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Town Board Rejects Hearings on Former Hotel

TD Bank plan moves forward as preservation recommendation fails.

The Town Board Tuesday rejected public hearings involving the building on New York Avenue, appearing to pave the way for the eventual construction of a TD Bank branch on the lot.

A noisy crowd and about 40 speakers addressed the Town Board during its public comments section, many of them in support of the deal that would demolish the old building at 410 New York Avenue and put up a new bank branch in its place.

The most immediate issue before the board was whether to schedule a public hearing on the recommendation by the town's Historic Preservation Commission, which voted in January that the building, which started out as a hotel in the 1920s, be designated as a historical landmark.

By rejecting the public hearing, the board's 3-2 vote, in effect, also rejected the recommendation. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, Mark Cuthbertson and Glenda Jackson voted against the hearings; Susan Berland and. while Mayoka on Monday came out in favor of the historical designation.

Those council members opposing the hearings cited a variety of factors. Petrone lashed out at the commission, saying the vote left: "a question in our minds as to the integrity of the preservation commission."

He also said, "We had 40 people speak today; 40 at the last meeting. If that's not a public hearing, what is it?"

After the vote, Jackson cited the many external and internal changes in the building that she thought undermined the preservation argument, saying, "I believe the designation is not warranted. While I do empathize, we must move forward."

Opponents of the TD Bank plan had fought the proposal on several fronts, including safety of children on streets in the neighborhood, traffic on New York Avenue and the historical value of the building. Fairview Street residents had been meeting and researching traffic issues and the building's history for some time.

Lorraine Kelley, one of the leaders of the opposition, said after the vote, "We are saddened that the three board members who would not give us the hearing, would not listen to the voices of 1,000 people who had signed the petitions and that they would not consider doing what...is possible, to give this building local historic designation. This building fit the criterion of local historical preservation."

Several who spoke on behalf of the plan as a way to create construction jobs and bring new vitality to the downtown area. Others saw it as a way to send a message that Huntington was friendly to business.

Many, though, challenged the idea that the building had historical value, with one crying out, "It doesn't look like that!" when someone in the crowd held up a old photo of the building in pristine condition.

But opponents cited various opinions and recommendations to support their historical argument, including, most recently, the decision of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, to put the building on its list of endangered historic places.

After the Town Board meeting, town historian Robert Hughes said of the historical commission's recommendation, "This was not an end run" on the matter and that  that the historical review had begun before the zoning process began.

Bobby Jaxx March 09, 2011 at 04:24 PM
How awesome. Another bank in the village. Just what we need
gary March 09, 2011 at 04:54 PM
What is scary is that a small group of bureaucrats (a.k.a. the board) can make this decision arbitrarily. Even if there are hearings, and evidently despite real concerns on both sides, the ultimate decision is theirs. For one thing, a bank is not what we need in town, especially one with drive through banking. On the other hand, the building has little aesthetic value and razing it would not be a loss. What really matters is what is put in such a valuable real estate parcel. There have been up-scale apartments built on two sites recently. That seems better to me - attract affluence and thereby generate more local commerce and tax base - if it is viable in terms of demand and parking. A bank adds nothing to the town.
Julie March 09, 2011 at 05:07 PM
That is privately owned property, so it's not up to the TB to decide what business goes there or not. If the bank fails, then something else will take its place. I'm not crazy about their having a drive-thru either. Can that be changed at this point, or have they already gotten the green light for it?
A Citizen March 09, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Why is a bank any less valuable than another business? Would a shoe store be better? Would a restaurant be better? In any case, an owner will naturally make the best business decision. You cannot tell the owner that you would prefer "upscale apartments"-that's ridiculous. You would not be happy if someone was telling you what to do with property you owned. That's the way it works and holds true for any other building in town. Why was there no protest for any of the other banks going into vacant spaces? Those buildings are all old as well. The "bureaucrats" are the people that are elected to make the ultimate decisions. That is how government works. The decisions cannot please everyone.
Lorraine Kelley March 09, 2011 at 07:36 PM
No one was ever against a bank. We are against the destruction of the building. Td bank refuses to do what Wachovia did on Main Street when it tore down the old Rubin's Luggage Building - that is, put in a building that fits with the area. Do not put three drive thru windows in a residential neighborhood. If TD Bank considers itself a bank that wants to work with and be embraced by the community it hopes to serve, then it should listen to the community members.
Gail March 09, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Isn't the issue here the destruction of an historic building in Huntington? If TD bank kept the building structure, I'm sure there would be no problem. No one is against a bank unless the bank destroys the landscape, beauty & safety of our community!
Andrew Scott March 09, 2011 at 09:13 PM
I am putting my journalistic balance aside to say that I think a bank here is going to be a decision we all regret. Housing in some way, shape, or form would have the way to go. Unless it is truly a dignified structure that they have in mind (have not seen renderings) it will make fora less-than-grand entrance way to our grand village.
JSC March 09, 2011 at 09:52 PM
While many of us are upset about not getting the building designated as historic and having it preserved outside to some extent, I know I will be more upset if TD Bank decides to build one of it's ugly bright green structures! If you ever go by the intersection of Old Country Rd and South Oyster Bay Rd, NE corner, you'll see what I mean!
Clifford Sondock March 09, 2011 at 11:45 PM
The End is just but the means was immoral. The Town of Huntington nor the surrounding residents should not be determining what becomes of the former Aboff building. As Julie said above, this is PRIVATE property and the property owner is the only individual that has the moral/natural right to determint what becomes of his or her building. No citizen in a free society should have to go through such an ordeal to use his or her property as he or she so desires.
Deb Ryan March 10, 2011 at 12:04 AM
I agree completely with Clifford. This whole issue took off in a completely crazy direction with neighbors thinking they could decide what kind of business could go into this gentleman's property-one even suggesting "an upscale apartment would be preferable". And the previous comment that "no one objected to a bank" was completely false. There were many posted that "Huntington doesn't need another bank". Since when do people who chose to live in such close proximity to the business district decide what businesses will move into vacant buildings owned by others? The free market will decide. If there is not enough business, it won't last. I think that people just lost their heads over this particular building and they forgot what a free society entails. The Board could only have made this decision. Bringing it up was just posturing by certain members who knew nothing would come of it but would make a good impression that would last until next election time.
jb March 10, 2011 at 12:17 AM
Remember everyone, there are more residents than tb members, so if they choose to put up a bank without our approval then boycott the bank and let tb and td bank see how serious we really are.
Deb Ryan March 10, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Ridiculous!
Bobby Jaxx March 10, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Agreed, and that was why I put in my rather sarcastic comment about the bank going there.
Bobby Jaxx March 10, 2011 at 01:42 AM
I understand where you're coming from Deb, but this isn't an issue of a business moving into a vacant building; it's an issue of an old and (possibly) historic building being torn down and replaced with a cookie cutter TD Bank, right across the street from the Conklin House and having a drive-thru at one of the most congested intersections in the village. I think this decision of the Town Board, without holding any more hearings, was just bad form, but it's over. They made their decision and it's done.
Urban March 10, 2011 at 01:21 PM
Is it true that the Dime is adding a drive through window on the east side of the Conklin House?
S.J. Harlan March 10, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Eventually citizens will have the last say. Don't bank with the new company, and vote out the people who you do not feel are representing you. If someone wants to give you a check from tht bank, demand cash or a money order. Banks are a dime a dozen and the other established banking institutions will be very happy to support this. Do not allow your services and sales to go towards businesses that feed the downfall of the town. They used to call it "shunning." Worked then, and will work now.
S.J. Harlan March 10, 2011 at 10:56 PM
As long as the property owner stays within the designated, agreed upon use of the purchased property, I concur. What has yet to surface is whether or not the current owner was given any tax breaks, assessment credits, or specific Town waivers when the property was sold to him. He rented for a number of years before the purchase. Was there any agreement that the building would be restore and maintained? He immediately hired an architect and a contractor with an ETA of 1 year and then . . . zero. It was even splashed in a magazine how wonderful this was going to be for the Town. If there were no promises or encumberances then it is not a Town or citizen issue. Unlike this, the Avalon Bay issue was a zoning change. Mr. Bonavita can do what his property code allows now. He can sell it to them and they have the same restrictions and density that are attached to the land. No one was telling Bonavita he couldn't sell or build with the parameters that exist.
Clifford Sondock March 11, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Wow, Deb, suddenly I don't feel so alone. There are actually folks in Huntington that respect property rights and free markets. There is hope!
Clifford Sondock March 11, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Bobby, it is not the role of Government to interfere with "an old and (possibly) historic building being torn down and replaced with a cookie cutter TD Bank, right across the street from the Conklin House and having a drive-thru at one of the most congested intersections in the village."
Bobby Jaxx March 11, 2011 at 01:17 PM
So Clifford, by saying that, you'd be okay with say...the Empire State Building being torn down, or the Peace and Plenty Inn, or any other historically important buildings that are privately owned, because History just doesn't matter to the public at large? That is a pretty short-sighted way of thinking, in my opinion.
jb March 11, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Don't go to the bank that will speak louder than any tb meeting and show all who has power in this town
Clifford Sondock March 12, 2011 at 04:04 AM
What is short sighted is Government controlling a real estate market. What is short sighted is a land use system that permits some group to violate someone's right to property by declaring someone's property "historic." What is short sighted is a land use system that impedes change, growth and adaptation. Certainly you don't believe that all structures that are older than X years is deemed "historic" and cannot be changed? Why can't a private philanthropic insitution like the nature conservancy determine what is historic and finance the landmarking of historic properties? That would be just and moral, in my opinion.
Clifford Sondock March 12, 2011 at 04:05 AM
I agree.
Bobby Jaxx March 12, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Very nice. You managed to state your opinion without ever answering my question. You should be a politician
S.J. Harlan March 12, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Here is only one reference that shows a building designated as historic increases in value faster than non-historic designations. http://www.tempe.gov/historicpres/Resources/HPO/Historic%20District%20benefits_Mabry_%206-7-07.pdf Separate from the land (dirt) value, look at taxes paid to the Town for the structure. How would the demolition and rebuilding of a different structure change that up or down? Historic designtions of any building generally cause the assessment to increase in value therfore they generate MORE tax revenue for the Town. Follow the money.
Lorraine Kelley March 12, 2011 at 03:44 PM
If taxes are based on the square footage of a building then you do the math. They are tearing down a 20,000 square foot building and replacing it with a 4,000 square foot building.
S.J. Harlan March 12, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Oh, so double lose for the Town.
Dan N. October 09, 2012 at 04:11 AM
I'm late to this thread, and sadly, it seems the demolition on the old hotel is about to begin. I am not in favor of demolishing old structures which add character to a village like Huntington and replacing with modern ones, but alas, it seems eminent. Does anyone know whether TD's architectural plan is sensitive to the character of the town?
Dan N. October 09, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I'm late to this thread, and it seems the demolition on the old hotel is about to begin. I am not in favor of demolishing old structures which maintain the character of a village like Huntington and replacing with modern ones, but alas, it seems eminent. Does anyone know whether TD's architectural plan is sensitive to the character of the town?

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