By Rosey Mulderrig, on September 7th, 2010
Tuesday’s Town Board meeting started out with a bang. This was the last meeting before September 21st when Board will vote on whether to downzone 29 acres in Huntington Station for Transit Oriented Development (TOD). If TOD zoning is approved, AvalonBay will have cleared all zoning hurdles and move a step closer to beginning construction of a 490-unit high-density housing development in Huntington Station. If approved as written, high density TOD zoning is also approved for any developer that can assemble a 10-acre parcel of land within half a mile of Huntington Train Station. A group of TOD supporters held a rally in the front of Town Hall while opponents in a car with a bullhorn circled, loudly proclaiming all that they say is wrong with TOD. Among the Supporters who call themselves YIMBY’s (Yes in My Back Yard) were Dee Thompson, President of the NAACP’s Huntington Branch, Richard Koubek, President of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition and Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. Ironically, Thompson, Koubek and Tyson do not actually live in Huntington Station, the neighborhood that will have AvalonBay’s development in its backyard if TOD zoning is approved.
The Town Hall meeting was unusually crowded for a 2pm session. It was standing room only with most of the attendees showing up out to support their position on whether or not AvalonBay and TOD is good for Huntington. Resident Chris O’Donnell is so firmly against the development that he says he recently listed his house and will follow through on selling it and moving his child to a new district if TOD is approved.
Lisa Tyson says that Huntington does not need any more single family housing but must move forward with multi-family units to keep up with the times. She says that Long Island needs this TOD and implored the Town Board to approve TOD. She told them that this smart growth development will be their legacy.
Huntington Station residents Emma and Rick Riccardo went door to door with a petition against TOD zoning and found that 99 percent of the roughly 100 neighbors they visited are against the proposed development. Emma says that the schools cannot possibly handle any more students when some are already learning in closets. She has worked in the hospital and says that adding roughly 1,000 more people will stress an already overworked and overwhelmed staff. She also feels that trying to get an ambulance down Park Avenue with the additional cars that TOD will contribute is “an accident waiting to happen.“ She concluded saying “beehives are busy, good and useful but when you disturb them, well, see what you get.”
Huntington Station resident Dan Fucci says that although AvalonBay is powerful and has lots of money behind them, he feels that he and those who oppose the development have “the eye of the tiger and they intend to go the distance and win.” Fucci appealed to the Town Board to stand with the Huntington residents who live the American Way rather than aligning themselves with outside forces.
Alissa Taff commended the Town Board for moving ahead with their consideration of TOD despite threats of litigation it has aroused. Ken Christiansen, founder and director of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition says that it is important to look at the economics of the whole thing. He stated that the development would put spendable dollars on the street, which in turn will bring investors into the area.
Richard Koubek says that AvalonBay will bring $100 million in much needed funds to an economically challenged community. “When completed, AvalonBay will bring 360 families who could earn $120,00 a year with very few school children. With 122 units of affordable workforce housing for families who could earn between $45,000 and $120,000 a year, most of it rental housing, AvalonBay will help stem the flight of young workers and senior citizens who can’t afford“ to live in Huntington.
Huntington Station resident Zoe Taylor is a strong supporter of the development. Her sons have moved away to lead successful careers and lives in another state. If housing were more affordable, it is possible that they would have remained and made solid contributions to Huntington, she opined
As the debate continued, both sides represented themselves very passionately, albeit the Say No to AvalonBay folks were a bit more boisterous. Councilman Mark Mayoka expressed his concern that the Town needs to focus on ridding the area of escalating crime before it adds high-density housing. He put forth a resolution to place a one-year moratorium on the vote for TOD zoning while the town focuses on fixing the area and investigating the impact the Avalon project will have on Huntington. Mayoka’s resolution was not seconded. Supervisor Petrone reiterated that he is committed to the down zoning vote taking place on September 21st and that is when it will happen.