Something’s being “Taken” but its not the “Blocks Back”
“This is what Take Back the Blocks is all about – replacing substandard living units with decent housing, and replacing absentee landlords with residents who have the pride of ownership. When completed, this project will go a long way toward stabilizing this neighborhood,” said Supervisor Frank Petrone, who created the program with his Town Board colleagues.
The statement above from Supervisor Petrone is referring to a property on Columbia Street & Lowndes, in Huntington Station. Although the town board continues to boast that the Take Back the Blocks program is the answer to revitalization for Huntington Station, this was only the third property purchased in 6 years under the Take Back the Blocks program. Maybe it is a good thing that there has been little progress because this program is costing the tax payers a fortune with very little return for the investment. The entire story surrounding this project is illogical and suspect. The property was purchased in 2010 from Don Pius, for $778,000. The entire project is being funded with public money from Suffolk County, Town funds and various grants. In addition to the $778,000, the tax payers were charged $100,000 for infrastructure improvements. The proposed 8 homes with accessory apartments are going to be built with tax dollars. We are not sure of the exact amount that the constructions will cost, frankly, we are not even sure if the 16 units of housing will ever be built. The money to build the housing is supposed to be coming from a $1.56 million grant from NY State. If we take a guess that the construction will cost about $200,000 per unit, the total construction costs will be $1,600,000. This brings us to:
$1,560,000 – Low estimate of construction costs
$778,000 – To Don Pius for the privilege of knocking down his decrepit houses
$100,000 – for infrastructure improvements (we are not sure if this included the cost of removing the debris so the amt could be higher and it doesn’t include the cost for maintaining the land)
$2,438,000.00 – Cost for the project.
When the property was purchased, it was removed from the tax rolls. It is yet another property that has been removed from the tax rolls of the Huntington School District. It will not be put back on the tax rolls until the units are built and sold.
To be fair, if all 8 units sell, the owners would be paying for the property. This would reduce the cost to the taxpayer to somewhere in the ball park of $1,000,000.
Here is where the story gets even more disturbing:
There are currently 8 other houses for sale on Columbia Street alone. If you include Lowndes, Tower, Academy, and other nearby blocks, the number of houses for sale, go up significantly. In a housing market that is very slow, in a neighborhood whose reputation has been tarnished by the closing of a school, our Town Board is going to add 16 more units of housing stock to a neighborhood that is already saturated with homes for sale.
House Next Door To The Proposed Housing
In addition to the homes for sale there are many other homes with blatant code violations which continue to be ignored on the” Take Back The Blocks” block of Columbia Street. So, how was paying Don Pius well above market price for his houses, considered something to be proud of? The average asking price of the homes that are currently for sale on Columbia street is around $172,000. This is for houses that are in livable condition. Three houses would cost on average $516,000. So what do you suppose Mr. Pius could have gotten for the sale of his homes at market rate considering they needed to be knocked down? Our town Board paid him $776,000.
Now lets talk about a real Take Back the Blocks program. If you look at the 8 homes currently for sale on Columbia Street, we could have offered a 20% down payment assistance program on all 8 of them and still had quite a bit of money left over to help more buyers realize the dream of home ownership. In turn we would all win because we would have really taken back our blocks. For the money we gave Don Pius and the additional cost associated with the project, we estimate about 30 families could have been given a down payment of 20% for a home somewhere in the Jack Abrams School community. If we look at the larger number of $2,438,000, we could have helped about 70 families with 20% down payment assistance. That alone would have changed the entire direction of the community. If you think about the lost opportunity, it really is sad.
The average home price for homes that are currently for sale on Columbia Street is $172,000. Our Town Board has decided to build “desperately needed affordable housing” for $200,000 per home.
“Now that we have acquired the remaining parcels, we can begin the development of these 16 much needed affordable houses,” said Councilwoman Susan A. Berland. “Most importantly, these units are going to be created for home-owners who will have a stake in their community. The ‘Take Back the Blocks’ program is such an important program for Huntington Station and goes a long way to provide an opportunity for community rehabilitation.” (April, 2010)
Current State of the Proposed Housing
“This is the beginning of desperately needed new housing on Columbia Street.,” Councilwoman Glenda Jackson said. “Additionally, each of the eight “Take Back the Blocks” homes will include a legal accessory one bedroom apartment to assist owners with carrying costs for a mortgage. Eight first time homeowners will realize the American Dream of home ownership, and this program will be an important first step towards revitalization of the Columbia Street neighborhood. It also provides new apartments for those not ready for home ownership, and will assist our local economy.”
This is the list of homes that are currently for sale on Columbia Street: We have provided a map below to illustrate the close proximity of these homes to the Town owned parcel.
15 Columbia – $169,000, taxes $6,791
42 Columbia – $149,999 taxes $4,178.96
43 Columbia – $185,000 taxes $3,867
82 Columbia Street – $109,000 $4,451.63
112 Columbia St $84,000 taxes $3,056
118 Columbia – $239,000 taxes 5034.16
126 Columbia – $219,000 taxes $4160.35
135 Columbia – $219,000 taxes $3286.55
Click on the yellow building outlines to see the asking price and the yearly taxes.