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.