Civic Groups Explore Village Incorporations

Filed under: Around Town,News |

Earlier this month, several civic group leaders came together to discuss the possibility of joining forces.   The individuals represented various areas throughout the town including Elwood, Huntington, Huntington Station and Melville.  There was a representative from the GHCG.  The Greater Huntington Civic Group is open to  all residents in the township. The leaders came together  to join their efforts and share ideas.  With growing frustrations and concerns from residents on a variety of town issues and an important election in November, the group decided it was time to collaborate.

As things stand now, communities and home owners are very vulnerable to the whims of Frank Petrone and the other members of the town board.  These residents feel that the town is disregarding the needs of their communities in favor of builders, developers, attorneys and other special interest groups.  They believe that decisions made by this current town board benefit outsiders at the expense of local residents in the town of Huntington.  This group believes if they bring awareness to the eligible voters of Huntington, the turn out in November will be greater and the results will be different than in previous years.

As one of the civic leaders put it, “If there is enough money involved, the town board will change the law.”  He was referring to downzoning.

In the past, the bad deals for the residents were primarily concentrated in certain areas like Huntington Station, East Northport and Melville.  Civic group leaders and community activists have been warning residents that if the politicians are willing to make deals that harm one neighborhood, they are capable of harming other parts of the town. Since the warnings seem to be coming to fruition, these civic group leaders feel it is more important than ever to let the public know what has been going on.  They are very concerned about the future of the town and what has been described as the urbanization of Huntington. They are at their wits end with the in your face ethics violations and the brazen attitude of Petrone and company.

One of the civic group leaders stated, “I don’t work 12 hours a day so I can live in a crowded area”. These civic leaders believe that the majority of residents chose to live in this town for the quality life and open space.  “It is being subdivided, down zoned and sold to the highest bidder before our eyes,” stated another. They believe that the majority of residents do not want to see high density housing in their neighborhoods.

After an initial meeting, they came up with a few ideas.  First, there needs to be a campaign for awareness so the local residents understand the details of issues facing each hamlet.  They need to make residents aware of the unjust way the town has been operating under the leadership of Supervisor Petrone. One leader explained, “that is no easy task, the lies they tell are actually more believable than the truth”.

One leader stated “I can personally tell you I’ve been shocked by the audacity of their actions but in retrospect, they always get away with it.  So when your sole motivation is money and power and there is very little risk of consequence, why not?”

Another stated, “I can assure you, they are in control of most of the media that cover Huntington, state and county government will not hold them accountable.  The local politicians that are not involved in the corruption have neither the desire nor the ability to counter what has been happening.  We finally see some opposition from Councilman Cook and Mayoka but two votes is not enough.”

I agreed not to reveal the names of the above mentioned individuals, for the time being, as I understood their concerns. They explained to me that one of the most effective tactics of the town board is to demonize and divide and conquer”.  This is something I was already aware of. They are working toward building bonds among themselves and are working on a deeper level of trust among their groups before they plan to make their efforts public.

The group went on to explain the system of corruption:

“There is a systematic way that the town has operated under this unjust system for so long.  They stack committees and boards with people that either stand to gain financially or are “yes” people.  Those that stand up for what’s right, are quickly replaced with individuals that will operate according to their rules.  That is the reason you will see the same names over and over on boards and committees.  Fortunately it is difficult to find a host of people that will carry out such things. That is why many of these individuals serve on numerous boards.”

Another continued, “In the case of land deals, typically, the town board creates some exploratory committee with the charge of “presenting” a plan to the town board and planning board. Those who are cynical of the process feel the committees are nothing more than a smoke screen and the plan to take place is already decided on. Typically these groups are stacked with the same familiar names. Those of us standing on the outside looking in can clairvoyantly guess who will be appointed to the committee and what conclusions the committee will come up with.  The committee’s findings often have flawed traffic studies and grossly under estimate the number of school children a project will bring. Anyone who challenges the findings of the committee, will be chastised, usually by Petrone, asking “where were you?” or “Why didn’t you join the committee?” Another tactic is for those involved in the planning to act wounded by accusations that they do not have the best interest of the community at heart.”

Another tactic is to organize outsiders and groups to take a stand in support of project so it looks like there is community support and they outnumber the nay-sayers.  We saw this masterfully done in the case of Avalon Bay and the attempt at creating the TOD. For example the league of woman voters took a strong stand in support of Avalon Bay.  In a Town where barely 20% of the population votes, why is the league of woman voters using their resources to support “affordable housing”?

The town under the leadership of Frank Petrone has been at this for a very long time and the deck is heavily stacked in their favor.  Basically, they have all the cards, leaving the single family home owner vulnerable to yield to their whims.  The town has a nearly endless supply of     money funded by tax payers and those who will gain financially from the projects.    It is of little consequence if residents file law suits against the town.  The town is very well aware that small groups of determined individuals will eventually run out of capital and stamina.  Although some of these law suits have delayed projects, they actually benefit the very people being fought. The benefit comes from the fact that the town’s cronies who are private attorneys will have work that is essentially funded by the tax payers.

The civic group leaders are very much aware of the shenanigans and they are fed up.  They intend to work hard this election to get the word out to potential voters. What they lack in funds and connections, they make up by having determination and the facts on their side.

It won’t be easy.

Remember the “Keep Huntington Whole” campaign?  Back in 2009, a group of individuals tired to get councilmanic districts put on the ballot. They were hoping that this would give each geographic area fair representation on the town board. The opposition worked very hard to oppose the effort.  They had a great deal of money to counter any argument and presented misinformation as if it were facts. The idea to have representation throughout the town eventually made it on the ballot and was defeated by an overwhelming margin.  It’s hard to say if the districts would have made a difference.  It’s interesting to note that two individuals who led the effort to defeat the proposition later pushed Avalon Bay down the throats of the Huntington Station residents.  Neither of these individuals live anywhere near the proposed Avalon Bay development.

The group came to several conclusions that could be best accomplished by joining forces.

1. They could hire a law firm to keep on retainer.  This law firm would file article 78 for any development deal that involves a change of zoning.

2. This group could hold centralized meetings to make it easier for people to get the information they need in one place. It would be more convenient than attending many different meetings on similar topics.  They would also educate the public on the strategies used by Petrone and company to keep the public confused.

3. It would also raise the numbers and create a voting block of individuals that want to protect their quality of life.

4. They want to bring individuals from diverse backgrounds together so the town can’t use the divide and conquer tactic effectively anymore.

The group feels strongly that it is time for Supervisor Petrone to move on.  If they can’t accomplish that goal come November, they plan to move on to plan B, which is working towards having the hamlets gain control over their own zoning, code enforcement and land preservation.

The group is in the process of forming exploratory committees to turn the hamlets into Villages.  They plan to leave no stone unturned in addressing the issues surrounding this possibility.  They have examples of villages that were formed and allowed the communities to receive tax decreases. At this point, they plan to use the next 10 months to get educated and if they can’t influence the election, they will move forward in attempting to educate the public about the benefits of incorporating into villages. Unless the November elections bring more honest and just leadership to the town, they will work to get the referendum on the ballot sometime in 2014.

This group wants to come up with an incorporation plan through consensus building and be proactive in addressing likely community concerns.

Some of the goals for the future villages  are:

  • The boundaries will be set up in a way that the Fire Departments will remain autonomous.  Fire Departments will continue to govern themselves as they do today.
  • The SCPD would still serve the newly formed villages.
  • They intend to provide examples of villages that lowered taxes after being formed. “Several of us investigated this years ago and discovered that incorporation would actually lower taxes. We had several independent accountants investigate and concur with the findings,” stated one of the civic group leaders.
  • Residency requirements would be included in order to serve on Village boards.
  • They are looking into provisions that include fair representation by minority groups that reside in the said village.

As soon as they get organized, individuals will be invited to public meetings.

As a tongue in cheek comment the group stated that The town Board could still have power over the things that they do well:

  • People in the newly formed villages could still attend movies on the lawn.
  • They could adopt a fire hydrant that is outside of the perimeters of their new village boundaries if they so desire.
  • They could help clean up any beach or park.
  • They could still invite town board members to give them proclamations, take pictures with them and cut ribbons at grand opening ceremonies.
  • The politicians could still show up at churches, holiday events and gatherings by minority groups and give inspirational speeches.
  • Town agencies could still figure out ways to deny FOIL requests but the information won’t be as vital because they will have limited control of the big quality of life issues.
  • They could still take credit for parades and other events that were organized by the local volunteer fire departments and PTA’s.

The group is working toward reaching out to individuals in the following areas:

1. Cold Spring Harbor

2. Commack

3. Dix Hills

4. East Northport

5. Eaton’s Neck

6. Elwood

7. Fort Salonga

8. Greenlawn

9. Halesite

10. Huntington Station

11. Huntington

12. Melville

13. South Huntington

14.West Hills

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One Response to Civic Groups Explore Village Incorporations

  1. Brilliant! I’ve had enough dealings with the Town of Huntington to applaud this idea! Watching a Town Board meeting would be laughable if it were a reality show but it’s “real life” – ours – and time we took a stand. Dethrone Petrone. Enough is enough.

    jenice
    February 24, 2013 6:27 am at 6:27 am

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