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Proposal to swap Huntington Town Hall and troubled school

Michael Tracy, center, addressing the forum. Newsday Photo.

A proposal to have Huntington Town Hall and the Jack Abrams Intermediate School swap buildings was the subject of a brief debate Tuesday night during a forum called to discuss the problem of crime and violence in the streets around the school.

The proposal was one of several suggestions at the meeting, arranged by County Legis. Jon Cooper at the school and attended by more than 100 people, including the town board, school and police officials, ministers and Legis. Lou D’Amaro.

Michael Tracy, who said parents had gathered 1,100 names on a petition in support of the idea of a building swap, challenged elected officials at the meeting to consider the proposal as a way of getting the children out of a dangerous setting and showing the town’s commitment to the neighborhood. 

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the town and the school board had met and discussed the idea among others. “One solution, sure it’s Town Hall, that’s one solution,” he said, “but that’s not the fix for Huntington Station . . . Huntington Station will still have the problem.”

Responding to the contention that the swap would not help the community, Tracy said, “The community has Town Hall, how can you do anything bolder, anything braver than to move Town Hall into the community.”

The comments of both men were greeted with applause from the audience, which was also divided over a suggestion to house a police substation near the school.  Cooper has submitted legislation to accomplish that.

The meeting was the latest in the past seven weeks since a shooting on the same street as the school prompted a campaign by parents for increased police protection.  The subject is expected to come up again at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Jack Abrams school.  A candlelight vigil is being arranged at the school at 6 p.m. that day by the Rev. Bernadette Watkins and Huntington Outreach Ministries.

Civic activist Dolores Thompson said the problem is more complicated than just the location of the school. “The total area is having a problem,” she said while pressing county representatives to increase police staffing permanently instead of the short term deployments that have been promised. “Temporary is temporary,” she said. “Whatever the problem is, it will be coming right back.”

Tags: Huntington schools , crime.

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