Housing Advocates Turn Up The Heat
With days to go before an anticipated affordable housing vote at Huntington Town Hall, advocates rallied Tuesday to urge the town board to ratify a settlement proposal that would clear the way for 117 units of affordable rental housing on Ruland Road in Melville.
Dix Hills resident Dick Koubek, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, said there is overwhelming evidence of a need for affordable rental housing on Long Island.
“The time for affordable rental housing has come, and let’s get it done before it’s too late,” Koubek said.
Koubek and fellow supporters – including business groups, housing advocates and other civic leaders – are backing a 117-unit plan, designed by D&F Development, for 77 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom rental units on 8.1 acres along Ruland Road in Melville called Ruland Knolls.
“We now have the rare opportunity to offer quality residences for hard-working people for whom nearly all of the available housing is out of reach,” D&F Principal Peter Florey said.
The town is currently in court with the Huntington NAACP, which alleges existing Ruland Road plans for one-bedroom, for-sale units for an affordable-housing offset to The Greens at Half Hollow senior community, are discriminatory against families with children. Northport-based attorney Jim Clark, who is representing the town in their defense of the NAACP suit, said the plan as of Tuesday was to put up for a vote on Dec. 10 the 117-unit offer “unless the parties between now and then come up with a different proposal.”
Ulysses Spicer, second vice president of the Huntington NAACP, urged the town board to reject “NIMBYism.”
“I would love to be able to thank the town board on Dec. 10 for passing this,” Spicer said.
Opponents of the settlement, including Civic Association of Sweet Hollow President Alissa Taff, support an older concept, then called The Sanctuary at Melville, which called for 122 one-bedroom ownership affordable units.
“It is a real plan and does address the brain drain that everybody’s concerned about – people just starting out, just graduating, all the people the business groups are complaining that don’t have a chance to have housing,” Taff said.
That plan, however, has been mired in a decade-long court battle. The Huntington NAACP is the remaining plaintiff in the most recent legal salvo – a March 2011 lawsuit in which the NAACP alleges the 122-unit distribution is discriminatory against families with children.
A June 25 settlement offer by the Huntington NAACP, which would have created the unit distribution currently being sought by the Housing Coalition, was pulled from the August town board agenda following a last-minute outcry from Dix Hills and Melville civic associations, including Taff’s. Koubek has blamed Taff and civic leaders for thwarting the settlement; Taff said town hall left civic associations in the dark ahead of the vote.
Should the June 25 settlement offer come up for a vote next week, whether it would be ratified or not is anybody’s guess. Should the town fail to approve a settlement, counsel for the Huntington NAACP said the organization will go to court and try the case. Litigating the case has cost the town $400,000 in the last five years, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.
The only two solid votes on the June 25 offer appear to be Councilman Gene Cook, who favors the settlement proposal, and Councilwoman Susan Berland, who is opposed and supports single-bedroom ownership units.
Cook said he “did not have a problem” with the unit distribution proposed June 25, and said the case is “costing us way too much money.”
Berland, who announced Wednesday that she is posting a survey on her town website to gauge the interest of young professionals, veterans, families and seniors in affordable, for-sale one-bedroom condos, said she remains committed to building equity units at Ruland Road.
“That was the plan in 2000 and that is the position I’ve taken all along,” she said.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson and Supervisor Frank Petrone have not taken a position publicly; Petrone said Wednesday that discussions are ongoing ahead of the Dec. 10 meeting. Councilman Mark Mayoka declined to comment until he reviewed a resolution outlining the settlement offer the board will be considering.