By Sara-Megan Walsh
Four candidates for the Huntington town board are deeply divided on what steps are needed to ensure a brighter future for residents.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) is seeking re-election to his sixth term on town council with political newcomer Huntington resident Emily Rogan (D). She is a freelance writer who has served as a trustee for Huntington school board for 12 years, four of which as the board’s president. Rogan seeks to take over the seat of Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), who chose to run for Huntington supervisor rather than seek re-election to town council.
They will face off against Republican candidate Jim Leonick, of East Northport, an attorney with his own practice who has previously worked as a state tax grievance arbiter. He is running with Lloyd Harbor resident Ed Smyth, also an attorney who has served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and previously on the Village of Lloyd Harbor’s board of zoning appeals.
While the candidates all profess a love for Huntington, they disagreed on what shape or form its future development should take.
Cuthbertson said one of his main goals is creating more housing for senior citizens and millennials to enable them to stay in town. Rogan agreed to the need for a walkable community that incorporates mixed-use retail and apartment spaces in the town, citing downtown Huntington Station and Melville’s Route 110 as prime locations.
“The entire town benefits when all of our town is thriving and feels uplifted,” Rogan said. “People want to see Huntington Station become as desirable a place to be as downtown Huntington village, downtown Northport Village or Cold Spring Harbor.”
Leonick and Smyth both said they feel these developments aren’t considered desirable by residents, saying current town board simply isn’t listening. The Republican
candidates said rather than high-density apartments, they would make it easier for seniors to put accessory apartments in their homes for additional income.
“Density is part of a plan that will allow us to sustain our local economy,” Cuthbertson responded in a recent debate at TBR News Media offices in Setauket. “We’ve already liberalized the rules of apartments to put apartments over stores in our downtown areas. In Huntington village, it’s been very successful.”
Rather than more housing, Smyth and Leonick said their focus would be outreach to bring large businesses to Melville’s Route 110 business corridor to increase jobs.
“The best path to affordable housing is a bigger paycheck,” Smyth said.
Leonick took it one step further calling for re-evaluation of the town’s comprehensive master plan Horizons 2020.
“The biggest thing we need to do is put the brakes on future development projects until we get a handle on what we need to be doing,” Leonick said.
Both Republican candidates said that if elected, they would focus on improving the status of the town’s roadways and traffic issues. Smyth called the town’s roads “deplorable,” citing Prime Avenue as an example, after utility companies have cut them up to lay wires and infrastructure, calling for changes to town code. Leonick heavily criticized town officials for a lack of parking in Huntington village.
“It takes a half hour of driving around to get a spot,” he said. “You can’t continue to develop in the village without solving that problem. We should have had a parking garage a while ago.”
Cuthbertson said the town’s work on a parking garage began two years ago, with a failed attempt at a public-private partnership, but is now moving forward. He pointed to the lack of empty stores downtown as a sign of success.
Rogan agreed that the town’s roadways need change, not more paving, but rather to become more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly. She wants to focus on a public campaign and signage to improve driver awareness.