Editorial: Is Segregation Supported In Huntington?
It is hard to deny that there are different rules for different parts of the town in Huntington. And while we feel strongly that segregation is wrong and doesn’t work, we wonder if that sentiment is shared by individuals who run this town. We believe that Frank Petrone, Mark Cuthbertson and Susan Berland do not hide their practices of discriminating against certain parts of the town.
If you compare the Ruland Road project to recent projects in Huntington Station the evidence is overwhelming. The town board has spent more than $400,000 fighting to keep Ruland Road from getting built. They claimed that they wanted the builder come up with a plan to build owner occupied, one bedroom units with no rental units. During the same time period that these individuals were fighting Ruland Road and other projects from being built, they were attempting to fast track an unprecedented rezoning in Huntington Station. They were working with various groups to blind side the residents of Huntington Station/ School district 3 to rezone a ½ mile radius of their neighborhood. To this day, many people do not realize what almost happened in Huntington Station and still could happen. When the first round of Avalon Bay was on the table, the resolution to rezone also included a rezoning to create a Transit Oriented Development with the center point being the Huntington Train Station. Had that gone through, the zoning in that area would allow for 20 units to the acre with 4 story buildings. It also included other provisions that would be exclusive to that part of town.
The Town Board pulled the resolution due in part to overwhelming opposition from local residents.
This all occurred during the same time period that the town board was fighting (with public money) to keep the Ruland Road development from being built.
Regardless of the fact that there was overwhelming opposition to the Avalon Bay project by local residents, Frank Petrone and Mark Cuthbertson invited Avalon Bay to come back to build 379 units of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom RENTAL UNITS. The second time around the project skated through and is currently being built. The Huntington School Board is currently sorting out where the school children who will eventually live in Avalon Bay will attend. They have received little to no support from the town and the housing advocates who pushed the project on the community.
Susan Berland who has made no secret of the fact that she is opposed to rental housing in her backyard, is happy to support rental housing in Huntington Station.
While Mark Cuthbertson, Frank Petrone and Susan Berland have expressed concern about supporting rental and affordable housing in certain parts of town they are very supportive of rental and affordable housing as long as it is in the minority section of Huntington Station. Some examples include, Avalon Bay, Columbia Terrace, and the Rotondo property, (located behind the Station Branch Library) Susan Berland was quoted as saying the Rotondo site would be a great location for more rental housing.
The Brownfield report, which is currently on the table, calls for a significant number of rental units and higher density zoning throughout Huntington Station.
At the last town Board meeting, the head of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition made a nasty and unsubstantiated accusation that people who are fighting Ruland Road are racists. Berland immediately chimed in and expressed her displeasure and disagreement with his statement. Those same words were used many times on the people of Huntington Station who were fighting a much more significant rezoning. Ms. Berland did not seem to be troubled by these same accusations made on the people of the Huntington School district.
Another way the town encourages segregation is through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. If a builder is chooses to “opt out” of the affordable housing requirement they must pay into this fund so the affordable housing can be built somewhere else in the town. In that case, the affordable housing is usually built in Huntington Station. We do not believe that a builder would ever be granted permission to omit affordable units for a development being built in Huntington Station. As far as we can tell it has never been done. In fact, as part of the Transit Oriented Development plan that ultimately failed, the affordable housing requirement for Huntington Station would have been 25% of all the units built. In other areas of the town it is 20%.
We wonder, how do you comfortably invite more affordable and rental housing to one area of town that already supports 72% of all the non-senior affordable housing and support costly lawsuits to fight it from being built in other areas of town?