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Frank Petrone

Town of Huntington officials want to ensure that Italian-Americans can celebrate their culture with pride this Columbus Day weekend.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) made a vow to protect the Christopher Columbus statue overlooking  Huntington Village against a growing movement to remove what have been referred to as controversial historical monuments.

“The Town of Huntington took on the crusade of putting the statue here,” Petrone said. “We are not removing the statue. The town board feels very strongly about this; we are not removing it.”

Huntington’s Christopher Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington’s Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years, according to Petrone. It was commissioned by Sam Albicocco, a Huntington resident of Italian-American heritage, and its costs were financed by contributions from local residents.

The supervisor said he felt it was necessary to make a public statement in wake of a growing movement at the national and state levels to remove public monuments to controversial historical figures, such as Confederate war leaders and Christopher Columbus.

In August, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) assembled a committee to consider possible removal of “symbols of hate” throughout the city, including statues of Christopher Columbus, as national debate raged over taking down Confederate monuments.

Shortly after the committee was announced, The New York Times reported the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced with its hands stained by red paint and graffiti, which included the words “Hate will not be tolerated” on the pedestal.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community,” said Robert Ferrito, state president of the Sons of Italy. “It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

Ferrito said his Italian-American fraternal organization is working with other organizations throughout the state to ensure that all monuments to Christopher Columbus are protected and the holiday remains unchanged.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community. It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

— Rob Ferrito

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) recalled how his own father, an immigrant, was one of many Italian-Americans who faced strong discrimination during World War II and the years that followed and spoke of how it relates to the proposition of tearing down the statue.

“I was proud as a young boy to be an Italian-American,” Suozzi said. “We are going to make sure people realize Christopher Columbus gave so much to our country, just like Italian-Americans gave so much to our country, and we are not backing down.”

The announcement by Town officials comes on the eve of the annual Long Island Fall Festival in Heckscher Park, which is traditionally kicked off each year with a wreath laying at the Columbus statue.

“As anyone who has viewed the parade knows, it is not only about one man,
Christopher Columbus,” Petrone said. “It is about the millions of Long Islanders of Italian extraction who take pride in their heritage and their contributions to our town, our Island, our state and our country. Here in the Town of Huntington — a town that values diversity and inclusiveness, and, above all, history — we have no plans to cancel the parade. And we certainly have no plans to even consider taking down this statue.”

The wreath laying will be held Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. The town’s annual Columbus Day parade will be held on Oct. 8 starting at 12:30 p.m. and travel along the length of Main Street.

Petrone said that the town had not received any written objections to the parade or ceremony as of Oct. 1.

Darryl St. George at a RAP Week press conference earlier this month. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Democrats are looking to heal a party rift by working together to push towards securing the town supervisor seat up for grabs this November.

Centerport resident Darryl St. George has put out a call for his followers to support Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) in her campaign for Huntington Town Supervisor. Edwards beat St. George in the Sept. 12 primary, 3,482 votes to 1,664 votes, to win the Democrat line in the general election.

The political hopeful said he was initially disappointed by his loss but with time to reflect has put it in perspective.

“It was the first primary for a Democratic town supervisor and 1,600 people came out to vote for us,” St. George said. “It was still a loss, but it was a win in that sense. We got that many people to come out and be involved in the process.”

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

St. George said he has sat down with Edwards to talk over the key issues that came up in the primaries and their campaign platforms. They were able to find some common ground, according to the challenger, who said they were in agreement on the need for term limits for elected officials, campaign finance reform, a comprehensive review of the town’s master plan with environmental considerations, and aggressively attacking the problem of heroin/opiate addiction.

“I am able to go back to my supporters and say, ‘This is the candidate we need to get behind,’” St. George said. “In my view, I will do everything I can to help her win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

Edwards will face competition from the Republican candidate, current State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Nov. 7.

Both Democrats agreed that the voter turnout for the Sept. 12 primary was disappointing. There were only 5,000 registered Democrats who cast their ballot for town supervisor candidate out of the more than 50,000 party members registered to vote in the Town of Huntington.

“A long-term project for me as a veteran and a history teacher is to do everything I can to get more people involved in the political process,” St. George said. “We can’t continue to accept low voter turnout as a reality.”

“In my view, I will do everything I can to help [Tracey Edwards] win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

— Darryl St. George

The Northport High School teacher said he hopes to hold a meeting with young leaders sometime in October to discuss what role they play in the politics, how they can get more involved and have a voice in local issues.

His strong belief that active participation is key to the democratic process is part of what inspired St. George to get involved in politics. He first contemplated running for a seat on Huntington town board in 2015, before declaring in February 2017 he would be launching a campaign for town supervisor — months before Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced he would not be seeking re-election.

St. George’s decision spurred what will be remembered, at least by many voters, as the first Democratic primary for Huntington Town Supervisor.

“I have a profound sense of gratitude for all the people that came out and participated in this historic event in the town, which includes Tracey’s supporters,” the political hopeful said. “But a special thank you to my supporters, I’ve come to see them as an extended family.”

While St. George said he did not have any specific plans for the future, residents may still see and hear his name.

“I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to stay involved and do what I can to fight for what I believe in,” he said.

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington homeowners can anticipate to see taxes increase in 2018, but town officials have pieced together a plan that won’t require piercing the state tax cap as opposed to 2017.

Huntington Town’s budget will slide in just under the state-mandated 1.84 percent tax levy increase cap with its proposed $194 million spending plan for 2018..

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) presented his last and final budget proposal at the Sept. 15 town board meeting, calling for a $4.2 million spending increase compared to 2017.

The single largest driving factor behind the town’s budget hike is high health care costs for town employees, according to Petrone. Town personnel salaries and benefits “is the single biggest influence on municipal budgets,” reads the proposed 2018 budget, citing it accounts for more than 50 percent of the town’s major expenditures. The state has predicted health care insurance premiums will rise by 8.3 percent, which would cost the town an additional $22.5 million in 2018.

To help cut back these costs, Petrone has proposed to reduce the number of full-time town employees through attrition for a second year. So far this year, the town has eliminated six positions, for a savings of $400,000 in paid salaries and benefits, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act.”

— Frank Petrone

Successful changes in two of the town’s ambulance districts — Huntington and Commack — will result in residents seeing decreased taxes for ongoing services. Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps began billing patients’ insurance companies in 2016, a move that was followed by Huntington this year and resulted in a significant increase to its revenue. Carter said residents without health care insurance will not be billed by either company, as those costs continue to be covered by the town.

The preliminary budget calls for $16.6 million in capital spending on local projects, holding steady at 2017 levels. These capital projects include $3.75 million to begin construction of the James E. Conte Community Center at the former Armory in Huntington Station and $3 million to construct a new animal shelter adjacent to Mill Dam Park in Halesite.

Town officials have already unveiled plans to build its first of two spray parks, or interactive water playgrounds, in 2018 — one in Elwood Park in memory of New York City Police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2017, and one next to the Conte Community Center.

Other major projects included in the 2018 preliminary budget are improvements to Manor Park in Huntington Station, restoration of the waterfront bulkheads in Halesite and $1 million toward improvement of the Huntington sewers.

In issuing his final budget, Petrone called for changes to the state’s Tax Cap Act.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs, such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act, and to develop new economic drivers, like the formation of special improvement districts which deal with issue-specific concerns and solutions, and the establishment of new Business Improvement Districts to further enhance our small business communities,” the supervisor said.

Petrone called for specific programs or capital projects to be approved by voters in a town referendum vote, then excluded from tax cap calculations, otherwise he feared programs could be discontinued to stay under the cap.

For 2017, Petrone got residents’ support in piercing the tax cap by approving a 2.85 percent tax increase for his $191 million budget. The supervisor had claimed it was necessary in order to maintain the town’s services along with social, youth and art programs without severe cuts.

Residents will have the chance to share their input on the proposed 2018 budget at the Oct. 17 town board meeting.

The master plan for the spray park at Elwood Park is revealed. The plans are in memory of a Huntington resident Paul Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Elwood residents are looking forward to having a new spray park to play in next summer being built in memory of a slain New York City police sergeant.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board unveiled plans Sept. 25 for the town’s first interactive water playground to be constructed at Elwood Park in memory of a Huntington resident Paul
Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty.

Lisa Tuozzolo accepts a flag from U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The spray park came about after lengthy conversations between town officials and Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, to build a memorial that would be meaningful to the couple’s two children.

“We, of course, are saddened by the tragic incident that cost Paul his life,” Petrone said. “We hope that this spray park will be a place where Austin and Joseph can come and relive their fond memories of their dad and know that all of us will remember the sacrifice he made while trying to keep us safe.”

Tuozzolo, 41, was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx last November when he was shot and killed responding to what was reported as a home invasion, but later turned out to be domestic incident. A dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into a home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect opened fire and shot Tuozzolo who died of his injuries.

“We have a phrase in the NYPD that we ‘never forget,’” said Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen, commanding officer of the Patrol Borough Bronx who spoke for the NYPD. “We never forget the members of our department who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It is something very sacred to us as members of the NYPD … It is also important that people outside of the NYPD understand what kind of man, what kind of officer Sgt. Tuozzolo was.”

Children Austin and Joseph Tuozzolo sit with a family member at the ceremony. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

During his 19 years of service, Tuozzolo held various positions including a union representative for the Sergeants Benevolent Association and later on worked in the school unit ensuring safety and well-being of Bronx students, according to Nikunen.

Tuozzolo was known as a “laidback, easy-going sergeant who cared for his cops” whose  passion for children was evident in both his work and his family life, according to his wife.

“The two most important children in his life were his sons, Austin and Joseph, and the moment he walked through the doorway upon returning from work, our home lit up as bright as the sun from the smiles on everyone’s faces,” Lisa said. “Today’s dedication is a fitting tribute to the devotion he had toward his children and I know that he is smiling down with great pride, knowing that his boys will have laughter and smiles at this spray park.”

The park will cover a 2,500-square-foot area with approximately 1,600-square-feet of active play features that will be purchased from playground equipment manufacturer Waterplay Solutions. Its equipment will include a shade structure, six park benches, a 4-foot vinyl-coated chainlink fence and a memorial trellis naming the park.

“We need to tell the story for the future, that Sgt. Tuozzolo is a hero,” said U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). “This park is being named after him because he is a hero, and we hold up heros as people who we want to emulate, people who have made a sacrifice on our behalf to make our lives better.”

Suozzi presented Lisa and her sons with a flag from U.S. Congress in Tuozzolo’s memory.

Kindergartners from Harley Avenue Elementary School help Huntington Town officials ceremoniously break ground on a new spray park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Over the upcoming months, Petrone said the town will continue to work with the Tuozzolo family to finish designing the spray park with construction set to begin in March 2018. The preliminary estimated cost for the project is $450,000 which will come from money paid by the developer of The Seasons at Elwood as part of the community benefits agreement and in part from the town’s park improvement fund.

Kindergartners from Austin’s class at Harley Avenue Elementary School helped town officials ceremoniously break ground on the spray park. Tuozzolo’s wife had a special mission for each student.

“A hero is someone who care about others. A hero is someone who does things for others. I have a job for each and every one of you. Who thinks they can handle that job?”, Lisa asked, watching small hands raise into the air. “The job I’m about to give you is to be a hero just like Austin and Joseph’s daddy was.”

The spray park will be the first of two slated for construction by Huntington officials in 2018, with a second to be built alongside the upcoming James Conte Community Center in Huntington Station.

Residents said the choice of memorial by town officials was gladly welcomed by the local community.

“Huntington is the only town that doesn’t have a spray park,” said Elwood resident Megan Hall. “Myself and other mothers would talk about it. It’s finally an answer to our wishes.”

Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil the new sign at the entrance of the newly-named Depot Road Richard W. Holst Memorial Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Eight years after the tragic death of a Huntington Manor firefighter, a town park has been renamed to honor his service to the community.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board announced Depot Road Park is now officially Richard W. Holst Memorial Park, renamed after the late fire police captain, chaplain, and posthumous honorary chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department.

“It is our honor to rededicate this park in his name for his heroic efforts and his giving to this community, continuously,” Petrone said.

Noreen Holst, Huntington Town Board members and Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to Richard W. Holst. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Holst, a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Huntington Manor fire department in 1978. He served for 31 years, spending 26 of those as the department’s chaplain and captain of the fire police. Prior to his death, Holst was elected chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains in 2008. His fellow firefighters affectionately called him, “the Rev.”

“As chaplain, Rich spent countless hours looking after, comforting and at times consoling members and families of the Huntington Manor Fire Department,” said Jon Hoffman, first assistant chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department. “Today, we dedicate this stone and plaque in honor of Richie. It will stay here for years and watch over the people in this park as Richie did for us for so many years.”

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2009, Holst was walking to 7-Eleven on Depot Road when he saw smoke rising from the adjacent shopping center. He reported the fire and immediately went to the scene to begin evacuation of the stores and checking for possible trapped occupants. Shortly after firefighters arrived, Holst suffered a heart attack and died.

The fire was determined to have started in Uber Cafe, a bagel shop, and police later ruled the incident arson, Petrone said. One of the shop’s owners pled guilty to attempted arson, the second owner was later convicted of arson.

Depot Road Park in Huntington was renamed for former Huntington Manor Fire Department member Richard W. Holst.

The newly renamed Huntington Station park off East 20th Street is only a few hundred feet from the site of the fatal fire. It features a playground and Little League baseball fields. 

“Depot Road Park is a special place, it’s a hidden gem in our park system,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think like many of you firefighters who knew Chief Holst, he was a hidden gem in our community. He was someone who was there to serve, dedicated his life to service in the [U.S.] Navy and in the fire department, then the important role of chaplain. So much of his time was dedicated to others.”

In addition to the park’s new signage, a large stone was unveiled bearing a memorial plaque with Holt’s image, notes about his accomplishments and details about his death. Deacon Edward Billia from St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church said a blessing over both the sign and memorial stone.

Noreen Holst appeared deeply touched by the tribute paid to her late husband. While she declined to speak publicly, she clutched a tissue in hand while Huntington Manor Assistant Chief Chuck Brady thanked all those who attended Saturday’s ceremony on behalf of the family. 

Huntington Manor Fire Commissioner Chris Fusaro encouraged the young members of the organization to take a long look around at those gathered and ask to hear personal stories about Holst’s exemplary life. 

“For all you who don’t know what firefighters do, it’s day and night, holidays and weekends when you get up from the table, get out of bed to go and respond,” Fusaro said. “Rich did that. He did it willingly and always from his heart.”

Huntington Manor firefighters salute their former colleague. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

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Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Two hopefuls will face off in the Sept. 15 primary to win the Democratic party line in the wide-open race for the Huntington Town supervisor seat. For many, it is the first Democratic primary for town supervisor they can vote in.

Incumbent Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), 72, announced in April he would not be seeking re-election.. He has served for nearly a quarter of a century, as he was first elected to the position in 1993.

Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) will compete for votes against community leader Darryl St. George (D), of Centerport, to determine who will attempt to fill Petrone’s shoes.

Tracey Edwards

Edwards has made the decision to step forward and run for supervisor, rather than seek re-election to a second term as a town council member. If she does not win the Democratic primary, she may no longer serve Huntington as an elected official.

“I chose to run for town supervisor versus running for re-election,” Edwards said. “This is not about me. This is about what I believe is best for Huntington.”

Tracey Edward

Edwards was elected to the town board in 2014, after serving 10 years on the board of education in the Elwood school district. She previously served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association and worked for 37 years at Verizon, starting as an operator and climbing the ladder to regional president of network operations.

Over the last three years, Edwards spearheaded the creation of Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with job hunting and career training for unemployed and underemployed residents. She has also been an advocate for Huntington Station revitalization, a plan which includes construction of veteran’s housing, art space, stores, sidewalks, and a parking garage while also working to stamp out crime.

“The biggest issue is public safety and safe neighborhoods,” Edwards said. “That is always No. 1.”

If elected supervisor, Edwards said her primary goal is to improve public safety, making more affordable housing for millenials and seniors, working with families to address ever growing opioid and heroin dependency, and expanding the town’s environmental initiatives.

“I think what [voters] have to do is really decide who has the business experience, the civic experience and governmental experience to make the changes necessary to take the town forward,” Edwards said. “We have work to do.”

Edwards will be attending Huntington Awareness Day, Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stimson Middle School, located at 401 Oakwood Road in Huntington Station

Darryl  St. George

St. George was one of the first to announce he would seek election as town supervisor in February, prior to Petrone’s announcement he would not seek re-election. He said he previously contemplated running for town board in 2015.

“The political landscape from February till now has shifted dramatically, what has not shifted is my resolve,” St. George said.

St. George works as a Northport High School teacher, where he is the co-advisor of Northport High School branch of Students Against Destructive Decisions and the advisor of Project Vets, a club that works to improve the lives of veterans once they return home. He previously taught at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington.

Darryl St. George

St. George is a U.S. Navy veteran who served a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011. Upon returning home, he served as the president of Greenlawn Civic Association for three years. In that role, St. George said he addressed public safety issues and opioid and heroin addiction.

“I was proud to be in that position,” St. George said. “I felt we were able to grow the civic association and get a lot of young people involved.”

If elected supervisor, St. George said he would focus on improving public safety by addressing in addition to opioid addiction, gang issues, protection of the environment and democratic reform to make town government more accessible for people to become involved.

“The real difference between the supervisor and the town board is a supervisor must be a leader,” he said. “A leader should have a vision and be able to communicate that vision clearly, build consensus on the town board and in the community so the vision can be translated into action. I have a track record of doing that as a teacher, as a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy,  as a civic leader and as an activist.”

St. George will be holding a fundraising event Sept. 9 at 6:45 p.m. at the Conklin Brush Barn, located at 2 High Street in Huntington.

Polls will be open for primaries Sept. 12 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Huntington Town residents are eligible to vote in the supervisor race if you are a registered Democrat,  at least 18 years old, have lived at your current address at least 30 days before the election, and have not been in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

To double check if you are registered to vote, visit the state’s website at voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx.

Councilman Gene Cook’s legislation to create term limits is on hold. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A 3-to-2 split of the Huntington Town Board has sent a proposal aimed at placing term limits on elected officials back to the drawing board.

At an Aug. 15 town board meeting, council members voted against a public hearing on legislation that would limit the number of years a public official could hold office. The sticking point was which town positions it would affect.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) made a motion to amend Councilman Eugene Cook’s (R) resolution which proposed a two-term, or eight-year limit, upwards to three four-year terms, or 12 years. Edwards said this would be more in line with term limits placed by other state and federal governmental offices. Suffolk County legislators are limited to 12 years in office.

Cook accepted these changes, but proposed that the elected positions of town clerk and receiver of taxes be removed from the bill as they are not legislative positions.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said he wouldn’t support these changes, citing term limits should apply to all elected officials or none. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D)  and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) sided with him.

Berland proposed, with Cuthbertson’s support, that the issue of term limits on elected officials should be voted on in a townwide referendum this November. Petrone and the council members voted against a hearing on the current proposed legislation to see if a referendum is a possibility.

Gene Cook. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Victoria Espinoza

Term limits could be the law of the future, as one Huntington town councilman is looking to the public for encouragement on drafting legislation for term limits for local offices.

Back in late June, Councilman Gene Cook (R) asked Huntington residents and business owners to let him know their thoughts on term limits for all elected officials in the town. The survey asked if people were in favor of term limits, supported them for all elected officials and if they supported two terms of four years each or three terms of four years each for officials.

By mid-July the results were in and Cook feels positive about moving forward to schedule a public hearing to hear more from the residents on the matter.

“For years I have wanted term limits,” Cook said in a phone interview. “So many people have come up to me on the street and said we should have term limits for everyone. I truly believe in it, and I think it makes for a healthier environment.”

According to Cook’s office, 98.07 percent of the people who responded are in favor of term limits, 86.54 percent supported that term limits include all elected officials, 63.46 percent supported two terms of four years compared to 17.31 percent for three terms of four years each.

Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) after he got the results and said he plans to present a resolution for a public hearing for proposed legislation on term limits scheduled for the September town board meeting.

The proposed legislation would support term limits of two terms of four years each for all elected officials including town supervisor, town council, town clerk, receiver of taxes and superintendent of highways. This legislation also includes if the town board ever wishes to change term limits that it go before a public referendum.   

“I feel very strongly about this, that it’s the right thing to do,” Cook said. “In a business world it’s always good to have competition, it should be the same in politics. We can make government better by doing this.”

Petrone, who has served the town for more than 20 years, said he’s going into these discussions with an open mind.

“I objected in the past because drafts didn’t include all elected officials,” he said in a phone interview. “But I believe this may be different. In the past I’ve said if we had term limits it should be all the way up the line to Congress.”

The supervisor said he’ll see if a public hearing is a better vehicle to get information.

Cook said he hopes he can get bipartisan support for this bill and show that real leadership starts at the town level.

He will be sponsoring a resolution to schedule a public hearing in September on term limits at the Aug. 15 town board meeting.

“It is extremely vital for the future of  Huntington that the residents and business owners take the time out of their busy day to attend either the August … meeting at 2 p.m., the September … meeting at 7 p.m. or email Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington town clerk to ensure their voices are heard on term limits,” Cook said in a statement. “In the six years that I have served Huntington I have had many conversations with Huntington constituents regarding their thoughts on the need for term limits. This is why I have taken a stance to sponsor legislation this important topic.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

For residents of Huntington continuously discouraged with a lack of parking, help appears to be on the way.

At the last town board meeting officials took a step toward construction of a parking structure in the village by approving the second phase of a feasibility study looking into the physical and financial aspects of the project.

Level G Associates of Old Bethpage completed the first phase of the project, and the board voted to extend their contract to continue their work. In a May report, Level G concluded it was both physically and economically feasible to construct a 528-space parking deck above part of the current municipal parking lot between New and Green streets. In the second phase of the study, Level G will finalize the various models, estimates and projections used to draw its preliminary conclusions.

Phase two will include a functional plan for the proposed deck, financing models and revenue projections. The expanded final report is expected to be suitable for submission to financial institutions and other stakeholders involved in funding and financing the project.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said he’s happy to see a plan residents have requested for years moving forward.

“This is an exciting next step in bringing the town closer to a long-term solution for the parking issues in Huntington village,” he said in a statement. “The question of whether to build a parking structure has been discussed for many years, and the fact that we are moving into a detailed study of how to make it happen represents significant progress.”

Moving forward with the second phase of this project is the latest measure undertaken by the town to address the shortage of parking in Huntington village. The measures have included forming the Huntington Village Parking Consortium, which includes the town, the Economic Development Corporation, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, the Huntington Village Business Improvement District and the Paramount Theater.

Other measures recommended in a study the consortium commissioned a few years ago have included instituting tiered pricing for metered parking spots, improving signage to direct motorists to municipal parking lots and a pilot valet parking program. The consortium also evaluated requests for proposals that explored possible public partnerships and a mixed-use structure before opting to consider a public project for a parking-only structure.

A Huntington resident signs the steel beam. Photo by Kevin Redding.

By Kevin Redding

When it comes to revitalization, Huntington Station is building a future as solid as steel.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) could barely contain his excitement June 8 as he, along with town board members and developers, kicked off Huntington Station’s long-planned revitalization phase with the signing of a steel beam to be installed over the entrance of a new, mixed-use building currently under construction at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, a site on which the town has been trying to develop a property for decades.

“Finally, this is happening,” Petrone said to cheers and applause from at least 50 residents and local leaders standing in front of the construction site. “All of you who are here have been inspirational in his whole process and we know it’s taken a long time, but it’s happened…and thank goodness it’s happened.”

The mixed-use building, under construction since January and expected to be completed in October, will be made up of 6500 square feet of retail space on the first floor, with May’s Gourmet Delicatessen signed up as the first and only commercial tenant so far, and a total of 16 one-bedroom apartments, eight on the second floor and eight on the third, for a total cost of $5.5 million. According to the town, it’s projected to “generate $55,007 in tax revenue the first year, rising to $132,016 (at present rates) in 15 years.”

Huntington officials and community members smile. Photo by Kevin Redding.

This will serve as the first concrete project in Huntington Station’s next phase of youth-friendly revitalization and was developed in partnership with Renaissance Downtowns, a nationally-renowned development group chosen by the town to be a master developer in 2011. Blue & Gold Holdings, a Huntington-based contracting business, is in charge of construction.

“We’re going to attract millennials to this facility, and that speaks highly because the station is a hub, the station is a nucleus of people that commute, especially, and that’s who we are looking to attract,” Petrone said. “There was considerable money put into this, and commitment, because that’s the commitment necessary to start the engine of economic development. The collective work with the communities, with Renaissance Downtowns and with the town has paid off.”

Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D), both integral players in the town’s revitalization efforts, were equally excited about the progress being made on the site.

“Today is a great day for Huntington Station,” Cuthbertson said. “Anytime we can see brick, mortar and steel [in Huntington Station] with housing going up is a good sign. We have beautiful mixed-use buildings like this going up in Huntington Village that really, really add to the downtown area…but when we can have a building like this, when the economics are right, when government and the private sector come together and are able to do this in Huntington Station, we’re certainly on the right track.”

Berland assured the crowd that although it’s been long in the making, the project will be worth the wait.

“The businesses that are going to happen here and the people who are going to be able to move in to the heart of the station and live here and prosper here and shop here —it’s going to be fantastic,” Berland said. “It’s a beautiful design and it’s going to be a beautiful project when it’s done and we wish everybody who’s going to move in here lots and lots of happiness and years of shopping in Huntington and spending your money. They say the best things in life are worth waiting for and, well, this is absolutely worth waiting for.”

Don Monti, chairman of Renaissance Downtowns, referring to Petrone, said, “Huntington Station is something he’s wanted to see developed for many years and I’m happy and proud that prior to the supervisor departing that the dream has come true…and this is just a beginning… the first of many to come.”

“We’re going to attract millennials to this facility, and that speaks highly because the station is a hub, the station is a nucleus of people that commute, especially, and that’s who we are looking to attract.”
— Frank Petrone

Future projects proposed by Renaissance Downtowns, currently in the approval process, include a mixed-use building at the intersection of New York Avenue and Olive Street that will include 66 apartments and ground-level retail, a hotel and office building at New York Avenue and Railroad Street, and artists’ studios in what is currently a municipal parking lot at New York Avenue and Church Street.

Dolores Thompson, a community activist for more than 70 years and the mother of Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), said she’s been trying to bring back Huntington Station since it was “taken away in the 1950s.”

“This is one of the things that I wanted to see before I leave this world and to be here today and be able to witness the fact that we actually have started is like a blessing…I’m so pleased to be here,” Thompson said. In terms of what she hopes will come to Huntington Station, she laughed, “We need a hair salon, then a shoe store, we want a gathering place and a community room…we want everything, okay?”

Robert Rockelein, a member of the civic group Huntington Matters, called this “progress in the right direction.”

“The revitalization has been backsliding for decades, it’s long overdue and it’s going to help populate and reflourish the downtown area,” Rockelein said. “I’d like to see more neighborhood-established businesses rather than regional chains obviously, and give people that live and work here an opportunity to establish something here and build their American dream.”

Local leaders, developers and residents each took turns signing their names on the last piece of steel to be installed on the mixed-use building, which will be placed at the entrance.

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