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West Hills

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].”

Stock photo

The Suffolk County Police Department received a 911 call at approximately 7:20 a.m. June 22 regarding an adult man hanging in the woods in Peter A. Nelson Park on Oakwood Road in West Hills.

According to SCPD, the death is being preliminarily classified as a non-criminal suicide based on evidence at the scene and at the male’s residence which includes a letter to his family with his reasons for his actions.

An autopsy will be performed by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, and the family has requested that their identity, as well as the identity of the deceased, be withheld to protect their privacy.

“As a matter of policy, the Suffolk County Police Department does not normally comment on non-criminal death investigations,” a statement read. “The department investigates approximately 100 suicides annually. However, we are aware of unfortunate rumors circulating on social media and throughout the community regarding this investigation, and believe that it is in the public’s interest to issue this statement to allay any fears and quell rumors with facts.”

News of the man found hanging in Huntington spread through social media. There has been a rash of black men found hanging from trees in multiple states including California, Georgia, Oregon, Texas and New York just within the past few weeks. Police and other authorities have named all of those cases suicides, but members of the Black community have largely been skeptical, noting the long history of lynchings in America.

This post will be updated if more information becomes available.