Explosion, Fire Rips Ripley Drive Home

A ladder truck from Commack Fire Department gets into position at the scene of a house fire and explosion on Ripley Drive in Northport.  Long islander News photos/Sophia Ricco

A ladder truck from Commack Fire Department gets into position at the scene of a house fire and explosion on Ripley Drive in Northport. Long islander News photos/Sophia Ricco

Firefighters in East Northport battled raging flames and a propane explosion last week during a house fire that left one person injured.

The East Northport Fire Department received reports of a fire on Ripley Drive at approximately 12:30 p.m., Feb. 28, fire officials said. Chief John Jacobsen from the Northport Fire Department was the first on scene and confirmed the house was on fire.

Fire officials said the first responding crews were met with intense flames in the back of the house, followed by an explosion after the fire ignited gas from a 30-pound propane cylinder.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the back of the house despite the propane explosion sending flames 30 feet above the roof, according to fire officials.

Firefighters cut holes in the roof of a home in Northport to help put out a blaze that left one person injured last week.

Firefighters cut holes in the roof of a home in Northport to help put out a blaze that left one person injured last week.

Fire officials said it took about 60 firefighters from East Northport, Northport, Greenlawn and Commack, under the command of Chief Dan Flanagan, an hour and a half to bring the flames under control.

One female resident of the home was taken to Huntington Hospital for treatment of minor injuries, according to fire officials. The fire is under investigation by the Suffolk Police Arson Squad and Town of Huntington Fire Marshal.

Students For 60,000 Takes Up A New Cause

Students for 60,000 gave their time to paint the homes of three families, who had all been impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Students for 60,000 gave their time to paint the homes of three families, who had all been impacted by the opioid epidemic.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Northport High School’s Students for 60,000 took their first ever service trip to West Virginia, the “ground zero of the opioid epidemic,” and came back with a cause to spread.

Twenty-four Northport high shcoolers embarked on the week-long trip during February break to give their time to food pantries and youth programs, connecting with the local high school and community members struggling with addiction along the way.

Students for 60,000 was originally founded in 1987 as a club dedicated to helping the homeless. It taks its name from the 60,000 homeless in New York City at the time, and has evolved to raise money and awareness for many causes.

“The mission of the program is pretty simple, it is to help those in need,” club adviser Darryl St. George said.

Student members are exposed to local and global issues alike through education and service. Since 1992, the club has taken service trips to the village of Chacraseca, Nicaragua. They also have anonymously assisted local families in need.

“That’s one of the values to Students for 60,000, we take our students outside of the bubble of Northport,” St. George said. “We take them to parts of the world, country and locally in the community that ordinarily they wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to.”

As Nicaragua grew more unstable, St. George was tasked with selecting a new location for the club’s biannual service trip. He felt West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the country, was a good choice.

“I came up with the trip to West Virginia, understanding the need that exists there,” St. George said. “But also recognizing that on a personal level, I had lost a sibling to an overdose and the opioid epidemic is a major piece of it.”

The students took an educational hike with Keeper of the Mountains, an environmental activist organization led by Paul Corbit.

The students took an educational hike with Keeper of the Mountains, an environmental activist organization led by Paul Corbit.

Students directly interacted with those impacted by opioid addiction in the town of Kermit, West Virginia. Hawkie, the town’s fire chief, recounted the story of finding his younger brother dead from an overdose at a potluck dinner. His message to the club: this is an issue that is only going to get worse if nothing is done.

“Something we always strive for with Students for 60,000 is the educational component, which as a teacher I have the responsibility to meet,” St. George said. “But on the other hand, there is action taking place and projects that the students are taking part in. It’s an experience that makes the learning more meaningful.”

The students had a full agenda of informational and impactful activities on the trip. They visited the Williamson Drug Treatment Center to learn about the center’s efforts, stigmas and benefits of treatment from healthcare professionals. The students then met with five women who shared personal experiences about addiction and recovery. The club then volunteered their time playing with children at an after school program, some of whom came from “heartbreaking backgrounds” and lost either one or both parents to overdoses.

“It was both inspiring and encouraging to witness the students ability to take on so many necessary tasks while simultaneously learning and quickly appreciating the need for their presence in this part of our country,” St. George said.

Students Liv Caufield and Tim DeTolla helped at the Mana Meal Soup Kitchen in West Virginia.

Students Liv Caufield and Tim DeTolla helped at the Mana Meal Soup Kitchen in West Virginia.

Returning from West Virginia, St. George reflected on the deeply poignant trip.

“My experience in West Virginia had a profound impact on my understanding of what it is to be an American,” St. George said. “We as a country right now are in a very precarious place. I think a lot of that has to do with the division in the country. If we’re gonna heal, I truly believe the answer is in this poor state, ground zero of the opioid epidemic, a place that is dismissed by both sides of the political spectrum.”

Even St. George, a military veteran who has experienced the world and personal tragedy, said he was not prepared for what he saw in West Virginia. The trip has given Students for 60,000 a “sense of urgency” to aid and raise awareness for the state.

“I can tell you with confidence, that coming home students and chaperones alike felt like we did a lot of good,” St. George said. “There was no question of why we needed to go down there, so much so that the students want to go back again.”

The community of Kermit is eager to have the club come back as well. Students for 60,000 plan to share their experiences in West Virginia at a Community Forum at the Northport Library on March 27 at 7 p.m. Club members will lead the presentation aimed at educating the community on a topic relevant to Long Island’s own substance abuse epidemic.

“We will help the community better understand what we learned and experienced there,” St. George said. “If they’re interested, we will provide them opportunities to support our mission of working in West Virginia.”

Raia To Retire At End Of Year

Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia will retire at the end of the year after 38 years in office. Raia, pictured in the Town Records Center and Archives, counts the preservation of important town documents and artifacts archived there as one of her greatest accomplishments.

Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia will retire at the end of the year after 38 years in office. Raia, pictured in the Town Records Center and Archives, counts the preservation of important town documents and artifacts archived there as one of her greatest accomplishments.

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

Huntington Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia is ready to retire.

Raia said Wednesday she has decided not to seek reelection in November after serving 38 years in the position.

Raia said in a recent interview she still has her enthusiasm for the job, but thinks “it’s probably time to retire.”

“My mind, my brain and my enthusiasm is still there, but it’s tiring because I give my all to the job,” Raia said. “I want to have some time for myself.”

There is a chance the Raia dynasty will continue in the town clerk’s office. The Huntington Republican Committee this week tapped Andrew Raia, Jo-Ann’s son, as the party’s candidate for the job, according to committee chairman Toni Tepe.

Huntington Republican Committee tapped Assemblyman Andrew Raia as their nominee to run for Town Clerk in November.

Huntington Republican Committee tapped Assemblyman Andrew Raia as their nominee to run for Town Clerk in November.

“Andrew has had an interest in the position for a number of years, and the committee felt he was deserving on it,” Tepe said. “His mother would certainly like to hand the torch over to him.”

Andrew Raia, who currently represents the 12th district in the New York State Assembly, said his mother’s retirement and his nomination to replace her “is bittersweet for her and me.”

“As much as I enjoy being an assemblyman, I want to be a caretaker of the work she’s done, and I’m looking forward to carrying on her tradition of public service,” he said.

As the son of Huntington’s longest serving town clerk, the younger Raia said he remembers discussing his mother’s job with her over the family dinner table.

“I literally have been exposed to every aspect of the town clerk’s office for 38 years,” he said.

Jo-Ann Raia said she is happy her son decided to run for her position.

“I know I can’t be here forever,” she said with a laugh. She had to make her retirement decision sooner than she would have liked because recent changes in New York State election law moved up the time for candidates to file nominating petitions from summer to the beginning of April.

In her nearly four decades as town clerk, Jo-Ann Raia said one of her proudest accomplishments has been the establishment of the record center and archives at town hall. She suggested she might even volunteer to help out with the archives after she retires.

“It took a tremendous amount of effort, and as a result we have a state-of-the-art facility that has received numerous honors,” she said. “It’s been my passion to preserve the town’s history.”

The town clerk also praised the skill of her staff and hoped her successor would look to them to help expand on what she has accomplished.

Jo-Ann Raia said she is “very melancholy” about her impending retirement and will miss the town board meetings, fire department instillation dinners and other community events; although, she has 38 years worth of keepsakes to remind her of the impact she’s had on the Huntington community.

“I love serving the residents of Huntington,” she said. “Based on all the thank you letters I’ve received over the years I feel that I’m doing a good job.”

GOP Names Candidates For Local Election

Councilman Ed Smyth, Andre Sorrentino, Councilman Eugene Cook, Cheryl Helfer, Hector Gavilla, Garrett Chelius, Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia and Huntington Republican Committee Chairman Toni Tepe gather for the announcement for the GOP’s candidates for town elections.  Photo/Huntington Republican Committee

Councilman Ed Smyth, Andre Sorrentino, Councilman Eugene Cook, Cheryl Helfer, Hector Gavilla, Garrett Chelius, Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia and Huntington Republican Committee Chairman Toni Tepe gather for the announcement for the GOP’s candidates for town elections. Photo/Huntington Republican Committee

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

The Huntington Republican Committee announced earlier this week the slate of GOP candidates for local elections in November.

Chairman Toni Tepe confirmed Wednesday the committee had named candidates for Suffolk Legislature, Town Board and Town Clerk.

Legislator Robert Trotta, of Fort Salonga, was tapped to run for reelection in the 13th Legislative District, which includes the eastern portion of the Town of Huntington. Trotta has served in the position since 2014.

Trotta had expressed interest in running for County Executiveagainst Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone, but Tepe said the committee has endorsed Republican John Kennedy. Kennedy has served as Suffolk Comptroller since 2015.

The Republicans have chosen Hector Gavilla to challenge Democratic incumbent Susan Berland in the 16th District. Gavilla, of Dix Hills, ran an unsuccessful campaign against Berland for the seat in 2017.

Garrett Chelius, of Lloyd Harbor, was selected to run against Democratic incumbent and veteran legislator William “Doc” Spencer in the 18th District.

The GOP’s candidates for Huntington Town Board include incumbent Gene Cook and first-time candidate Andre Sorrentino.

Cook, of Greenlawn, an Independence Party member, was first elected to the town board in 2011, and also ran on the Republican line in his previous two campaigns for town board.

Sorrentino, of Huntington, currently serves as the town’s director of general services. He was appointed to the position in February 2018. Sorrentino is also the co-owner of Huntington-based PAS Professional Automotive Services.

Sorrentino and Cook will face Democratic incumbent Joan Cergol. Cergol was first appointed to the town board in December 2017, ran a successful campaign for a one-year term last November.

Tepe said the committee has not decided on a candidate to run for Huntington Receiver of Taxes against Democratic incumbent Jillian Guthman. A Republican candidate for the position will be named in the coming days, according to Tepe.

Tepe also said Assemblyman Andrew Raia has been tapped to run for town clerk against Democratic candidate Simon Saks. Raia’s mother and currently Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia decided recently she would not seek reelection after 38 years in the position.

The Republicans have also tapped Cheryl Helfer to run for District Court Judge.

Marathoner Runs For A Cause

Jorge Jimenez completes another race in preparation for the Boston Marathon, with the support of his wife, Leanne, and children, Tomas and Karina.

Jorge Jimenez completes another race in preparation for the Boston Marathon, with the support of his wife, Leanne, and children, Tomas and Karina.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

This April, Northport resident Jorge Jimenez will race for a cause close to his heart at the Boston Marathon.

Jiminez will take on the world’s oldest annual marathon with the YMCA of Greater Boston’s team on Apr. 15.

Throughout his life, Jimenez has been involved with the Y, utilizing their services as child, and later donating time and financial contributions. After moving to Northport five years ago, Jimenez joined the YMCA of Long Island’s Board of Directors and ran in two New York City Marathons to support the organization.

“I’m a Y kid, I grew up at the Y,” Jimenez said. “I spent a lot of time at the YMCA when I lived in Miami and volunteered for the YMCA when I was in college. It was a really great place for me growing up, so now that I serve on the board, I can give back.”

A seasoned distance runner, Jimenez was drawn to the Boston Marathon’s magnitude and grandeur. By joining team YMCA of Greater Boston, he has committed to raise $7,500 for their cause, that will support the charity’s teen programs.

“The Y is just a great, safe place for kids to play, exercise and learn about healthy living,” Jimenez said. “These are programs I probably participated in as a kid, but didn’t know it.”

Last summer, the YMCA of Greater Boston offered free three-month memberships to 17,000 teens at the Y’s 13 branches, giving them access to summer programming, swim classes, and camp. Teens were empower and engaged at events focused on safe dating, volunteerism and leadership.

“This past summer was our busiest to date with each of our branches creating programming to fit the needs of the youth in their neighborhoods, which would not be possible without funds raised by our runners,” YMCA of Greater Boston president and CEO James Morton said.

To prepare for Boston’s 26.2-mile course, Jimenez is in the middle of a 16-week training program that focuses on speed during weekdays and distance on the weekends.

“I like for my kids to see me set a very ambitious goal and work towards it, they see me checking days off my list,” Jimenez said. “It shows them that hard work pays off, because the plan starts with a 4 mile run on Sunday, then a 6 mile and so on, it builds up and they see for themselves that if you do the work, you will get better.”

To prep himself for Boston, Jimenez recently ran the Prospect Park Half Marathon in Brooklyn and George Washington’s Birthday Marathon in Washington, D.C.

“You get to practice being in a race, running with other people, drinking water from the aid stations,” Jimenez said. “And you run with all your gear, what you’re gonna wear on race day, it’s like a dress rehearsal.”

Jimenez is looking forward to a 20 mile run this weekend, though he admits the last six weeks of training, when mileage is the highest, can be grueling. Before tapering down and giving his legs a rest, Jimenez plans to run 21 miles of the Boston Marathon’s course at the end of March, as preparation for the big day.

“It varies, some days you feel good and like you can run forever and some days you’re just not feeling it… It is a lot of time and a lot of running. But the good news is you can eat all the pizza you want,” Jimenez said with a laugh.

Anyoone wishing to support Jorge Jimenez and the YMCA of Greater Boston can donate at crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/ymca-boston-2019/jorgejimenez7.

Chamber Hosts Annual Media Forum

Newsday  beat reporter Deborah Morris, right, pitched questions to a panel of journalists including, from left, Kristin Thorne, Long Island correspondent for WABC Eyewitness News, Connor Beach, staff writer for  The Long-Islander , and Peter Sloggatt,  The Long-Islander ’s   publisher and managing editor.

Newsday beat reporter Deborah Morris, right, pitched questions to a panel of journalists including, from left, Kristin Thorne, Long Island correspondent for WABC Eyewitness News, Connor Beach, staff writer for The Long-Islander, and Peter Sloggatt, The Long-Islander’s publisher and managing editor.

Development projects and parking in Huntington village, gangs in Huntington High School and developments in social media were just a few of the topics that came hot off the press last week at the Huntington Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Media breakfast.

 The annual networking event allowed Chamber members to hear from local news industry insiders about some of the juiciest stories of 2018, as well as possible headlines for the year to come.

 The event was moderated by Newsday beat reporter Deborah Morris, who pitched questions to a panel of journalist that featured Kristin Thorne, Long Island correspondent for WABC Eyewitness News, Connor Beach, staff writer for The Long-Islander, and Peter Sloggatt, The Long-Islander’s publisher and managing editor.

 The panel fielded questions from the audience, which sparked a discussion about the role of social media in the new industry. Apartment-building and parking issues, two issues near and dear to Huntington business owners, also dominated the discussion.

Student Groups Still Shouting, 'Never Again'

Co-founders of March For Our Lives Long Island Avalon Fenster and Sara Frawley speak to students following a school walk-out organized after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year.    Photos/March For Our Lives Long Island

Co-founders of March For Our Lives Long Island Avalon Fenster and Sara Frawley speak to students following a school walk-out organized after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year.

Photos/March For Our Lives Long Island

By Sophia Ricco

sricco@longislandergroup.com

In the year since Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the site of one of the deadliest mass shootings in America, students have risen up to demand gun reform and better school safety.

Just days after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and staff members dead and as many injured, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas announced a demonstration for gun legislation called “March for Our Lives.” This has been a rallying cry to students across the country to stand up and demand gun control legislation.

Local students Avalon Fenster and Sara Frawley founded March For Our Lives Long Island last March. The group has hosted school walkouts, candlelight vigils and election parties to spread their message. Members also attended a street dedication ceremony for fallen teacher Scott Beigel, a native of Dix Hills.

“As March For Our Lives Long Island has grown bigger, we are creating our own smaller branches, to get more involved with local schools and communities,” New York State Political Director of March For Our Lives Nicholas Likos said.

Likos, a high school junior from Melville got involved with the organization after Fenster selected his essay —written from the perspective of a teacher about the effects of school shootings — for a competition. Even though Long Island has never experienced a mass school shooting MFOL-LI’s mission is to combat gun violence of any kind.

“Some people say ‘gun violence doesn’t pertain to me because I’ve never been in a school shooting.’ But if you live in an area where there is gun violence, it’s just as much your issue as it is mine,” Likos said.

MFOL-LI wants to ensure the youth have a voice in every community. They take a “grassroots” approach, working with students to outline goals that they then deliver to their own school administration.

“Some communities on Long Island are afraid to take the initiative and become involved because they don’t feel either group allies with their ideals, when in reality we just need to focus on everybody, every student, and try to see what will best suit their needs,” Likos said.

Dix Hills native Scott Beigel who lost his life trying to protect students during the Parkland shooting, was honored when the street he grew up on was dedicated to his memory. Members of March For Our Lives Long Island showed their support at the renaming ceremony.

Dix Hills native Scott Beigel who lost his life trying to protect students during the Parkland shooting, was honored when the street he grew up on was dedicated to his memory. Members of March For Our Lives Long Island showed their support at the renaming ceremony.

As they work to have more branches at schools, MFOL-LI hopes to bring two workshops to the local community. They want to break the negative connection between mental health and gun violence, by getting certified by the National Alliance on Mental Illness to educate and assist those struggling with mental health to find help.

The group also wants to teach educators and students how to triage crisis and deal with emergency situations with “Stop the Bleed.”

“The issue with ‘Stop the Bleed’ is you want students and faculty to be prepared. By the same token you don’t want students to be afraid by reinstating that fear,” Likos said, adding, “in a way, we kinda need to do that to provoke that this is real.”

In the days following the Parkland shooting, Likos admits he and his classmates were shaken, but took action by orchestrating the student walkout at his school. In response, his principal asked him to outline measures the school could take to improve safety.

“Now doors are locked at all times, everyone has to wear an ID, and in every classroom there is line of tape at every door that shows where the ‘line of sight’ is,” Likos said. “It’s the little things that count and it really shows that this wave the youth initiative has created is being respected by adults. They are having conversations with us.”

MFOL-LI also works to have open communication with government officials at all levels. During MFOL-LI’s recent general meeting, State Senator Jim Gaughran burst into the room to inform them that he was on his way to Albany where the governor was to sign the Red Flag Act. He made a pit stop to tell them the news.

The Red Flag Act gives educators a direct route to follow if a student poses a threat or makes others feel uncomfortable. Teachers work with students on a day-to-day basis and many at Marjory Stoneman Douglas revealed they had concerns about the shooter but didn’t know where to report it.

“This was essentially something we all were working towards, there was an uproar of cheers and everyone was so happy,” Likos said. “It was interesting and crazy to see we had a direct impact on that movement, we as individuals, who are all still in high school.”

Anyone interested in joining the cause is encouraged to email marchforourlivesli@gmail.com.

Community Rallies For The Eagles

Members of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association rally on Route 25A in Centerport Saturday to urge town officials to protect the habitat of bald eagles living near Mill Pond.   Photo/Centerport Harbor Civic Association

Members of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association rally on Route 25A in Centerport Saturday to urge town officials to protect the habitat of bald eagles living near Mill Pond. Photo/Centerport Harbor Civic Association

By Connor Beach

cbeach@longislandergroup.com

Huntington officials said Monday they are taking steps to protect Mill Pond in Centerport after residents raised concerns about the environmental impacts from run off at a construction site in the area.

The construction site is near where a pair of bald eagles are nesting.

Huntington spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and staff from the Maritime Services and Building Departments met with “concerned residents” to discuss how construction at the site of the old Thatched Cottage may be affecting water quality in Mill Pond and possible negative effects on the bald eagles living near the pond.

Town officials said on Jan. 24 residents first reported seeing an oil slick in storm water runoff near the site where the Port Jefferson-based Crest Group are constructing a new catering venue called Water’s Edge.

Lembo said town Maritime Services, Suffolk Department of Health and state DEC officials all inspected the site, and test results showed “zero evidence of contamination.”

“In a meeting with several concerned Centerport residents on Friday, the town was able to assure all in attendance that while all testing has returned zero evidence of contamination, we will be taking an extra, proactive step to ensure our water stays its cleanest and our winged friends can safely enjoy the beautiful habitat in which they have taken up residence,” Lupinacci said in a statement Monday.

Though no evidence was found of hazardous material entering Mill Pond, town officials installed a boom near the seawall at the construction site as a preventive measure to protect the habitat. The boom was described as “a sponge-like material designed soak up any residue in the water, including the sediment, oil and other substances brought in from the harbor with the tide, storm water runoff from Route 25A, and runoff from the land surrounding the pond.”

Dom Spada, deputy director of Maritime Services, told residents the boom should be in place by Friday.

Tom Knight, co-president of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association, attended Monday’s meeting with town officials, and said in an interview Wednesday residents were still awaiting the instillation of the boom and written reports of the town’s inspections.

The presence of nesting eagles on Centerport’s Mill Pond are one reason residents complained to town officials over conditions caused by construction at the former Thatched Cottage .  Photo/Rainey Sepulveda

The presence of nesting eagles on Centerport’s Mill Pond are one reason residents complained to town officials over conditions caused by construction at the former Thatched Cottage . Photo/Rainey Sepulveda

 “We all love the eagles, and we’d hate to see anything happen to them especially because of any run off from a construction site,” Knight said.

Around 50 members of the CHCA rallied Saturday on Route 25A in Centerport. Knight said the group hoped to raise awareness of “our concerns that the Water’s Edge construction site needed to be monitored closely by Town of Huntington officials” and “the overdevelopment in Centerport along the 25A corridor.”

Knight said the group’s members were also concerned about the proposed construction of a 7-Eleven on Little Neck Road and increasing traffic in the area.

Christina Whitehurst, Director of Sales, Catering and Marketing for Water’s Edge, said the new venue benefits “if the environment and the community thrive along with our business.”

“We are working to rebuild a beautiful waterfront events facility so we have no intention of polluting the lovely water or environment that surrounds it,” Whitehurst said. “The DEC report speaks for itself in regards to the unfounded claims of abuse to the environment.”

New Stewards Watch Over Grist Mill

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill and the Mill Cove Waterfowl Sanctuary will be repaired and preserved under new ownership and stewardship.   Photo courtesy Richard Hamburger

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill and the Mill Cove Waterfowl Sanctuary will be repaired and preserved under new ownership and stewardship. Photo courtesy Richard Hamburger

By Sophia Ricco

sricco@longislandergroup.com

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill and the Mill Cove Waterfowl Sanctuary will live to see many more days.

Previously gifted to The Nature Conservancy by local residents, the organization felt their efforts are best spent protecting other Long Island lands and waters. They transferred the 17-acre parcel to a newly formed non-profit whose mission is to support responsible public access and enjoyment of the mill.

“We are a group of neighbors who enjoyed seeing the mill and felt it was important to protect the mill and preserve the site,” Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary president Richard Hamburger said.

The historic gristmill was built in approximately 1794 in what is now the Village of Lloyd Harbor. At the time the area was predominately agricultural. The mill processed grains harvested on Long Island into flour. A hundred years later, technology advances brought steam-driven rolling mills.

“Inside the building you’ll find its original wooden gears and buffalo leather belts,” Hamburger said. “This is an interesting anomaly because that technology was replaced by steam rollers and steel chains in the mid-19th century. The owner at the time chose not to invest in this new technology so as a result he used obsolete technology for another 50 years.”
As time has gone on, it has become known as the best-maintained 18th-century tidal gristmill in the country.

“This one is very important to the history of American gristmills because it’s still in its original location and incredibly well-preserved,” Hamburger said.

The organization plans to repair and restore the site, through projects, funded by State grants and community contribution. The first project they will tackle in the spring is fixing the pond’s dam to prevent overtoppings. The repair will harden the dam’s structure and hold soil in through planting appropriate marsh grasses.

“Climate change has caused the overtoppings to become more frequent,” Hamburger said. “Starting with Superstorm Sandy, there has been significant erosion to the North end of the damn. Our first project of physical reconstruction is to stabilize the dam.”

The organization has partnered with the Huntington Historical Society to expand tours and other public education activities. However, the society can only run 10-15 tours a season since access is by water and boats can only be docked during high tide.

“They have the expertise to conduct the tours, their volunteers learn the history,” Hamburger said.

Hamburger believes the site would be interesting to historians, academics and environmentalists who could study the cove and mill.

“It has stood there with great dignity for 225 years, it’s seen the changes of Lloyd Harbor,” Hamburger said. “Historic structures help us understand where we came from and that the world does change.”

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
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

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.