OHEKA Open For Business For Long Term

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Rumors swirling on social media about Oheka Castle and current foreclosure proceedings concerning the property are effecting the castle’s catering business.

In a letter to clients, Oheka owner Gary Melius reassures customers of the catering venue that it’s safe to book an event as he expects to win the legal dispute that has thrust him into court, and even if he doesn’t, any action that would effect the business is at probably two years out.

The Castle is in foreclosure proceedings brought by lender LNR Partners in 2016 which claims Melius deaulted to the tune of $37 million, after penalties. Melius claims he owes $28 milion, which is is ready to pay. A dispute over $2.6million in a capital expenditure account that he funded is at the heart of the disagreement.

According to court documents, Melius had requested the funds be released for a capital project which needed to be done. The lender withheld the funds, forcing Melius to pay for the capital expenditures with other funds. Receipts were provided to the lender but LNR continued to withhold repayment.

Needing to recoup the funds, Melius directed the Lender to take the next payment directly from that account. Even though they were holding ample funds, the lender cited a clause in the agreement that the payment was to be put in a drop box account and therefore put Melius into technical default that inflated the monies owed.

Melius explained “This is the heart of our dispute. Without the default, I owe $28M, but they claim I owe $37M, the discrepancy is due to their accelerated default. I have the money to pay them the amount that they are rightfully due, the $28M.”  These claims are supported in the court papers filed for the current litigation.

Melius claims the lender has a history of similarly manipulating properties to place them in receivership and eventual foreclosure.

“This lender is a large firm that manages approximately $131 billion and they have a history of improperly seizing properties that they were the lender for,” Melius said. “That is what they are doing in this case as well.”

The lender is currently under order to produce proof of its claim to the court by May 30, Melius said.

Melius said his attorneys are preparing an appeal and that the projected time for a final decision on the case is approximately two years until all is settled.

Melius stated “If I lose the case, which I don’t think is likely, I will meet their terms and pay the full accelerated amount. There is no cause for concern. The Castle is here, operating as usual, and will be here for many years to come.”

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Hearing Set For Expanded Hotel Plan

Developers plan to use the Old Huntington Town Hall building at the corner of Main Street and Stewart Avenue in Huntington village in an 80-room hotel.  Long islander news photo/Connor Beach

Developers plan to use the Old Huntington Town Hall building at the corner of Main Street and Stewart Avenue in Huntington village in an 80-room hotel. Long islander news photo/Connor Beach

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

New plans to turn the historic Old Town Hall building in Huntington village into a boutique hotel call for as many as 80 rooms up from 55 in previous renditions of the proposal.

The Huntington town board last month scheduled a public hearing in June to consider including in an existing Historic Building Overlay zoning district a parcel on land east of the Old Town Hall on the corner of Main Street and Stewart Avenue in Huntington village. The property was recently included in plans for the proposed hotel by Holtsville-based developer Huntington Village Hotel Partners.

The Historic Building Overlay District is designed to help preserve buildings of historic significance by giving owners of these properties the ability to use them in “purposes other than those permitted as-of-right in the zoning districts where such buildings are located,” according to town code.

Plans for the hotel were originally submitted to the town in 2013 by developer Emerson J. Dobbs through Huntington-based Old Town Hall Operating Co. Those plans were approved and called for the existing two-and-a-half-story structure to be preserved as the hotel’s lobby, lounge and meeting rooms. A 55-room guest wing was planned for the rear of the building.

The town approved Dobb’s plans, but he did not obtain a valid building permit in connection with the project before the imposed five-year deadline, according to town documents.

Seen from the back, the old town hall building is fenced while the developer’s plans advance.  Long islander News photo/Connor Beach

Seen from the back, the old town hall building is fenced while the developer’s plans advance. Long islander News photo/Connor Beach

Town documents show the new plans submitted by Huntington Village Hotel Partners, the company Dobbs is in talks with to sell the property, include the 1,742-square-foot property just east of the Old Town Hall building. The plans would require the demolition of the building next to the Old Town Hall that previously served as the town’s jail and police building.

Huntington Village Hotel Partners’ plan would still maintain the historic Town Hall building as the hotel’s lobby and common space. Parking for the hotel would be housed under the 80-room guest wing in the rear of the property.

Huntington Village Hotel Partners could not be reached for comment.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, who sponsored the resolution for the public hearing, said the proposed hotel would “bring renewed life to this historic landmark, preserving Huntington’s history and boosting our downtown economy.”

“Huntington village has always been a destination and the idea of a boutique hotel that pays homage to the building’s past life as the former Town Hall will achieve those goals while bringing the added convenience and comfort of an overnight stay,” Lupinacci said.

The public hearing to expand the Historic Building Overlay District is scheduled for 7 p.m., June 18 at town hall.

14 Apartments Planned Near Train Station

Plans submitted by developer Grant Havasy call for the construction of a mixed-use apartment building next to this existing building on the corner of New York Avenue and Northridge Street in Huntington Station.

Plans submitted by developer Grant Havasy call for the construction of a mixed-use apartment building next to this existing building on the corner of New York Avenue and Northridge Street in Huntington Station.

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

A developer is looking to construct a 14-unit apartment building on the corner of Northridge Street and New York Avenue near the Huntington train station.

Plans submitted to the Huntington planning department show Huntington-based developer Grant Havasy is looking to construct a 12,481-square-foot, mixed-use building with 14 apartments on the second and third floors.

The property for the proposed building is across Northridge Street from the Northridge building, the first phase of Renaissance Downtowns’ Huntington Station revitalization project, and directly adjacent to an existing two-story building with nine-apartments, which is also owned by Havasy.

The proposed 14-unit building is not part of the Renaissance Downtowns master development project.

Havasy is managing partner of Blue and Gold Holdings, the company responsible for constructing the Northridge building. Havasy’s Woodbury-based attorney Thomas Abbate said at last week’s planning board meeting the Northridge building is “virtually the only structure that has been erected as part of the Huntington Station revitalization.”

Plans show the new apartment building would include 2,985 square feet of commercial space on the first floor. The second and third floors would share a combined 9,496 square feet of residential space.

Planning officials said at last week’s meeting plans call for a “mezzanine area” below the second and third floors that would hold 12 parking spaces. The steep slope from the rear of the property towards New York Avenue would make the mezzanine parking area possible, planning officials said.

Plans call for an additional outdoor 14-space parking lot behind the building.

Abbate said the design of the building “complies with all respects of the off-street parking requirement” in the C-6 zoning district by providing all parking for the building on-site.

Planning officials said the proposal would require a number of variances from the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals, including for the proposed indoor parking lot and because the second and third floor residential areas are larger than the footprint of the commercial space on the ground floor.

Abbate said at the meeting he would also need to convince the ZBA that the parking mezzanine does not make the building four stories.

The application was not listed on the May 2 ZBA agenda as of deadline Wednesday. The next ZBA meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., May 9 at town hall.

Mount Misery Road-Inspired Movie Release Set

Directors and actors Chuck and Karolina Morrongiello bring the legends of Mount Misery Road to life in the new horror film “Amityville: Mt. Misery Road,” set for nationwide release on May 7.

Directors and actors Chuck and Karolina Morrongiello bring the legends of Mount Misery Road to life in the new horror film “Amityville: Mt. Misery Road,” set for nationwide release on May 7.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

The myths of Mount Misery road are making their film debut in an independent thriller based on the history and legends of West Hills’ woods.

Generations can recall hearing stories of a Hellhound, Mothman and an asylum patient named Mary stalking through the woods at night. Some have even braved journeying the woods themselves.

 “Amityville: Mt. Misery Road” has all the frightening elements to raise goosebumps and leave audiences cringing. But this horror flick is based on history.

“I grew up in this area and had always heard about Mount Misery Road,” Chuck Morrongiello said. “The other day, we were at a local get-together and heard grandparents talking about it. Then their kids discussed it and even their grandchildren knew about it.”

In the film, the Morrongiello and his wife Karolina play the parts of Floridian ghost-enthusiasts Charlie and Buzi who are intrigued when a friend captures images of floating orbs. Eager to get spooked, they venture into the woods and find much more than they anticipated.

“It was called a ‘love romp’,” Chuck said. “It’s a romp of a couple that’s just in love, we’re happy, shiny, and full of this energy. And we don’t really what about what’s going happen.”

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“Amityville: Mt. Misery Road” will be released nationwide by ITN Film Distribution on May 7.

“Amityville: Mt. Misery Road” will be released nationwide by ITN Film Distribution on May 7.

Filmed on location with the woods providing an eerie backdrop, “the movie is gloomy, dark, and it feels spooky,” Karolina said. “It’s fiction, but the road and there being legends about it are true.”

“We’re excited about this movie, we think it’s gonna be a homerun,” Chuck said. “We got a great distributor behind us.”

“Amityville: Mt. Misery Road” will be released nationwide by ITN Film Distribution on May 7, available on DVD at Walmart.

Uber Driver Pleads Guilty In Death Of Teen

Danyal Cheema of Huntington Station, left, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter after a 15-year-old passenger fell while car-surfing and later died from his injuries. Photo/Suffolk DA

Danyal Cheema of Huntington Station, left, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter after a 15-year-old passenger fell while car-surfing and later died from his injuries.Photo/Suffolk DA

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

An Uber driver who was at the wheel when a Cold Spring Harbor teen fell off the roof of his car in September pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter last week.

Suffolk prosecutors said Danyal Cheema, 24, of Huntington Station entered the plea on April 18 at the state Supreme Court building in Central Islip.

Cheema was working as an Uber driver when he picked up three boys, including 15-year-old Ryan Mullen, in his 2010 Toyota Highlander just after midnight on Sept. 23, 2018.

While Cheema was driving the teens to a house in Huntington, prosecutors said they asked Cheema for permission to “car surf” on the roof of his car while it was moving.

After initially offering him $70 cash, the passengers ultimately paid Cheema $40 and he allowed them to climb onto the roof of the vehicle while stopped at an intersection on Cove Road in Huntington, prosecutors said. Two of the teens rode on the roof of the SUV while the third captured a video of the incident on Snapchat.

Mullen, a student at St. Anthony’s High School, fell off of the vehicle as it was moving and hit his head on the roadway.

Prosecutors said Ryan Mullens died at home as a result of injuries sustained in the fall from the Uber’s roof.

Prosecutors said Ryan Mullens died at home as a result of injuries sustained in the fall from the Uber’s roof.

Prosecutors said the teens got back in the car and Cheema drove them the rest of the way to their destination, where Mullen later died in his sleep from “severe head trauma.”

“This was a tragic incident that could have been avoided had the defendant not conducted himself in such a reckless manner,” Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini said.

In a statement through their attorney, Ryan’s parents Janice and Matthew Mullen said they welcomed Cheema’s guilty plea and would continue to grow the “Strive for Five” foundation they have established to honor Ryan’s memory.

Cheema faces a minimum of 10 months in prison plus five years of post-release supervision when he is sentenced by Suffolk County Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho. Prosecutors said he will be sentenced at a later date.

Chief Commends Officer's "Extraordinary Restraint"

Village police arrested a Northport man who confronted two officers holding a shotgun and a knife.  Northport Ville PD photos

Village police arrested a Northport man who confronted two officers holding a shotgun and a knife. Northport Ville PD photos

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

A Northport man was arrested last week after he pointed a loaded gun at officers during a tense standoff, according to Northport police.

Police said officers were called to a tenant dispute at around 11:45 p.m., April 18 in a building with multiple apartments at 149 Fort Salonga Road in the Village of Northport.

The first officer to arrive spoke with the complainant, who police say was bleeding from the mouth. The victim told officers Logan Arens, who lives in the basement apartment, had punched him in the face, according to police.
Two Northport officers headed for the basement stairs to find Arens, and as they opened the basement door the officers encountered Arens coming up the stairs with a rifle in his left hand and a butcher knife in his right, according to police.

Police said Arens, 22, pointed the rifle up the stairs at the lead officer who drew his service weapon and ordered the suspect to drop the gun, which authorities later identified as a .22-caliber rifle that was loaded with one round in the chamber and eight in the magazine. Arens hesitated momentarily, but did drop the gun, according to police.

The officer then ordered Arens to drop the knife, and after four commands he finally put the knife down, police said. He was taken into custody without further incident.

“This is a situation that very well may have ended much differently,” Northport Police Chief Bill Ricca said. “The officer used an extraordinary amount of restraint and brought it to a conclusion without a tragic outcome.”

Police charged Arens with menacing a police officer, second-degree harassment and two counts of fourth-degree criminal procession of a weapon. He was arraigned in Northport Village Court and released on $5,000 bail. He is due back in court this week.

Town Board Hikes Parking Meter Fees

Cars parked on Wall Street near the intersection with Main Street in Huntington village. The town board voted Tuesday to increase parking fees on side streets in the village.  Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

Cars parked on Wall Street near the intersection with Main Street in Huntington village. The town board voted Tuesday to increase parking fees on side streets in the village. Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

It’s going to get a little more expensive to park on some streets in Huntington village.

The Huntington town board approved Tuesday an increase in parking rates for metered spots on many of the village’s side streets.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilman Eugene Cook and seconded by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, increases the fee to park on streets like Green, New and West Carver Streets from 50 cents per hour to $1 per hour. Parking rates on the village’s side streets will now match the cost to park on higher trafficked Main Street and New York Avenue.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Cook said. “Parking was different on some streets, and this equals it out.”

The fee increase was passed 3-2. Councilman Ed Smyth voted with Cook and Lupinacci to approve the increase, while Councilwoman Joan Cergol and Mark Cuthbertson opposed it.

Cuthbertson said he felt the town should not increase parking fees “until we as a board take more concrete steps towards acquiring more parking spaces.”

Cergol, referring to a 2013 parking study by consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard, said the fee increase “runs completely counter to what that recommendation was.”

In their report, Nelson/Nygaard recommended the town charged $1 per hour to park on core blocks along New York Avenue and Main Street and $.50 per hour on blocks within the area bounded by High Street, Prospect Street, Gerard Street and Myrtle Avenue.

Cook said he didn’t feel there is a need to distinguish between these “primary” and “secondary” streets for parking rates. He said it doesn’t make sense that a driver could pay a lower rate if they simply turned the corner from Main Street onto Wall Street.

The fee increase comes after a recent announcement by Lupinacci that the Department of Public Safety created a new Parking Enforcement Team (PET) in downtown Huntington village on March 1.

Town officials said between March 1 and April 10 the PET, two full-time and occasional part-time officers, have issued 3,303 parking summonses worth a face value of $233,935.

“We’ve had virtually no negative feedback from the public since we rolled out our Parking Enforcement Team and summons numbers are up over 100 percent,” Public Safety Director Peter Sammis said in a statement. “I think people are relieved to see the enforcement of parking rules, especially when there has been abuse of parking for so long.”

The town board unanimously passed Tuesday a new law requiring drivers to respond to a ticket within 30 days. Penalties for ignoring a parking ticket will include a default judgment, nonrenewal of New York State motor vehicle registration or booting a car.

The new parking enforcement law takes effect on July 1.

Showdown On The Agenda Passes With No Fight

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By Connor Beach

cbeach@longislandergroup.com

A new rule will give the public earlier access to the list of resolutions up for debate at upcoming town board meetings.

The rule change was written by Councilman Ed Smyth in an effort to “achieve greater transparency in town hall.”

In an interview last week, Smyth said resolutions should be available 10 days before the scheduled town board meeting instead of three. The extra time would benefit both the public and the town board members who have to consider the resolutions, he said.

Smyth said the resolutions are usually made available at around 4 p.m. on the Friday before a Tuesday meeting, not enough time for board members or the public to analyze each document.

“Since we’ve gone back to monthly meetings there can be as many as 70 resolutions on the agenda,” Smyth said. “Even if only 30 are substantive, there’s no way you can responsibly vet them.”

His colleagues on the town board approved Smyth’s rule change at Tuesday’s meeting, though not without some negotiation. Councilwoman Joan Cergol, Councilman Eugene Cook and Supervisor Chad Lupinacci voted with Smyth, while Councilman Mark Cuthbertson opposed the change.

“This was originally submitted as a 10-day advance notice, but through some discussion we compromised on a six-day advance notice,” Smyth said during the meeting.

Although he didn’t have enough support to pass 10 days of advance notice, Smyth called the compromise a “good start towards increasing the transparency of the Huntington town government.”

Cergol added during the meeting that the board members “have talked a lot about transparency both at the dais and during workshop.”

“I think we all want transparency,” she said.

The resolution will allow board members to add resolutions to the meeting agenda inside of the six-day advance notice period as a “late starter.” Town procedure requires these resolutions be voted on twice, once to add the late starter to the agenda and again to pass the resolution.

Resolutions submitted late must also include an explanation from the relevant department head justifying the delay and why the matter can not wait until next month.

Restaurants Go Strawless Ahead Of County Law

Beth Fiteni, Heidi Cohen and Tara Marie Kotliar of Green Inside and Out show off the Strawless Suffolk door decal at Mac’s Steakhouse in Huntington village.  Photo/Green Inside and Out

Beth Fiteni, Heidi Cohen and Tara Marie Kotliar of Green Inside and Out show off the Strawless Suffolk door decal at Mac’s Steakhouse in Huntington village. Photo/Green Inside and Out

By Connor Beach

cbeach@longislandergroup.com

In advance of a recent Suffolk Law banning plastic straws, 12 restaurants in the downtown village of Huntington have signed a “Strawless Pledge.”

In December 2018, local volunteers visited 70 establishments asking owners to make the pledge to go completely strawless, provide biodegradable straws only upon request or provide reusable alternatives to plastic. In addition to the 12 restaurants that have made the “Strawless Pledge,” seven restaurants voluntarily moved in that direction, without taking a pledge and five more have expressed interest.

Green Inside and Out, a Huntington-based nonprofit organization, led the campaign to urge Huntington village restaurants to make the switch. The campaign was coordinated with the Huntington High School Environmental Club, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, the Long Island Sierra Club, Starflower Experiences, Healthy Planet, and Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. All of the groups sent volunteers to talk to restaurants and distribute information.

The Suffolk County Legislature adopted earlier this month a law requiring restaurants to only offer biodegradable straws and stirrers upon customer request.

The effort emerged through the Single Use Plastics Committee, led by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Port Jefferson), who sponsored the resolution. Last summer she had announced an awareness campaign called "Strawless Suffolk.” Each restaurant signing the pledge in Huntington received a Strawless Suffolk door decal so customers can identify them.

“The Suffolk legislation is a huge success, and I am even prouder of these restaurants in my home town of Huntington village who have stepped up to be proactive in protecting our environment,” said Beth Fiteni, Director of Green Inside and Out.

Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport) said he hopes the straw legislation will impact consumer behavior in a similar way to the five-cent fee on plastic bags.

“We have a major plastics crisis, and hopefully this will help reduce in amount of plastic in our landfills and waterways,” Spencer said.

Goin’ Strawless
Restaurants that have signed onto the “Strawless Pledge” include:

• bee-ORGANIC
• Hatch
• Kai Poke
• Mac’s Steakhouse
• New York Panini
• Pazzo Paisanos
• Osteria da Nino
• Red Restaurant
• The Rust & Gold
• Sapsuckers Hops & Grub
• Stella Blue
• The Shed Restaurant

Mock Trial Team Takes County Championship

Northport High School’s Mock Trial team won the Suffolk County Champions on April 3 and will be heading to the State Championships in May.

Northport High School’s Mock Trial team won the Suffolk County Champions on April 3 and will be heading to the State Championships in May.

After a season of fierce competition, Northport High School’s Mock Trial team defeated Bay Shore on April 3 for the Suffolk County Championship.

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice David T. Reilly ruled in Northport’s favor after an intense day of competition. The county championship was the first in program history.

“It was a very emotional win,” said senior Emma Canfora. “Our hours and hours of hard work paid off.”

Team members said that as they advanced further in the tournament they became more determined to win. They began practicing every day, including weekends, in order to prepare to face-off against some of Long Island’s most formidable opponents.

Once they defeated Huntington’s Mock Trial Team, last year’s county champions, the Tigers knew they had a real chance at winning county title.

Additionally, the team unanimously agreed that one of the biggest driving forces behind their success was their captain Maggie Dowling, who “exhibited true leadership and dedication as a captain in every way”, according to club advisor David Scott.  Scott also commented that, after pursuing the county champion title for twenty years, the win was an honor.

Over 450 students from 26 public and private high schools participated in this year’s Suffolk County High School Mock Trial Tournament. Teams argue both sides of the case with members assuming the roles of attorneys and witnesses. Judges or attorneys score the teams on the basis of preparation, performance and professionalism.

The Suffolk County Bar Association and its Academy of Law co-sponsored the Suffolk County tournament. Bar association members Glenn P. Warmuth and Leonard Badia headed up the program.

The highest scoring team from the county tournaments proceeds to the regional competition to a mock trial against other county winners. The top teams from each of New York State’s eight regions go on to participate in the state finals.

As the SuffolkCounty regional champion, Northport will represent the county in the state finals to be held May 19-21 in Albany.