About 20 housing advocates gathered Tuesday in front of Huntington Town Hall, demanding that the town board settle a decadelong dispute and allow the creation of affordable, multi-bedroom rental units in Melville.
The town board is slated to vote next Tuesday on a settlement at its meeting. The outcome of the vote could end a lawsuit brought by the NAACP and Fair Housing in Huntington Committee, which first accused the town of housing discrimination in 2002.
The suit challenges a proposed affordable housing development in Melville, saying it discriminates against families and minorities. Fair Housing has since dropped out of the suit.
The suit says the town is being discriminatory because the development, the Sanctuary at Ruland Road, calls for 117 one-bedroom units, but not larger units more suitable for families. The units proposed for this property, which is owned by the developer of the Greens at Half Hollow, are intended to offset lack of affordable family housing when the senior complex was built, said Chris Campbell, the Manhattan attorney representing the NAACP.
"You can't fit families into one-bedroom housing," said Richard Koubek, president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, outside Town Hall.
Lawyer Jim Clark of Northport, who is representing the town, said Tuesday the settlement terms on the table now call for 117 units: 77 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom.
"We felt that we would submit them to the town board, as the plaintiffs indicated they were pretty much not going to move beyond what was negotiated," Clark said. But he said the terms could change before next Tuesday's meeting, because both sides are still in discussions.
Ulysses Spicer, the Huntington NAACP's second vice president, said the settlement proposal calls for 117 rental units and that's what they should be. "It is to encourage our young people to stay in the community," Spicer said. "It is to encourage young families to have a decent, affordable place to live and raise their children."
Levittown developer Peter Florey said his firm is in contract to buy the Ruland Road property, which is about 8 acres. Florey, who works for D&F Development Group, said they hope to build the 117 rental units, which they are calling the Ruland Knolls and would have preferences for veterans, the physically disabled and Huntington residents.
"If we don't start doing these kinds of projects, Long Island is going to be a ghost town," Michael DeLuise, president of the Melville Chamber of Commerce, said.
But there are some who want to see the development limited to property ownership, including Town Councilwoman Susan Berland.
Berland said she isn't against rental housing, but that the town needs a place for people to buy one-bedroom units. "I think it is important to stick to our original plan of home ownership and support opportunity for the next generation," she said.