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And the Beat Goes On: 7-Eleven in Centerport?

The age-old adage says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But the owner of the former service station at the intersection of Route 25A and Little Neck Road, along with his potential 7-Eleven tenant, have created a more modern version. It goes something like . . . . . . .

If at first you don’t succeed; flaunt the law and throw attorneys at the problem!”

The controversial site has been the subject of ongoing Town of Huntington (TOH) litigation and neighborhood agitation, since 2011. Town records show that the property is owned by Harborfields Realty LLC but New York State corporation records are sketchy about who controls the company. It only lists Huntington lawyers Pezold, Smith, Hirschmann and Selvaggio, LLC as the firm’s designated attorneys. However, Huntington ZBA regulations require that a disclosure statement must be filed by a property owner when an Application is submitted and, if a corporation, by the principals of that entity. Examination of the relevant ZBA Application shows the signature of Brian Rathgeber and lists him as a “Member” of Harborfields Realty, LLC. The Amato Law Firm (Garden City) is representing Mr. Rathgeber in the proceedings.

August 9, 2015

August 9, 2015

VT staffers visited the controversial site on August 9 and documented neighborhood complaints that the property is being used to sell used cars. Although a permitted use of the property under its C-6 zoning, Town sources say that a permit must be obtained before the used car activity can commence.

August 9, 2015

August 9, 2015

August 22, 2015

August 22, 2015

TOH sources tell us that they conducted a telephone interview with Mr. Rathgeber during the week of August 10, resulting in Mr. Rathgeber’s agreement to submit the necessary paperwork immediately. He also agreed to remove the 29 cars and 1 truck shown in our August 9 photos pending approval of his application. He asked for a “few days” to get the vehicles relocated. However, as of August 24 no permit had been requested and a court summons was issued by Code Compliance officers.

August 23, 2015

August 23, 2015

 

The VT team revisited the site on August 22 and 23. Our photos documented that 26 automobiles and 1 truck remained on the property. Interestingly, however, the makes, models and placement of the August 23 collection is different from the assortment displayed on August 9. Site surveillance also indicated what appeared to be vehicles being moved about on the lot by three adult males at 10:01PM on the evening of August 23.

The property’s location at 25A and Little Neck Road is likely to present significant incident response problems for Centerport Fire Department. It is less than 100 yards from their headquarters. Responding emergency vehicles must use both roadways for quick access to their service area.

Property owners on 25A say that the thoroughfare is a narrow, two lane, winding roadway choked with traffic during commuter-hours. They also comment that eastbound travelers are prohibited from turning north onto Little Neck Road by a large “No Left Turn” sign at the intersection. Since the entrance to the proposed 7-Eleven is only 20 feet beyond Little Neck Road, the turning restrictions would logically apply there as well. In spite of the restrictions, many eastbound drivers fail to observe the left turn limitations and veer hazardously toward oncoming traffic. According to sources, Suffolk County records indicate that 17 accidents were reported at the site between 2010 and 2013. Locals feel that the figure is sure to increase if the proposed plan is allowed to proceed.

Similarly, residents on Little Neck and Prospect Roads report that their streets frequently get jammed with beach-goers, Vanderbilt Museum visitors and parishioners on their way to Mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church. It is not uncommon to see southbound traffic backed-up on Prospect Road from Mill Dam to Little Neck Roads after Mass.

But perhaps the biggest complaint about the proposal comes from The Centerport Civic Association whose 100+ members point out how the convenience store would destroy the charming character of their hamlet. Gloria Wertheimer, president of the group, says that 7-Eleven would be a garish intrusion on a neighborhood that is defined by historically certified sites and early 20thcentury homes. She notes that Rathgeber’s 25A location is directly opposite the Suydam House, the 18th century residence of one of Huntington’s original settlers. Rustic and pristine, Suydam is listed on The National Registry of Historic Places and is a protected Suffolk County park.

Suydam House

Suydam House

In addition to Suydam, the area boasts the Velzer House and its recently restored Van Alst Caretaker’s Cottage. Both are just 500’ east of the proposed 7-Eleven. Other nearby sites include the Arthur Dove – Helen Torr Cottage which is on Mill Dam Road; a former church that now houses Fair Oaks offices on Park Circle, the John Harned House at 26 Little Neck Road; the Vanderbilt Museum and the Charles Van Iderstein Mansion. Seven of these are listed on various historic registries.

Velzer-Van Alst Caretaker's Cottage

Velzer-Van Alst Caretaker’s Cottage

Arthur Dove - Helen Torr

Arthur Dove – Helen Torr Cottage

7-Eleven has 12 locations that are less than ten miles from the contended site and 19 stores in the Town of Huntington. Two of them– in Commack and Elwood–are currently “available” according to the company’s website. Town law requires a minimum of 25000 square feet for these establishments. With slightly more than 21000, Rathgeber’s appeal seeks a variance .

ZBA representatives say that the next hearing is tentatively slated for some time in November.

 

 

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2 comments to And the Beat Goes On: 7-Eleven in Centerport?

  • jenice sesti

    This article is the most slanted piece of news that I’ve seen written in quite some time. Mr. Thompson, you make it sound like Mr. Rathgaber is trying to hide his identity as owner of the property in question, when most anyone that’s lived in Centerport for the past 50 years knows that the Rathgaber’s have operated and owned the property at 1 Fort Salonga Road since the 60’s when his father ran the business. His customers have become friends during that time because of the kind of guy he is…friendly, honest and caring. The way his LLC was filed is TYPICAL of how LLC’s are filed and did nothing to hide the fact that Mr. Rathgaber owned the property.
    Let’s start from the beginning. Mr. Rathgaber came into the family business in the mid 70’s after graduating from college. It operated as a full service gas station with an average of 40 cars an hour coming in for gas and repairs. Sometime later, after he purchased the property from Shell Company they stopped selling gas and continued to repair cars. Nearing retirement age, he decided to look at different options regarding the property. Many of us who work in the corporate world have pensions and retirement funds – Mr. Rathgaber had his property where he hoped to turn it into income producing revenue. Along comes 7-Eleven and offers to lease the property. They apply for building permits on the perfectly LEGAL and CONFORMING piece of land. A Town Board member gets wind of it and pursues a zoning change, upping the requirements for lot size for convenience stores. If that were your property you’d be screaming collusion! I’ve been to each and every meeting at Town Hall regarding the application to build a 7-Eleven and in every meeting the people in favor of the variance outnumber the naysayers 4-1. Those are the facts…all the rest is nonsense.

  • jenice sesti

    Can you tell me why someone’s recent post to this article was deleted? They sent me a copy of the letter they wrote and it was on the site for a short time but it was taken down? If this is supposed to be a forum for the community to voice their opinions and if there was nothing obscene or unlawful in the post why did you remove it? Mr. Thompson, I believe that you’re using the Village Tattler to promote your own opinion and agenda. Let’s start playing fair now, eh!

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