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Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson

A conceputal rendering of what the building will look like. Image from Town of Huntington

A lifelong Huntington Station resident and politician remembered as a “pillar of the community” will have a building named in his memory.

Town of Huntington officials unveiled conceptual plans for the transformation of the former New York State Armory on East 5th Avenue into the James D. Conte Community Center.

Former Assemblyman James Conte was a lifelong Huntington Station resident. File photo

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said at the Nov. 25 ceremony. “As many of you know, Jimmy worked very hard to retain this facility for the residents of the Town of Huntington. We know that his special love when he served in the assembly was for Huntington Station.”

Conte, a former state assemblyman who represented the 10th district for 24 years, died October 2012 of T-cell lymphoma. He achieved the status of minority leader pro tem, the Republican’s second highest-ranking post, and was a strong proponent of organ donation, having undergone two kidney transplants himself.

“Jimmy was involved in everything,” said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), a colleague of Conte. “He made this town a better place — he continues to make it a better place, and I can’t wait to see the end product here that will be a testament to him and his family.”

The late assemblyman was instrumental in getting the state to transfer ownership of the decommissioned building over to the Town of Huntington, according to Petrone, with the intention of the space being used  as a community center.

Earlier this year, the town board retained the Holbrook-based firm Savik & Murray to engineer and design proposals for the building. The town’s 2018 budget has designated $3.75 million for the first phase of the project in addition to acquiring a $1.5 million state grant.

Residents are eager to get a first look at the building plans. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“This past year, as a town board member, working on and consulting with the architects on the design of this project, it has really been a labor of love,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “They came in with some ideas that were outside of the box. We’ve tweaked what they had. I think the final product is something that probably still needs work, but is something that is a really good start.”

The conceptual plans propose the 22,500-square-foot building be repurposed with space for uses such as arts and crafts, a computer lab, a recording studio, an all-purpose gymnasium, a strength training facility, CrossFit center, rock climbing arena, a community meeting space, a multipurpose room, classrooms, office space and an elevated indoor running and walking track. The town has also promised the Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244 a designated area to run as a veterans canteen.

“A couple of months ago my mother and I went down to Town Hall to view the plans that are going to be on display today, and we were just blown away,” said Conte’s daughter Sarah. “This is exactly what my father would have wanted for this community. Myself and my family are so honored to be here and to have this named after him. We know he would be honored as well.”

The architects have suggested possible outdoor uses for the 3.6-acre site including an amphitheater, meditation gardens, a spiritual walkway and bench seating.

The Conte family and town officials unveil the sign naming the future James D. Conte Community Center. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“[My father] would be jumping up and down and dancing in this room if he knew Huntington Station was going to get a project this big,” said Conte’s daughter Samantha. “He valued the community. He knew the value of what a building like this could offer.”

The town has estimated the entire project will cost $10 million and aims to have it completed by 2019. Oversight of its construction will be transferred to the incoming town board helmed by current state assemblyman and Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station). Lupinacci previously worked as a community liaison for Conte before taking over his state office in 2012.

“We know even though he is gone his legacy will continue with his family and the many generations of children that will walk through this building, and of course, the veterans who will have a special place on Fifth Street,” Lupinacci said. “We know his legacy will continue for many generations after we’re all gone.”

Back row, from left, Town of Huntington’s Parks Director Don McKay, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson and Dr. Inna Gellerman, with some of the youth hockey players who received free custom mouth guards, compliments of Gellerman Orthodontics of Huntington. Photo from Town of Huntington

Thanks to the generosity of a local orthodontist, youth participating in the Town of Huntington’s recreational hockey league at Dix Hills Park will not have to worry about losing teeth due to an errant puck, high stick or hard hit. Dr. Inna Gellerman, owner of Gellerman Orthodontics of Huntington Village, donated more than 100 custom mouth guards to youth participating in the Department of Parks & Recreation’s popular instructional league held throughout the winter at the double ice rink facility in Dix Hills.

According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, athletes are 60 times more likely to sustain damage to teeth when foregoing the protection of mouth guards. “Safety for our youth is imperative and I sincerely appreciate the generosity of Dr. Gellerman for providing this great service and these vitally important mouth guards,” said Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D). “Interest and participation in our youth hockey programs continues to grow and the protection provided by these custom guards is greatly appreciated by our parents.”

Gellerman added,“I’ve seen our share of tragic accidents that could have been easily prevented with the correct protective gear. Custom mouth guards help protect not only the teeth but also prevent against a head injury during contact sports ­— at any age.” She also added, “This is an ongoing program offered by Gellerman Orthodontics to any youth teams or any individual young athlete in the area.”

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