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Huntington village

Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating the sexual assault of a female teenager that occurred in Huntington earlier this week.

The 16-year-old girl was walking with a friend on Prospect Street, roughly 100 feet south of Main Street, at approximately 1:15 a.m. Nov. 11 when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man, police said.

Police said the man was described as Hispanic, approximately 20 to 25 years old, with short hair on the sides and long hair on top. The man, who has acne and a scar on his forehead, was wearing dark-colored shorts, a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and white sneakers. He fled on foot toward Main Street.

The  teen was transported to a local hospital for treatment, according to police.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

The Town of Huntington's municipal parking lot between New and Green streets. File Photo by Rohma Abbas

Town of Huntington officials voted to take the next step forward in pursuing construction of a parking garage in Huntington village Oct. 23. Yet, both elected officials and business owners remain divided over whether it is the best solution to a decades-old problem in this modern era.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) led the town’s Local Development Corporation in approving the release of up to $16,000 to investigate the feasibility of constructing a parking structure in Huntington village over the existing municipal lot between New and Green streets by a 4-1 vote.

“We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something,” Lupinacci said. “We don’t want to lose any grant money that may be available to us.”

We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something.”

—Chad Lupinacci

The $16,000 in funds will be used to conduct soil borings, a topographic survey of the area, prepare utility mark-outs and other necessary preliminary steps needed prior to start of construction, according to Lupinacci.

In December 2017, the town had been awarded a $1.7 million grant from the state’s Regional Economic Council for construction of a facility to ease the village’s long-term parking woes.

The town had previously contracted with Level G Associates of Bethpage who completed a report in May 2017 that determined it was both physically and economically feasible for the town to construct a 528-space parking deck. To date, the town does not have any conceptual plans for a garage, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

That may be due in part to the divide between elected officials, local business owners and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce on whether constructing a new facility is the best solution.

Councilman Eugene Cook (I) was the sole vote against further studies for a proposed parking garage between New and Green streets Tuesday night.

Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,? There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

— Eugene Cook

“Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,” he said. “There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

Cook said there are new town employees in the town’s Public Safety Department who are researching the cause of parking issues plaguing the town and expressed some “good ideas.” The councilman cited advances in technology, such as the future possibility of automated cars, could change both transportation and resulting parking needs of the area.

Brian Yudewitz, chairman of Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber holds a similar position that alternative solutions to a parking garage and modern technologies need to be more closely considered after getting feedback from its members. He said the town’s last parking study was done before the prolific use of ride services like Lift, Uber and the new Qwik Ride shuttles.

“The word we’re getting from a lot of merchants in town is those things are being used quite a bit,” Yudewitz said. “Another thing we do suggest is the re-evaluation of the structure of the municipal lots and paid parking structure as it stands to see if there’s a better way to get people in and out.”

The town implemented metered street-side parking in Huntington village in April 2014 and renewed its contract with Devo & Associates for the parking pay system Tuesday night for another three years through September 2021. Yet, the system has its critics.

I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage.” 

— Gabriel Garcia

“It’s upsetting for many people,” Gabriel Garcia, manager of Bistro Cassis said. “I understand why they do it, but you can’t expect people to park for only three hours if they want to spend a whole night out on the town.”

Garcia said available parking spaces in Huntington village remains his biggest concern, given patrons regularly express their frustrations to him and state they won’t visit the restaurant on weekends due to a lack of available slots.

“I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage,” he said.

He estimated only 30 percent of his restaurant’s clientele would be willing to consider using ride services such as Uber or the Qwik Ride shuttles, as they don’t rely on other sources for transportation.

Across town, Honu Kitchen & Cocktails owner Mark Zecher said he frequently sees customers utilizing Qwik Ride shuttles, since it started operating in August, and public transportation playing a positive role in addressing the area’s parking issues.

I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem.'”

— Mark Zecher

“More and more people are using Uber, and it not only has to do with the parking situation but the drinking and driving laws,” Zecher said. “People are becoming much more conscious and responsible.”

Zecher said there is an ever-present need for more parking by the village’s businesses.

“I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem,’” he said.

Despite his business being close to the proposed site of the parking garage, Zecher said he was unsure if more municipal lots or a new facility was the best solution for parking woes given potential costs or the possible impact of neighboring businesses during construction.

“At the end of the day, more parking spots would be good but how we get there and how it affects businesses along the way is a question I can’t answer,” Zecher said.

A Qwik Ride vehicle currently on the streets of Patchogue. Photo from Qwik Ride

A new transportation service is ready to hit Huntington Village’s streets this August.

Qwik Ride plans to roll out a free shuttle service across downtown Huntington, offering visitors who park further away a ride to or between area restaurants, bars and stores with a simple click of an app or flagging down a ride.

“This transportation could be used in suburban areas where you have to find your parking spot, and you don’t want to leave it,” said Daniel Cantelmo, co-founder of Qwik Ride. “Where parking is so tough, people have turned around and left.”

Cantelmo said he and his fellow co-founder John Yancigay first came up with the business concept while on a trip to Nashville, Tennessee.

“This transportation could be used in suburban areas where you have to find your parking spot, and you don’t want to leave it.”

– Daniel Cantelmo

“We saw this free shuttle service that would take you anywhere in Nashville,” he said. “We thought it was pretty cool.”

This May, Cantelmo said they launched the service in his hometown of Patchogue using modified six-passenger golf carts to shuttle customers from the waterfront restaurants and bars to downtown businesses. The electric-powered vehicles are enclosed with a full set of doors, have heat and can continue to run through inclement weather — except for snow, according to Cantelmo. He said Qwik Ride has provided more than 700 free lifts to Patchogue passengers this month as of July 13, and he expects that number to continue to grow.

“We’ve had a lot of success in Patchogue,” Cantelmo said. “We know Huntington is going to follow suit. Huntington is a little more condensed.”

He sees the free shuttles as a potential solution to what he called a “twofold” parking problem in Huntington. First, area business employees come into work early and take up front-row or prime parking spots in the village throughout their eight-hour shifts, according to Cantelmo. Second, there are plenty of parking lots on the outskirts of town that are underutilized because they require a long walk.

“Uber is helping that situation, but we are taking it one step further,” he said.

The two co-founders reached out to Huntington Chamber of Commerce and Huntington Business Improvement District to invite business owners down to The Paramount to talk about the new service they would be launching with two vehicles, adding up to three more with time for a total of five shuttles. 

“It sounds like a great idea to free up some parking in town,” Ellen O’Brien, executive director of Huntington’s chamber said. “It’s innovative, it’s free, it’s cutting edge and it will free up parking spaces.”

“It sounds like a great idea to free up some parking in town.”

– Ellen O’Brien

The Paramount in Huntington is one business that was already on board with asking its employees to park further out to free up spots for customers. Adam Ellis, the theater’s director of marketing, said Paramount staff has been utilizing Huntington Town Hall’s lot for the last year and a half to use a shuttle bus to get back and forth to work.

“We hope the Qwik Ride program will help other businesses in town to offer their staff alternative transportation to their job while parking further from town to open up more spaces for guests as a way to improve parking in town,” Ellis said.

The free shuttles are paid for by advertising, according to Cantelmo, as local businesses are invited to buy space on the outside of each vehicle. He hopes these same businesses will commit to getting employees involved in parking in distant lots and hailing a Qwik Ride.

“Everyone has truly got to be on board,” Cantelmo said. “If The Paramount is on board but Honu [Kitchen & Cocktails] isn’t, then all it will do is open up more parking for Honu. The community has to work together, and everyone has to be on board. Then it will benefit everybody.”

JoS A. Bank shop remains closed as of 1 p.m. May 7.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A car crashed through the wall of a Huntington Village shop Saturday afternoon, sending shoppers scrambling for cover.

Suffolk County police and Huntington Fire Department volunteers responded to reports of a vehicle careening into the side of JoS. A. Bank clothing store, on the corner of Main Street and Stewart Avenue, May 5 at approximately 4 p.m, according to fire department spokesman Steve Silverman. Police said an elderly woman driving a 1999 Subaru, traveling westbound on Main Street, had attempted to make a right turn onto Stewart Avenue when she lost control of the vehicle.

The driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was transported via Huntington Community First Aid Squad to Huntington Hospital for treatment, according to Silverman. There were six individuals inside the store at the time of the accident who escaped uninjured.

The Town of Huntington Building Department was notified of the crash and sent to check the building for structural damage.

Tom Laurice, manager for the Huntington JoS. A. Bank location, said the store was closed May 6 and remained closed as of 1 p.m. May 7 as the building’s structural integrity still needed to be evaluated by a Huntington Town building inspector.  Laurice said he hopes to reopen for business following whatever repairs are deemed necessary this week.

Valencia Tavern in Huntington. Image from Google Maps

A proposal to demolish Valencia Tavern to create a mixed-use complex is dividing Huntington residents by their generation.

The Town of Huntington has temporarily stalled a developer’s proposal to demolish the more than 100-year-old Wall Street bar in order to build a three-story building with retail storefront and apartments in Huntington Village.

Conceptual plans submitted to the town last November by the developer, 236 VT Wall Street LLC, call for 7,840-square-foot retail space with a total of 24 apartments on the second and third stories. This would require the developers to acquire more than 9,000 square feet of town land along West Shore and Creek roads in Huntington.

As an alternative, the developer also put forth a plan to redevelop without purchasing the town land for a smaller retail space, but the same number of apartments.

To move forward, the developer would need a number of variances approved for a 13-to-15 parking space deficit, mixed-use zoning, building above the two-story height restriction and possible vision obstruction.
James Margolin, a Huntington-based attorney who represents the developer, said they received a letter of denial from the planning board in January.

“We hope to acquire the surplus town land and move forward with the application,” Margolin said, saying there is no set time frame to submit plans to Huntington’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

The proposed plans have divided the community between those calling for the building’s historic preservation and those seeking affordable housing.

A copy of an online petition titled “Save the Valencia Tavern” was presented by Bob Suter to the Huntington town board Jan. 23 in an effort to save what he called one of the town’s most iconic taverns.

“Now this historic establishment, the one-time haunt of famed Long Islanders like Billy Joel, is being threatened by developers,” Suter read from the petition. “They want to tear down the Valencia and build yet another generic mixed-use property in its place. We feel that demolishing the Valencia would do irreparable harm to the fabric of the community.”

Calls to save the tavern were met by opposition from younger residents, millennials who currently work and play in Huntington hoping one day to call it home.

Dan Busci, a Huntington native, returned to the area after graduating from the University of Vermont with a degree in green building design and sustainable development looking for such apartments.

“I’ve looked at apartments around Huntington where I want to live and work,” Busci said. “The high prices have dissuaded me and made it impossible for me to move out.”

He encouraged the board to allow the developer’s plans to move forward and pushed for construction of a green, energy-efficient building in its place.

“Huntington Village has enough bars, what we really need are rental apartments,” Nicole Hoyt said.

Hoyt, a 24-year-old graphic designer, said she has an hour to hour-and-a-half commute daily to her job in Huntington after an unsuccessful hunt for an affordable apartment in town.

“I wish people opposing this new development would take a step back and consider the progression of the community as a whole,” she said. “To pass on this opportunity would be a mistake.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Rob Ferrito

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supervisor Frank Petrone. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petrone: RFP for parking garage coming soon

The Huntington Town Board authorized a $1.6 million purchase of property to create 66 additional parking spaces in Huntington village. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington village’s parking pickle may soon become a little less of one.

On Tuesday, the town board green-lighted a $1.6 million purchase of property on West Carver Street to create about 66 new parking spaces in the village.

The board unanimously authorized Supervisor Frank Petrone or his representative to execute a contract to purchase a portion of the property at 24 West Carver St. from owner Anna Louise Realty II, LLC— right across the road from the New Street municipal parking lot. The money will be bonded for over a 10-year period, Petrone told reporters after the meeting.

It won’t be the only parking update in Huntington village this season. Petrone said the town is working with the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and the Huntington Station Business Improvement District to draft a request for proposals to build a parking garage in town — an idea town officials and residents have mulled for years.

“It’s a beginning,” Petrone said. “We made a commitment that parking is a continuum. We changed the meters. We have a different approach. We restriped, we added more spots, we redid lots. And now this is adding like 66 more additional spots, which is pretty substantial given the fact of the needs in the town.”

Town officials are hoping to get the RFP out by the end of summer, Petrone said. Asked where the structure would be sited, the supervisor said there have been discussions about locating it at the New Street lot, right across from the 66 additional spaces.

If a parking structure is to be built, it is likely current spots would be closed down in the construction process. Part of the idea of purchasing the 66 spaces would be to help mitigate parking during the building of a structure, he said.

Town officials had explored creating a parking facility on Elm Street for years. Those ideas aren’t dead, Petrone said, but the feeling is the town might be able to get more spots out of the New Street location. “We begin with New Street,” he said. “I’m not saying Elm will not be looked at.”

Petrone said the town’s been thinking up creative ways to finance a parking structure. Asked how the town would pay for such a facility, Petrone said it could be a private project, with the town providing the developer with a lease to the land, or it could be a public-private partnership. If a private entity were to come in, it would have to be worthwhile to them financially. To that end, he said “we’ve heard all sorts of ideas,” like building apartments or shops into the structure — properties that could be rented out. He said officials have also explored whether the cost of parking in the structure would suffice in terms of paying the debt service on the bond off.

The supervisor said he’s also weighed creating a parking district for the whole village area, with businesses paying into it, “because it’s the cost of doing business, it basically will provide better parking in the village.”

The chamber of commerce has “played an integral part in the push for increased parking options” in the town over the last three years, according to David Walsdorf, a chamber board member and member of the Huntington Village Parking Consortium.

“We view the parking challenge as a positive reflection of the growth and vitality of our flourishing businesses and we continue to support further improvement in our infrastructure to meet the needs and sustainability of our community,” he said in a statement.

Chamber chairman Bob Scheiner praised the news.

“The Huntington Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of this parking consortium and we fully support the supervisor and town board in this acquisition, which will go a long way to help the parking situation in downtown,” he said in a statement “The chamber looks forward to the release of the RFP and thanks the board for their efforts.”

Incident shut down part of Main Street on Friday afternoon

Firefighters exit Renarts, where there was a heavy smoke condition on the second floor on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke at Renarts that shut down a part of Main Street on Friday afternoon.

An employee of the shoe store near Wall Street called the fire department at about 12:45 p.m. after going upstairs to grab a pair of shoes for a customer and discovering smoke on the second floor. There was a little bit of smoke in the first room and a lot of smoke in the second room, he recalled at the scene on Friday.

“I was coughing a lot,” Paul Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t even stand up for a minute.”

He ran down to place the call to the fire department, which responded in five minutes, he said. The chief got to the scene in less than two minutes.

Rodriguez said fire officials told him there was an “electrical problem” that was being handled.

Chief Robert Berry told reporters at the scene there was no fire, but a “heavy smoke condition” on the second floor. Officials are still investigating what caused the smoke condition but by about 2 p.m., it was safe to go back into the store.

There were no injuries.

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