Written by Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone
As we turn the page on 2013, we can look back on a year in which much was accomplished in Huntington and the stage was set for even more achievements in 2014:
Major developments advanced Huntington Station’s revitalization, including the Town Board accepting the development strategy presented by Renaissance Downtowns; the dedication of the pedestrian plaza at New York Avenue and Olive Street with its unique sculpture, Generations; and the beginning of programming at the Town’s Huntington Station Business Incubator. Avalon Bay began construction of its Huntington Station community, which is expected to open next month. Next year, I would hope to see construction begin on the Columbia Terrace affordable veterans’ housing project and the possible approval of a boutique hotel for property across the street from Columbia Terrace, adjacent to the Huntington Community First aid Squad headquarters.
We made great strides in addressing the longstanding parking problem in Huntington Village. The year began with a request that people complete an online survey about parking in the Village. That survey’s findings were incorporated in a report whose recommendations are being implemented, including improved signage and the installation of muni-meters in early 2014 and the formation of a subcommittee to explore locations and funding mechanisms for a parking structure. In a different vein, more than half the people with outstanding parking tickets responded to a one-month amnesty that offered them a discount on the combined fine and penalty, collecting more than $100,000 for the Town.
This was a banner year for open space acquisition. The town closed on the Carpenter Farm in Greenlawn, which will be used for educational groups and nature study; the Erb property in Dix Hills, which will become soccer fields; and Meyers Farm in Melville, which will become Sweet Hollow Park, a neighborhood park the community has sought for some time. Construction also began on Coral Park in Greenlawn. That project is nearing completion and should be ready for a dedication in the spring. The Town joined with Suffolk County and the Nature Conservancy in acquiring the DeForest Williams property in Cold Spring Harbor, which will become nature trails. And, after a significant environmental cleanup, the Town reopened the Veterans Nature Study Area in East Northport.
Environmentally, the Town continued to upgrade the Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant by installing a bioaugmentation system that begins treating waste in the pipe before it reaches the plant, reducing nitrogen by 90 percent. And we began curbside pickup of electronic waste such as televisions, computers and printers. By the end of November, the Town had picked up almost 130 tons of e-waste. The Northport Harbor Water Quality Protection Committee that I co-chair continued its good work, most notably helping Northport village secure $7.5 million in funding to upgrade its aging sewer plant and reduce pollution into Huntington waters.
This was the year that the Town completed the major upgrade of traffic signals on Larkfield Road and safety improvements on Wolf Hill Road near the Birchwood School and on Round Swamp Road. The Town also implemented the first major revision to HART bus routes and schedules to improve service and increase ridership.
From a legislative perspective, 2013 was the year the Town enacted restrictions on invasive bamboo and imposed a moratorium on wind turbines, as we work on regulations. A major initiative from a couple of years back, the blight law, scored major successes with the demolition of the dilapidated Empire Szechuan and Sitar properties and the restoration of residences on Forest Court in Halesite and Majestic Drive in Dix Hills.
Financially, I am proud that the Town maintained its AAA bond ratings from the three major rating agencies and that I was able to present a 2014 budget that held the line on taxes while maintaining services.
To better communicate with residents and to increase government transparency, we launched the new Town website and improved the online videos of government meetings, indexing them to the agendas.
We ramped up the fight against LIPA’s assessment challenge on the Northport Power Plant, as 10,000 of you signed the online petition supporting the Town’s position and joining us in opposing the settlement LIPA proposed. I look forward to seeing whether the rejection of the settlement and PSE&G’s takeover of LIPA’s operations January 1 affects LIPA’s position.
We saw some improvement in the economy in 2013, with an uptick in mortgage tax revenues. This year also saw the completion of the major renovations to the Shops at Walt Whitman, the opening of the Target store on the site of the Huntington Town House and Canon moving into its new Americas Headquarters in Melville.
On a sad note, 2013 also saw the passing of individuals whose commitment to our community made Huntington a better place, including former Town Attorney Arthur Goldstein, Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lawrence Kushnick, former Supervisor Robert Flynn Sr. I am happy that Bob did make it to Turn Back the Clock Day at Dix Hills Park, where we gave him proper recognition for his actions a half century ago as the father of the Town parks system we all enjoy today.
Finally, I could not end a recap of 2013 without a huge thank you to all of the Town’s voters, who elected me to a sixth term as your supervisor as well as reelecting Mark Cuthbertson and electing Tracey Edwards to the Town Council. We have achieved much over the years, but a lot is yet to come.
See you in 2014.