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Housing

Brightview Senior Living is looking to construct a 170-unit facility on about nine acres of land off Route 112 in Port Jeff Station, illustrated above within the red box. Image from Google Maps

Another large-scale development project is in the works for the Port Jefferson Station area.

Brookhaven Town approved a zone change at its July 12 meeting paving the way for the construction of a 170-unit assisted living facility on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station on a parcel near The Meadow Club banquet hall. With plans already progressing in recent months to construct a 244-unit residential complex for senior citizens on North Bicycle Path just off of Route 112 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s allocating of $8 million in funds for a roughly 100-unit project for affordable and homeless housing on Route 112 near East Grove Street, this will be the third property set for massive development in a roughly mile and a half stretch of the state highway.

Baltimore-based developer Brightview Senior Living will be building and operating the assisted living facility, as it does with each of its 35 properties, according to Vice President of Development David Holland, who spoke during a town public hearing on the zone change July 12.

“We intend to be long-term citizens of Brookhaven and strive to be good neighbors to all who are around us,” Holland said.

The VP said the company expects the majority of its tenants to be in their 80s and 90s and in need of regular, daily care. Brightview’s current site plan for the approximately nine-acre plot of land includes a three-story building with dining venues, a theater, a pub, a library, indoor and outdoor lounges, as well as its own sewage treatment facility for the site.

The property was previously owned by area resident Jeff Kito and his family dating back to the 1950s, he said during the hearing. Kito is the former president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and lives on the nearby Canal Road currently. He said he and his brother decided to sell the property about three years ago and sought to find a developer interested in building something along the lines of what Brightview proposed. He said he has met with neighbors in the vicinity to discuss the plans.

“I think we’ll have a great facility for the community,” he said.

Kito’s former colleagues in the civic association submitted a letter to Brightview dated Jan. 25, 2017, stating the members had no objections to the project.

“We look forward to working with your firm as this assisted living facility proposal is further developed in our Port Jefferson Station Terryville Hamlet,” said the letter, signed by then-President Ed Garboski, who is now the vice president.

Current President Sal Pitti said in an email the civic association still has no objections related to the project. Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Anthony Guardino, an attorney representing the applicant at the July 12 hearing, each said they had received a single letter from a community member in opposition of the development in addition to several in favor, including one signed by all homeowners on Patty Ann Court, which is also nearby the boundaries of the parcel. The property is expected to have a significant buffer from other residential properties that will include sizable evergreen trees.

Holland indicated a demand for such a facility exists in the area, as Brightview determined about 1,500 assisted living beds are currently available in the town.

About 16 percent of Suffolk County’s population is 65 or older, according to the website www.censusreporter.org, which is slightly higher than the New York state and United States rates. Port Jefferson Station’s 80-plus population is substantially larger — about 20 percent — than that of the state and surrounding region, according to the site.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

Homeless people living in Suffolk County might soon find a roof over their heads in Port Jefferson Station.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that $25.6 million has been awarded to four housing developments on Long Island to create 239 affordable homes.

There is $8.1 million set aside for construction of six two-story buildings on vacant land off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue. Phase One of the project would create 77 units, while a potential second phase would add an additional 31 apartments, according to Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) speaking during a May 22 Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting. The site plan application for the project was listed as
“in-review” in Brookhaven documents as of April 30, though the property is already properly zoned for the requested use and it doesn’t require any variances, according to town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. The Port Jeff Station project would include 45 units for homeless individuals, half of which would be reserved for veterans, Cartright said.

“Our biggest concern, besides the tax part that they’re not bringing any kind of revenue to our community, is also the amount of kids that may come out of this facility.”

— Sal Pitti

The May 10 announcement ignited a strong reaction from the Port Jefferson Station community both on social media and at the May 22 meeting. Civic association President Sal Pitti said he, Cartright and representatives from Concern for Independent Living Inc., the nonprofit agency seeking to construct the facility, met in March to discuss the potential project, concerns of the community and the agency’s efforts to gain tax exempt status for the project from the state. Cartright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) both said May 22 they were caught off guard by the governor’s announcement about the funding.

“As soon as I found out anything about it, I ran into the supervisor’s office asking him what he knew about it and wanted to make sure that I had all the information necessary,” Cartright said. “Immediately afterwards we contacted the civic association … it was news to us as well.”

Pitti said he thought the organization had been less than forthcoming about its plans, suggesting Concern for Independent Living initially didn’t mention the potential second phase, which is also not referenced in Cuomo’s announcement.

“Our biggest concern, besides the tax part that they’re not bringing any kind of revenue to our community, is also the amount of kids that may come out of this facility, because more kids in our school district means more taxes on top of the taxes we’re already paying for that location,” he said.

Elizabeth Lunde, Senior Associate Executive Director for Concern for Independent Living said leadership of the civic association had been invited to visit one of the organizations other facilities, and the invitation remains on the table.

“Concern for Independent Living is a local organization that has been providing quality housing in Suffolk County for decades,” she said in an email. “We were founded in 1972 and our first office was located in Port Jefferson Station. We currently operate over 1,000 units of affordable rental housing that has made a very positive impact in Suffolk and Nassau Counties as well as Brooklyn and the Bronx.”

Several attendees of the May 22 civic meeting expressed displeasure about the project, suggesting Port Jeff Station already has its fair share of facilities for homeless people.

“Homeless families need a place to live — our community is a very giving community.”

— Edward Garboski

“Homeless families need a place to live — our community is a very giving community,” civic association Vice President Edward Garboski said May 22. A resident at the meeting responded, summing up a sentiment seemingly shared by most of the attendees: “We don’t want to be the only community giving.”

The Port Jefferson project is receiving only a small part of more than $200 million the state is awarding to build or preserve more than 2,800 affordable apartments across New York, according to a press
release from Cuomo’s office. The governor called the $200 million investment a “giant step forward to increase access to homes for families, seniors and our most vulnerable men and women across the state.”

RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal program, said the investment would address the crisis of homelessness among other benefits.

“By delivering affordable homes to Long Island, we continue to grow its economy,” she said in a statement.

Romaine said the town is concerned about the governor’s announcement and suggested other ways he thought the money could be better used. He also instructed concerned residents to start a petition and direct it to Cuomo’s office.

“We’ve been begging the state of New York to give us some money to fix up zombie homes, and to make them available to first time home buyers and veterans,” he said. “We’d like that money going toward that housing, instead of building something new, how about we rebuild some of the neighborhoods that we lost during the Great Recession to foreclosures and zombie houses. How about giving homes to our veterans and first-time home buyers who are leaving the area.”

Siena Village in Smithtown. Photo from Facebook.

A Suffolk County legislator is calling for the revocation of tax benefits given to a Smithtown housing complex
after managers allegedly threatened dozens of senior citizens with eviction.

Suffolk Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) submitted a formal request to the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency Feb. 22 asking it rescind tax breaks granted to Siena Village as he called into question the management practices of the complex’s management company, PK Management.

Valencia Burney, property manager for Siena Village, said that PK Management sent out approximately 70 notices dated Dec. 29 to residents notifying them of  outstanding balances for their apartment rents.

A copy of one such letter shared with TBR News Media reads, “Please be advised that PK Management, LLC., the managing agent of the property at 2000 Bishops Road, Smithtown, NY 11787, does hereby terminate your tenancy at this property.” It then cites that “in accordance with HUD guidelines” the resident’s lease would end Jan. 8, only 10 days after the date of the letter.

There is little evidence to believe that the residents of Siena Village are going to be treated with the decency and respect to which they are entitled.”
— Rob Trotta

One Siena Village resident, who spoke with TBR News Media on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, and was very scared and disturbed to receive the letter.

“You don’t do this to seniors,” the resident said. “I’ve worked all my life. I’ve paid my dues. Now, I need help. I don’t think anyone thought they would go this far.”

Trotta said his office received “numerous complaints” from Siena Village residents in January who said they received letters like the one cited above, being unfairly threatened with eviction.

“PK Management’s threatening tactics have thrown this community into turmoil, driving many elderly residents into a frantic state with some even being hospitalized as a result,” reads his letter to Suffolk IDA.

Trotta said Feb. 15 a community meeting was held with PK Management representatives, who apologized for the letters claiming they were sent in error. Yet, the legislator alleges PK Management informed the citizens in attendance that New York State law allows them “two days to evict,” and the company provides 10. Trotta said this is not in accordance with state law, in which the eviction process can take several months to process through the courts — a fact he claims the complex has hidden from its residents.

“There is little evidence to believe that the residents of Siena Village are going to be treated with the decency and respect to which they are entitled,” Trotta wrote in his statement.

According to the legislator, PK Management was provided with tax abatements in excess of $600,000 by the Suffolk IDA. Now, he is calling for the IDA to revoke those benefits immediately given their treatment of the Smithtown residents.

PK Management did not respond to requests for comment on Trotta’s demand.

“The Suffolk IDA has received Legislator Trotta’s letter and is looking into the matter,” said Tony Catapano, director of Suffolk IDA, in a statement.

The second phase of construction is underway at the Texaco Avenue apartments. Photo by Elana Glowatz

If you build it, they will come.

Port Jefferson developer Rail Realty LLC proved that old adage when Rob Gitto, from its parent company The Gitto Group, confirmed its uptown apartment project is already at full rental capacity — a month before it is even slated to open.

Gitto said the 38 units in the first completed apartment building has been completely pre-leased and there is a waiting list for the second building, which will add another approximately 36 units when completed next year.

Most of those future tenants are affiliated with Stony Brook University in some way, Gitto said, whether they are graduate students, medical residents, professors, nurses, doctors or other staff. There are also a few people from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s new residency program.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Officials broke ground on the much-anticipated project, dubbed The Hills at Port Jefferson, in May 2015, expressing hope that the first new development in upper Port would spur revitalization efforts in the troubled area.

Village leaders have been trying to enhance the uptown’s Main Street corridor, between North Country/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks, with the goal of improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

At the groundbreaking last year, Mayor Margot Garant said the 74 Texaco Avenue apartments would be “so important” to the revitalization.

Gitto thinks it’s already propelled other improvements. He said Monday that he has seen one nearby business making improvements to an existing establishment and two others sign leases to bring in new ones.

“We wanted to see the area revitalized and we’re seeing it,” he said, adding about the rest of the uptown area, “We definitely hope they follow suit.”

There are other community benefits attached: Under the conditions of the project’s approval, Rail Realty has to make improvements to a pocket park on the west side of Texaco that currently has a jungle gym, swings and a basketball hoop, and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Construction has gone in phases. Last year, Rail Realty knocked down vacant homes and buildings along the east side of Texaco Avenue between Sheep Pasture Road and Linden Place to make way for the two three-story buildings — which will have a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and began working on the northern building. That was completed recently, with the new apartments visible from some angles on Main Street, a block over. The developer got started right on the foundation of the second building, to the south.

The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz
The first phase of the Texaco Avenue apartments is complete. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Garant announced the milestone at a village board of trustees meeting on June 6, saying people would start moving into the first apartment building in mid-July.

Resident parking is underground, a noteworthy element for a small village in which having more cars than parking spaces has long been an issue. And toward the end of the second ongoing apartment construction phase, the developers will bring down a building on the south side of the Texaco Avenue and Linden Place intersection, the Stony Brook Electric Inc. building, to make room for additional above-ground parking.

That’s also when the park improvements will take place, Gitto said. Plans are still developing, but they might include landscaping, such as flowers and necessary irrigation, and taking down an unused shed there.

For The Gitto Group — which has built up other parts of Port Jefferson, including an office building, the CVS and the Barnum House apartments on Main Street — things are falling into place faster than anticipated. Rob Gitto said the project was done in phases because the developers weren’t sure how well the first set of apartments would be received and how quickly they would be leased.

“We knew it would be successful but we didn’t know it would sell that quickly.”

What apartments would look like at the proposed On the Common site, where Thurber Lumber Co. previously resided, on Broadway in Rocky Point. Photo from Mark Baisch

Senior citizens in Rocky Point may soon have a new living option. The Rocky Point-based development company Landmark Properties Ltd. presented plans to the Rocky Point Civic Association, Historical Society and about 100 members of the community at a meeting on the grounds of the would-be homes.

Mark Baisch, owner of Landmark Properties, constructed a plan called On the Common at Rocky Point, which calls for 40 600-square-foot, one-bedroom senior citizen apartments that would be constructed on the site of the old Thurber Lumber Co. Inc., which closed its doors in February. The plan for the 1.8-acre space near Broadway was met with hesitancy in March from some community members, though reactions from the recent meeting were overwhelmingly positive.

“I’m favorably impressed,” said Rocky Point Civic Association President Charles Bevington, who attended the presentation. “I liked everything, essentially. It’s forward thinking.”

Bevington said he was also pleased with the importance Baisch placed on environmental concerns associated with new development. The buildings would have solar energy, storm-water runoff irrigation systems, energy efficient appliances and safeguards against nitrogen pollution.

“It’s right for a lot of reasons,” said Baisch, a developer. “It brings a residential component to the Broadway-Rocky Point area.”

Baisch made the case for why the project would be an appealing option for senior citizens in the Rocky Point community in March.

“They have to pay taxes, they have to pay their oil bill, they have to pay for repairs [for their home],” he said. In the On the Common homes, senior citizens would not have to worry about upkeep and maintenance around their yard and home. Also, they would be living within a community of their peers and would have more freedom in their daily lives, according to Baisch.

He was encouraged by the positive response he received. He said he had a handful of people sign up to reserve apartments in the event that the plan becomes a reality.

“I think they realize it’s a major step in the redevelopment of Rocky Point,” Baisch said, adding that he’s noticed more commercial development in the Rocky Point area.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said in March she would prefer to see a community center on the centrally located property in downtown Rocky Point, because it is a high-density area already, but recently said she is coming around on Landmark Property’s plan.

“It’s a drastic change from the original rendering,” Anker said. “It looks very much improved from the original conception. I’m listening to the community. If the community supports it, I will support it. … Community input is always incredibly important when significant change is happening in the community.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said there’s a large number of seniors who live in North Shore Beach who are interested.

“Many have reached out to me excited about this,” she said.

Baisch’s plan also guarantees 25 percent of the 40 homes will be reserved for senior citizens who are veterans of the United States military, a point which was appealing to Bevington.

The plan still needs to be approved by the Town of Brookhaven though, before ground is broken and development can begin.

Activists demonstrate across the state in a 2013 rally for farmworkers’ rights. Photo from U. Roberto Romano

The road to fairness for farmworkers starts in Suffolk County.

Supporters of the Farm Workers Fair Labor Practices Act, as it has been known for the majority of its existence, which has spanned years and decades, will begin a 200-mile march to Albany on May 15, starting from Sen. John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) office in Smithtown. A group called the Rural Migrant Ministry organized the March for Farmworker’s Justice. The group has been lobbying for better working and living conditions and benefits like overtime pay and health insurance for farmworkers, who Linda Obernauer, a volunteer with the ministry, said “live in fear” under “strongholds” from many farmers.

“The owners of the farm are the landlords — the owners of the housing,” Boris Martinez, a farmworker from a nursery in Patchogue, said through translator Katia Chapman in a phone interview Tuesday. Martinez is from El Salvador and has worked at the nursery for about two years, he said. “The owners only care that the housing is okay when inspection is going to come. They don’t care what state the housing is in, what condition the housing is in. It’s most likely that there will be at least 10 people living there.”

Nathan Berger is the main organizer of the march, which is a yearly occurrence. Participants march between 10 and 15 miles per day, stopping overnight to sleep at churches or at homes provided by volunteer host families. Obernauer said anyone is welcome to march, and they can join during any leg and participate for as many or as few miles as desired. Berger could not be reached for comment.

“We should all be involved in this,” Obernauer said in a phone interview Friday. “They are who we are but we don’t give them justice.”

Martinez said during a snowstorm last year many of the rooms in the housing provided by the owner of the farm where he works had leaks. Snow and water got inside of virtually all of the rooms. About 10 tenants share the home at a given time.

“The difficulty is that if we were to say to the owner that it’s not adequate housing he would send us out of the house to rent elsewhere because here when you work at his farm we don’t pay rent and it would be difficult to afford rent elsewhere,” Martinez said. “None of the workers are paid overtime pay. None of us have health insurance and if we get sick we don’t have the resources to pay for basic medical care. I know a lot of other workers in the area and none of them are paid overtime pay. Many of us don’t have a day of rest either. I’m right now working about 60 hours a week but when the weather warms up I’ll probably be working 67 or 68 hours.”

“The owners only care that the housing is okay when inspection is going to come.”
­— Boris Martinez

Martinez added he has friends who work upward of 80 hours a week.

“Those in power, they don’t care how we’re doing as workers, what they care about is the money that we’re producing for them,” he said.

An anonymous website, located at www.nyfarmworkerprotectionbill.com, provides the farmers’ perspective on the seemingly never-ending battle. An attempt to contact the purveyor of the website was unsuccessful. The email associated is no longer active.

“[The Rural Migrant Ministry] and others have recruited various celebrities and ‘foodies’ to support the bill, as well as downstate/New York City legislators, most of whom have never even been to a farm,” the site says. “We believe these individuals have been misled and have not done the proper research to find out the truth about farms, growers, farmworkers, and the challenges we face to bring fresh food to as many tables as possible.”

State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) is the sponsor of the bill in its current form. The site suggests increased rights and benefits for farmworkers would take a financial toll on farmers’ businesses.

“What we are talking about are five or six exemptions to state labor law,” the site states. “These exemptions, like the one for overtime pay exist because of the production and marketing realities associated with farming. Farming does not take place in an enclosed building with a regulated environment. We have a limited time to plant and harvest. If overtime is enacted, farmers will have to cut hours during the growing season so as to afford the extra hours needed at planting and harvest times which can’t be avoided.”

Flanagan was a sponsor of the bill during his time in the State Assembly in the early 2000s. Since being elected to the State Senate in 2002 he has publicly supported the bill. However, despite becoming the GOP majority leader in 2015, the bill remains before the Labor Committee and has yet to pass the Senate. Flanagan did not respond to multiple requests for comment through his public relations personnel.

Jose Ventura, another farmworker from Guatemala who lives on Long Island, said his living and working conditions are not bad, but he also does not receive overtime or health benefits. He will be participating in the march.

“I’m participating in the march because even though, as I said, I like my job, I also see my friends, my companions that they are not always treated well,” Ventura said in a phone interview Tuesday through Chapman as a translator. “On their farms they’re not always paid fairly. There’s a lot of Guatemalan farmworkers and some of them are mistreated in the job and while I feel that this march is for the benefit of my people, therefore I feel motivated to be a part of the movement.”

Martinez, who also plans to participate in the march, said he knows his value and plans to fight for it.

“Farmworkers are the most important workers in every country because they’re the ones producing the food for the country.”

Police Commissioner Tim Sini discusses housing issues happening across the county. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Housing fraud has hit home for some North Shore officials.

During Suffolk County Legislator DuWayne Gregory’s press conference on Monday, fellow legislators, local leaders and county and state officials addressed issues with squatters and unsafe structures cropping up across Long Island.

According to Gregory (D-Amityville), squatters are using foreclosed homes to take advantage of prospective residents looking for an affordable place to live. In many cases, the actual property owners have abandoned the property and some of the homes are becoming safety hazards.

Then there’s the problem of the houses becoming havens for criminal activity.

“A lot of these vacant homes are being used for drug deals,” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “These vacant homes are a danger in our society.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini added that the homes can also become magnets for prostitution and vandalism.

The neglected houses that become sites for criminal activity are commonly called zombie homes.

According to Sini, in each hamlet on Long Island there are dozens of zombie homes or houses that squatters are illegally renting out to unsuspecting tenants.

“We know homelessness is a major crisis for our veterans, for our seniors, for our working families,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said. “When we see someone taking advantage of someone looking to rent or purchase a home, it’s very heinous because a lot of the times, we’re talking about people’s life savings … and this could really disrupt the family.”

Many tenants find the properties through Craigslist or similar websites. During the event, Gregory said a single mother was one of many people scammed when a squatter posed as a property owner and rented out a parcel to her. Although police were unable to arrest that particular squatter before the person fled, officials are working to arrest suspects in such cases.

They are also urging people to report vacant homes in their neighborhood. Those tips can help — according to Anker, the Rocky Point Civic Association keeps track of these homes and has reported more than 70 vacant homes in the area.

“This is happening all over the county. We want to make sure people are aware of what’s going on and that … when you’re going to rent a property, that you do your due diligence,” Gregory said. “There are people out there, unscrupulous people … who take advantage.”

Gregory will host an educational seminar on the issue on Tuesday, March 29, at the Copiague Memorial Library on Deauville Boulevard. The seminar runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town failed to fully abide by New York’s affordable housing law, according to a state comptroller audit.

The audit, released Jan. 8, singled out eight governments across Long Island, including Brookhaven, zeroing in on their compliance with the Long Island Workforce Housing Act. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) said the town “generally complied” with the act, but did not properly manage an optional trust fund set aside for affordable housing.

The Long Island Workforce Housing Act was passed in 2008 to require developers building five or more homes on a property to allocate 10 percent of their prospective residential units to affordable workforce housing units, meant for people earning up to about $105,000. The law also said that developers could avoid building affordable housing units by paying a fee to the town, which would be deposited into a trust fund for the purpose of building affordable housing.

The towns of Babylon, Huntington, Islip and North Hempstead and the villages of Hempstead, Farmingdale and Mineola were also evaluated in the audit. Each government either reached or exceeded the 10 percent affordable housing requirement, the audit said.

However, in the audit DiNapoli said Brookhaven adopted a resolution in August 2014 establishing a housing trust fund, but did not set up guidelines and procedures establishing how the expenditures from that fund would be used until September 2015 — which was later than the mandated six-month timeframe required to set up those rules.

The audit noted that “there have been no expenditures from the trust fund during the audit period.”

But Brookhaven officials said they did not agree with the comptroller’s assessment. Diana Weir, commissioner of Housing and Human Services in Brookhaven, said the town was in full compliance before the comptroller released the audit.

“The issue with Brookhaven is that we’ve never given a developer that option,” Weir said about the fees for the fund, which was not mandatory to create. “To us [making developers build the affordable units was] better because we are actually building the units. But just in case we figured we’d [establish] a trust fund.”

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he was unhappy with the state’s assessment that the town only generally complied with the law. Because the town makes developers build affordable homes instead of paying to avoid the requirement, there isn’t any money in the trust fund account, Romaine said.

Of Brookhaven’s 924 housing units, 10 percent are affordable workforce housing units, according to the audit.

“What did Brookhaven do wrong?” Romaine (R) asked in a phone interview. “If Brookhaven required [developers] to build [affordable homes], why did we need a trust fund account? We’re actually fulfilling the law.”

In the preliminary draft of the audit, the comptroller suggested the town establish guidelines for the fund. That suggestion came several days after Brookhaven established rules for the fund. Despite this, the final audit didn’t reflect or acknowledge the change.

Brookhaven has always required developers to make affordable homes. During the recession, developers needed to allocate 20 percent of the residential units for affordable housing. Weir said purchasing affordable homes at the time was easier for prospective homeowners as prices of homes dropped. The town dropped the requirement to 10 percent once the market started improving.

“What the audit should have said is, ‘We recommend in the future that you set [the affordable workforce housing trust fund] up, but you’ve complied,’” Romaine said.

Group criticizes amendment aimed at two-family homes

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

A representative of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition blasted a proposal from Councilwoman Tracy Edwards (D) at a public hearing last week that would add requirements to creating two-family homes.

The law, if approved, would transform the process to create a two-family home in the R-5 Residence District from one that’s as-of-right — not requiring any planning or zoning board review — to one that requires a special-use permit from the Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ZBA would then review the application on a number of criteria and would also consider community input. Those criteria include aesthetics, like ensuring the house looks like a single-family home of no more than two stories, and restricting features, like exposed cellars, large attics, tall roofs, multiple driveways and decks, and prominent secondary entrances, according to the proposed law.

The owner would also have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that he or she would sustain “severe hardship” if the application was denied and that the hardship wasn’t self-created.

Roger Weaving, who spoke on behalf of the coalition, said, on Sept. 16, that the group was strongly opposed to the legislation. In a statement opining on the law, the coalition criticized the current requirements governing two-family home creation as well, calling them “so restrictive as to virtually exclude two-family homes from being created in Huntington.”

“Not only is the resolution arbitrary, it perpetuates racial and class segregation in Huntington, without purpose other than to exclude new people,” Weaving said.

Weaving also said that the proposed amendment includes arbitrary and vague language. It claims two-family homes should look like single family homes, but there’s no specificity on what a single family home should look like.

The proposal said the dwelling should be at least five years of age, but the coalition called this requirement “arbitrary and without purpose other than to exclude two-family homes in Huntington.” Also, the amendment doesn’t describe what constitutes a severe hardship.

The coalition and Weaving claimed the law doesn’t jive with the overall mission to create affordable housing in town for the community’s young people. Two-family homes offer lower rents, and the lower cost of living “allows young people to create a work/life balance, save some hard-earned dollars, and eventually & hopefully set down roots here in Huntington.”

Edwards couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday — her aide said she was traveling. But in prior interviews, the councilwoman has said her main thrust in introducing the law was to give neighbors the chance to comment on such projects, as current town code doesn’t require it. She was inspired to create this law after speaking with a Greenlawn resident who came home one day surprised to find a two-family home in the community.

“You shouldn’t be able to go to work one day thinking that the house being built next to you is a single family and come home from work and find it’s a two-family house,” Edwards said. “Intuitively, that just doesn’t sound like something we want to do.”

Creating sound regulations and requirements for non-single family homes is “appropriate and necessary,” the coalition stated in the letter, and requiring notification of neighbors “makes sense.” But “requiring a five-year wait period and demonstration of a ‘severe hardship’ make no sense.”

The public hearing was closed.

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Supervisor Ed Romaine listens to resident concerns at the town meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Civic leaders in Three Village are calling on Brookhaven to put the brakes on a local law that could potentially limit the number of vehicles parked on town roads.

In an attempt to crack down on illegal rental housing in Brookhaven, elected officials mulled over a proposal at a work session late last month that would restrict the number of permitted vehicles at a rental house to one car per legal bedroom, plus one additional car. But Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, said imposing “separate and unequal” laws would infringe on residents’ most basic rights as Americans by determining which Brookhaven natives would be allowed to park their vehicles on the street.

The civic president wrote a letter in opposition of the town’s proposal.

“While it is certainly in the town’s purview to determine how our roadways should be used, our laws should apply equally to all,” Nuzzo wrote in the letter. “It is unwise to create restrictive laws meant to apply only to certain members of our society — in this instance, based on their homeownership status.”

Nuzzo said he submitted his remarks on the law for the board to consider at its Sept. 17 meeting, when the town will look to add an amendment to Local Law 82 in the Brookhaven Town Code, which oversees rental registration requirements. The proposed vehicle restriction was only the latest in a string of initiatives the town put forward to prevent illegal housing rentals, including one measure that outlawed paving over front yards to make way for parking spaces.

The measures were borne out of an issue Bruce Sander, president of the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, helped bring to the forefront after communities in and around Three Village became hotspots for illegal or otherwise overcrowded rental homes filled with Stony Brook University students. Sander was only one of many Three Village natives to come out against the overcrowded housing debacle, citing quality of life issues such as noise and overflowing trash.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said at the Aug. 27 Town Board work session that he believed restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of rental homes could be a helpful tool in fighting illegal rooming houses.

“Normally, what we have to do is try to get inside to cite them, but to do that requires a search warrant, which judges are reluctant to give without probable cause,” Romaine said. “However, one of the other factors that these illegal rooming houses generate is the fact that there’s a lot of cars around. If we could control the number of cars, we would be better able to cite people.”

Looking ahead, Nuzzo said he planned on forwarding the proposal to the state attorney general’s office as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center to delve into the legality of a township restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of any given home, and whether or not the town can selectively enforce such a measure.

“If the Town Board feels street parking regulations are necessary, then those regulations should be implemented town wide,” Nuzzo said. “To target only certain residents for selective enforcement is un-American, and quite possibly illegal.”

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