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Town of Huntington

Northport inn and restaurant is planned. Rendering from Kevin O’Neill

After a nearly two-year site-plan process, the Northport Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved March 26 the proposed Northport Hotel at 225 Main St. 

The hotel project, once complete, will include a 24-room hotel, a 124-seat restaurant with 50 additional seats in the lobby and bar area.

“This is probably the largest investment on Main Street since the [John W. Engeman] theater,” the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Tony Catapano said.

His agency approved in February a $1.3 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the hotel. The 15-year agreement offers the hotel savings on mortgage recording and sales and property taxes.  

Catapano said the agency determined the tax incentives would save the hotel developers about 29 percent over the span of the 15 years. By 2035, the hotel would be paying full taxes estimated at $174,268 a year. Once the hotel is built, the owners will pay about $87,000 in taxes the first year with 3 percent tax increases each following year, according to the agency. 

Catapano said the agency projects approximately 66 jobs will be created during the construction period. Once in full operation, the agency expects the hotel would also create about 40 jobs with an average salary of $34,000. Construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

The executive director noted that while the tax agreement will save the developers money, developers are also spending $1.3 million on the hotel’s parking structure.  

“This will be a positive for Main Street,” Catapano said. “The hotel is going to be a tourist destination for people outside the region and for residents in Northport.” 

“The hotel is going to be a tourist destination for people outside the region and for residents in Northport.”

— Tony Catapano

Despite being a substantial investment for Main Street, many Northport residents have expressed concern about accessibility and how the hotel could exacerbate parking issues in the village. Hotel co-owner Kevin O’Neill — with Richard Dolce — did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Both men own the Engeman theater.

But O’Neill responded to residents concerns at a Jan. 29 village public hearing saying the hotel’s parking lot would be able to facilitate about 150 cars. 

Similarly, a study released in December 2018 determined there are plenty of parking spots if people are willing to walk.

The Village of Northport hired Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates LLC to perform a paid-parking study of Northport. Their survey, which took place from August to October 2018, concluded the village’s 615 parking spaces are sufficient, with a slight exception of summer evenings.

On a typical weekday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Level G Associates found 60 percent of Main Street metered spots were taken and Main Street lots were full as well. However, the study cited roughly 100 available spaces in the waterside lots and Lot 7, located off Woodside Avenue by the American Legion hall.

“These are normal/healthy parking patterns for an active [central business district],” the report stated.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, Level G Associates found most metered parking spots and lots on Main Street were full. However, the study found “ample available parking” in the free waterside and Woodside Avenue lots that are within reasonable walking distance for downtown employees or visitors.

The only time traffic experts found an issue with the village’s parking was on summer nights, from 5 to 9 p.m. The study found the village’s parking is 95 percent full, often due to concerts and special event attendance, and could be improved through the addition of 72 spaces.

Northport power plant. File photo

The Town of Huntington and Long Island Power Authority have finally made their opening statements in a court trial that has been more than eight years in the making.

Huntington town officials, LIPA and National Grid are presenting their arguments over the proper tax-assessed value of the Northport Power Station beginning Feb. 25 before Justice Elizabeth Emerson at Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead.

LIPA filed its tax certiorari case over the assessed property tax valuation of the Northport plant in 2010 seeking to reduce its annual taxes by 90 percent, in addition to repayment of all taxes it claims to have overpaid since 2010 — currently more than $550 million.

It doesn’t differ all that much from when you grieve your property taxes, but this is on a much bigger scale.”

— Nick Ciappetta

Huntington Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta said all parties have agreed to start with the bench trial, decided solely by Emerson, by challenging the taxes paid on the plant in 2014.

“Even though they have filed petitions to challenge every year beginning in 2011, they have to file petitions individually for each year,” the town attorney said.

Ciappetta said that the burden of proof to demonstrate that the Town of Huntington tax assessor’s assessed value of the plant was incorrect lies with the utility company. LIPA will need to provide documents and expert testimony that convinces the judge that Huntington was in error, according to the town attorney.

“It doesn’t differ all that much from when you grieve your property taxes, but this is on a much bigger scale,” Ciappetta said.

LIPA started the trial with its opening statement and by calling on two expert witnesses for testimony Feb. 25. The Huntington town attorney said he expected the utility company to call on two additional expert witnesses to the stand to testify on its behalf before the town responds.

“We feel good about our position and that LIPA will not be able to sustain their burden,” Ciappetta said. “They have an appraisal that makes the plant seem as if it is worthless. That plant is vital to Long Island’s power grid.”

The Huntington town attorney said the town’s legal arguments will highlight how the Northport Power Station is unique given its “ideal location” and several factors, including its ability to operate based on either gas or oil, and is believed to be fundamental to meeting electrical demands during severe weather events.

We feel good about our position and that LIPA will not be able to sustain their burden.”

— Nick Ciappetta

The trial is open to the public and any who wish to observe the proceedings or listen to the arguments are welcome to the Riverhead court room, located at 1 Court St.

LIPA did not respond to request for comment on the ongoing court proceedings.

Ciappetta previously stated although the Town of Brookhaven settled its case with LIPA earlier this year, he does not believe that agreement will have any impact on Huntington’s case.

While six months of mediation between the town, LIPA and National Grid under their hired third-party arbitrator attorney Marty Scheinman has not yet resulted in a settlement, it remains a probable outcome according to Ciappetta.

“There’s always the possibility it will settle,” he said.

The court trial proceedings, if not wrapped up this week, will continue in April.

Hearing set on new parking regulations to increase fines, crackdown enforcement on repeat offenders

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

Huntington residents have been given through April 1 to pay up on overdue parking tickets or face the possibility of stricter enforcement up to and including an immobilization boot.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) announced the town will be offering a one-time 40 percent discount on the total balance of delinquent parking summonses through April 1, before looking to implement stricter fines and crackdown on violations. The program was proposed by Councilmen Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Ed Smyth (R).

“This is a great opportunity for residents to wipe the slate clean on outstanding parking tickets.”

— Ed Smyth

“Amnesty programs for parking violations have been very successful in communities across the country,” Cuthbertson said. “By offering our residents an amnesty program, it allows the town to reduce the amount owed on violations by 40 percent on all finds and surcharges, giving residents the chance to clear up outstanding debts.”

Currently, residents owe more than $1.8 million in the approximately 4,700 unpaid parking summonses and penalties to the town, according to the supervisor. Letters were mailed out by Feb. 19 to each individual who is eligible to take advantage of the parking violations amnesty program with details of their delinquent summonses and instructions on how to pay. 

“This is a great opportunity for residents to wipe the slate clean on outstanding parking tickets,” Smyth said.

The amnesty program will be one of multipronged approaches the town is taking in attempting to improve parking issues in Huntington. Lupinacci has proposed legislation to amend the town’s traffic code to increase fines for violations, enhance enforcement and help collect on parking violations.

Currently, drivers caught parking their vehicle in one of Huntington’s metered space without paying face a $25 fine. Under Lupinacci’s proposed changes, the same individual would be charged a minimum of $25 up to $75. Similarly, anyone parking in a handicapped spot without a permit could see the penalty jump from a flat $200 per incident up to a maximum of $600.

“If a person pleads guilty, they will get the minimum,” Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta said. “If a person proceeds to trial, the fine will be determined by the hearing officer. If a person fails to enter a plea and a default is imposed, the hearing officer imposes the fine.”

Other proposed changes to the town’s traffic and parking codes will include a requirement that parking summons and tickets be answered within 30 days or face an imposed default judgment, the nonrenewal of their New York State motor vehicle registration and possible immobilization. The resident will also not be allowed to obtain various town-issued permits, such as commuter parking permits or a recreational ID card, until the tickets are cleared up.

“We do believe stronger enforcement will encourage a change in driver behavior and end the abuse of time limits for free parking, both of which we expect to have a positive impact on the parking experience in downtown Huntington,” Lupinacci said.

A public hearing on the proposed traffic code changes is scheduled for the March 5 town board meeting set for 2 p.m.

Huntington resident Dany Smith speaks in favor of allowing short-term rentals like Airbnb. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington residents are split over the town’s attempts to increase regulation on short-term home rentals, like Airbnb, on the matter of safety versus financial security. 

Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) has put forth legislation that proposed to further limit the number of days that a property may be leased as a short-term rental from 120 down to 90. A Feb. 13 public hearing held on the proposed law drew a divided crowd.

“It is a step in the right direction, but we need to go a step further,” Diane Lettieri, of Dix Hills, said.

The safety issues this practice raises are beyond belief.”

— Diane Lettieri

Lettieri said she lives three houses down from 2 Langhans Court in Dix Hills where a man was shot at a party hosted in the backyard of a property that had been rented out in August 2018. She’s had several meetings with Huntington officials asking for short-term rentals through companies like Airbnb, VRBO, Tripping.com and numerous others to be banned for the safety of the community.

“Homeowners renting out rooms is putting strangers in our neighborhoods and inside their homes,” Lettieri said. “The safety issues this practice raises are beyond belief.”

However, homeowners across town have a very different perspective on how short-term rentals through Airbnb can be beneficial in providing security. Cold Spring Harbor resident Philip Giovanelli said he’s hosted guests as his home since the town first addressed the topic nearly two years ago. He added he’s in full compliance with town code.

“Since that first hearing, I’ve turned 65, I’m a senior and I’ve developed a disability,” he said. “I depend on income from Airbnb.”

Giovanelli said his property’s close proximity to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has led to an interesting array of researchers and doctors seeking a temporary place to stay in his residence.

“I would have to restrict a cancer researcher from England or China from staying, saying we have no room as we’ve expended our time, we’re over the limit,” he said. “These people are important to the community and to the rest of the world.

Huntington resident Dany Smith also spoke out in favor of supporting short-term rentals as she hosts guests to help supplement her income. In 2018, Smith said she rented out two rooms in her home for a total for 111 days.

“I read the options for the amendments and I agree with all of them except for one,” she said. “I hope you reconsider the limit from 120 to 90 days.”

Smith is in favor of suggested changes to give code enforcement officers better tools to police these rented abodes and would prevent those hosts found in violation of federal, state or local laws from reapplying for a new short-term rental permit for one year.

I read the options for the amendments and I agree with all of them except for one. I hope you reconsider the limit from 120 to 90 days.”

— Dany Smith

For Justine Aaronson, a Dix Hills resident, the town’s proposed changes still come up short. She presented a petition signed by more than 1,800 residents to the Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia (R).

“We need you to protect children in our residential communities and keep the quality of life for residents who prefer a community feeling, not a motel,” she said.

Aaronson said one of her neighbors can be found advertising a room for rent at $45 a night. She suggested if the town will not ban such behavior, to at least place further limits such as a 14-day minimum stay or no rentals for period of less than 29 days.

While the proposed legislation suggests scaling back a room leased under short-term rentals from 120 to 90 days of a calendar year, there is no minimum or maximum stay. In addition, it does state that a property owner, or host, “may apply to the director for a hardship exemption” around the rules.

The Huntington town council reserved their decision for a later date.

“I’m hoping if this does get amended and we lower the days to 90, we don’t continue lowering the days,” Smith said. “I’ll have to move off Long Island.”

Centerport residents held a rally Feb. 9 seeking protection of the area's environment and speaking out on proposed developments. Photo from Facebook

Town of Huntington officials have decided to calm the fears of Centerport residents over potential water contamination that could harm and scare off local wildlife, particularly their beloved American bald eagles.

Dom Spada, deputy director of the town’s Maritime Services, said a 300-foot-long soft boom was installed Feb. 13 along the waterfront near the former Thatched Cottage site on Route 25A, which is currently under construction to become Water’s Edge.

“We did this at the request of the people from Centerport,” he said. “We’ll take a proactive approach and put the boom out to protect the water. We do not feel there’s contamination coming from the construction site.”

We’ll take a proactive approach and put the boom out to protect the water. We do not feel there’s contamination coming from the construction site.” 

— Dom Spada

The barrier is an oil-absorbent sock made of cellular fiber, approximately 8-inches in diameter, and is usually used for containing and absorbing oil-based spills, according to Spada. It will float along the top of the water and soak in lubricants and fuels without absorbing any water. It cost the town approximately $2,000 plus labor for five men needed to install it.

Over the last three weeks, Centerport residents have filed a series of complaints with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the town expressing concerns that construction debris and stormwater runoff after heavy rains could be contaminating the harbor.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) sat down Feb. 8 with Centerport residents including Tom Knight, co-president of Centerport Harbor Civic Association, and Rob Schwartz, founder of Bald Eagles of Centerport Facebook group, to discuss and address these concerns and other proposed developments including a 7-Eleven.

“I am really happy, happily surprised,” Schwartz said. “I appreciate how much they took our concerns to heart.”

On Feb. 1, Huntington’s building division received a new complaint forwarded from Suffolk County’s Department of Health Services alleging that asbestos runoff was entering the pond, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. The town told residents in the Feb. 8 meeting the county had tested the water then informed Steve Kiewra, the town’s building permits coordinator, in a phone conversation there was no evidence of asbestos runoff.

I appreciate how much they took our concerns to heart.

— Rob Schwartz

Grace Kelly-McGovern, spokeswoman for Suffolk’s DHS, said Division of Environmental Quality employees did visit the site Feb. 1 to collect water samples from Mill Pond directly behind the former Thatched Cottage. The water will be analyzed by the county’s Public & Environmental Health Laboratory for a number of chemicals and contaminants including pesticides, metals including lead, fecal coliform bacteria, inorganic compounds, nitrogen and phosphorus. The results may take up to six weeks.

While county employees have been frequent contact with town staff in recent weeks, according to Kelly-McGovern, the results are still out as to whether or not Mill Pond has been contaminated from any source.

“Yes, our staff has been in touch with the town staff, but did not claim any testing results,” she said.

New York State DEC visited the site Feb. 5 and found the Water’s Edge in full compliance with state regulations.

Enrico Scarda, managing partner of The Crest Group constructing Water’s Edge, said his company, in full cooperation with state DEC guidelines, has sealed all manhole covers on the property and installed silt fencing with hay bales in an effort to prevent stormwater runoff from entering the pond. 

Northport power plant. File photo

New York State and town officials are renewing their calls for changes to be made to Long Island Power Authority’s operations as the trial over the tax-assessed value of Northport Power Station is slated to begin Feb. 25.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) reintroduced legislation Jan. 31 that called for LIPA to be restructured so that eight of the utility company’s nine board members would be elected by public vote, among other changes.

“I don’t believe LIPA’s board as it exists offers any protection to the citizens of Long Island,” he said. “I think it needs to be scrapped and replaced.”

““I don’t believe LIPA’s board as it exists offers any protection to the citizens of Long Island.”

— Jim Gaughran

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (D-Sag Harbor) has partnered with Gaughran to sponsor the bill in the state Assembly. The concept of the ratepayers protection act was first introduced in February 2017 by Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Thiele, co-sponsored by a coalition that included state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport). Those early bills failed to ever make it the Legislature’s floor for a vote.

Currently, LIPA’s nine-member board of trustees consists of five individuals appointed by the governor, two selected by the president or majority leader of the state Senate, and two chosen by the speaker of the Assembly.

The proposed ratepayers protection act calls for the state Legislature to create eight districts roughly equal in population size based on the last U.S. Census by May 1, 2021. A resident of each district would be elected to LIPA’s board to serve a two-year term as trustee, with the first elections to be held in December 2021. Candidates on the ballot would not be chosen by the political parties, and those elected would not be paid but could be reimbursed from the state for their related expenses, according to the draft.

In addition, the proposed legislation would require LIPA to hold public hearings before making future rate changes, give residents 30 days advance notice of the hearing and hold the event in the county it affects — Suffolk or Nassau. It would prohibit the utility company from increasing its rates to offset any losses from energy conservation efforts.

“I promised the residents of his district once elected, I was going to hold one of my first town halls on this — a town hall in Northport to drill down and deal with the issues of LIPA,” Gaughran said.

He will hold a town hall-style forum 10 a.m. March 16 in Northport High School’s auditorium with town and school district officials present to answer questions and review various options moving forward with LIPA, including the ratepayers protection act.

“We are encouraged to hear this legislation is being reintroduced, as it will provide the oversight and transparency needed to restore residents’ confidence in LIPA — ensuring that the best interests of the ratepayers are served,” Huntington spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said.

Huntington’s town board also voted unanimously Jan. 29 to petition its elected officials to amend state law to allow the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport school district access to the state’s Electric Generating Facility Cessation Mitigation Program funding in case LIPA is successful in getting the Northport power plant’s annual taxes reduced, as well as to put more money into that state fund. This bill also failed to find sufficient support to pass the state Legislature last year.

We’ve reviewed the Brookhaven settlement and found it to be irrelevant to our case.”

— Nick Ciappetta

The tax certiorari case is slated to begin trial Feb. 25. While the town and Northport school district have entered nonbinding mediation with five sessions being held to date, according to Lembo, an agreement has not been struck.

In contrast, the Town of Brookhaven formally settled its lawsuit with LIPA over the Port Jefferson power plant Dec. 14 agreeing to decrease taxes on the plant 50 percent incrementally over the next nine years.

“We’ve reviewed the Brookhaven settlement and found it to be irrelevant to our case,” Huntington Town Attorney Nick Ciappetta said. “The Brookhaven agreement has nothing to do with the Northport power plant.”

Ciappetta cited what he believes are several key differences between the Northport and Port Jeff stations: Northport’s output capacity is four times larger, it is a dual-fuel plant that is capable of operating on both natural gas and oil, and that its operation is vital to helping maintain the state’s power capacity requirements.

Gaughran said he is willing to review and support any state legislation which may aid Huntington and Northport in their ongoing legal battle with LIPA and National Grid.

“It’s clear that everyone has to continue to fight this,” he said. “We can’t be preparing to lose. Everyone must continue to fight — it’s too important.”

From left, John Clark, Scott Schneider, and Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth kick off Pick Six Jan. 24. Photo by Karina Gerry

By Karina Gerry

A Town of Huntington official is asking Huntington’s residents to try to see the small actions can add up.

Councilman Ed Smyth (R) unveiled Jan. 24 a new non-litter initiative he calls Pick Six that asks  residents to pick up six pieces of trash every day and throw it in the trash at Huntington Town Hall.

“Together, we can make our town cleaner,” Smyth said.  “And a more environmentally friendly place to live work and do business.”

The program was inspired by Huntington resident Scott Schneider, an artist who for years has been collecting trash on his daily walks and turning them into art.

‘Well what difference can I make,’ but now that it’s being rolled out to the whole town, you really see that small acts can turn into bigger ones.”

— Scott Schneider

“I always picked up trash,” he said. “I started taking pictures of trash and then when Instagram and Facebook came on, I started posting it and people seemed to really enjoy my trash pictures or my trashy pictures.”

The councilman saw Schneider’s art as the two have known each other prior to Smyth being elected to office  through their children. It sparked a conversation  about Schneider’s daily habit.  A few weeks later, the Smyth contacted the artist to let him know that he would be rolling out a new initiative for the whole town inspired by Schneider’s work.

“As somebody who was kind of always working on my own, it was extremely exciting,” the artist said. “Because you always think, ‘Well what difference can I make,’ but now that it’s being rolled out to the whole town, you really see that small acts can turn into bigger ones.”

Smyth and his colleagues hope the initiative of Pick Six will become habitual for residents.

“What I see with my own eyes, and I think everybody does, is that there’s a lot of litter around,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten to the point now that we’re so accustomed to seeing it that we stop seeing it, stop noticing it, so it’s easy to ignore it and walk past it.”

While downtown Huntington area sees the most pedestrian foot traffic, the councilman wants to encourage people to not only pick up trash when they are in the village but at the town’s beaches and parks as well. Greg Wagner, Huntington’s director of Parks and Recreation,  believes the program could make a huge difference.

“Typically, every morning at all of our beaches there are single-use plastics constantly, consistently washing up on our shores,” Wagner said.

There seems to be unnecessary finger pointing going on where people say, ‘Oh well they should go clean it up.”

— Councilman Ed Smyth

Jack Palladino, president of the Huntington Village Business Improvement District and owner of Christopher’s Pub & Eatery, said the issue of trash has been something him and the BID have been dealing with for a while.

“The problem you have with some businesses is that you have absentee business owners, a lot of corporate places that you go in to speak to the management as soon as they clock out they are done for the day,” Palladino said. “But you have businesses that people have owned they live in town, they are the ones that are concerned.”

While restaurants, bars and places offering takeout food tend to produce more trash, the councilman refused to point fingers.

“There seems to be unnecessary finger pointing going on where people say, ‘Oh well they should go clean it up,’” Smyth said. “There’s always a pronoun in there that’s not I, always they or he or she.”

The councilman hopes that people will stop blaming the businesses for the trash.

“For the downtown areas, it has to be a collective effort,” he said. “Or it’s just not going to work, because very frankly the town, the BID and the businesses don’t have the resources individually to have someone on litter control.

Public hearing on proposed mixed-use 84 apartment building adjourned; date and venue not set

Save Huntington Village organizers Bob Suter and Dale Gifford wave signs protesting the Downtown Huntington project at the Jan. 24 hearing . Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Hundreds of residents flooded the board room, hallways and standing space in Huntington Town Hall last Thursday in a tidal wave of opposition for the proposed Downtown Huntington project.

The Town of Huntington’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to adjourn the Jan. 24 public hearing on the proposal by developer John Kean to construct a mixed-use building that would bring 84 apartments to Huntington village to seek a larger venue.

“We understand people made the trip down here and would like to listen to this,” John Posillico, chairman of the town’s ZBA, said. “However, we want to be fair to everyone collectively. We can’t do that under the current circumstance.”

A supporter of Save Huntington Village holds a sign in protest of the Downtown Huntington proposal Jan. 24. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Roughly 300 residents waiting in hallways, unable to enter the town meeting room, could not hear the developer’s presentation after an “audio failure,” according to Posillico, but it was actually the crowd’s noise and conversation overpowering the building’s speaker system.

It is the first time in memory, according to town officials, a massive turnout forced a ZBA meeting to be adjourned.

“In a sense this hearing is a victim of our own success in getting people together around this issue — the overdevelopment of Huntington — of which this application is perhaps the most egregious example,” Bob Suter said.

Suter, a Huntington resident who helps organize Save Huntington Village, said while his group had called for a rally against the proposal, he hadn’t expected quite the turnout.

The parking lot of Town Hall was filled to capacity as drivers sought slots in the neighboring YMCA’s parking lot. Residents then stood on line for more than a half hour to pass through security and enter the hearing. Town employees pulled out folding chairs, as the meeting room was packed so dense the fire marshal took a head count, while late arrivals stood in the hallway. Before the meeting was adjourned, more than 85 individuals had signed up to speak on the project.

James Margolin, a Huntington-based attorney for Kean and property owner Alan Fromkin, recognizing the overwhelming turnout took the opportunity to explain the proposed development to the community publicly.

“The biggest issue is the misconceptions of what we are doing,” he said. “Most people thought the entire block was being knocked down. They thought we are putting a greater burden on parking when the whole idea here is that we are lessening the burden by hundreds of spaces.”

Huntington attorney John Margolin presents the Downtown Huntington proposal Jan. 24. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The proposed Downtown Huntington project seeks to construct a roughly 180,000-square-foot structure on a 1.36-acre site made up of five different properties located along Main Street, Stewart Avenue and Gerard Street. It would be a four-story building combining restaurant and retail with 84 apartment units and a 59,000-square-foot underground parking garage. Its application must go before the Zoning Board for several variances before construction proceeds including: a C-6 General Business District zoning only permits three stories, not four; apartments are slated for street level; and a parking variance.

Margolin said in his introduction the underground parking garage would provide 127 slots, more than the 40 spaces currently offered in total on the five properties as they stand. Given this, he said the development needs a variance as it comes up approximately 130 spaces short of the number required, which he argued is less than the shortage of 218 slots based on the building’s current use. However, the traffic expert and others with Margolin who expected to present on Downtown Huntington’s proposal in greater detail did not have the opportunity to speak before the adjournment.

“We really needed to come tell the community exactly what this project was and wasn’t,” Margolin said. “We understand we have a negative recommendation from the Planning Board, but we are making our case to you this evening.”

The town’s Planning Board voted 5-1 at its Jan. 23 hearing to recommend the ZBA “strongly” deny all variances sought by the developer. Posillico said the adjournment to seek a larger venue will also allow the Zoning Board more time to read and digest the Planning Board’s suggestions.

At right, Huntington ZBA Chairman John Posillico. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Those in attendance shouted questions asking why town officials had not scheduled the hearing on Downtown Huntington for a larger venue to begin with, especially after Posillico admitted to receiving more than 300 emails on the application in advance of the hearing. The chairman explained the town could face a legal challenge if not all were fully able to participate, which would force the hearing to be held a second time.

“I respect the board’s recognition that hundreds and hundreds, 300 or 400 people in the hallway, deserve the right to hear what is being stated, the description of the project, and what people have to say,” Dale Gifford, a member of Save Huntington Village, said. “There’s 600 or 700 people who came out on this terrible night. I think it’s pretty incredible and shows how passionately people are opposed to this.”

At the heart of the issue lies the controversial amendment to C-6 General Business District zoning code that allows apartments to be built above restaurant and retail space, up to a height of three stories.

Gifford, Huntington resident Barbara Suter and other members of Save Huntington petitioned Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) to put a moratorium on development until proposed changes to the C-6 zoning are made public, debated at public hearing and set in place.

As of this publication’s press time, a new date and venue for the Downtown Huntington public hearing has not been set, according to ZBA special counsel John Bennett, but should be confirmed within two weeks. This may be further delayed if the developer chooses to scale back the size of the project. The ZBA has assured all those who signed up to speak Jan. 24 will be held in the same order originally.

Those residents interested in reviewing the developer’s proposed site plans can visit the Department of Planning and Environment, room 212 in Huntington Town Hall, located at 100 Main St. to review the file. A PDF of these documents will be posted on the town’s website once it is provided, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

Zoning Board hearing to be held Jan. 24, 6 p.m. at Town Hall with presentation; period for public comment

A rendering of the proposed Downtown Huntington building submitted to the Town of Huntington by Kean Development Company. Image from Huntington’s Planning Department

A developer’s proposal to reconfigure five properties close to the heart of Huntington village into a singular mixed-use building will go before the Town of Huntington’s Zoning Board tonight for a second time to seek approval.

Developer John Kean of Cold Spring Harbor-based Kean Development Company will present a design to construct a four-story, mixed-use building occupying 1.36 acres including the site of Classic Galleries and the historic Huntington firehouse. It proposes to build 84 apartment units above retail stores and restaurant space along with a below-ground parking garage.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about it,”  Jim Margolin, an attorney representing the developer said. “We think it’s a good project and good for the village. Hopefully, people will listen.”

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about it. We think it’s a good project and good for the village. Hopefully, people will listen.”

— Jim Margolin

The project, called Downtown Huntington, was first proposed to the Town of Huntington’s Planning Board in August 2015. Since then, the developer and the property owner Alan Fromkin have revised their preliminary plans four times making changes to the total number of apartments, stories, height of the building and architectural design, according to town officials. The most recent plans were submitted April 10, 2017.

“The bottom line is that this project will provide 127 parking spaces on site and there will be a significant reduction in the size of restaurant and retail use,” Margolin said.

The proposed structure would shrink the street-level retail space from nearly 40,000 down to 11,620 square feet and cut the restaurant floor space in roughly half from 6,400 to 3,853 square feet. Margolin also stressed the current parcels only provide 40 parking slots spread out among the five lots — 235 and 243 Main St., 5-7 Stewart Ave., 11 Stewart Ave. and 12 Gerard St.

Previously, Huntington’s Planning Board first reviewed the proposed development application and gave an advisory recommendation to changes. Among its requests was for the developer to conduct a traffic circulation study and profile renderings, which the town received in August 2018. With these documents in hand, the Planning Board revised its recommendations Wednesday night before the public hearing set for Thursday at 6 p.m.

“People are objecting to the sheer size of it and the extreme number of variances the developer is requesting.”

— Bob Suter

Huntington resident Bob Suter, who helps organize a residential coalition called Save Huntington Village, said he was one of many residents who remains staunchly opposed to the proposed Downtown Huntington development.

“People are objecting to the sheer size of it and the extreme number of variances the developer is requesting,” he said.

Many objectors have spoken out most loudly against variances requested to increase the maximum height of the building from three to four stories and relief for the required number of parking spaces. The parcels are currently zoned for C-6 General Business District, a zoning that Huntington residents have repeatedly called on the town board to review and change. Suter’s group arranged to make preprinted signed protest signs available to residents and business owners for pick-up Jan. 19.

“We handed out close to 200 signs on Saturday in a very short period of time,” he said. “People who were showing up are angry, they are really upset.”

Dozens have taken to social media to vent and have written emails to the town about preserving the former historic Huntington firehouse as a possible landmark in the village.

“While I cannot comment on a specific application before the ZBA, it is the priority of my administration to preserve the historic character and charm of our town while allowing business to flourish.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“While I cannot comment on a specific application before the ZBA, it is the priority of my administration to preserve the historic character and charm of our town while allowing business to flourish,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in statement. “In 2018, my first year in office, I asked the town’s Planning Department to review possible changes to C-6 zoning and provide recommendations to aid in the preservation of our town’s quaint aesthetic. The Planning Department is still working on those recommendations.”

Margolin said his clients have agreed to restore and preserve the original façade of the building, even though it “wasn’t designated historic by the town board.” Rather, its intended as a sign of goodwill.

Those wishing to voice their concerns, support or opposition regarding Downtown Huntington can participate in the public hearing scheduled for Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at Huntington Town Hall.

Residents unable to attend Thursday night’s meeting can submit written comments via email to planning@huntingtonny.gov.

Michael Bento, of Northport village, announced plans to run for Huntington town council Jan. 3. Photo from Bento

A Northport millennial brazenly kicked off 2019 by kicking off his campaign to become a councilman in the Town of Huntington.

Michael Bento, 30, announced his intention to run for a seat on Huntington town board Jan. 3 while standing underneath the towers of the Northport power plant.

“I’m running as someone who grew up out here and now lives here with my wife and am hoping to raise a family here” Bento said. “I would like a Huntington that is not plagued by flooding, high taxes, corruption and has an infrastructure that can handle our cars.”

I would like a Huntington that is not plagued by flooding, high taxes, corruption and has an infrastructure that can handle our cars.” 

— Michael Bento

Bento said he spent his summers growing up at his grandparent’s house in Asharoken. He’s building a career working as a consultant for investment banking operations and corporate giving compliance. 

A registered Democrat, the new candidate said he’s been inspired watching the 2016 and 2018 election cycles where a larger number of young candidates ran for office. Bento said he has worked with the party on six campaigns in 2018, including canvassing for newly elected state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport).

“I’m running a people-centric campaign,” he said. “I am running to represent those people who have not been listened to by this or prior administrations.”

Bento said he plans to focus his campaign on his plan for bold, progressive infrastructural upgrades across the Town of Huntington to address widespread environmental issues. Key to this proposal includes improving the area’s coastal resiliency plans, starting with rebuilding Asharoken’s seawall, improving bulkheads, replenishing dunes and creating a system of townwide stormwater drains to deal with roadway runoff, something he said can serve as a precursor for a future sewer system.

He wants to spotlight the issue of affordable housing along with the need to be responsible in future development of Huntington.

I am running to represent those people who have not been listened to by this or prior administrations.” 

— Michael Bento

“We should not have giant, looming buildings in downtown Huntington where roads and the parking infrastructure is already strained to the maximum,” Bento said. “We need to be responsible about this. Part of the reason people want to live and grow up in Huntington is its historic architecture and charm.”

The new candidate said he genuinely appreciates the town’s history. In 2017, Bento received his master’s degree in history with a focus on public policy from Queens College. He’s suggested a shift away from apartment complexes toward tax incentives to purchasing property for low-income families.

Yet, the candidate said he recognizes there are political challenges in the months ahead. The first being gaining enough name recognition to get on the ballot, as he could potentially face a primary opponent. He’s launched a Facebook page titled Michael P. Bento for Huntington Town Council with plans to gradually role out a full social media campaign.

If elected, Bento said he will pledge to be a full-time councilman with no outside income or side jobs. He also plans to decline accepting any corporate donations.

“My job is to the people of Huntington, to the voters and that is one of the biggest things I can offer,” he said.

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