A week after saying it would reopen its study of the historical value of the former Huntington Hotel, the state Historic Preservation Office has reverted to its original opinion and says that the building "no longer retains sufficient integrity to be considered eligible for listing on the National Register."
At issue is the historical value of the building at Fairview Street and New York Avenue. Owner Joseph Willen wants to sell it to TD Bank, which would tear it down and replace it with a bank branch with three lanes of drive-through service.
The state office had sent its letter, dated Jan. 31, to TD Bank and copied to town historian Robert Hughes, saying that its initial finding in 2009 that the plan would "have no effect on historic or archaeological resources" was incorrect.
That letter came from program analyst Virginia L. Bartos, and said the initial review failed to include the fact that the Conklin House is across the street from the building, and thus in the project's "area of potential effect."
The Conklin site is on the National Register of Historic Places.
But in a letter to TD Bank dated Feb.4, the state office now says that the fact that the bank would simply replace an existing structure means that there would be no impact on the Conklin property. Further, "The interior was gutted for retail use and the exterior has been substantially altered by the change in fenestration and the loss of much of its period architectural details. As a result, this office stands by its original No Effect determination dated Aug.20, 2009."
Dan Keefe, deputy public information officer for the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, said the contradictory letters were a result of some confusion in the office but that the most recent letter, from Mark Peckham, director of the Historic Preservation field services bureau, is the final word from the office.
Fairview Street residents have been fighting the project on multiple levels, citing the building's historical value, concerns about the safety of children who live on Fairview and traffic congestion on New York Avenue.
A week earlier, the Huntington Historical Society wrote, "The building that was built as Hotel Huntington at the corner of Fairview and New York Avenues in the late 1920's is in danger of being lost. TD Bank proposes to demolish the building constructed at the apex of the Roaring Twenties which sits diagonally across from the Society's David Conklin Farmhouse museum. The society is celebrating its 100th year of owning and operating this museum, making it the oldest historic house museum in Suffolk County and one of the oldest in the country.
"The society has seen many changes over the years, most made in the name of progress. By no stretch could a proposal to demolish an iconic building marking the gateway to Huntington village and replacing it with a building more suited for Jericho Turnpike be termed 'progress.'
"Huntington is not just another post war suburban 'nowheresville.' For over 150 years, Huntington has had a real downtown that is home to stores, offices, restaurants, residences and more. To tear away at the fabric of that community is to threaten its very existence."
The town Historic Preservation Commission voted Jan.24 to ask the town to grant historic landmark status to the building.The Town Board has 45 days from when it received the recommendation to set a date for a public hearing.