Opposition to the AvalonBay high-density housing proposal in Huntington Station created the spark that has become the Greater Huntington Civic Group with an expanded focus on issues throughout the town.
The group, formed in 2010, has become a participant in town politics. It helped rally many residents to pressure the town board to vote down the 379-unit Avalon Bay project.
"Once we started to get bigger and bigger, we realized we needed to organize," its president, Steven Spucces, 36, an East Northport resident, said before a recent meeting. "The group is made up of individuals who were very vocal in town matters."
He said membership numbers are in the "hundreds." Board members include town residents John LaVertu, Nick Wieland, Jennifer LaVertu and Lauren Meagher.
The civic group meets on the first Thursday of every month at the VFW Hall on West Pulaski Road in Huntington Station and attracts people of all ages and races, longtime residents and newcomers.
Those who attend the monthly meeting are asked to bring food to help supply local food pantries.
The success of their opposition to AvalonBay was short-lived -- the town board came back nine months later and approved a scaled-down version of the housing complex.
In September, the group filed a State Supreme Court lawsuit against Huntington Town and its planning board, developer AvalonBay Communities Inc. and property owner Evergreen Estates in an effort to reverse the board's vote.
The organization favors ownership, single-family homes and even condos instead of high-density and rental properties, Spucces said, and says that projects such as AvalonBay and Matinecock Court, an affordable housing complex that has been proposed for East Northport for more than 30 years, are not right for the community.
Spucces said the organization now looks to address other quality-of-life issues such as safety, school quality, roads and a responsive government.
"We want safe neighborhoods where your kids can run down the street and you don't have to worry about them. Neighbors that you know, that you trust," Spucces said.
Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he welcomes input from the civic group, and as many other people as want to work toward improving Huntington. "I'm hopeful we will have a very active and positive voice coming from this group," Petrone said. "But we've got to work together and understand each other."
The group on April 21 will host its first Greater HOPE awards to honor Huntington's organizations, people and places making positive contributions to the town.
Greater Huntington Civic Group
Motto: Preserving the American Dream and Our Hometown
Advocate for more stringent policies and legislation to identify and remove illegal housing.
Promote local small businesses.
Conduct public outreach and education initiatives about the town.