Chamber Members ‘Meet The Media’
All roads led to Huntington Station at the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Media breakfast Tuesday morning.
The hamlet was a focal point of discussion at the annual gathering, which featured a panel of seven reporters and editors who cover the Town of Huntington.
The goal of the morning, according to Newsday columnist and moderator Joye Brown, of Huntington, was to take a look back at 2013 and take a look forward into the new year. But the spotlight was clearly on Huntington Station and those leading the charge to revitalize it.
Panelists agreed that delivering on campaign promises to revitalize Huntington Station is crucial for Supervisor Frank Petrone’s sixth term to be successful.
“They heard him say that revitalizing Huntington Station was his goal, that he wanted to have a chance to finally get that done – and people want to see that,” Newsday beat reporter Deborah Morris, of Huntington, said.
“Frank has to deliver on Huntington Station, and one of the things he’s done right with this is form a public-private partnership,” Long Islander News Associate Publisher Peter Sloggatt added. “…Government, we all love ya, but you don’t get stuff done too quickly – whereas the private sector really tends to make things happen.”
He was speaking of Renaissance Downtowns, a firm designated by the town to serve as the master developer of Huntington Station. While initial plans to build a boutique hotel could spur other development, Long Island Business News reporter David Winzelberg stressed that it eventually comes down to economics.
“One of things you have to be careful of – the way Renaissance Downtowns does things, they’re not a developer,” he said. “Renaissance Downtowns is more like an organizer… They still need the buy-in from developers.”
Some of the panelists’ comments reflected common frustrations tied to revitalization efforts in Huntington Station.
“I don’t know what’s going on with that project in the Station. It’s very disappointing,” News 12 correspondent Danielle Campbell, of Huntington, said. “I’m 51 years old, and it [revitalization] was talked about when I was a child. I don’t know what the holdup is.”
But WNBC’s Greg Cergol, a Huntington resident whose wife, Joan, is director of the Town of Huntington’s Economic Development Corp. and Community Development Agency, disagreed and said “there’s a lot on the table.”
“The problem is consensus – and money,” Cergol said. “You have to convince business to come in and spend money, but before they’re going to do that, they want to know the community is going to support them.”
The panelists also agreed that the community’s image in some corners as a crime-ridden hamlet is unfair and overblown.
“Quite frankly, if you want to talk about crime, I would rather walk through Huntington Station at night than invest money in Wall Street,” Sloggatt joked.
While Huntington Station dominated the talk, other issues emerged. The panel gave the Town of Huntington high marks on economic development and financial management issues, but a more mixed review on housing policy – particularly the creation of rental housing – and efforts to reverse “the brain drain” affecting Long Island.
When the conversation moved toward Billy Joel playing The Paramount as some of the biggest news of 2013, JVC Broadcasting CEO John Caracciolo, of Dix Hills, chastised the media for “trying to make a scandal” out of the scarcity of tickets.
“This is a guy that sold out Shea Stadium two nights in a row in 10 minutes. He’s going to sell out The Paramount in three minutes, and we tried to spin that,” he said.
“The major point is that you get a world-class artist to come into your village, people who haven’t seen the village in 20 years will come by… That’s a wonderful opportunity,” David North, of 97.5 WALK radio, added.
On rental housing, Winzelberg said Huntington is “doing well” at creating opportunities through mixed-use development in Huntington village. Sloggatt, however, said that by the same token, the town and the Huntington NAACP are locked in a legal battle over whether for-sale or rental affordable housing should be built on Ruland Road in Melville.
“It looks like it is going to court and is going to be decided by the courts,” Sloggatt said.
Huntington Patch’s Pam Robinson, a South Huntington resident, said the demand for affordable rental housing remains especially high and cited the enthusiasm of participants in a recent lottery for the right to rent affordable units at Avalon Huntington Station on East 5th Street.
“As a person with an accessory apartment in my house, I can rent it like that – there’s such a need for smaller, not-expensive housing in Huntington. Whether we want that in Huntington, I don’t know – that remains to be seen,” she said.