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Hutington POV: No Room at the Inn?

Recent opposition to the housing project known as “Avalon Bay Huntington Station” has many residents asking, “how did we get here, and where do we go now?”

Illegal apartments, gang violence, shootings, and, ultimately, the closing of a neighborhood school because some perceived it as “unsafe” for children to attend created the “perfect storm”.

Now we need the assistance of the Guardian Angels to patrol our streets.

Why?

Our schools were crowded before the closing of Jack Abrams Intermediate; now our other existing 4 primary schools have 100 more students in each than before. In some cases, 30 or more in a classroom. After a proposal to spend $2 million on hand for upgrades at Woodhull failed this summer, the Long Term Planning Committee recommendations have been put on hold.

Huntington Station has had many “revitalization” plans in the last 40 years, and Avalon Bay is just another example of misguided attempts by our elected officials to add more residents without addressing the root problems of how we got into this mess in the first place. It was nothing more than an illegal “spot downzone” under the guise of a “Transit Oriented District”.

Unlike other areas of the Town, Huntington Station is mostly “built out”. The notable exception to this is the Bonavita property on East 5th Street that would have been the new home of Avalon Bay. How do I know this? Look around. Homes that have been torn down are being replaced with larger homes, or one home is torn down and 2 replace it. Sixteen units will replace 4 houses recently taken down by the Town on Columbia Street.

Why?

I would like to use the analogy of a popular hotel. I use the term “popular”, because so many people want to be “guests”.

Let’s say this “hotel” has 100 rooms, and 100 parking spots, one for each “guest”.

The “management” of the “hotel” decide they want to have more than 100 people use it, because it is such a popular place. They have no room to expand, so they come up with a great idea. They ask 25 “guests” if they can split their rooms in half to bring in more “guests”. They get a discount for doing this, so they all agree. Except, now there are 125 people where there was only room for 100. And to make it more interesting, another 25 “guests” decide to split their rooms in half too, except they don’t tell the “hotel”.

Now there are 150 “guests” in the same “hotel” built for 100. There is not enough  parking, and not enough seats in the restaurant to eat, because it was not built for that many “guests”.

100 “guests” like this new arrangement, but 50 original “guests” do not. And those 50 are not benefiting like the other 100 are.

There is no more room at the “inn”, but that did not stop the “innkeepers” from expanding.

Now, lets look at Huntington Station, and how it has increased in population without additional land or housing stock.

According to the latest LIPA estimates, Huntington increased in population from 191,474 in the census of 1990 to 203,977 last year. Huntington Station increased from 28,247 to 31,012 without any new major construction other than 100 units at Highview. 2765 new residents, and no new housing. With the exception of Melville, which increased from 13,581 to 19,540 during that period, virtually all other areas of the Town’s population remained flat during that same 20 year period. Keep in mind, however, that Melville has seen a huge increase in housing stock, including Avalon Melville, The Greens, Country Pointe, the Highlands, and Millenium Hills during that period. Half Hollow Hills Schools had to reopen a school.

When you increase the population without increasing the road, educational or health infrastructure, you stress the entire system. Surprisingly, the one item that WAS upgraded in Huntington was the sewage treatment plant, and just recently.

Why?

Accessory apartments, legal or otherwise, have proliferated, especially after the “accessory apartment law” passed in 1992. Many existing single family homes in Huntington Station, and elsewhere in the Town, most not connected to sewers, have been subdivided, without being classified as “2 family”. The tax base does not change, but the Town benefits from the fees charged. And although they are supposed to be “owner occupied”, many are not.

Meanwhile, the school district educates more children, but does not receive more in property taxes. And all the while more illegal apartments proliferate, without code enforcement scrutiny.

Now the Town is mulling 50 foot frontage for accessory apartment permits instead of 75 feet. Where are most of these dwellings? In Huntington Station, of course.

Even passing a law that accessory apartment listings must include the permit number does not stop a Craigs list ad with a cell phone number, as recently pointed out on this website.

Why is this issue primarily in Huntington Station? More importantly, why were the same people so in favor of Avalon Bay also the same individuals who SO opposed Councilmanic districts last year? I do not consider this a coincidence. They did not want local control in Huntington Station, as that would prevent the type of housing THEY want to see in Huntington Station, and not elsewhere in the Town of Huntington.

Why?

If Avalon Bay taught the residents of Huntington Station, and all the residents of Huntington School District 3 anything, it is that what happens in Huntington Station affects more than just Huntington Station. We are all in this together. As Benjamin Franklin said after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, “We either all hang together, or we will surely hang separately”.

Before Avalon tried to build in Huntington Station, they attempted a project in the village of Garden City. An abandoned school, St. Paul’s, was purchased by the village, with the original concept of turning it into village office space. When they determined the rehabilitation costs were too high, they mothballed it. Avalon pitched the idea of turning it a senior residence, saving the façade, and adding a 4 story addition to the back. Knowing this was a controversial idea for a historic structure, the village put it up for a referendum to the voters. They voted it down.

The housing policies in Huntington Station have been shaped, not by the residents who live here and pay taxes, but by 5 elected officials, none of whom live there. Forty years of failed housing policy have not yet “fixed” the problems brought on by urban renewal. And yet we still have no “downtown”.

They apparently have not yet realized that there is “no more room at the inn”.

Matt Harris s a contributor to the Village Tattler’s Huntington POV. The VT welcomes perspectives from all area residents. Huntington POV does not reflect the views of the Village Tattler, rather the individuals who submitted them. Click here for more about the rules and process for submitting an article or other media for publication.

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