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So Long, Island

On September 21st at 5 PM, the Town of Huntington will hold a public hearing to vote on whether or not to rezone a long vacant part of their town near the railroad station, to allow the construction of 490 housing units proposed by the large national builder, Avalon Bay. Currently the site is zoned as-of-right for 109 single family homes. The proposal is to create a Transit-Oriented District, or TOD for this particular 26 acre site.

While no project is perfect, this one comes about as close as you can to hitting all the marks. The project’s sponsor, Avalon Bay, is a large national builder with a solid reputation for building high quality communities, and the wherewith-all to back up their promises financially. They have been working with the various civics for over two years on an investment of over $100 million in an area that sorely needs revitalization. An organized, but relatively small group of local residents have recently convinced the School Board to withdraw their previously granted support for the project. And now the town board is backing down.

As of today, it looks like the proposal is going to be defeated; a true loss for all the parties involved. Considering how far it’s come, if this project can’t get approved, then any hope that Long Island will be able to solve it’s death spiral of high tax/low affordability/brain drain, will take another huge step backwards. It’s impossible for me to imagine that the local elected officials have been unable to figure out how to navigate a path for the private sector to make this kind of investment in an area that so sorely needs it.

I have no dog in this fight other than the fact that I’m an active homebuilder, and a lifetime resident of Long Island. And I have no doubt that both sides are sincere in their view. But once again, I’m frustrated by another example of a how far away we are from having a process in place that can solve Long Island’s problems. We are a very fractured group of towns and villages, and the result is we’re drowning in our collective self-interests. The Huntington Town Board, School Board and elected officials have a rare opportunity here to lead by example, to get everyone on the same page, to make the tough decisions and the hard calls. That’s going to be a daunting task given what I’ve heard and read. But if they can pull this project back from the brink, that would really be something I’d stand up and applaud.

Facebook – Say NO to Avalon Huntington Station
Facebook – Say YES to Avalon Huntington Station
Facebook – Town of Huntington Voters Block

Comments

4 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. the other issue with long island is the NIMBY – this could happen in other places but Huntington has a rep (and people with wealth that dont want to see this happen) if its zone for 109 they’ll say ok to 200 but from 109 to 400 they’ll look at these homes for section 8.

    Not new families like myself who cant even imagine moving back to long island with the housing costs being the point they’re currently at… add taxes to that?! and you know what how do you live there?

  2. Jeff Senholzi,

    Hey Steve,

    I grew up in Huntington and my wife in Commack. My parents weren’t wealthy but my dad was a shrewd investor in NY real estate back in the day before LI was over developed. My mom still lives there in the same house I grew up in and it is still a nice area. We lived comfortably but it was pleasant growing up and life was simple. I used to love sailing my boat throughtout the north shore and the LI Sound as a kid. I rode my bike everywhere. I knew every bar intimately when my friend played in a band. My dad and I were avid fisherman and fished all thru Nassau and Suffolk. I loved downtown Huntington and spent many a time at the Shore Theatre on dates with my wife. It was a cool place to grow up. I went to HFHS (now St. Anthony’s). I got my Architecture degree and NY Tech in the 80’s. I also rented on Spring Street when I first got married and I commuted to Great Neck and NYC when I worked in construction in NY. My first house was in Port Jeff and I moved to the Pocono’s in the ’90s because it was more affordable. I could swing two mortgages while I tried to sell my first house during the last recession when it was difficult. Real estate got too pricey back then.

    Two of my close friends live in fairly close proximity of the tract of land you are referring to. You are right that the local Govt. and school district are short sighted snobs that are full of their own virtue. I would love to see that tract be developed. It is long overdue and so is affordable housing in the Township of Huntington.
    I was amazed to see all the affordable housing built across from the Huntington train station on what used to be a big parking lot ! Too bad it is still not afffordable there.

    The township is still probably reeling from their corrupt ways when malls burned down due to improper sprinkler inspections and the liability that came with it !!
    Thanks for making me remember my youth there!

  3. Steve Leigh,

    So Jeff, here’s the update: I was at the hearing, and the proposal was defeated as expected. I’m not sure I would characterize the Town as snobs. There are some people on the board who have no business being there though. I think the concept of urban planning is lost on them, at least it seemed so to me by some of the comments made. As for the opposition, I guess in the end it’s their town and they can do what they want, but I don’t see how you turn down an investment of $100 million from a credible investor. Anyone who has any concept as to what that can do for you knows you take the money. It may not be on their terms, or on your terms, but you take the money. For now, I’m afraid, the drain will continue and Huntington may one day look like Detroit.

    • Jeff Senholzi,

      Have you seen NY Avenue or Depot Rd. lately ? A lot has changed there since my youth.
      You are right about my comment though. They are not all snobs but definitely poorly qualified and uninformed. Taxes are high enough in Huntington especially for those seniors like my mom with limited funds and she has my dads veterans credits and still pays high taxes.

      I have a similar situation here in the Poconos. My township supervisors are on a power trip and one of them recently voted with his cohort to change the zoning we worked very hard on for a year with 50 others on to allow a strip club to come to our main street so he could sell his bar and have it converted to a fully nude club by a strip club owner in Union , NJ. It was a clear conflict of interest. Will be interesting to see how these 2 fare at the next local election. So far over 3,000 signatures have been collected against it and our residents are sick of the power trip and recent tax increases. I’d rather have a Wal Mart and I can’t stand Wal Mart.

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