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Huntington Town Board

Joan Cergol. Photo by Kyle Barr

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) may have nailed it when she said at the TBR News Media debate that “Huntington is a fantastic town going through some growing pains.”

Both Cergol and her opponent, Republican challenger Jim Leonick, agree that the Long Island Power Authority’s tax certiorari lawsuit against the Town of Huntington and development are key
issues the town will need to grapple with during the course of the next year.

Both agreed that the LIPA lawsuit needs to be thoroughly investigated and every possible stone turned over in looking for a solution. However, it is a problem bigger than any single board member. Whoever fills the seat will have a voice, and one of five votes on a highly divided council, in what happens to the future
development of Huntington.

Cergol, as the town’s former director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, comes with a lot of experience in this area and spoke of the necessity to strike a balance between smart growth, addressing housing needs and requiring developers to provide parking.

Leonick has campaigned against overdevelopment, but didn’t offer any original ideas. He decries the need for increased government transparency, as he did in his 2017 campaign, but only offered that he supported town forums.

We support Cergol on the fact she helps keep the town board politically balanced — it is currently made up of two Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent — while bringing a woman’s viewpoint and a wealth of background experience in community building.

We do think, if elected, she makes good on her and Leonick’s proposal of holding regular town hall forums.

Republican challenger Jim Leonick will take on incumbent Councilwoman Joan Cergol, on right, Nov. 6. Photos by Kyle Barr

There’s a hot race for a one-year term on Huntington Town Board that could tip the scale of the council’s political leaning.

Incumbent Joan Cergol (D) is a lifelong Huntington resident who was appointed in December 2017 to the seat vacated by former councilwoman Susan Berland, who was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature. She previously served as the town’s director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, executive director of the Economic Development Corp. and executive director of the Local Development Corp.

Republican challenger Jim Leonick should be familiar name with Nov. 6 voters. The East Northport attorney unsuccessfully campaigned for Town Board as a running mate with Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in 2017, coming up just short by less than 650 votes. Now he’s back, seeking to fill the remaining year of Berland’s term.

“I’ve heard more and more complaints of things wrong with the town,” Leonick said. “There are many people complaining about things that don’t have the wherewithal to do something, but I do and that’s why I’m running.”

LIPA lawsuit/Northport Power Station

The Republican challenger said he believes the most important issue in this election is Long Island Power Authority and National Grid’s lawsuit against the town over the tax-assessed value of Northport Power Station.

“It will have the greatest financial impact on town residents, and the tax bills of the Northport-East Northport school district,” he said.

Leonick said he supports levying a fossil fuel tax on the plant to recoup any lost tax money, believes the plant is not currently properly assessed for taxes given its gas and electrical transmission lines should make it more valuable, and is in favor of spending money investigating if using eminent domain to take control of the plant is feasible.

“I agree it’s an anvil hanging over the town’s head for seven years,” Cergol said. “We need to be a unified front.”

She agreed more information would be needed before considering proceeding with eminent domain, as it would require a townwide referendum. Cergol chastised the topic being used as a “political divisive tactic.” The councilwoman said she has been following the advice of the town attorney on how to proceed.

Development

Cergol said the most common issue she hears about is Huntington’s overdevelopment and its impact on the character of the town. She wants to see changes made to C-6 zoning code that affects apartments over commercial space and wants to require all parking needs to be contained by each individual project or on private lots. The Democrat also supports construction of a parking structure or other means to alleviate the village’s parking issues.

“Residents are not happy with downzoning, the town should stick to what the master plan says,” Leonick said. “People who have lived here 30, 40 years and paid taxes don’t want their community to start looking like Nassau and Queens.”

The Republican said a simple fix to the C-6 zoning issue would be to increase the number of parking spaces needed to build apartments. Leonick also criticized the town for not constructing a parking structure for Huntington village, suggesting a modular unit could be purchased and easily constructed.

Government Transparency

On issues like the LIPA lawsuit and parking, Leonick said he feels the town lack’s transparency on its actions. Cergol responded by saying the town’s website has an entire section dedicated to the LIPA lawsuit.

The councilwoman said she authored and co-sponsored the bill that led to live streaming of the town’s meetings and events. She also offered to host monthly forums at Town Hall to delve into topics like 5G cellular service transmitters, where residents can ask questions of town officials and discuss the issue.

Leonick said the town’s web page on LIPA doesn’t go far enough and suggested development of additional electronic communications with residents, like a blog.

2019 Tentative Budget

In review of the 2019 tentative budget and government costs, Cergol said the town has
reduced expenses by using technology to allow residents to apply for affordable housing and register for recreational programs online. She is willing to negotiate the number of full-time staff members per council member, which the tentative budget calls to cut from two to one each with a shared secretary.

Leonick said that he’s glad the proposed budget stays within the 2 percent tax cap but believes there should be an increase in personnel in the town attorney’s office to help reduce outside legal fees and that each council member should have two full-time staff.

Former Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards won the Democratic town supervisor primary. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Town of Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) learned a lot about herself in 2017. For one, she’s not a politician.

The 56-year-old Huntington native, who lost to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) in the November race for town supervisor, will not be returning to the town board Jan. 1. But she is proud of the campaign she led and the community-oriented issues it centered on.

Edwards ran for Huntington’s top seat instead of taking the admittedly safer route of running as an incumbent for re-election to the town board. When asked why, she repeatedly said, “This is not about me. This is about what I believe is best for Huntington.”

She has always seen herself as a community advocate and public servant, first and foremost, a trait noticed and respected by those she has served.

Tracey Edward (D) was first elected to Huntington Town Board in 2012.

“At the end of the day, I’m a community advocate,” Edwards said. “The nastiness and personal attacks in elections were never things I was ever interested in. I want to help people and our town. True public servants don’t stop doing that just because they lose an election.”

In junior high school, she got her official start in community service as a candy striper at Huntington Hospital. She was encouraged to give back to the community by her father — a narcotics detective on the town’s former police force — and mother, Dolores Thompson, a Huntington activist still going strong today.

Edwards has served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association in Melville and is the Long Island regional director of the NAACP — a post she said she looks forward to returning to.

As councilwoman and supervisor candidate, she focused on making Huntington a more inclusive place for everybody, regardless of age, race, gender or economic bracket.

“We have a very robust, diverse and unique town that is filled with wonderful neighborhoods and great communities,” Edwards said. “There’s no place else I would rather live. While I wish Chad Lupinacci the best, I’ll be keeping my eye on him to make sure this town continues to move in the right direction for all.”


True public servants don’t stop doing that just because they lose an election.

— Tracey Edwards

During her four years in office, Edwards has worked alongside Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) to expand affordable housing legislation for millennials and first-time home buyers and has been hands-on with youth-based programs that focus on character building, recreation and tackling the drug problem. She created a special annual luncheon, dubbed Memories of Huntington, to honor seniors age 75 or older, who have lived in town for more than 50 years, for their contributions to Huntington’s history.

“Tracey is not a politician’s politician … she’s for the people,” said Jo Ann Veit, a member of the Senior Reunion committee. “People love her because she’s there for them and she gives you that feeling that she’s there for you, thinking about you and the town, and what would be best for the seniors in the town. When people leave that reunion, they’re all so pleased with Tracey and how genuine she is. She has been a wonderful councilwoman.”

Bob Santo, commander of Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244, has gotten the same sense of sincerity from Edwards in the years they’ve known each other.

“The first time I met Tracey was during a parade in Huntington Station and she was on the back of a motorcycle being ridden by one of our American Legion motorcycle [members] — she was having a grand old time,” Santo said, laughing. “With Tracey, what you see is what you get, and what she says is what she means. She’s never trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.”

Councilwomen Susan Berland and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards spotted at the parade on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 . Photo by Stephen Jimenez

Santo praised the councilwoman for spearheading the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with résumé preparation, job searches, career options and job training access for unemployed and low-income residents, many of whom are veterans.

Edwards said her proudest accomplishment has been her ability to turn difficult times in her life into something beneficial to those around her. Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016, she was determined not to miss a single board meeting and scheduled her chemotherapy, radiation and surgery sessions around them.

When she finally became cancer-free, Edwards, who said she goes for breast cancer screenings once a year, realized there were probably so many women out there who may not be aware of the importance of screenings or have access to health care.

She partnered with Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health to host an education program on preventative screening exams, risk assessment, nutrition and information for free breast cancer screenings at Huntington Town Hall.

She also helped to rewrite the town’s ethics code to make town hall a more transparent place for residents.

NAACP New York State Conference president, Hazel Dukes, commended Edwards for fighting for the rights of all people, regardless of race, creed or color.


She didn’t want to go back as a councilwoman and why would she? You don’t go backward, you keep going forward.

— Dolores Thompson

“I know that Tracey Edwards is a committed and dedicated public servant,” Dukes said. “She truly brings conviction to the cause of equality and justice for all people. She’s embodied that in her professional life, as a worker in the NAACP and her political life.”

Edward’s work ethic comes as no surprise to her mother, Dolores Thompson.

“This year she’s had the initiative and aggressiveness and guts, in plain old English, to run for supervisor in this special community,” Thompson said. “She’s a trooper, a very strong woman who speaks her mind, and I’m very sure she will do something even better for this community as she progresses. She didn’t want to go back as a councilwoman and why would she? You don’t go backward, you keep going forward.”

Edwards, who lives in Dix Hills with her husband, was recognized by outgoing
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) during a town board meeting Dec. 13.

“Four years ago, we were blessed with a person that I have never, ever encountered someone with more energy and the ability to move in and create change,” Petrone said. “A woman who has given so much in the short, short four years to the Town of Huntington and its residents … Tracey Edwards, we the members of the Huntington Town Board on behalf of the residents of Huntington wish to extend our sincere thanks to you for service to our community.”

Edwards thanked members of the community and assured all in the room her journey isn’t over.

“You haven’t heard the last of me,” she said. “You have not.”

Incumbent Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), Democratic candidate Emily Rogan and Republicans Jim Leonick and Ed Smyth are competing for two seats on Huntington's town board. Photos by Alex Petroski
Incumbent Mark Cuthbertson (D). Photo by Alex Petroski

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Four candidates for the Huntington town board are deeply divided on what steps are needed to ensure a brighter future for residents.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) is seeking re-election to his sixth term on town council with political newcomer Huntington resident Emily Rogan (D). She is a freelance writer who has served as a trustee for Huntington school board for 12 years, four of which as the board’s president. Rogan seeks to take over the seat of Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), who chose to run for Huntington supervisor rather than seek re-election to town council.

They will face off against Republican candidate Jim Leonick, of East Northport, an attorney with his own practice who has previously worked as a state tax grievance arbiter. He is running with Lloyd Harbor resident Ed Smyth, also an attorney who has served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and previously on the Village of Lloyd Harbor’s board of zoning appeals.

While the candidates all profess a love for Huntington, they disagreed on what shape or form its future development should take.

Republican candidate Jim Leonick. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cuthbertson said one of his main goals is creating more housing for senior citizens and millennials to enable them to stay in town. Rogan agreed to the need for a walkable community that incorporates mixed-use retail and apartment spaces in the town, citing downtown Huntington Station and Melville’s Route 110 as prime locations.

“The entire town benefits when all of our town is thriving and feels uplifted,” Rogan said. “People want to see Huntington Station become as desirable a place to be as downtown Huntington village, downtown Northport Village or Cold Spring Harbor.”

Leonick and Smyth both said they feel these developments aren’t considered desirable by residents, saying current town board simply isn’t listening. The Republican
candidates said rather than high-density apartments, they would make it easier for seniors to put accessory apartments in their homes for additional income.

Democratic challenger and political newcomer Emily Rogan. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Density is part of a plan that will allow us to sustain our local economy,” Cuthbertson responded in a recent debate at TBR News Media offices in Setauket. “We’ve already liberalized the rules of apartments to put apartments over stores in our downtown areas. In Huntington village, it’s been very successful.”

Rather than more housing, Smyth and Leonick said their focus would be outreach to bring large businesses to Melville’s Route 110 business corridor to increase jobs.

“The best path to affordable housing is a bigger paycheck,” Smyth said.

Leonick took it one step further calling for re-evaluation of the town’s comprehensive master plan Horizons 2020.

“The biggest thing we need to do is put the brakes on future development projects until we get a handle on what we need to be doing,” Leonick said.

Both Republican candidates said that if elected, they would focus on improving the status of the town’s roadways and traffic issues. Smyth called the town’s roads “deplorable,” citing Prime Avenue as an example, after utility companies have cut them up to lay wires and infrastructure, calling for changes to town code. Leonick heavily criticized town officials for a lack of parking in Huntington village.

Republican candidate Ed Smyth. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It takes a half hour of driving around to get a spot,” he said. “You can’t continue to develop in the village without solving that problem. We should have had a parking garage a while ago.”

Cuthbertson said the town’s work on a parking garage began two years ago, with a failed attempt at a public-private partnership, but is now moving forward. He pointed to the lack of empty stores downtown as a sign of success.

Rogan agreed that the town’s roadways need change, not more paving, but rather to become more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly. She wants to focus on a public campaign and signage to improve driver awareness.

This artistic rendering depicts what Huntington Station may look like once revitalized. Photo from Renaissance Downtowns

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Efforts to revitalize the southern portion of Huntington Station received a much-needed push forward last week.

Huntington Town Board members voted to approve spending $1.25 million in bond funds received from the Suffolk County Legislature to conduct an extensive sewer study as part of the Huntington Station
revitalization efforts.

The lack of sewers in Huntington Station is one of the areas that is desperately in need of improvement to make revitalization possible, as the land north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Huntington Station is served by the sewer district, but the south side is not, which has limited development and economic opportunities.

“It is the hurdle that prevents development from occurring,” said Ryan Porter, the director of planning and development with Renaissance Downtowns. “It prevents this project from being implemented on the south side.”

Renaissance Downtowns is a nationally-renowned development group chosen by the town to be a master developer of Huntington Station’s revitalization in 2012. Porter said due to the lack of sewer access in the south, the town has been forced to pursue a “dual track” when approaching revitalization efforts. Construction of a mix-used  building at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue was started this past January while there remain no specific plans yet in place for the south side of town, according to Porter.

The sewer study, which will be conducted by Suffolk County under an inter-municipal agreement, will analyze the existing sewer infrastructure, feasibility and design conditions within Huntington
Station to determine the most efficient way to connect the southern part of the town to existing sewer districts.

The southwest sewer district, which currently serves areas in the Town of Babylon and Town of Islip, currently extends only as north on Route 110 as the Walt Whitman Mall.

Porter said if southern portions of Huntington Station could be hooked into either the southwest sewer district or another system, it would greatly increase the future development potential.

“If an existing building is under performing, [the owner] can only tear down what they have and rebuild the same thing,” Porter said. “There’s very little motivation for people to improve their buildings. If
sewers were available, they could increase the building’s uses which is a financial
justification to rebuild your property.”

Suffolk County has already moved to issue the request for bids from engineering firms interested in undertaking the study.

Huntington Station residents interested in sharing their thoughts and ideas about what they would like to improved or built can visit www.sourcethestation.com. The website contains information on sharing ideas find out about upcoming community meetings.

Deer hunting via long bow has been a controversial topic in Huntington Town since first permitted in September 2015. Stock photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Deer hunters may need to memorize a new set of regulations in the Town of Huntington before the start of the 2017 hunting season.

Huntington Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for its Sept. 19 meeting on a series of proposed changes affecting the use of longbows for deer hunting.

“Over the past few years we’ve learned some things that have gone on during deer hunting season and want to make it safer for our residents,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said.

The proposed changes take aim at restricting the use of a longbow under the town’s firearms regulations, not directly regulating deer hunting which falls under the oversight of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Edwards, sponsor of the legislation, said the changes include requiring all hunters to provide written notification to the Town’s Department of Public Safety and the police department prior to hunting and expanding the definition of what’s considered a dwelling.

“If [hunters] are going to use the longbow we want to ensure that there’s written notification to the police department as we’ve had instances of people walking around the neighborhood, armed, and no one knows who they are,” Edwards said.

The proposed code changes will also expand the definition of a “dwelling”  to include “farm building or farm structures actually occupied or used, school building, school playground, public structure, or occupied factory or church” to prevent hunters from firing at deer within 150 feet of these buildings unless they are the property owner.

“Hunting is already regulated by the DEC so the town … is outside of their scope.”

— Michael Tessitore

If the proposed amendments are passed, anyone violating the regulations would face up to a $500 fine per day and prosecution by the town attorney’s office.

The  public hearing is set to take place mere days before the start of the 2017 deer hunting season, which runs from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 under NYSDEC regulations. Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the town board will have the option to immediately enact the proposed code changes Sept. 19 if there are no substantial objections.

The board’s decision to permit bow hunting in September 2015 remains a contentious issue among local residents, particularly in the areas of Eatons Neck and Asharoken, which routinely deal with deer overpopulation.

“We’ve been having big issues with hunting with it since it began in Asharoken and Eatons Neck,” said Nadine Dumser, an Asharoken Village resident.

Dumser, who also owns property in Eatons Neck, said she has dealt with hunters who did not properly notify her as a homeowner they were active in the area but also entered her yard without permission.

“We would call police and complain about hunters being on our property,” she said. “When they finally do come, they are pretty powerless to do anything.”

Others believe that the Town’s efforts to further regulate longbow use oversteps its legal authority.

Michael Tessitore, founder of the nonprofit  Hunters for Deer, said the more than 85 hunters who are members of his organization will continue to follow the DEC regulations.

“Hunting is already regulated by the DEC so the town, by taking these extra steps to regulate hunting, is outside of their scope,” Tessitore said. “I believe they are going to open themselves up to litigation.”

Tessitore, who is a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator, said he helps manage more than 100 private properties including areas in Eatons Neck, Fort Salonga, and Smithtown to make agreements between hunters and homeowners who support hunting as a form a deer population management. He’s also worked with  Southampton Town to design a deer population management plan.

“I support deer hunting as a management tool,” Tessitore said. “It’s the only proven effective management tool for the overpopulation of deer.”

The Grateful Paw Cat Shelter is located on Deposit Road in East Northport. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Sara-Megan Walsh

More than a dozen Grateful Paw Cat Shelter volunteers and residents attended the Huntington Town Board meeting Aug. 15 to demand action: Now that the IRS has reinstated its 501(c)(3) charitable status, renew the organization’s contract to care for homeless cats.

In April, the town served the cat shelter, run by the League of Animal Protection of Huntington, with a 90-day notice to evacuate its Deposit Road establishment after learning the organization had lost its not-for-profit status in 2015 but never notified the town. Huntington Attorney Cindy Mangano said the town became aware of this breach of contractual agreement when drawing up a new document, as the previous agreement expired in December 2016.

“You were angry with us, but waiting doesn’t hurt us…it hurts our cats and any future cats we take in.”

— Linda Waslin

At the June 13 town board meeting, members voted to give LAP an extension until Nov. 30 to regain its not-for-profit status.

“I’d like to point out to you that this was not intentional as was insinuated by a few. It was a total mistake. It was an oversight,” said LAP volunteer Donna Fitzhugh. “The bottom line is it was not intentional,and the IRS actions proved it. We never lied to you and to be treated in the manner our organization was, was pretty coldhearted.”

Debbie Larkin, president of LAP, said she was thankful for the actions of the organization’s attorney and accountant in getting the not-for-profit status reinstated within five weeks and retroactively applied to the date it was lost.

“With the assistance of any incoming donations, our volunteers continue to take care of the dumps, the owner turn-ins, the bottle babies, free [trap-and-neuter] certificates and the adopt-out animals in our care,” she said.

Larkin and several other LAP members called on the town board to immediately approve an executive order on the contractual agreement previously drawn up this spring, which would extend the organization’s operation of the cat shelter past Nov. 30.

“You were angry with us, but waiting doesn’t hurt us,” said Linda Waslin, a long-time volunteer of the shelter. “It hurts our cats and any future cats we take in.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said the Town of Huntington cannot renew the nonprofit’s contract as it previously issued a Request For Proposals in the spring, which allowed other organizations to submit proposals to run the shelter. The town board is legally bound to continue the process that’s already in motion or it fears it could run the risk of another interested party taking them into court over the matter, according town spokesperson A.J. Carter.

“With the assistance of any incoming donations, our volunteers continue to take care of the dumps, the owner turn-ins, the bottle babies, free [trap-and-neuter] certificates and the adopt-out animals in our care.”

— Debbie Larkin

The Huntington town attorney’s office is currently reviewing the previous RFP, according to Petrone, and a new one should be issued in October. Petrone encouraged LAP to submit its proposal.

“If you put forth a proposal, and others put forth proposals, whatever’s the best proposal for the residents of Huntington will be selected. If you have all this experience, you will do that,” Petrone said.

Little Animal Shelter was among those who had previously submitted a proposal to take over the town’s cat shelter earlier this spring, according to Dawn Lam.

All proposals received on an RFP will be evaluated by a committee and the town attorney’s office. Unlike bids, which must be awarded to the lowest bidder, Carter said, the committee which reviews the bids can consider subjective criteria such as an organization’s experience. LAP will need to make the case for why it should continue to operate Grateful Paw.

Huntington Town officials said the new contract that is being offered to run the cat shelter wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2018. Should LAP feel that it is unable or unwilling to run the shelter past the Nov. 30 extension, the town has already stated it is willing to step in and temporarily provide services to ensure the safety and best interests of the cats, Carter said.

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.”

Image from Airbnb

By Victoria Espinoza

Weary travelers to the Huntington area might have a harder time finding a place to lay their head.

Earlier in 2017 Huntington’s town board announced a plan to restrict and possibly ban Airbnb users in the community, and at the June town board meeting the new rules were unveiled.

At the January meeting residents gave overwhelming support for the use of Airbnb, an online marketplace that facilitates short-term leases and rentals for travelers, and said it not only benefits users, but also brings money back into the town. Overall users said they were happy to see a ban was no longer being considered, though they were still critical of certain restrictions.

“Unlike other types of lodgings such as national hotel chains, 97 percent of revenue generated through Airbnb goes directly to our hosts who plow it back into the Empire State economy,” Jeffrey Sellers, a community organizer at Airbnb said during the meeting. “The vast majority of these New York hosts, 56 percent of whom are women, are individuals and families who share their homes occasionally to pay for their mortgage, medicine, student loans, or save for retirement. The typical host in New York earns about $5,400 in supplemental income by sharing their home for fewer than three nights a month.”

The resolution with new rules for Airbnb hosts was drafted by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and includes limits on advertising, parking and total number of days for guests.

The proposed legislation provides that it’s unlawful for a short-term rental to be in use if the property is not owner-occupied; advertisements must only be filed after the owner has obtained the proper short-term rental permits; it’s unlawful to post signage on the property for advertising purposes; and no property owner can lease their short-term rental for more than 120 days out of the year.

“With the backdrop of public safety, quality of life, and property rights this legislation strikes a balance between someone who plays ‘host’ versus the rights of neighbors to these uses who have an expectation that they live in a residential area.”
—Marc Cuthbertson

Philip Giovanelli, a Cold Spring Harbor resident and Airbnb host said he finds the 120-day limit to be particularly restrictive.

“From a business point of view, it’s possible that if you’re successful that you limit your ability to have guests during the holidays,” Giovanelli said at the meeting. “I wouldn’t want to have to turn down any scientists, particularly a cancer researcher or a DNA researcher because I only have three days left on my calendar.”

Giovanelli suggested a document or form hosts could file if they wanted to extend their limit.

Tara Collier, a Huntington resident and Airbnb host said she also finds the limit to be a problem.

“Huntington is a beautiful place, so let’s share it,” she said at the meeting. “I find that a rental for only one third of the year is quite restrictive and I hope that you will remove it possibly. Maybe there could be a range of different fees you could pay? I would be willing to work with that, I think that would be fair.”

Cuthbertson responded to hosts’ concerns at the meeting.

“You have what is essentially a commercial use which is now going to be allowed in a residential area, and we’re trying to respect the rights of the neighbors who we’re going to say [to them] for 120 days of the year you can operate a commercial entity but we don’t want it to be a lot more than that,” he said. “Is it an arbitrary number? Yes, it is somewhat of an arbitrary number but it’s a number that we think is fair.”

The councilman said in an email finding a balance between hosts and their neighbors is the main objective.

“We have listened to the valuable feedback from the recent public hearing and considered all suggestions and concerns,” Cuthbertson said. “ With the backdrop of public safety, quality of life, and property rights this legislation strikes a balance between someone who plays ‘host’ versus the rights of neighbors to these uses who have an expectation that they live in a residential area.”

The proposed plan for the assisted living facility in Huntington Station. Photo from Sunrise Development Inc.

By Victoria Espinoza

The sun seems set to rise on a new assisted living facility in Huntington Station.

Last week the Huntington town board unanimously approved a zone change for a 5.7 acre property on Jericho Turnpike and West Hills Road owned by Sunrise Development, Inc.

The land, located at 300 West Hills Road, is currently in a residential zone, and will be changed to a residential health services district to allow for the developer to create a two-story, 90-unit structure with 136 beds. After meetings with the town planning board, the developer has agreed to changes including staff shift changes timed to avoid peak traffic with the nearby Walt Whitman High School, “significant” landscape buffers between the facility and residences, and more.

At the May town board meeting, at least 10 residents that will neighbor the facility came to speak in support of the plan, though other residents came to oppose it.

According to the applicant, they held three community meetings as well as individual meetings with residents to hear their concerns and ideas to help make the facility the best it could be for the entire neighborhood.

Priscilla Jahir, a 34-year South Huntington resident was one of those speaking in opposition.

“I have no personal vendetta against seniors as I am one,” she said at the meeting. “I oppose the increase in traffic on West Hills Road, both during the 14-month-plus construction time and afterword as any increase in traffic will be a hardship to anyone traveling along that route. I feel that this facility is better suited for a larger access road.”

Diane Tanko presented a petition asking for a reduction in the size of the plan before granting them a zoning change.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said the main traffic contributors are expected to be the employees, not the residents who will live at the facility.

“If you reduce units you’re not really reducing traffic generation,” Cuthbertson said. “The people living there are generally not driving.”

Tanko responded that visitors also increase traffic, but Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said “sadly,” there were not many visitors at the other locations during the several times of the day she went to track the traffic and fullness of the parking lots.

Kevin McKenna, a South Huntington resident said he was in favor of the plan.

“I have two kids that attend Walt Whitman High School and I pass this location at least twice a day,” he said at the meeting. “I attended an informational meeting for the project set up by Sunrise and I walked away very impressed with the plan and the measures they’re taking with bringing the project to the neighborhood.”

He said he appreciated specifically how Sunrise intends to exceed setback measures for houses and fund landscape dividers at houses near the property.

Thomas Newman, a third-generation Peach Tree Lane resident said he’s seen the area change throughout the years and supports this change.

“After 25 years of being in the business of architecture and seeing their [Sunrise] designs, I think it would be an asset to our community,” he said. “I’d be happy to have my kids live fourth-generation on that street with this.”

Arthur Gibson, president of Plumbers Local Union 200, spoke in support of the plan.

“They’ve built I believe 15 similar units on Long Island, and they’ve consistently used a contractor…meaning local jobs for local people,” Gibson said at the meeting. “There’s so many times, I could tell you horror story after horror story where our contractors don’t get paid. Sunrise Senior Living, they pay their bills, and that’s very important for a construction man or woman on Long Island.”

The company said they are “negotiating in good faith” with the union currently for the job.