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Apartments

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PJ Lobster House is just one of several local businesses whose owners say inspectors have repeatedly shown up to the restaurant around dinner time in a small, two-week period. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson’s Uptown could soon be losing one of its premier restaurants, though one won’t have to look far for that seafood dinner experience.

The PJ Lobster House is moving from its spot on the corner of Main Street and North Country Road and will be moving downtown into the location that used to be Ocean 88, a Japanese restaurant, just east of the Mill Creek Road parking lot across from Rocketship Park. 

Rob Gitto of The Gitto Group. Photo from Gitto

In its place, local developer The Gitto Group is planning to add another apartment complex to a growing slate of living spaces both uptown and downtown. 

Discussions on the new property have been going on for about a year. James Luciano, owner of the PJ Lobster House, said he had originally proposed to landlords for the property about purchasing it, but was rebuffed. As time went on, he inquired with The Gitto Group about potentially moving into a  location in one of the company’s new spots downtown, and was told that the local developer was buying the uptown property. He said he wasn’t given the option to purchase the land, and that the decision was made before his lease was up. 

“I have all my money invested into this place, everything was paid here, and now I have to start over,” Luciano said.

The developer already owns The Hills at Port Jefferson Village across from Port Jefferson train station and The Barnum House at the corner of Barnum Avenue and Main Street. The Gitto Group is also in the middle of creating The Brookport, an apartment complex going up where the old Cappy’s Carpets building once stood.

Both Rob Gitto, vice president of The Gitto Group, and Luciano are members and officers of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District board. Gitto said in a phone interview that he has tried being “upfront and transparent” with Luciano since the property was purchased. Though he attempted to find a way to fit him into the upcoming Brookport site, the space simply wouldn’t work for him. 

“It ended up working out, and its great to have him downtown,” he said.

Though Luciano said Gitto had been considerate in helping him find a new space, the move has been financially and physically costly to both him and his business, as he has to pick up everything that isn’t nailed down and transport it downtown. Work has already started at the Ocean 88 site, where he has to do some major renovations, including replacing the wood on the outside porch and the tiling on the inside, also removing the entire Japanese hibachi area. 

“I had to take all kinds of loans out to do this,” Luciano said. “I would have never done that during this situation [with the pandemic], but it’s either that or close up shop — it was move or you’re done.” 

Things are not all bad. Overall the PJ Lobster House owner said he is optimistic for the future, especially as the number of seats goes from 90 at the uptown location to around 140. He is keeping the current fish market at the front of the house in his new space, and now has plans for a bar to add a liquor selection to the current slate of beer and wine. There may be an opportunity in the future for an oyster bar.

The move downtown will likely bring his current regulars into the downtown portion of the village.

“I think with our following, we’ll do just fine,” he said.

Gitto said the new uptown building will likely be slightly smaller than the 46-unit Brookport site, and plans have the new space at three stories. Like other local apartment developments, parking is planned to be on-site with a retail component on the ground floor.

The Hills at Port Jefferson opened in upper Port in 2018. Other Uptown projects include the Port Jefferson Crossing and now a new project at the corner of North Country Road and Main Street. Photo from Rob Gitto

Gitto considers the corner of North Country onto Main “one of the entrances into the village,” adding they are working to make sure it fits into that space without being an impediment.

The new development would be located on the Port Jefferson side of the school district line with Comsewogue. In terms of adding children to the school district, the Port Jeff developer said so far none of theirs or other projects have added more than one family each with school-aged children. It’s likely this one won’t make a dent in local enrollment either.

“I think it’s going to make our community stronger,” The Gitto Group vice president said. “The schools as well as the village are going to need to lean on new projects to help out with the loss of the [Port Jefferson power plant tax revenue] to help keep our uptown vibrant.”

Plans are still early, and Gitto said they are waiting to submit their formal application within the next few months. 

Luciano added that while it’s a shame to see the loss of retail uptown, he still thinks The Gitto Group will do a good job.

“They do good work, this building is going to be beautiful,” he said. “They maintain all their properties really well, and it’s going to be a good look for the corner.” 

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The concept drawings for the Port Jefferson Crossing development include the sight of Station Street, a one-way road which will be built by the Village of Port Jefferson to connect the eastern side of the project. Image from design plans

Conifer Realty had its first public hearing in front of the Port Jefferson Village planning board July 9. Amongst a few comments about safety and general aesthetics, Conifer representatives also revealed they were requesting that the planning board, and later the board of trustees, consider a renovated sidewalk and other amenities in place of village parkland fees.

The project, called Port Jefferson Crossing, would be located directly adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road train station and would take over the property of a now-decrepit cafe.

Kathleen Deegan Dickson, of Uniondale-based law firm Forchelli Deegan Terrana, said the developer was requesting such reduced parkland fees because of its plans to renovate the sidewalk on the southern side of the project which borders a still-to-be constructed road called Station Street. The developer plans to add trees, benches and other plantings near the intersection with Main Street, then gift that stretch of sidewalk with added amenities to the village.

“It was certainly our hope that the planning board would give some consideration to either a reduced or eliminated parkland fee in light of the fact we are improving and dedicating land back to the village,” Dickson said. “While we’re not going to pretend it’s a park it will have some features that will add a nice community benefit to the areas.”

Alison LaPointe, special village attorney for building and planning, said the determination of parkland fee is a two-step process, first with the planning board determining if there is parkland fee that needs to be assessed based on availability of parkland in the vicinity of the project, accounting for the number of new residents coming in with the planned apartments. If the planning board finds a parkland fee is necessary, the matter gets transferred to the board of trustees to determine a reasonable fee for that need. The planning board doesn’t have the availability to assess specifics of the fee, though it can account for what is already available, which may include the Texaco park just a little over a block away from the proposed site.

“The planning board has the ability to assess whether or not additional parkland facilities are deemed necessary in the vicinity,” LaPointe said.

The village has usually used the Town of Brookhaven’s formula for assessing price on parkland fee, namely a multiplier formula that requires 1,500 square feet of public green space per unit in a housing development or $1,000 fine per unit if that space can’t be provided.

The issue of parkland fees has come up in the village before, namely with The Shipyard apartments developed by Tritec on West Broadway. Original parkland fees for that development were reduced due to Tritec then saying they were providing amenities on their rooftop and in a plaza. At the time, in 2018, the village building and planning department ruled it could satisfy the parkland requirement for about 21 of that complex’s 112 units based on square footage.

In 2019, the village changed code to eliminate rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered park or recreational facilities for the purposes of developers reducing the parkland fee paid to the village.

Planning board member Barbara Sabatino requested the applicant provide the total value of what Conifer plans to dedicate to the village. 

The project currently has plans for three floors, with the first floor being 3,200 square feet of retail and the next two containing 37 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments. The front part of the project will take up 112 lineal feet of frontage on Main Street, and current designs show two different designs for the two halves of the building, one a “lofty style,” as put by the developer’s architects, and the other a red-brick Georgian style. Some planning board members commented on the general flatness of the exterior, but LaPointe said more of these comments will be ironed out after meetings with the Architectural Review Committee.

Only one resident commented on the proposed plans. Rebecca Kassay, the co-owner of the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jeff, asked whether Conifer plans to have solar panels on its roof. Joanna Cuevas, senior project director for Conifer Realty, said there are currently no plans for solar panels, but the developer could assess the cost benefit of including those.

Another planning board meeting is set for Aug. 20, and is available for further public comment.

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Construction on the new Overbay apartments started Aug. 1. Photo by Courtney Biondo

On Thursday, Aug. 1, village residents noticed construction vehicles on the lot located on 217 West Broadway. Suspicions turned out to be correct, as development has finally started on the long-awaited apartment complex.

Construction on the new Overbay apartments started Aug. 1. Photo by Courtney Biondo

Overbay LLC has been in front of the project since it was first purchased in 2013 for $1.8 million. The company is a subsidiary of the Hauppauge-based Northwind Group, which does developments all along the north shore.

Jim Tsunis, the CEO of the Northwind Group, confirmed the start of construction, saying they received their final building permit from the village last week.

“Overbay will consist of 52 apartments with a fitness center and community gathering area,” Tsunis said in an email statement. “There are plans for outdoor balconies and upscale appointments to each apartment.”

The 54,000-square-foot “nautical-style” apartment building will be on the now-vacant site of the former Islander Boat Center building, which was demolished in 2017. Each apartment is expected to be 1,000 square feet each, and a common room area is expected to be approximately 800 square feet.

The start of construction was acknowledged by village officials at the Aug. 5 board meeting. Some in the public offered their concerns over a payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the development and the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. That agreement would mean the property would be paying taxes on the assessed undeveloped property during construction and would pay only $28,000 for the first year. The PILOT payment would rise over 15 years to $184,015 before paying the full taxes on its assessed value. The total payment for the PILOT will be $1,590,115.

According to previous reporting by TBR News Media, the complex is also expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 temporary construction jobs over a two-year period.

This PILOT payment is the second in tax agreements between apartment complexes in the village and IDAs. The Shipyard apartments received a similar 15-year PILOT from the Suffolk County IDA, but that agreement was more generous than received by Overbay.

Community members argued that the development would be excused from paying the lion’s share of its taxes, but the mayor argued it was more taxes than a vacant lot.

Still, Mayor Margot Garant argued that while the village has sent letters of disagreement with the IDA decisions for both apartment complexes, they do not have control of how or when those decisions are made.

“We sent a letter saying we were largely concerned on the impact of the schools and our local services,” she said. “The Town IDA and County IDA are really looking to give construction jobs, that’s how they see these developments. We’re more concerned about long-term jobs in terms of IDA relief.”

In January 2018, Tsunis said the agreement would help in offsetting the cost of demolishing the original boat seller building.

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo, the liaison to the planning and building department, said the developer is looking into helical pilings, which screw into the ground instead of being hammered in, which he said should help reduce noise, such as had been residents’ complaints when pilings were being hammered in during the Shipyard apartments construction.

The $10.8 million project was put on hold for years due to financing difficulties relating to the death of a business partner, Garant said at the Aug. 5 meeting.

“That project’s been in the works pre-Garant — 10-plus years,” the mayor said.

The Overbay development is just one of several apartment developments within village limits, with apartments expected to be developed over the now vacated Cappy’s Carpets building, with storefronts underneath. Uptown, Port Jefferson is looking to Conifer Realty LLC, a real estate development firm with projects across New York State and south into Maryland, for “affordable” apartments in what was once the Bada Bing structure, and another project dubbed Walnut Hills located north of Bada Bing in the quadrant before Perry Street. The last project is being developed by the Gitto Group, who were also behind The Hills apartment complex in Upper Port.

In his statement, Tsunis said more information will be available on Northwind Group’s website after Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Huntington town board listens to residents complaints at a March 5 meeting. Photo by David Luces

Many Huntington residents rely on income from accessory apartments to help offset high property taxes. The Town of Huntington has proposed legislation that would change rental rules. In some cases, the new rules are more lenient, making it easier for people to rent space in their home.  But the proposals also include a ban on basement apartments, unless a valid dwelling unit permit already exists. 

The fate of these accessory apartments has proved to be a contentious issue and residents have been debating the pros and cons of such a change in May and June at two town board meetings. 

“This could create cramped and unsafe living conditions.”

— Hector Gavilla

At a May 30 public hearing, a change in local zoning law was discussed and would reduce the lot size requirement for accessory apartments from 7,500 square feet to 5,000. The frontage requirement for an apartment would change from 75 feet to 50 feet. 

Hector Gavilla, a real estate broker in the town for the past 16 years, spoke at the hearing and sent a letter stating that high property taxes are the real problem that needs to be addressed. He also said it is a false narrative to tell people that these changes in the law will lower the rates for apartment rentals. He argued that the changes in law could harm more people than it would help. 

“[The proposal] this will allow too many people to occupy much smaller dwellings,” he said. “This could create cramped and unsafe living conditions.” 

Town records show that the town unanimously approved a resolution to ban basement apartments without a valid permit.

At a June town board meeting, a proposal to ban all basement and cellar apartments, unless a valid permit already exists or is pending with an already-filed application, was put on the table as well as changes to short-term rental rules.  Some residents argued that the ban would negatively impact lower-income homeowners. Others said basement apartments are a safety concern and potentially hazardous, because the space is prone to mold and carbon monoxide leaks. 

Huntington resident Dale Gifford said she is in favor of the ban on basement apartments in the town. 

“Expert environmentalists have come from out of town to lend their voices to educate the public and the board on the damages caused by overdevelopment and overcrowding,” she said. “Nitrate seeps through the soil from stressed cesspools and gets picked up by the heavy rain.” 

John Esposito had similar sentiments on the legislation, stating that it is a no-brainer. Accessory apartments, he said, can be especially hazardous to EMT and emergency response workers due to possible carbon monoxide issues that can occur in basements. 

“This a step in the right direction. Myself and others object to the overdevelopment, zoning of multiple apartment units and the apartments behind Stop and Shop,” he said. “This will give us a better quality of life [in the town].”

Conrad Ege, a Huntington resident, opposed the legislation, saying it was too much of a financial burden. 

“It would make it harder for them to pay some lines of credit, to pay taxes, to pay for other improvements that are necessary on their home and it would just make it more difficult for them to live here,” he said. 

Despite being opposed to the accessory apartment ban, Ege said he supports the legislation that would put limitations on short-term rentals in the town. 

Roger Weaving Jr., president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, stated he is in favor of the bill, but asked the board to clarify what they meant by accessory dwelling units. Certain style homes, such as high ranches, could cause some confusion.  He stressed that high ranches should be able to continue to have accessory dwellings.

We are here with concerns and the town is simply putting Band-aids on our problems. The change to 90 days is a start, but we really have a way to go.”

— Justine Aaronson

With the popularity of Airbnb, residents have complained that these short-term rentals have negatively impacted their quality of life. In April, the town board voted to reduce the number of days that a homeowner can engage in short-term rental agreements from 120 days a year to 90 days. Some residents said that the limit is not enough. Justine Aaronson, a Dix Hills resident, complained that accessory apartments affect quality of life. She told the town board of an incident where a stranger’s car with out-of-state plates was parked on their driveway around midnight. Concerned, she called the police and later found out that the individual was staying in a neighbor’s rental unit. 

“I want the Town of Huntington to protect the quality of life in residential communities,” she said. “We are here with concerns and the town is simply putting Band-aids on our problems. The change to 90 days is a start, but we really have a way to go.”

“We’re talking about a win-win-win situation with these amendments as they will make it possible for our older residents to age in place, allow our younger residents to attain the dream of homeownership, all while giving the town a means by which to directly regulate, in many cases, previously illegal rental housing,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol. “My prior sixteen years in Huntington Town government specializing in economic and community development have deeply sensitized me to the very real financial challenges and housing needs our residents face every day. I’m so gratified to be in a position to answer this call.”

The next public hearing is scheduled for July 16 at 2 p.m.

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Site projections for Conifer Realty LLC apartment building. Photo provided by Port Jeff planning department

The eponymous Uptown Funk project in the upper portion of Port Jefferson village may soon be coming to a head.

Plans are under review at the Port Jefferson planning department for a new affordable apartment complex in the property known locally as Bada Bing for the now decrepit cafe that once occupied the site. 

“This is 100 percent attainable housing,” said Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant.

Site details include it as a four-story project with 60 one-bedroom apartments. The site will also include 4,500 square feet of retail located directly adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road train station. Project notes said the site will be located in the Comsewogue School District.

Photo provided by Port Jeff planning department

The $4 million property development is being led by Upper Port Jefferson Village LLC, owned by Parviz Farahzad of East Setauket-based Little Rock Construction, which was in charge of building the retail complex across from the train station in Stony Brook. The developer is partnered with Conifer Realty LLC, a real estate development firm with projects across New York State and south into Maryland. Recently Conifer was at the head of the Peconic Crossing development in Riverhead, a development of 45 apartments giving preference to artists.

“We think Conifer is such a well-known name — they’ve done so many projects on Long Island and New York State that they’re a real credible partner at the table,” Garant said.

This project also includes plans for an underground parking garage incorporating 60 spaces, and the developer will need to pay a Payment in Lieu of Parking fee for all the spaces that would be required for retail, according to Port Jeff planning department documents.

Alison LaPointe, the special village attorney for building and planning, said Conifer has already submitted a formal site plan application for the development, and the planning board awaits amended plans from the applicant before continuing the environmental review process and to schedule public hearings.

All future plans for uptown port now depend on when the developers starts to put shovels in the ground. Uptown Funk was meant to be completed in three stages: the first being the Texaco Avenue parking lot, the next being the Metropolitan Transportation Authority parking lot, and the last being the creation of Station Street running just north of that train station lot.

This year the MTA has finished construction of the new parking lot at the Port Jefferson train station as part of a growing effort to modernize the more than century-old terminal.

In an update to its website, the MTA said the parking lot has been repaved and was officially open for use as of Jan. 9. The new parking lot includes new repainted lines that Port Jefferson village officials said were widened from before. Garant had said those old lines were too narrow for some vehicles. The end product means there are less spaces than there were previously.

“This is 100 percent attainable housing.”

— Margot Garant

This work was all part of the ongoing Uptown Funk project aiming to revitalize the upper port area. In 2017 the village was awarded $250,000 in jumpstart money to start plans on the project, and the village also applied for a grant from the Empire State Development Corporation, a state entity, for $500,000. Texaco Avenue parking lot, at 85 spaces, was planned to cost $850,000 when it started in May 2018. The village needed to wait until construction was finished on the LIRR parking lot, phase two of the project, before working on Station Street. The village has to wait until Conifer demolishes the Bada Bing site before starting construction on that new road.

The site construction includes a 10-foot setback on the property for the village to come in and develop Station Street, which will pass by the LIRR parking lot on the north end and connect to Oakland Avenue. 

Conifer is currently seeking approval for attainable housing partnership funding from New York State, according to Garant. She added the process for getting uptown revitalized has been long, from getting the state grant funding to finding developers willing to craft new spaces acceptable to the vision village officials have for the uptown area.

“I really have good feelings about what’s going to start happening up there, but it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill,” the villagemayor said.

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Planned changes to area around Barnum Avenue and Route 25A. Photo from PJ planning department

Port Jefferson village has long been dealing with issues of parking and attracting more people into the downtown, but proposals put forward by village officials and other property owners have received stern opposition from residents living close to these proposed projects.

The upstairs meeting room in the Port Jefferson Village Hall was packed March 14 as residents came out to get answers on several major developments coming to Port Jefferson. One details the planned development for a mixed-use apartment and retail space in the building that is currently Cappy’s Carpets, while another includes a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue.

The Port Jefferson planning board was originally allowing additional comments from residents until March 24, but they agreed to extend that until March 29 for the planned Cappy’s development.

Apartments in Cappy’s Carpets

Several Port Jeff residents said the Shipyard apartment complex, which only started receiving tenants little more than a year ago, left a bad taste in their mouths. Many who spoke at the March 14 meeting decried the Tritec Real Estate Company’s four-story 112-unit rental complex, and asked that if development were to continue, then they should learn from the last development.

The Capobianco family, which owns the property, along with real estate firm Brooks Partners LLC unveiled plans in February for creating a three-story apartment and retail space in the current Cappy’s Carpet shop at 440 Main St. The development would replace the existing carpet store along with the boat storage lot to the rear of the property.

The proposed plans call for 1,200 square feet of retail space, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant and a 750-square-foot fitness center on the ground floor. Above that would be 44 one-bedroom and two, two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. Also included was a roof deck and rooftop fire pits. Village Mayor Margot Garant previously said the building had remained at three stories in direct response to criticism over the Shipyard development.

Left: Cappy’s Carpets in Port Jefferson; right: rendering of new mixed use space. Left photo by Kyle Barr, right photo from Port Jeff planning department

In terms of parking, the project would include 78 spaces, with the 37 set in a parking garage within the development and 41 spaces outside. The parking spaces would require the developer to pay for four spaces in lieu of parking fees, due to village code parking requirements.

Sayville-based attorney Eric Russo, representing Brooks Partners, said the project would enhance the village’s walkability, especially north of the majority of downtown’s businesses. 

“As part of your village’s master plan, your goal was you wanted to create a walking downtown and expand on the town, so it would move forward where it was on Main Street and continue upward toward this particular area,” Russo said. 

Residents were quick to criticize the idea of a roof deck, saying that people standing up so high would likely be heard throughout parts of the village.

“We live in a bowl here, and if somebody has a roof deck on top of that building, that’s going to travel uphill into our residential area,” said Marge McCuen, resident on Tuthill Street. “I think it was very inconsiderate.”

The development would also go along with new projects to remediate traffic concerns in that area. The New York State Department of Transportation has said it will amend traffic concerns surrounding Barnum Avenue, including removing the triangle median where Barnum and Main Street connect, making one egress and ingress and eliminating the need for pedestrians to make two crossings along one road. The next project is to install a traffic light at the intersection of Old Post Road and Main Street in hopes of eliminating some problems of the accident-prone intersection during rush hour. Patrick Lenihan, an engineer with Hauppauge-based VHB engineering firm, said the state DOT has also recommended removing four street-level parking spaces on Main Street near the expected curb cut for the development.

Resident Michael Mart said removing those four spaces on Main Street would mean the village would be even further in the hole when it comes to parking spaces, not counting the four spaces the developer is willing to pay in lieu of parking for.

As part of the application, Brooks Partners conducted a traffic study with VHB. Results showed the weekday average traffic for Main Street was less than 18,000 vehicles per day in the vicinity of the project site as of March 2016. Saturday and Sunday daily volume during the same week was recorded at less than 20,000 and 15,000 cars, respectively. Some residents criticized the traffic study, especially for the limited time it was conducted, saying it should have also shown traffic patterns for weekdays, especially in mornings when buses take children to school and when cars arrive on the morning ferries.

“With your traffic study, instead of doing just one day in July, you should have done a day in April or May, preferably a weekday, make it when the ferries arrive,” said village resident Drew Biondo. “I think you’d get a better sense.”

“We live in a bowl here, and if somebody has a roof deck on top of that building, that’s going to travel uphill into our residential area.”

— Marge McCuen

Biondo later in the meeting asked if the building would be built on pilings, which the developer responded with yes, on over 200, which would take about three weeks to install during code-allowed times. 

Mart added he hopes this new apartment complex would not get a similar payment in lieu of taxes plan the Shipyard complex received from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency. Another $10.8 million planned apartment complex called Overbay, being built by the Hauppauge-based development company, The Northwind Group, has also received an extended PILOT agreement from the Brookhaven town IDA.

“We as taxpayers then have to pay the cost burdens from it,” he said.

At the village’s March 18 board meeting, Garant asked the board to look at the village’s code regarding roof decks, agreeing at the rate in which sound travels within the area. 

Parking lot on Barnum Avenue

Port Jefferson officials are planning for a 44-space parking lot located on the west side along Barnum Avenue just after the turn on Roessner Lane that goes toward Rocketship Park. 

The space currently exists as a gravel lot, and officials have allowed town workers to park in it for the time being. The site was once a house that Garant described as an illegal rental property. Officials agreed to purchase and demolish the building in 2017. 

Plans for the parking lot give it a 53-foot buffer from Barnum Avenue and a 23-foot buffer from Caroline Avenue. These plans also include a new sidewalk with plantings along the edges of the proposed site. The board has stated its intention to eliminate parking along the northern side of Caroline Avenue.

The site of the planned parking lot on Barnum Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Garant said the proposed lot would include a managed parking system with meters but no overnight parking and limits to the number of hours a car is allowed to park in that lot. A gate would be installed to prevent people from parking in the lot overnight. 

Barbara Ransome, the director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said the new parking was desperately needed. 

“We really haven’t had a new parking lot in downtown in 50 years,” Ransome said. “From the business perspective we really do support the additional 44 parking spots.”

The mayor added the plans for lighting include goosenecked, directional lighting that would focus their rays on the parking lot itself, and they would be automated to turn off at midnight.

“We’re very sensitive to the lighting,” Garant said. “The light will not penetrate beyond parking area.”

Despite her attempts at assurances, some residents who would border the proposed lot were not so convinced. Kathleen Loper, who lives on Caroline, said she has already had problems with lighting from the nearby baseball field disturbing her ability and her neighbors to maintain their sleep schedules. 

“People have different work schedules — those lights are very distracting, so I can imagine what the parking lot lights are going to do,” Loper said. “If I wanted to live in Manhattan, I would have bought a house in Manhattan.”

Pat Darling Kiriluk, a Port Jeff resident, said she was concerned about the beautification of that space, especially with the Drowned Meadow House nearby along the same street.

We are never going to have enough [parking] availability,” Kiriluk said. “It’s never ever going to be enough.”

“The light will not penetrate beyond parking area.”

— Margot Garant

Others who live in the area already feel the area is dangerous for pedestrians due to high traffic along Barnum and Caroline. Tony Dutra, who lives at the corner of Caroline and Barnum, asked why the project couldn’t have an entrance off Barnum and an exit on Caroline. Anthony Cucuzzo of D&B Engineers and Architects said they could look at the idea but believed large traffic volumes along both roads would cause delays.

Garant has previously said if the project gets approval, she would want construction to start by fall of this year.

The mayor added the village may be able to enhance the crosswalk features. Other residents feared illicit activity happening in the parking lot at night.

Kevin Wood, village parking administrator, said current parking lots already have surveillance cameras and parking ambassadors, which would be extended to this new parking lot. 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A proposed change of plans for a $22 million Huntington Station revitalization project is being met with resistance by community residents.

Huntington Station revitalization master developer Renaissance Downtowns and developer G2G Development submitted a request April 24 seeking to change the composition of apartments that will make up the Gateway Plaza building to be constructed on the corner of Olive Street and New York Avenue.

The original plans for the 61,000-square-foot building called for a mix of 33 one-bedroom apartments and 33 studio apartments in a mixed-used building over restaurant, retail and office space.

A graph showing the redistribution of apartments proposed for Gateway Plaza. Graphic by TBR News Media

Now, the developer seeks to create 11 two-bedroom apartments, increase it to 45 one-bedroom units and construct only 10 studios.

“The pre-approved square footage was redistributed into a new mix based on voiced community requests for two bedrooms, market research and feedback to Northridge realtors on what local residents are searching for,” reads a statement on Source the Station, Renaissance Downtown’s online portal on the revitalization projects for Huntington Station residents.

Renaissance Downtowns and Huntington Town officials celebrated the grand opening of Northridge apartments, the first concrete project of Huntington Station revitalization, earlier this week. The mixed-use building has 16 one-bedroom apartments for rent on the second and third floors.

“When we started leasing [Northridge], the agent got a lot of inquiries from people looking for two-bedroom apartments,” said Ryan Porter, Co-CEO and president of Renaissance Downtowns.

Deborah D’Ambrosio, a Signature Premier Properties agent who is leasing Northridge’s apartments, said Monday at Northridge’s grand opening she had not personally gotten requests for any two-bedroom units, but that her company had marketed the property for one-bedroom only.

Huntington Station resident Matt Harris said he objected to the request to construct two-bedroom units, pointing out that the change is anticipated to bring seven school-aged children into the school district.

A pie chart showing the proposed redistribution of commercial space for Gateway Plaza. Graphic by TBR News Media

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

Porter admitted as public awareness of the requested apartment development has risen, he’s heard out several concerns raised by other community members.

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

“I voted into [Gateway Plaza] for the studio apartments,” said Councilman Eugene Cook (R). “I’m asking the town attorney to look into this and see what’s happening. That to me, is entirely uncalled for.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the town attorney’s office is currently reviewing the developer’s request and market demand is one factor that can be taken into consideration. The town attorney may consult a real estate expert if it is deemed necessary, according to Lupinacci.

Renaissance Downtowns expects to close on the land sale of 1000-1026 New York Ave. properties needed to construct Gateway Plaza this month, according to Porter, with a hope of starting demolition of the existing structures this summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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