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Town of Huntington

Keynote speaker was acclaimed writer, author and educator Meryl Ain

Huntington Town Supervisor Ed Smyth hosted the Town of Huntington’s 12th Annual Anne Frank Memorial Ceremony at Arboretum Park in Melville, home of the Anne Frank Memorial Garden, on July 26. The event was be held mid-way between Anne Frank’s June 12th birthday and the August 4th date of her capture. Frank would have been 93 this year.

“We must counter the voices that seek to divide us and fight ignorance with education, which is why the Town honors the memory of Anne Frank every year and, through her voice, all those voices silenced through the Holocaust,” said Supervisor Smyth, pictured in photo on right at the podium. “The iron wedding dress sculpture in the Anne Frank Memorial Garden appears vulnerable yet it has withstood the elements, and even acts of vandalism; its endurance represents the strength and fearlessness with which we must fight evil, ignorance and hate.”

This year’s feature guest speaker was Meryl Ain, a Huntington resident who is an acclaimed writer, author, podcaster, and career educator. Her award-winning post-Holocaust debut novel, The Takeaway Men, was published in 2020. Its sequel, Shadows We Carry, was published in April 2023. 

The Takeaway Men is the result of her life-long quest to learn more about the Holocaust, a thirst that was first triggered by reading The Diary of Anne Frank in the sixth grade. While teaching high school history in the Syosset School District, she introduced her students to the study of the Holocaust.

The Anne Frank Memorial Garden, unveiled by the Town in June 2010 at Arboretum Park, symbolically captures the journey of Anne Frank’s life. It features a circular pathway that surrounds a garden, which leads to the sculpture of a young girl’s dress. The Memorial Garden serves as tribute to Anne’s legacy of wisdom and genuine belief in the goodness of mankind and human nature, despite the ugliness of war and discrimination.

The Ceremony concluded with a song from Cantor Hazzan Steven Walvick and a final Benediction by Rabbi Asher Vaisfiche.

File by Lina Weingarten

An ongoing public debate on an amendment to Huntington’s accessory apartment dwelling code, sponsored by Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), continued Tuesday afternoon, July 11, during a meeting of the town board. 

The American Planning Association defines an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, as “a smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone.” As municipalities in New York state and Long Island continue to wrestle over zoning controls, public officials and residents alike are working through the complexities on both sides of the issue.

Residents offered competing perspectives on ADUs, some decrying the perceived threat of elevated density. In contrast, others emphasized the need to offer more affordable housing opportunities.

Bob Sarducci, a Huntington Station resident, condemned the perceived lack of governmental initiative for revitalizing his hamlet, suggesting that the expansion of ADUs into Huntington Station would further deter the area’s growth.

“I’m tired of all the board members claiming they want to revitalize Huntington Station,” he said. “If you truly want to revitalize Huntington Station, [then] no more apartments.”

Eleanor D’Amico suggested additional ADUs would compound existing density pressures throughout the town. She indicated that the ADU proposal would work against the area’s historical character.

“Huntington was built on people coming from the urban, more densely populated areas — people looking for quality of life, individual homes, clean air, fresh water and open spaces,” she said. “Every board we’ve had has succinctly chipped away at all of those things.”

“This ADU proposal should be shot out of the water. It would add such density [that] our quality of life would just be gone,” she added.

But not everyone in attendance opposed the measure. Christina Tabacco, a local realtor, expressed her support for the ADU initiative noting the exorbitant rental rates throughout the town and the new rental opportunities afforded to seniors.

“As a realtor, my experience has been again and again, ‘Please find me an apartment $2,500 or under somewhere in Huntington,’” she said. “Overwhelmingly, there’s just a shortage of apartments and overwhelmingly — as the demographic is aging — there is a need for supplemental income.” She added, “I do believe the lack of clear facts is driving the misinformation and the fear.”

The board will meet again Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m. when conversations surrounding ADUs will likely continue.

A petition to stop potential development of Stanhope Stables, located on the corner of Downs and West Hills Roads in Huntington has garnered outrage from the community, resulting in a petition on change.org that has garnered over 2,100 signatures as of June 6.

When contacted by TBR News Media for a comment Friday, June 2, town spokesperson Christine Geed said that Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) “has not received a copy of the proposed application nor a copy of any petition, therefore he cannot comment.”

Geed said applications are first reviewed by the Planning Board for “merit and completeness,” and then “sent to the Town Board to determine if any action will be taken.” Geed later confirmed that an application from B2K Development was received by the town clerk in late March, and then forwarded to the planning department in early April. The “zoning change request is to go from R80 zoning to R5. Or, more specifically from two-acre zoning to 1/8 of an acre,” Geed said.

David Burman, a principal at B2K said in a statement that “B2K Development will acquire the property subject to entitlements.” They are proposing to build “59 single-family homes on 16 acres, with 20% being under ‘affordable housing’ requirement of the Town of Huntington,” according to the statement.

“Our decision to propose single-family homes at market rates is a reflection, in part, of our desire to mirror the surrounding residential neighborhood, creating a development consistent with efforts to protect the community’s quality of life while offering housing opportunities for a new generation of Long Islanders,” the statement read.

When asked if the developer had acquired other stables in the area, a spokesperson for B2K said they did not have that information.

“B2K Development typically does not comment on unrelated properties or questions relating to business strategy,” the spokesperson said.

Historical concerns

Kat Hankinson, the petition’s organizer, said she is mostly concerned about the changes the proposal will have to the Whitman Historical District.

“It’s like the old Huntington that has been here for hundreds of years, way before all of this commercialization and overdevelopment started happening,” said Hankinson. “So it’s the character of the neighborhood, its historical character, its rural character, that is going to be irrevocably altered.”

According to a 2018 report by the town on historic preservation, the district consists of properties near the intersection of West Hills Road and Chichester Road, and is a local landmark. Town Historian Robert Hughes said in an interview the district is made up of a handful of houses that have a connection to the Whitman family, who have relation to the famed poet, Walt Whitman.

“[The homes] sit on large lots and date back to the 17th and 18th century and create a rustic historic feel as you’re driving down West Hills Road,” he said. West Hills Road and Downs Road are considered historic roadways

Hughes said Stanhope Stables is adjacent to the Whitman Historical District, but the property has a home dating back to 1785 and barns that are also several hundred years old. According to Hughes, the house was built for Samuel Oakley in 1785, and later was inherited by his son, Solomon Oakley. Solomon operated an inn and later used the property for farming. It stayed in the Oakley family until after Soloman died in the 1870s. In 1891, it was purchased by Henry Coe, a wealthy New Yorker who used the property as his summer home. Then it was acquired by a lawyer named Lewis Case Ledyard, around 1950. He used it as a casual “gentleman’s farm” that had horses, cows and chickens. In 1987, it was established as Melody Equestrian Center and later changed ownership to Stanhope Stables.

In order to preserve the structures, the town’s historic preservation commission has been “looking into designating the house and barn at the stables as historic landmarks under town code,” Hughes said.

Increase in traffic

Hankinson said she also worries about the increase in sewage and traffic.

“Right next to the stable, there’s a church and then there’s Walt Whitman High School, and so kids are always walking to school, along the side of the road,” she said. Hankinson has rescue horses herself and already hesitates to ride them in the area, due to traffic, she said.

“I don’t feel safe on the roads because there’s so much traffic coming through and a lot of it is through traffic,” she said. “They’re not people in the neighborhood who would go slowly. They’re people just driving through and throwing garbage out their windows and so there’s another concern that an increase in traffic is going to make it even less safe for pedestrians, students and also people who want to take their horses out.”

Organization efforts

Neighbors have been helping Hankinson organize settings and hand out flyers. They have held meetings and have a Facebook group in opposition to the stables.

Several residents plan to speak at the June 13 town board meeting in opposition to the proposal. Hankinson said she sees an opportunity to create a community space, like a land trust and public park, like Caumsett State Park in Lloyd Harbor.

“The public can go and enjoy and ride horses, and you know, my concern, beyond the overdevelopment ,.. is this possible perception that the equestrian community is somehow … out of touch or not really part of the public, but the stables are businesses that people depend on,” she said, noting local farriers and stable hands, and horse supply stores, like Dover Saddlery, in South Huntington, that depend on the equine community.

Dr. Marvin Glassmann, the first vice president of Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen’s Association, who advocated for horses and their quality of life, said he was also concerned about the changing character of the neighborhood, but that the area’s “whole way of life” could change. Blacksmiths and hay delivery would lose out.

“It would be phenomenally bad,” he said.

According to its website, the stable, around for many years, has 18 acres and 75 stalls. It offers riding lessons, training, leases and sales. It is owned and operated by Nancy Henderson.

“On the weekends you’ll see families pulled over on the side of the road with little children holding them up at the fence to look at the horses,” Debbie Porter, another area resident in opposition to the proposal, said. “So even people traveling through get to experience this little patch of country [will be affected].”

Huntington Town Hall

By Leah Chiappino

As reported by TBR News Media, April 13, the Huntington Town Board will have two open seats in November, with Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and Councilman Eugene Cook (R) deciding not to run for reelection.

The Huntington Republican Committee has nominated two candidates: attorney Theresa Mari, and town director of labor relations, Brooke Lupinacci. 

Democrats have put forward Don McKay, deputy commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and Jen Hebert, program director of Kerber’s Farm School and former Huntington school board president. 

TBR News Media spoke to Mari and Hebert for the April 13 edition, and subsequently had the opportunity to sit down with McKay and Lupinacci to discuss their thoughts on the election, their background and what motivated them to run.

Don McKay

Don McKey

Running on the Democratic ticket, McKay was born and raised in Eaton’s Neck, prior to moving to Dix Hills 24 years ago.

Always interested in current events, he decided to pursue a career in journalism, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications in 1987 from Bethany College in West Virginia.

“I started reading Newsday since I could read,” he said, noting he served on his high school paper as a photographer, further fueling his passion for the industry.

After graduation he worked as an admissions officer for Bethany for a year, before returning to Huntington to launch his journalism career as newspaper reporter for the North Shore News Group in Smithtown, covering the towns of Islip, Brookhaven and Huntington.

“You just learn so much,” he said of his time in journalism. “It’s really one of the best jobs to prepare you for your future.”

Two years later, he was hired as the government reporter for The Saratogian, a daily newspaper in Saratoga Springs, through a college friend who took over as sports editor. After four years there, McKay returned to Long Island to run The Huntington News.

McKay said several local topics he wrote about as a newspaper reporter still remain unresolved.

“It’s affordable housing, it’s taxes, it’s public safety, it’s quality of life, maintaining Huntington’s outstanding quality of life, and it’s protecting the environment, our bays and harbors to preserve and protect our marine environment,” he said. “So a lot of issues back then remain constant today.”

McKay, who worked as a commercial fisherman on the weekends while working as a journalist, said the transition out of the profession came when he was getting married, and a reporter’s salary became unsustainable. Still wanting to serve, he said getting into town government was the perfect fit. He served as a legislative aide to then Huntington Councilman Steve Israel (D), and joined the staff of former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) as the town’s public information officer.

“I’ve always enjoyed public service,” McKay said. “I’ve always enjoyed helping people, resolving issues, resolving community issues, neighborhood issues, helping people get through issues of concern.”

In 2006, he was appointed director of Parks and Recreation for the town, overseeing the expansion of Veterans Park in East Northport, Manor Field Park in Huntington Station, Breezy Park in Huntington Station and an expansion of the Dix Hills Ice Rink. 

In February 2018, McKay was appointed deputy commissioner of the Suffolk parks department where he oversees 50,000 acres of parkland, 14 major active parks and more. If elected, he said he would likely step down from the county due to ethics laws.

High taxes are among McKay’s motivation to run.

“I just think that this current administration and Town Board is not being responsive to the community’s needs,” he said. “I feel that I can bring a new perspective.” 

 Brooke Lupinacci

Brooke Lupinacci

The new Republican candidate said she is a lifelong Huntington resident, whose family has lived in the area for generations.

Originally a journalism major at NYU, she decided to go to law school after being inspired by a media law course she took.

“I had a phenomenal professor,” she said. “I was totally intrigued by the law and I wanted to write about cases and legal proceedings. It was at that time that I decided that maybe I could have a better edge in my journalistic writing, if I went to law school to get a legal background.”

Then, Lupinacci took an oral advocacy course at Touro Law Center, inspiring her to delve fully into the legal profession.

 Her first job out of law school was as a Suffolk County assistant district attorney, working on misdemeanor level offenses, such as graffiti infractions, assault, bias crimes and vehicle traffic violations. She then joined the county’s Domestic Violence Unit, before focusing on white collar crimes, such as embezzlement, fraud, home improvement scams, welfare fraud and money laundering.

“I really did enjoy my time in white-collar crime because it was more than just a one witness-type case, or ‘he said, she said’ type thing, if you will,” she said “ It was a real challenge intellectually, because I got to work with forensic auditors and I had a specialized team of detectives when I was prosecuting prevailing wage cases.”

When Lupinacci had her first son in 2015, she decided to leave the county District Attorney’s Office to become a Huntington Town assistant attorney. Mentors also told her that after a decade as a prosecutor, it would be a good time to step down.

“Being a Huntington resident, I thought it would be great to be working for the town that I grew up in,” she said.

Throughout her time with the town Attorney’s Office, Lupinacci helped prosecute zombie homes, hoarder properties and squatter houses, and served as counsel to the town’s elected officials, departments and staff, her campaign said. She said she enjoyed appearing in District Court and, since she loves to write, drafting legislation.

Lupinacci now serves as town director of labor relations in the Office of Personnel, with responsibilities including negotiating collective bargaining agreements, handling complaints and managing recruitment.

“It’s very fulfilling,” she said. “I find that I’ve so far have been able to, I think, make connections between management and the employees. I’ve also been able to help the department heads in building their departments, and establishing some new titles while working with the Suffolk County department of civil service. And it’s really been great.”

For Lupinacci, public service at an elected level was the next logical step in her career. 

“I think that I’ll build on the great things that have already been started,” she said. “I know the people in Town Hall that make the wheels turn.”

One issue she said motivated her to run, was Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) proposal to build 800,000 new homes over the next decade, which requires municipalities to rezone around train stations. 

“I definitely plan to stand ground on and protect Huntington from overdevelopment and some of the initiatives that Hochul seems to be trying to put upon us,” Lupinacci said. “Local control is important. We here know our counties better than those that are far removed in Albany.”

Huntington Town Councilman Salvatore Ferro presented the employees of John’s Crazy Socks with a proclamation prior to Huntington’s Town Board meeting on March 14. 

Along with Mark and John Cronin, the father-son team that created John’s Crazy Socks, a social enterprise with the mission to spread happiness, John’s Crazy Socks employees Carol Cronin, Jordan Lerner, Masoom Syed, Cara Hayman, Gary Rottkamp, Kenny Majorana, Andrew Neter, Maria Lerner, Stephanie Sheridan, Samantha Salvo, Ronald Torres, Jacob Greene and Maggie Kearney were recognized during National Disability Awareness Month to show the many possibilities of people with differing abilities.      

“It gave me great pleasure to recognize Mark and John Cronin, along with their colleagues from John’s Crazy Socks during National Disability Awareness Month,” said Councilman Ferro in a statement. 

“The many employees at John’s Crazy Socks have demonstrated the great things people with differing abilities can do when given the opportunity. Their philanthropic efforts are abundant and have had a positive impact on society. Some of their philanthropic achievements include creating charity awareness socks, raising more than $550,000 for their charity partners which include the National Down Syndrome Society and the Autism Society of America and donating five percent of all earnings to the Special Olympics. They exemplify the best of society in their mission to spread happiness.”

Indian Hills Country Club. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Neil Mehta

The Hauppauge-based Northwind Group is hoping to break ground by March on developing a 55-and-over townhouse community in Fort Salonga named The Preserve at Indian Hills.

After a 4-3 vote by the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals that allowed for the issue of a special-use permit modification, the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association announced plans to challenge the outcome in court according to FSPOA president John Hayes.

The ZBA Dec. 15 vote permitted the construction of 74 housing units and reconstruction of the clubhouse at Indian Hills Country Club. At the ZBA meeting, members of the FSPOA packed the boardroom with signs reading “Vote No.” Despite members’ objections, the vote ruled in favor of the development.A Dec. 19 letter from FSPOA attorney Karl Huth to the ZBA, posted on the organization’s Facebook page, argued that because the tiebreaking vote was cast by an alternate member of the board, the vote was invalid and requires an additional public hearing.

In a phone interview, Hayes described the decision as an “illegal vote,” adding that the FSPOA “will be filing a lawsuit.” Hayes said that if the ZBA vote is invalid, further approval for the development by the Huntington Planning Board based on the current ZBA vote will also be invalid.

ZBA attorney John Bennett disputed Hayes’ stance in a phone interview. Bennett cited a town code stating that alternate members of the ZBA “shall possess all of the powers and responsibilities” of an unavailable member.

The validity of the vote apart, residents are concerned that the new development will have detrimental environmental and property value consequences.

Hayes said that the northwest portion of the planned development sits on a recognized landslide zone losing several feet of land per year due to erosion. Additionally, the development may worsen water quality in the area.

“The community is vehemently opposed to the current plan,” Hayes said.

Northwind managing member Jim Tsunis highlighted several benefits of the new development in a phone interview. When asked about residents’ worries regarding the development’s environmental impact, Tsunis said his group performed “an environmental impact study that covers all of the concerns” residents have.

The housing development, Tsunis explained, has three major benefits: the preservation of the golf course, the introduction of natural gas to the entire neighborhood and additional tax revenue to the school district.

According to Tsunis, the group has already started sales for the new development, with 19 achieved to date. The suggested starting price for a three-bedroom townhouse in the new community is $1.4 million, according to the Northwind website.

“We’ve sold 50% available for sale already in a very short period of time,” he said.

Tsunis emphasized that all of the existing buyers are from within 10 miles of the new development. “What we’ve done is created a product that’s being bought by residents of the area,” he said. “I believe that’s significant.”

Photo from Town of Huntington

Last week, in a joint statement, the Town of Huntington and the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, announced that the BID would not be able to organize the annual Holiday Spectacular this year. That decision has now been reversed.

According to a Nov. 11 press release from the town and BID, Northwell Health will provide funding to help the event go on as usual. 

“The Town of Huntington’s Annual Holiday Spectacular has garnered a lot of attention this year,” the press release read. “One key issue for this year’s event being reimagined was not only the safety concerns but the costs involved in creating such an event. The crowning glory of the Holiday Spectacular was the magnificent 65-foot multi-media Christmas tree. It must be made clear that the tree is not owned by the BID or the town, but is provided by (along with other decor) each year through Looks Great Services, Inc.”

This year the BID did not have the resources to fully fund the event in order for it to be a safe and successful one, according to the press release. The hope was to reimagine the event, but new plans wouldn’t be completed in time for the 2022 holiday season.

“However, since the plight of the spectacular was made public, we have since heard from our lead sponsor, Northwell Health and they have committed to provide the additional funding needed to ensure that the Spectacular continues for 2022,” the press release read. “Northwell Health’s generosity will enable the BID and the town to continue this highly anticipated event for the third consecutive year at its original location in Huntington Village/Wall Street.  We are grateful to Northwell Health that we can continue the tradition!”

According to the town and BID, organizers will work with local fire officials and first responders to take into account safeguards and precautions.

“We expect that this event will be ever changing based on the needs of the community, our town, and our merchants,” the press release read. “For now, we are happy to return the event so many have found to be the epitome of the holiday season for the Huntington community. We look forward to welcoming you all back to Wall Street for 2022.” 

The parade and celebration is scheduled for Nov. 26.

File photo by Lina Weingarten

The Town of Huntington board repealed an old code, Chapter 155, at its Oct. 19 meeting that limited pregnancy terminations to hospitals.

The law was adopted Dec. 8, 1970, and the regulation required “justifiable abortion acts, as defined in the Penal Law of New York State, shall be performed only in a hospital duly licensed and accredited under the New York State Department of Health and having equipment and facilities acceptable to the State Hospital Review and Planning Council.”

Chapter 155 allowed the town to order a cease and desist to a facility that was not authorized and permitted by the town to perform the procedure. The misdemeanor also carried a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 15 days. However, due to the practice of medicine being within the authority of the NYSDOH, the law was never enforced.

At the Oct. 19 board meeting, Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), who sponsored the measure, said she had the support of her colleagues. 

“This is a violation of New York State law,” she said.

She added similar laws had been struck down in Hempstead [in 1972] as the law is unenforceable due to towns and villages not having police power to regulate police procedures.

“This has been a moot law on the books that is 52 years overdue to be removed because it has no effect at all, no matter what the laws of the land are, this law has no powers,” Cergol said. “It’s a paper tiger.”

The board held a public hearing on the motion. While some speakers gave their opinions as to why the code should remain on the books or not, a few used the opportunity to share their beliefs on abortion.

Among the speakers were representatives from the League of Women Voters who were on hand to support the repeal of the code.

Michael Lobasso asked the council members to remember “the spirit and intent” of the Town Board when the law was established. He said the board in 1970 had the foresight to choose a hospital as the safest place to have an abortion. Lobasso asked the current Town Board to ask themselves what is their intent and if they want to promote abortion procedures in any part of the town, and what precautionary procedures will they request of facilities. He asked the members to reconsider.

A mother carrying her baby was the last to come up to the microphone. She said it was great to repeal the “archaic” law, while it may not have a direct impact now due to state laws but could in the future. She said a few years ago when she had pregnancy complications, she was unable to access care in Huntington. She was told to go to Stony Brook University Hospital or Manhasset, which she said was costly and emotionally difficult. 

The board voted unanimously to repeal the law.

In a statement released after the board meeting, Cergol said, “I am proud to join other local municipalities on Long Island to repeal outdated regulations on where a woman can choose to terminate her pregnancy. The state judiciary and Legislature have made it clear: The Town of Huntington does not have the authority to regulate this issue.”

The Town of Huntington placed clams in Huntington Harbor Sept. 26. On Sept. 27, spat-on shell oysters were deployed into the water. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) greeted members of Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk County’s Marine Program and the town’s Maritime Services department before they headed out on the water this week.

File photo by Kimberly Brown

An expedition leaving Gold Star Battalion Beach dock out into Huntington Harbor Sept. 27 was the first of two projects. Monday, the town and CCE representatives placed seed clams in the water, and Tuesday, the group deployed spat-on-shell oysters.

As groups of spat grow into mature oysters, they create a reef and help to filtrate waterways. Cleaner water leads to species diversity which in turn helps to support the local shellfish industry.

The clams released into the harbor can be harvested and consumed once they are mature.

Garrett Chelius, Huntington deputy director of Maritime Services, said 250,000 clams were being placed, and about 7,000 oysters this week.

“The oysters are more for habitat,” he said. “They get deployed to make kind of an artificial reef to create food sources and hiding spaces for other animals and other fish, and they filter 50 gallons of water a day for each oyster.” 

The oysters, he said, are placed strategically using GPS coordinates from CCE. The clams can be spread out. It takes approximately three years for the clams, which have already reached one year, to be mature enough to be harvested. 

Smyth added the shellfish currently are about the size of a nickel. The supervisor said working with CCE in their efforts to clean Huntington waters with natural resources has been a successful partnership and the initiative is an easy one.

“As far as growing them, it’s very low maintenance,” he said. Volunteers “put them into the racks that are underneath the docks, and they’re protected.”

The program runs at Gold Star Battalion Beach, Asharoken Beach and Crescent Beach at Huntington Bay where volunteers help to care for the shellfish. The town hopes to expand the program next year.

Councilmen Sal Ferro and Dave Bennardo. Photo from candidates

Nearly eight months into their first terms as Huntington Town Board councilmen, David Bennardo (R) and Sal Ferro (R) said they have been learning a great deal about their community and have been satisfied with recent progress on town projects.

Town of Huntington Councilman Sal Ferro speaking at a Boating Safety press conference ahead of the 2022 boating season. Photo from Ferro’s office

“I really feel like we’re getting a lot of positive work done,” Ferro said. “I want to be able to serve the community, and I’m very happy with what we’re doing so far.”

When Ferro and Bennardo ran for office in November 2021, they promised to work toward creating a more nonpartisan Town Board. It’s a feat they feel has been accomplished.

Ferro said he believes while everyone may not always agree on issues, it’s important to respect “other people’s opinions and positions.”

“I think Dave and I bring that to the table in that we have tremendous respect for different opinions, and we want to have open-door policies,” he said. “Our ears have to be open to listen and work together, because we’re not going to get anything done if we’re not working together.”

Bennardo agreed and said, “We’re elected to serve the people and there’s no Republican or Democratic way to clean up snow.”

Bennardo added that sometimes there could be 10% of people on each of the extreme political sides that seem to control the argument.

“The 80% in the middle will just want the government to do something,” he said. “They’re kind of held hostage by the 10 and the 10, and so we heard that on every door we knocked on, ‘Just break the gridlock.’ So, what we’ve been able to do, really with nothing other than just listening and being open minded, was kind of create a centrist core that starts to get that we serve the people not the party, and both sides are starting to see that.”

Bennardo also credits Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) with being the “most able administrative leader he’s ever worked with” and moving Huntington in a positive direction.

Councilman Dave Bennardo and Councilwoman Joan Cergol at an Earth Day event at Manor Farm Park on April 23. Photo by Media Origin

Bennardo said customer service seemed to be waning in the town. When responding to issues, taking the approach of seeing residents as clients has improved town services.

Both councilmen said they believe a lot of headway has been made in the Highway Department with new superintendent Andre Sorrentino (R).

“I think our highway superintendent has been fixing more roads in seven months than we have ever done in the past,” Ferro said. “It’s just a matter of sufficient management and help and support from the council level.”

Ferro added that some infrastructure projects would take time due to the extent of the jobs, but there have been discussions about making  such projects a priority.

He said he has been impressed with the town employees, describing them as “incredibly talented people with good work ethics that really care about what they’re doing.”

Ferro, CEO and former president of Alure Home Improvements, has been using his business skills and working closely with the building department and IT personnel. They have been moving forward with implementing state-of-the-art software to convert the permit process to online and to streamline the process.

“I believe six months from now you’re going to see a whole different experience when it comes to filing a permit,” he said, adding the revised process will be revolutionary for the building department and town.

It’s a project that the town has been working on for years, and Ferro said he’s happy that he and town personnel have been able to move it forward.

Bennardo, formerly Harborfields High School principal and South Huntington superintendent, said the Town Board has been working on bringing business back to Huntington. The town had developed a reputation of being unfriendly with business, according to Bennardo, and he said that the new permit process will be more business friendly.

In addition to working on making Huntington more inviting to businesses, the two said the board is moving forward with a sewer plan and, as always, is looking at affordable housing in the area.

“We need to create an environment that’s good for business, that’s better for housing, where development starts being able to bring people to our community,” Bennardo said.

He added another issue residents have brought up and that needs to be addressed is homelessness in the area and helping those who have found themselves in the situation.