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Huntington Station revitalization

An aerial map overview of Huntington Station revitalization projects shows the state-owned NY Avenue property highlighted in yellow. Image from Source the Station

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington Town officials are looking to state representatives in Albany to push for the transfer of ownership of a state property on New York Avenue to the town by June 20.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) introduced a late resolution at the June 5 town board meeting to send a home rule message urging New York state legislators to approve the transferring of ownership of about 4 acres of land in Huntington Station to the town in order for revitalization efforts to move forward.

“The Town of Huntington, in partnership with Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station LLC and the entire Huntington Station community, is engaged in a multi-year community planning and revitalization process to help realize the community’s aspiration for a more walkable, vibrant and transit-friendly environment,” Cergol’s resolution reads.

“As you may know, from day one when I started with the town I was assigned to Huntington Station and I’ve been chipping away at it ever since.”
– Joan Cergol

The land sought is a narrow strip of property adjacent to the western side of New York Avenue/Route 110, bordered to the north by Church Street running along the roadway south to the Long Island Rail Road right of way. It is currently owned by New York State Department of Transportation.

Ryan Porter, president and co-CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, said obtaining ownership of the land is critical for moving forward in the planning and construction of the artist lofts and hotel envisioned as part of the Huntington Station revitalization master plans. In February 2014, the town board approved a special use permit for the hotel along New York Avenue under a C-6 overlay zoning. Since then, the plans have not advanced any further.

Town board members approved the home rule message by a 3-2 vote urging the passage of the land transfer bills that have been sponsored by state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and state Assemblyman Steve Stern (R-Dix Hills) before the end of state legislature’s session.

“As you may know, from day one when I started with the town I was assigned to Huntington Station and I’ve been chipping away at it ever since,” Cergol said, noting she also recently sponsored a resolution that allowed the area to be federally designated an Opportunity Zone which provides tax incentives to business owners. “To be in the position I am now to advance progress is very rewarding and to see things happening makes me feel like a rock star.”

Councilmen Gene Cook (R) and Ed Smythe (R) voted against seeking a transfer of the New York Avenue property. Cook said he was originally in favor of the resolution but admitted to having issues with some of the actions taken by Renaissance Downtowns in recent months, including requesting permission to construct two-bedroom apartments in the Gateway Plaza after initial plans were already approved and seeking approval of $2.6 million in tax breaks from Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency on the project.

“It was a good way to set [Renaissance Downtowns] up and say we’re all playing good or you aren’t playing.”
– Gene Cook

“I wasn’t happy with what happened with Renaissance the past couple of weeks, the nonsense, the changes, going for IDA money,” the councilman said. “It was a good way to set them up and say we’re all playing good or you aren’t playing.”

Porter said he hasn’t had the opportunity to speak personally with Cook since the developer’s request to add two-bedroom units to Gateway Plaza was withdrawn in mid-May.

“We made an adjustment to alleviate the concerns of the community,” Porter said. “But the truth of the matter is that there was a good portion of the population that was disappointed we removed the two-bedrooms units.”

Renaissance Downtowns is hopeful it will receive the necessary permits to begin demolition of the existing buildings located at 1000 to 1026 New York Avenue this summer to make way for construction of Gateway Plaza, according to Porter. The proposed plans for the plaza call for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and a total of 66 apartments. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

The master developer said there is a June 14 meeting scheduled to hammer out more details and set a more definitive schedule for demolition and construction.

A rendering of the Gateway Plaza development on the left, and on the top right, the envisioned artist residences on the corners of New York Avenue and Church Street. Image from Renaissance Downtowns

The master developer behind Huntington Station’s revitalization plans wishes it was more transparent with residents outraged by proposed changes it was seeking to Gateway Plaza.

Renaissance Downtowns and developer G2G Development submitted a request April 24 seeking to change the composition of apartments that will make up the Gateway Plaza building to be constructed on the corner of Olive Street and New York Avenue. It sought to construct 11 two-bedroom apartments — not included in the original plans, which called for a mix of one-bedroom and studio units — by decreasing the number of studios.

Huntington Station resident Matt Harris raised his objections at the May 1 Huntington Town board meeting, highlighting the requested changes to town officials.

“The people of Huntington Station have been lied to for 48 years,” Harris said. “Developer after developer after developer has lied to us and now Renaissance is doing it.”

Councilman Gene Cook (R) immediately backed Harris’ opinion, saying he approved the project to construct one-bedroom and studio apartments. He called for the town attorney’s office to launch an investigation into the developer’s request.

“We have been keenly aware of the concerns raised by community members over the last couple of weeks about the Gateway Project,” said Ryan Porter, CEO and president of Renaissance Downtowns in a May 12 statement on a website for the project, Source the Station. “While we don’t necessarily agree with the assumptions being made regarding two-bedroom units of this size and nature we clearly hear the community concerns. We are regretful that our transparency with the community over the last [six] years did not come through in this instance.”

The proposed changes were received by the town’s Department of Planning and Environment after the board approved transferring of the town-owned parcel at 1000 New York Avenue to the developer with a 4-1 vote at its April 10 meeting, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. Councilman Ed Smyth (R) had been the sole objector to the land transfer calling it a “betrayal of public trust.”

The 1000 New York Avenue property was one of the four parcels needed to move forward with the construction of Gateway Plaza. The approved site plan for 1000 to 1026 New York Avenue calls for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and a total of 66 apartments. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

Renaissance Downtowns celebrated the grand opening of its Northridge apartments with a May 7 ribbon cutting and ceremony. The building, located at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, is one of the first concrete steps in the town’s Huntington Station revitalization project. Construction of the mixed-use building began in January 2017 by Huntington-based Blue & Gold Holdings contractors. It consists of 6,500-square-feet of retail space on the ground level, with a total of 16 one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors.

Read Porter’s entire May 12 statement regarding the changes to Gateway Plaza here.

Huntington Town Official and Northridge developers celebrates the grand opening of the mixed-use building May 7. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Town of Huntington officials hope the completion of the first concrete project in Huntington Station’s revitalization plan will pave the way for future success.

Huntington Town officials and more than 50 Huntington Station community members gathered to celebrate the grand opening of Northridge apartments May 7 with a ribbon cutting and tours of the building.

“The wonderful excitement in the air here is testament to how we all feel when we see this building,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D). “It’s standout gorgeous, and it has really set the bar in Huntington Station for more mixed-use development to follow.”

The entrance to the Northridge building apartments. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The Northridge apartment building, located at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, is one of the first steps in the town’s Huntington Station revitalization project that is being overseen by master developer Renaissance Downtowns, a nationally renowned development group based out of Plainview. Construction of the mixed-use building began in January 2017 by Huntington-based Blue & Gold Holdings contractors. It consists of 6,500-square-feet of retail space on the ground level, with a total of 16 one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors.

“This building takes the traditional mixed-used look of the old Huntington Station and modernizes it,” said Ryan Porter, CEO of Renaissance Downtowns. “It adds appropriate uses to increase the vibrancy and walkability of the area.”

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) shared how his grandfather once owned a butcher shop on New York Avenue and how his mother was raised in an apartment above the shop.

“We know Huntington Station is a great place to raise a family with two great school districts,” Lupinacci said. “We want to make sure we continue to invest in the area through businesses and allow more people to live in the area too.”

May’s Gourmet Delicatessen of Huntington is the first and only commercial tenant to be confirmed moving into the Northridge building. It will serve as a second location, according to owner May Ramos, who is expanding her business after eight years. While Ramos admitted to having concerns about adequate customer parking, the close proximity to the Huntington Long Island Rail Road Station makes her confident her shop will succeed.

Interested community members take tours of the newly opened Northridge apartments May 7. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I’m a believer,” she said. “I’m taking it the same way I took the challenge of my first location. I said, ‘It’s not a location, it’s a destination. If people want to get to you, they are going to find a way.”

Ramos will be able to begin setting up shop this summer. She said she hopes to have the Huntington Station deli open for customers before the upcoming holiday season.

Deborah D’Ambrosio, a leasing agent with Signature Premier Properties, offered tours of the apartments to those interested May 7 as approximately 20 percent have been rented within the first week. The cost of one-bedroom apartments start at $2,350 up to $2,475 per month. Each unit has an identical layout, according to D’Ambrosio, with the exception of some second-floor units which have a slightly larger bedroom due to the building’s configuration. All rentals come with one assigned parking spot and buzz-in entry, with first-floor apartments being handicapped accessible.

“As someone who lives in Huntington, who grew up in Huntington, this was a particular moment of pride for our family to build this,” said Grant Havasy, managing partner of Blue & Gold Holdings. “The revitalization has begun. The renaissance has begun, and so it shall continue, and we are happy to set the high watermark.”

The next project slated to begin as part of Huntington Station’s revitalization program is the construction of Gateway Plaza, located just north on New York Avenue, of the Northridge building.

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