Kean Seeks ‘Middle Ground’ Amid Apartment Showdown

Residents pack into the town board meeting room last Thursday for a ZBA hearing on plans to construct an 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village.  Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

Residents pack into the town board meeting room last Thursday for a ZBA hearing on plans to construct an 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village.
Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

By Connor Beach

The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals was forced to adjourn a public hearing last week on developers’ plans to construct a four-story, 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village because there were too many people.

In an interview Wednesday evening, the project’s developer John Kean said he and his team would meet to “reassess the situation” following the outpouring of opposition by Huntington residents. He said they would determine if any alterations would be make to the proposal.

Kean said efforts would be made to reach out to people who opposed the project to see if they could “find some middle ground.” However, he added that groups opposed to the development have so far not been very receptive to his team’s efforts to discuss the project.

Hundreds of residents converged on town hall on Jan. 24 for the hearing on a proposed 271,000-square-foot building that would require the demolition and re-construction of five lots fronting Main Street, Gerard Street and Stewart Avenue.

A capacity crowd packed into the town board meeting room, and ZBA chairman John Posillico estimated some 300 more overflowed into the hallways.

A side elevation of the development as seen from Gerard Street.

A side elevation of the development as seen from Gerard Street.

Huntington-based attorney Jim Margolin, who is representing Kean and property owner Alan Fromkin, began the hearing with an in-depth presentation on the proposed development. After about 45 minutes Posillico told the audience the hearing would have to be postponed because the lone speaker for those listening in the hallway had stopped working.

Posillico said the people in the hallways outside of the town board room would not be able to participate in the public hearing if they could not hear what was being said. He added that if the meeting continued its legality could be questioned, and a court could order a “do over.”

“I know you’re all here; I know the presenter is hear ready to present,” Posillico said. “But if it is irregular in the way that it is now we can’t have full participation because people can’t hear what’s going on.”

Many in the audience had signed up to speak against the proposed development, which would require seven variances from the ZBA, including for building height and parking relief.

At their Jan. 23 meeting, Huntington Planning Board members voted to “strongly recommend that the ZBA denies all requested variences,” according to town documents. In their recommendation, the planning board members determined the “stories and number of apartments will result in an undesirable change in the character of the village.”

In an interview last week, Kean said the proposed mix-used building would include retail and restaurant space in addition to the apartments. Plans also call for a 127-space, below-grade parking garage on the Gerard Street side of the development, an aspect of the development Kean said would improve parking in Huntington village.

Members of Save Huntington Village, a group of residents opposed to what they say is the overdevelopment of Huntington village, sent out a mailing earlier this month encouraging people to attend the ZBA hearing and oppose the development.

Several members of Save Huntington Village spoke during the public portion of Tuesday’s town board meeting to express some of the concerns they were unable to bring up at last week’s adjourned ZBA hearing.

“How is this proposal even getting oxygen when it requires so many departures from explicitly written town code and New York State ZBA guidelines,” Save Huntington Village member Barbra Suter said.

The group urged Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and the rest of the town board to amend the C-6 zoning in Huntington village “to limit apartment building based on impacts to quality of life, traffic, parking, and environmental considerations for Huntington's residents.”

The building’s height and a parking deficiency of 135 spaces are chief among the issues cited by opponents of the project.

Kean said the proposed building would not exceed the 45-foot height limit mandated under town code. The project is considered four stories because town code counts a parking garage as a floor, even though parking garage will function like a walkout basement along Gerard Street, according to Kean.

“On Main Street you’re not going to see much of a change at all,” Kean said. “You are going to see a change on Stewart and Gerard, but we’re going to do it in a motif that’s in keeping with what Huntington looks like.”

Kean said, if constructed, the building would “enhance” Huntington village by increasing the number of people within walking distance of shops and restaurants in the downtown area without increasing traffic.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to ruin our town, but retail is dying and main streets are hurting,” Kean said.

The ZBA voted unanimously to adjourn last week’s hearing. Posillico said the meeting would be rescheduled at “an appropriate venue” as soon as possible.