing LIPA from challenging the tax-assessed value of its power plants.

Rather, she found it was to ensure other parties, including LILCO and GENCO, which owned the plants at the time, could not start initiating tax claims during the takeover process.

She also dismisses all claims that town governments or school districts were intended third-party beneficiaries of the contract.

“The Power Supply Agreement is clear and unambiguous and that it does not bestow any enforceable third-party-beneficiary rights on the plaintiff,” Emerson wrote.

The judge pointed to the PSA saying it “does not expressly name” either the town or school districts as a third-party beneficiaries.

“She applied contract law, not third-party beneficiary law,” said John Gross, the attorney representing Northport-East Northport school district. “That’s what we think she the mistake on.”

Gross said New York State law allows entities, like the school districts, to be recognized as third-party beneficiaries based on third-party conversations, letters, and promises. The school districts have filed thousands of pages of documents with the courts, according to Gross, that include official correspondence and records of conversations former LIPA chairman Richard Kessel had with school administrators and Huntington Town officials allegedly promising not to challenge the tax assessment of its power plants.

The judge ruled these “extra-contractual promises” made largely by Kessel “were gratuitious promises for which there was no consideration.” As such, the former chairman’s words “did not contractually bind LIPA.”

Gross said the school’s status as a third-party beneficiary “was wrongly decided.”

This recent decision could have large and profound impact not only on Huntington, Northport-East Northport and Port Jeff schools, but for all other municipal government and school districts that are LIPA’s power plants.

On Page 18 of her decision, Emerson wrote not only did the PSA contract not protect the Town of Huntington, Northport or Port Jeff school district taxpayers but “other similar situated school districts and municipalities.”

“This result was to a very large extent expected by the village, and that’s why the mayor and the board of trustees very early, initiated and drove settlement discussions with LIPA to resolve the issue,” Port Jefferson Village Attorney Brian Egan said.

The village board of trustees and Mayor Margot Garant in April passed a resolution approving “settlement concepts,” and the two sides are exchanging details of terms, expected to reach conclusion “at any time,” Egan said.

“When we’re a taxing jurisdiction and we’re going to subject ourselves to the back taxes on a longshot, that is not what we do with taxpayer dollars,” Garant said. “We have an obligation to not gamble, so to speak.”

“Please understand that Justice Emerson’s decision is not the end of our fight in this case.”

— Robert Banzer

Huntington town attorney Nick Ciappetta said the town plans to file an appeal of the judge’s decision.

“We believe there’s only one logical and legal way to interpret that provision,” he said. “That provision was there for the benefit of the taxpayers of Huntington.”

The town, Northport and Port Jefferson school districts will have 30 days to file an appeal once the decision is officially entered into court records, according to Ciappetta. He estimated an appeal of the decision could take 18 to 24 months.

“The decision does not affect the pending tax certiorari case between the Town of Huntington and LIPA scheduled for trial in December, nor do we expect it will impact the parties’ willingness to proceed with mediation,” Banzer wrote to the community.

Gross confirmed that Northport school district is still looking forward to sitting down for the first mediation session with the Town of Huntington, LIPA, National Grid  and third-party neutral attorney Marty Scheinman slated for Sept. 26.

Officials in Brookhaven’s Town Attorney’s office could not be immediately reached for comment, though the town has also said it is nearing a settlement in its case. Egan speculated settlements for municipalities attempting to resolve cases out of court might be held up by mediation in Northport and Huntington Town’s case.

This post was updated Aug. 17 to include a statement from Port Jefferson School District, and to attribute LIPA’s statement to Sid Nathan.

The Northport power plant. File photo

Long Island Power Authority has won the latest battle against the Town of Huntington in the lengthy legal war over Northport Power Station’s value.

New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division has reinstated LIPA’s right to pursue a lawsuit against the Town of Huntington regarding the amount of taxes levied against the Northport power plant, reversing a September 2015 decision made by a lower court. A panel of judges ruled Aug. 8 LIPA does have legal standing to be a plaintiff in the 2010 lawsuit it filed jointly with National Grid.

“We believe the appellate court’s decision is correct.”

— Sid Nathan

“We believe the appellate court’s decision is correct,” LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said. “We remain committed to reaching a fair settlement for both the local communities and our 1.1 million customers to put an unsustainable tax situation back on a sustainable path.”

In September 2015, state Supreme Court Justice John Bivona issued a decision dismissing LIPA’s standing as an initiating plaintiff in the tax certiorari case, since National Grid — and not LIPA — is the owner of the plant. Bivona had written that while LIPA believed its financial interests are adversely impacted by a wrongly overstated assessment of the power plant, “the result is still remote and consequential and certainly does not constitute a direct loss because the property taxes levied upon the Northport Power Station are actually and directly paid by National Grid Generation LLC.”

LIPA filed an appeal of Bivona’s decision in 2015. The utility has asserted while National Grid does own the power plant, the station is under contract with LIPA. Under the contract, LIPA is required to pay all costs to run the power plant — including the $80 million in annual property taxes to the Town of Huntington — and provide necessary fuel, for which in return it receives all electricity generated for its customers.

The utility company claims that its costs to operate the Northport Power Station including the taxes on it exceed the total revenue, resulting in LIPA referring to it as a “significant burden to LIPA’s customers.”

We’re reviewing the order from the appellate division and we’re considering an appeal.”

— Nicholas Ciappetta

With LIPA’s legal status reinstated as a party of interest on the tax certiorari case, the issue of the property tax-assessed value of the power plant could proceed to trial.

However, Huntington Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta has said he plans to carefully review the appellate court’s decision.

“We believe this has been wrongly decisioned,” Ciappetta said in a statement. “We’re reviewing the order from the appellate division and we’re considering an appeal.”

This latest legal decision comes less than a month after Huntington voted July 17 to hire a neutral third-party mediator, Marty Scheinman, in an attempt to reach a resolution with LIPA, National Grid and Northport-East Northport school district. The town agreed to pay Scheinman $1,150 an hour in addition to covering all out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation and a one-time administrative fee, the total bill will be split among all parties in the mediation. 

Mediation has not yet started, but the first session is slated for Sept. 26, according to Chiappetta.

Update: Additional information was added to further clarify that the town will be splitting the costs of the third-party mediator. 

The Heckscher Museum of Art. Photo by Anthony Petriello

By Anthony Petriello

Over the next two years, the staff of a Huntington museum hope to restore its former glory in time to celebrate its 100-year anniversary.

The Town of Huntington’s town board voted unanimously to allow The Heckscher Museum of Art to begin raising approximately $500,000 to fund critical renovations at its July 17 meeting.

“The cost is high,” said Michael Schantz, the museum’s executive director and CEO, “but the museum raises money all the time to support exhibitions, programs, and community events, so I don’t anticipate any issue in raising the funds.”

The stairs leading up to The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington. Photo by Anthony Petriello

From crumbling French limestone to sagging steps, the museum located inside Heckscher Park is in desperate need of repair to prevent further damage to the already crumbling historic exterior. The building is listed on both the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. It is also the longest-standing art museum building in continuous use in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to Schantz, and is a fine
example of Renaissance Revival architecture in need of preservation.

“The Heckscher Museum is the foundation from which all of Huntington’s cultural offerings have grown,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “I’m proud to support the historical preservation efforts that will help the museum and the town continue to welcome and educate patrons of the arts for years to come.”

The museum has several structural issues, most detrimental of which is the roofing. Ken Moss, superintendent of buildings and grounds, said poorly designed drainage on the primarily
flat roof has caused pooling of water that has caused the roof to begin buckling. It poses a grave threat of allowing water to leak into the building, putting priceless art pieces at risk of damage.

The coping stones, or the tops of shorter walls along the front of the building, have extensive damage caused primarily by skateboarders, according to the museum.

The side wall of the Heckscher museum shows discoloration of the limestone bricks and cracking in the walls. Photo by Anthony Petriello

Since the public donation of the museum by philanthropists August and Nannie Heckscher in 1920, settling of exterior steps and patios has caused them to become misshapen and leaves them in need to removal and resetting. The limestone exterior walls have cracked in some areas, and repairs from the past have become discolored compared to the surrounding historic limestone, leaving the entire exterior surface in need of refinishing.

The museum’s staff also wants to remove extensive staining on the building’s limestone exterior walls, stairs and walkways. Due to the stone’s porous nature, it has absorbed airborne pollutants and provides a surface on which green mold can propagate.

Moss said due to the building’s location in Heckscher Park, adjacent to a pond, as well as its sheer age, several factors must be taken into consideration when cleaning its exterior surfaces.

“We need to use cleaners that are environmentally friendly and conservative to the building,” Moss said. “It’s extremely important that we protect the wildlife in the park.”

By repairing and cleaning The Heckscher Museum’s exterior, Schantz indicated how it would further add to the town’s recent beautification  of the surrounding parkland.

“The park has never looked so good,” he said. “and the people that come here have certainly
noticed the difference.”

From left, Bill Musto, deputy director of Huntington Parks and Recreation; Greg Wagner, town director of Parks and Recreation; Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci; Randy Howard, vice president of operations at Huntington Hospital; and Dr. Michael Dannenberg, chairman of dermatology at Huntington Hospital at the Crab Meadow Beach dispenser. Photo from Town of Huntington

Town of Huntington officials are taking steps to make sure residents can more safely have fun in the sun — without a cost to the town.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) unveiled the installment of 16 sunscreen dispensers at the town’s parks, beaches and outdoor recreational spaces July 27 at Crab Meadow Beach in Fort Salonga sponsored by Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health.

“Families and visitors of all ages can now have extra peace of mind when spending time together at Huntington’s beaches and parks,” Lupinacci said.

One person dies every hour within the United States from malignant melanoma.”

– Michael Dannenberg

The bright yellow dispensers, designed by Long Beach-based Creative Vibe Advertising, were mounted near the entrance of 14 different town-owned facilities earlier this week. The sunscreen will be provided at no cost to Huntington taxpayers under the town’s skin cancer prevention program, which is now fully sponsored by Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health.

“Skin cancer has great significance since its incident rates are rapidly increasing,” said Randy Howard, vice president of operations for Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health. “We want to help our communities stay healthy in skin-care prevention by making these dispensers available to everyone.”

Dr. Michael Dannenberg, chairman of dermatology at Huntington Hospital, said while basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma remain the most common types of skin cancer, cases of malignant melanoma — the deadliest form — have increased by 53 percent since 2008.

“One person dies every hour within the United States from malignant melanoma,” he said.

Families and visitors of all ages can now have extra peace of mind when spending time together at Huntington’s beaches and parks.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills), previously on the town board through December 2017, had been diagnosed with skin cancer while in office. Berland sponsored legislation for Huntington to test run a free sunscreen dispenser at Crab Meadow Beach in 2016 and successfully advocated for townwide expansion of the program in 2017.

“I’m glad they are continuing the program I worked so hard and diligently to create for the town,” she said. “Nothing is more important than people’s skin.” 

Berland said that it was always her intention to find a sponsor for the program as the sunscreen cost the town approximately $600 in 2017. Now she plans to bring a proposal to expand the program before Suffolk Legislature to cover the county’s recreational facilities.

Free sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 will be provided at the following locations: Crab Meadow Beach, Crab Meadow Golf Course, Asharoken Beach, Breezy Park, Centerport Beach, Crescent Beach, Dix Hills Park swimming pool and golf course, Elwood Park, Fleets Cove Beach, Gold Star Battalion Beach, Hobart Beach, Manor Field Park, West Neck Beach and Veterans Park. Each unit will be checked once a week and restocked on an as-needed basis, according to Howard.

I’m glad they are continuing the program I worked so hard and diligently to create for the town.”

– Susan Berland

Dannenberg said that he professionally recommends that people use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, which is proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer by more than 50 percent. He said there is a reason the town’s units will offer sunscreen with SPF of 30.

“We all have a tendency to under apply sunscreen when we put it on,” he said. “The actual SPF you are seeing on your skin is lower than the SPF on the bottle. We tell people to use a minimum SPF of 30, knowing when they under apply it will get them to approximately a 15.”

Now that the dispensers are installed, Huntington Hospital’s chief dermatologist said the most important thing is for parents to be good role models.

“If parents come to the beach, bring their kids and don’t apply their sunscreen, they are teaching the kids that it’s not an important thing,” Dannenberg said. “It gets to be as a teenager they won’t use their sunscreen.”

Crab Meadow Golf course.

Vandals struck the Town of Huntington’s Crab Meadow Golf Course causing about  $124,000 in damages earlier this week.

Huntington Town officials announced four holes at the Crab Meadow Golf Course in Northport were damaged overnight between July 30 and 31.

“It’s a shame that someone would attempt to destroy one of the town’s great recreational attractions,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “Don’t let them spoil your fun — I encourage all who enjoy golf to take advantage of our discounted rates while the three greens are repaired.”

“It’s a shame that someone would attempt to destroy one of the town’s great recreational attractions.”

– Chad Lupinacci

The vandalism to holes 1, 11 and 17 occurred between 9 p.m. July 30, when the final golf cart was turned in, and 2 a.m. July 31 when a golf course employee arrived, according to the town.  The damage appears to have been done by a blunt object as opposed to a dirt bike, town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said.

One of the greens sustained insignificant damaged, which will be repaired in-house by town employees, Lembo said. The town will be filing an insurance claim for the estimated costs of  repairs at $124,000, which will take approximately four to six weeks, and for any lost revenue during that time.

The town has filed a police report, and the public safety department is ramping up park ranger and security patrols immediately in response to the incident. While gates to the golf course are locked each night and public safety officers patrol, according to Lembo, there are no security cameras at the site.

Due to the damage, the town will offer a 10 percent discount on greens fees for golfers as there are temporary greens in place at holes 1, 11 and 17. One exception, this excludes the
demand-based pricing promotion implemented earlier this year.

The town established a pilot promotion late this spring to drive up nonresident business, which has been a success. The golf course offers discounted rates during off-peak hours, reducing rates to tee off for nonresidents and residents without a golf cart. This has resulted in increased use of the golf course.

“We hosted approximately 1,000 rounds of golf this weekend, which is about 18 percent higher than usual,” said Greg Wagner, the town’s director of Parks & Recreation.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 800-220-TIPS (8477).

The Weiss family and friends place daisies into the waters off Centerport Yacht Club in memory of Ryan Weiss. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Suffolk County’s newest boating safety law aims to prevent future tragedies like the one that claimed the life of a Greenlawn boy last summer.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed legislation July 28 at Centerport Yacht Club named Ryan’s Law that will require all boats used for instructing minors to be equipped with propeller guards. After the tragic death of their 12-year-old son, Ryan, Greenlawn resident Kellie Weiss and her husband, Kevin, led the charge calling for a law change.

“We stand here forever heartbroken,” Weiss said. “Although this can’t bring Ryan back to us today, we hope that we have the opportunity to protect someone else, some other child out there.”

Ryan died July 18, 2017, when he was taking part in a boating lesson at Centerport Yacht Club where the vessel was intentionally capsized in a controlled manner. An 18-year-old instructor operating a small Zodiac inflatable boat pulled him from the water and onto the inflatable raft. As the instructor started to move the boat forward, Ryan again fell into the water and became entangled in the propeller.

“This is Ryan’s happy place,” Weiss said, wiping away tears. “I know in my heart he did what he loved to do.”

The Weiss family and elected officials look on as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signs Ryan’s Law. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Under the new law, anyone who owns a boat used for instructional lessons that is registered in Suffolk or operates in county waters must install a propeller guard, a metal cage that surrounds the propeller of a motorized boat. The legislation was unanimously co-sponsored and then approved by all 18 members of the Suffolk County Legislature in June.

“This is a family that has really had to bind together over the last year,” Suffolk Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said, crediting the Weiss’ advocacy in getting the legislation passed. “What they have done is nothing short of incredible, to take something that is so deep and painful, and turn it into something positive.”

The law will take effect in approximately 90 days, giving boat owners an opportunity to modify their watercrafts as necessary. Those caught operating an instructional boat without a propeller guard will be fined between $250 and $500 for first offenses and from $750 to $1,500 for subsequent violations.

Erik Rosanes, commodore of the Centerport Yacht Club, said his club is onboard with the legislation.

“As we continue in our club’s mission to encourage the sport of yachting and educate the next generation of sailors, we look forward to promoting any measures that may improve the safety of our children in and on the water,” Rosanes said.

The Weiss family and members of the yacht club were joined by New York State, Suffolk and Town of Huntington elected officials in placing white daisies into the waters of Northport Harbor in memory of Ryan. Flowers were also placed on a rock marked with his initials.

Kellie Weiss said she is hopeful that one day propeller guards will become mandatory under New York State law.

“We urge every parent who has a child, teen or young adult who is going to be operating a boat or wave runner,” she said. “Think about installing a prop guard to protect your kid. No one wants to get the phone call we got a year ago.”

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

As the Town of Huntington is entrenched in a lengthy legal battle with Long Island Power Authority, its elected officials are looking to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and move to sources of renewable energy.

Huntington town board unanimously agreed to apply for a $62,500 grant from New York State’s Climate Smart Communities Grant Program at its July 17 meeting. If the funding is approved, the town will move forward with a study of its current energy use and how to transition to using more renewable energy resources.

There is a nationwide movement of towns pledging to go renewable by 2050 and we want Huntington to be one of those towns.”

– Jenny Strandberg

“There is a nationwide movement of towns pledging to go renewable by 2050 and we want Huntington to be one of those towns,” Jenny Strandberg said.

Strandberg is one of many Mothers Out Front, a grassroots community organization pushing for a transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, who asked Huntington officials to move forward with the study and renew their pledge to protect the environment.

“If everyone on the planet lived like the average American, you would need five planets,” said Jennifer Browns, a professor of sociology of LIU Post and Mothers Out Front member. “We need a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy and we need it now.”

Huntington first adopted the state’s Climate Smart Communities pledge in 2012. By taking the pledge, the town made several promises to its residents including trying to “decrease energy use” and “build a climate-smart community.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in order for the town to become Climate Smart Community certified, it would need to hire a consultant to perform a Government Operations Greenhouse Gas Inventory to
assess what emissions its producing, a 100 percent Renewable Energy Feasibility Study and then a Capital Phase-In Plan to determine and set a schedule to meet the town’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. The estimated cost for those steps is approximately $125,000, according to Lupinacci. The town is seeking funding for half through the state grant.

“The sooner we get it in, the more we can beat people to the top of the line to make sure we show our commitment and we are ready to roll on it,” Lupinacci said.

Let me state clearly, it is LIPA’s policy to transition to renewable energy 50 percent by 2030.”

– Peter Gollon

The program requires the town provide 50 percent matching funds, for which it will pull $62,500 from the its Environmental Open Space & Park Fund Review Advisory Committee’s Green Project Fund. The committee has already approved the project.

Both East Hampton and Southampton townships on the East End have already become Climate Smart Communities certified by going through this process, according to Huntington resident Tara Kotlia. She said she would like to see the Town of Huntington become the third.

Peter Gollon, a Huntington resident and board trustee for Long Island Power Authority, said if Huntington moves forward with the study and transitions to renewable energy, it would bring the town more in line with the utility company’s long-term vision.

“Let me state clearly, it is LIPA’s policy to transition to renewable energy 50 percent by 2030,” Gollon said.

He stressed that LIPA and the power  companies will continue to push renewable energy as the future, and encouraged the town to do the same.

“It’s clear different communities must engage, set examples for each other and move toward clean energy, renewable energy as soon as possible,” Gollon said. “Huntington must continue to be a leader

The Northport power plant. File photo
Mediation meetings could begin in next 30 days in attempt to reach settlement in lawsuit before fall trial date

Town of Huntington and Northport school officials have agreed to sit down with Long Island Power Authority to see if an agreement can be reached, before the lawsuits go to trial. 

The town board voted July 17 to hire a neutral third party in an attempt to resolve its differences over the assessed property tax value of the Northport Power Station with LIPA and National Grid that have led to a lengthy, ongoing battle.

Councilman Gene Cook (R) put forth a late-starter resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting to hire Port Washington-based attorney Marty Scheinman, who he reports came “very highly recommended.” His
motion was approved 4-0. 

“The judge was very adamant about making sure we sat down and went through this,” Cook said. “Why don’t we put all the cards on the table and see what we find. I’m all for it.”

Scheinman has been a full-time arbitrator for more than 40 years and has helped parties reach an agreeable resolution in more than 20,000 private and public-sector disputes, according to his website. He has experience dealing with high-profile celebrities, elected officials and helped resolve the largest commercial dispute in the history of the New York state court system between the co-founders of AriZona Beverages, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). 

“This is just about getting everyone to the table,” Lupinacci said, who has consistently said the town remains open to negotiations.  

Now, Scheinman faces the daunting task of finding common ground between LIPA, which filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town assessor’s office in 2010 seeking a 90 percent reduction in the assessed property tax valuation of its Northport Power Station, and seeking repayment of all taxes it claims to have overpaid since 2010 — currently amounting to more than $550 million and growing — and the Huntington and Northport communities it would affect. 

“I’m glad to have been selected and hope I can help the parties resolve their dispute,” Scheinman said. 

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) voted against taking up Cook’s suggestion, before ultimately abstaining from voting on the contract to hire an arbitrator. Cuthbertson said while he commended a move toward mediating the dispute, but questioned Scheinman’s relatable experience. 

“This particular litigation is a specialized litigation involving complex tax certiorari formulas for assessing power plants,” he said. “As far as I can see this mediator’s experience is really with labor and employment relations, so I have concern with this mediator’s background and choice.”

Under the approved contract, the town has agreed to pay Scheinman $1,150 per hour in addition to covering all out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation, plus a one-time $400 administrative fee. The overall bill will be evenly split between the town, LIPA, National Grid and Northport-East Northport school district, whose trustees unanimously agreed to move forward with mediation July 11. 

Huntington’s town board change in approach to its lawsuit with LIPA comes shortly after the court trial was originally slated to begin, June 11, which had been postponed. All parties were scheduled to appear July 18 in Suffolk County Supreme Court before Judge Elizabeth Emerson at 10 a.m. to present their arguments on motions already made on the case. The outcome was not available by this publication’s press time. 

In early June, Cook had asked his fellow board members to hire Manhattan-based law firm Boise Schiller & Flexner LLP as additional legal counsel in the town’s pending tax certiorari case with LIPA and National Grid to aid current outside legal counsel, Lewis & Greer P.C. The measure was shot down by a 3-2 vote with Lupinacci, Cuthbertson and Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) standing against it. One of Cuthbertson’s key reasons for standing against it was the cost, as under the contract the town would have paid Boise Schiller & Flexner $1,650 an hour.  

Cook has also previously publicly spoken out about looking into the possibilities of using eminent domain for the town to take possession of the Northport power plant. He never brought the option before the board. 

Mediation meetings between all four parties would likely begin within the next 30 days, according to Cook. 

Both the Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson announced they were nearing settlements over the tax-assessed value of the Port Jeff plant with LIPA in early April.

The four-bedroom affordable Greenlawn home in Harborfield Estates that will be sold for $221,000. Photo from Town of Huntington

One lucky family will have the chance to move into a new Greenlawn home for $221,000 — if they can beat the odds.

The Town of Huntington started accepting applications July 16 from first-time homebuyers interested in moving into a four-bedroom, 2 1/2-bathroom house in Harborfields Estates. The housing complex is a collection of 47 single-family homes on half-acre plots ordinarily sold at starting at $800,000 each, according to the development’s website. A lottery will be held Sept. 5 to choose at random an individual or family who will be offered the opportunity to purchase the property for about a quarter of the usual cost.

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “The exterior is beautiful and I cannot wait to see what it looks like when the interior is complete.”

“This is a very unique opportunity for a first-time homebuyer.”

– Chad Lupinacci

Leah Jefferson, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, which oversees the town’s Affordable Housing Program, said this is the first time the town is holding a lottery for a single-family home. The two-story house, constructed by developer Island Estate Homes, will be a little less than 2,8500 square feet and move-in ready by the 2018 holiday season.

She said she expects there to be high interest in the property. When town officials held a lottery for affordable senior housing at The Seasons in Elwood in January, the CDA director said nearly 400 applications were received for 10 available units.

“Even though there is only one unit for sale, I would not let that impede people from applying,” Jefferson said. “One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

In order to qualify, those interested must be a first-time homebuyer which the town has defined as a person who has never owned a home, has not owned a home in the last three years or is a displaced homemaker. The purchaser must also demonstrate that their total income — including adult persons age 18 and older combined salary, overtime, bonuses, pensions, social security, tips, etc. — does not exceed 80 percent of the area’s average median income of $61,350 for a single individual increasing to $87,600 for a family of four, in accordance with federal guidelines set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“One person has as good of a chance as anyone else to obtain the unit.”

– Leah Jefferson

“[The purchaser] must give us three years information,” Jefferson said. “If their salary has fluctuated or changed, we will work on the average.”

All applicants must be able to secure a mortgage on their own, according to the CDA director, as the town will not offer financial assistance or financing options. In addition to mortgage payments, the town has estimated potential owners should account for paying $6,000 annually in real estate taxes and $460 in homeowner association fees, which will be billed twice a year.

Town officials will not host an open house, but interested purchasers may contact the developer, at 631-588-8818 to set up a tour of the property.

Those interested must fill out the forms available online at www.huntingtonny.gov/harborfieldsestates by Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. There is a non-refundable processing fee of $26.50 and only one application may be submitted per household.

Income Guidelines to Qualify

Household size     Maximum Income
1 person               $61,350
2 persons              $70,100
3 persons              $78,850
4 persons              $87,600
5 persons              $94,650
6 persons              $101,650

Jefferson said a live lottery will be held Sept. 5 in Room 114 of Town Hall at 5 p.m. There will be two drawings, according to the CDA director. The first will create a priority list for those who are a current resident or employed by a business located in the Town of Huntington, and non-residents who can show they have relatives living in the Town of Huntington. The second drawing will be for all other applicants.

The selected purchaser will not be required to live in the house for any specific length of time, according to Jefferson, as sometimes required with many down payment assistance programs. However, there is a restrictive covenant on the house that the owner must promise to contact the CDA upon putting the house up for resale in the future so as it will remain affordable in perpetuity.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Jefferson said. “It’s not just another rental property, it’s something that they can list and invest in.”

Anyone with questions regarding the application guidelines should contact the Huntington Community Development Agency at 631-351-2884.

It was no sweat for the Town of Huntington officials to open their first interactive spray water park July 11 to the sound of children laughing and playing in the summer heat.

The Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park, located along Cuba Hill Road in Elwood Park, is  dedicated to Huntington native and fallen New York City police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo whose family attended the park’s opening.

“Happiness was something that Paul brought to everyone he met,” Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, said. “Even though the smiles don’t make up for all the heartbreak that my family and I have suffered, it does prove just how much Paul did and how much he meant to his fellow officers and his community.”

“Happiness was something that Paul brought to everyone he met.”

– Lisa Tuozzolo

The interactive spray park contains multiple water features, including several button- activated water jets, water spraying hoops and overhead buckets that fill up and dump down onto children’s heads. The largest bucket that hangs several meters off the ground is labeled with big block letters spelling “NYPD.”

A 19-year veteran of the NYPD, Tuozzolo was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx in November 2016 when he was shot and killed responding to what was initially reported as a home
invasion, and later found to be a domestic incident. A police dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into the home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect shot Tuozzolo, who later died of his injuries.

“The Sergeant made the ultimate sacrifice, he warned other officers of the same fate,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “But let’s not reflect on how he died, but on how he lived. He believed in service and love for the community.”

The police officer is survived by his wife and two young sons Austin and Joseph. The family was strongly involved with the initial proposal for the park and later its design, according to former Huntington
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) when the project was first announced in September 2017.

“This is absolutely fantastic — one of the best dedications I’ve ever seen,” Terry Monahan, NYPD’s chief of department, said. “To have this in his hometown really means something.”

This is absolutely fantastic — one of the best dedications I’ve ever seen.”

– Terry Monahan

The park is 4,900 square feet in area with 2,500 square feet of active play features, according to town Civil Engineer Ed Parrish, the project manager for the spray park. Parrish added that the spray pad water runoff will be collected and reused for field irrigation at Elwood Park.

Right up until a week before the park opened last minute touches were being added, including the gate’s memorial trellis, which was installed July 5. Town spokesperson Lauren Lembo said that the project was
finished on schedule, but a new sanitary system for the park is expected to be finished by spring 2019.

Ridge-based Laser Industries Inc. and its subcontractors were paid approximately $610,000 to build the spray park, which included installing the new waterlines, spray features, concrete and safety features as well as the custom park benches and memorial trellis. Town of Huntington employees were paid $50,000 to install a new 4-inch water line into the park as well as the sprinkler system, sidewalk and fencing.

Parrish said that trained staff are being provided with first aid equipment and umbrellas to monitor the kids at play.

Only children age 13 or younger are allowed to use the spray park. Parents or guardians must show a Resident Recreation Photo ID or that day’s picnic permit to gain access to the park. Official hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but with this year’s planned playground camp being held at Elwood Park, it will be open to the public from Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 8 p.m. now through Aug. 10.

Social

9,192FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,123FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe