Ruland Road Settlement Stalls
Huntington’s Town Board on Tuesday turned down a settlement offer proposed by the Huntington NAACP that aimed to end more than 10 years of litigation and create 117 units of affordable housing on 8.1 acres along Ruland Road in Melville.
Following a unanimous vote to turn down the settlement offer, made in response to a 2011 housing lawsuit against the town, Supervisor Frank Petrone said the town will make a counter-offer on Thursday during a court conference. Citing the ongoing litigation, Petrone declined to speak about details of the town’s counter-offer and would only say that it “looks to modify and enhance” the Huntington NAACP’s offer.
Petrone also declined to go into detail about why the town turned down the Huntington NAACP’s settlement offer, which called for a plan of 77 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom rental units, with proposed preferences for veterans and families with physically disabled members.
“We did not agree with all components of the settlement, although we do like a good portion of it,” Petrone said.
Huntington NAACP attorney Chris Campbell accused the town of “kicking the can down the road,” and said the organization is ready to go to trial “as soon as we can.”
The Huntington NAACP is the remaining plaintiff on a 2011 lawsuit filed against the town by the Fair Housing in Huntington Committee, which alleged plans to include only one-bedroom ownership units in the Ruland Road property – an affordable housing offset to The Greens at Half Hollow – is discriminatory against minorities and families with children. Fair Housing, which filed an initial lawsuit against the town over the Greens development in 2002 and later added Ruland Road to the claim, dropped out of the case over the summer. Their initial lawsuit was dismissed in December 2010, but the court gave them an option to re-file, which they did alongside the Huntington NAACP and six others in 2011.
While Petrone said it’s the NAACP’s choice whether the case goes to trial or not, the town is “anxious” to continue negotiating. Jennifer Appel, program director of the Long Island Housing Partnership, said the organization would offer its services to facilitate a settlement that results in affordable housing.
Ulysses Spicer, second vice president of the Huntington NAACP, questioned the value of further negotiations.
“I don’t think there’s any need for any additional negotiations. We’ve heard from practically everybody in the town tonight,” Spicer said, referring to the overwhelming support for rental housing by speakers at the hearing. “I mean, who’s left? What do they need to hear?”
The town board meeting drew a large crowd, with about 30 residents speaking.
As residents and community activists battled over the merits of rental versus for-sale units, comments touching on race and class issues sparked pointed responses.
Dix Hills resident Dick Koubek, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, said that the town’s decision in 2000 to zone the parcel for one-bedroom affordable units was responsible for litigation alleging that a one-bedroom model at Ruland Road is discriminatory against minorities and families with children.
“… families, who frankly, were viewed by some as ‘not appropriate’ because they might be African-American or Hispanic of working class,” Koubek continued.
However, Councilwoman Susan Berland interrupted him to condemn his remarks.
“To make an accusation like that is just unfair,” Berland said.
Arguing in favor of ownership units, longtime Dix Hills resident Gail Jospa made waves when she quoted Mark Twain’s statement that “almost any man worth his salt would fight to defend his home, but no one ever heard of a man going to war over his boardinghouse.”
“By virtue of home ownership, we belong, and belonging makes for good citizenship,” she said.
Joe Maddalone, chairman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce’s Veterans Committee, shot back that likening rentals to boarding homes is “an obscene thing to say.”
Developer Peter Florey, principal of D&F Development who is hoping to build the model proposed by the Huntington NAACP, argued a 117-unit, for-sale affordable community, or making the 77 one-bedroom units in the NAACP’s model for-sale instead of rental, is “not marketable” and “not financeable.”
Florey has an option on the 8.1-acre parcel, owned by Benjamin Development and Kaplan Development, until the end of the year. He bought an extension in mid-August and said he would not do so again should Dec. 31 pass without a settlement. He estimated he has invested more than $250,000.