By Connor Beach
The state Legislature approved last Wednesday a land transfer that would put the Town of Huntington in control of a piece of property that has been designated for use in development plans for the revitalization of Huntington Station.
With the end of the 2018 state legislative session fast approaching, the legislature approved land transfer bills sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) in the state Senate and Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Huntington Station) in the state Assembly, which authorized the transfer of the property from the state Department of Transportation to the town.
The 4.16-acre property, located along New York Avenue and bordered by Church Street to the north and the Long Island Rail Road tracks to the south, is included as part of master developer Renaissance Downtowns’ Huntington Station revitalization plan, which calls for artist lofts on the northern portion of the property and a hotel to be built near the southern end.
The property currently serves as a parking lot typically utilized by railroad commuters.
At last Tuesday’s meeting the town board approved with a 3-2 vote a home rule message urging the legislature to approve the land transfer.
Councilwoman Joan Cergol, who sponsored the home rule message, said Tuesday she was grateful to Stern and Marcellino for moving the legislation forward.
“It represents the next piece in the expanding jigsaw puzzle of rebuilding a new downtown for Huntington Station,” Cergol said.
Cergol added that the land transfer approval is the “first step in an extensive process” by which state-owned land can be “utilized to fulfill a community-supported vision for redevelopment on the west side of New York Avenue to complement the redevelopment currently taking place on the east side.”
Renaissance Downtowns co-CEO and President Ryan Porter also called the legislation a “huge first step.”
“This is something we’ve been working on for almost five years,” Porter said. “This is necessary as the big first step to effectuate the transfer to allow for us to eventually develop the artist loft project and the hotel project.”
Councilman Ed Smyth, who voted against the home rule message last week, said the legislation allows the state DOT to sell the land to the town based on an appraisal of the property’s “fair market value.”
As outlined in the town’s master development agreement with Renaissance, Smyth said the town would then use a “residual land value” appraisal methodology, which accounts for the cost of developing the property, to determine what the town will receive from Renaissance for the land.
Smyth, who has been critical of previous land transfer agreements between the town and Renaissance, said the town is going to, once again, “buy high and sell low.”
Porter said there are still several processes left before the DOT finalizes the land transfer, including appraisals, and that he hopes “we can work through those processes before the end of the year.”