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Deborah S. Morris

Deborah is a native Long Islander. She started at Newsday in 1998 and has worked in all corners of the newsroom, from the art department to the copy desk. She has covered just about every shift, day, night and the all-important swing shift. She started her journalism career in televison and moved on to radio broadcasting, where she was an award-winning reporter, before coming to Newsday, a life-long career goal. She has happily covered the town of Huntington, a place that she says offers a rich bounty of stories ranging from political intrigue, interesting features or fascinating profiles of the people and places that make the place an All-American City.

Huntington Town appoints new deputy director of general services; one board member cries foul

A sign outside Huntington Town Hall is seen

A sign outside Huntington Town Hall is seen in an undated photo. (Credit: Alexi Knock)

Huntington town officials have appointed a new deputy director of general services as part of a reorganization of the department that was started earlier this year.

Huntington Station business owner Keith Barrett's appointment to the recently created position was approved by the town board 4 to 1 at this week's town board meeting.

Barrett was hired by the town as an $85,000-a-year general services department executive assistant in March. His new appointment comes with a $10,000 raise. His responsibilities will include overseeing the division of vehicle operations and maintenance, off-street parking maintenance and parks and grounds maintenance.


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"Keith is a successful businessman who comes with expertise," Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said of Barrett, who owns Barrett Automotive in Huntington Station and is the president of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District.

However, the appointment has town board member Gene Cook, an Independence Party member, crying foul. He characterized the appointment as a political payback for Barrett stepping aside in last year's Democratic Party primary for town board.

"As far as his accusations are they are unfounded; it's not how anything went down," Barrett said. "I had some ideas for streamlining vehicle maintenance, this is what I do for a living..."

Barrett, along with three others, had been poised for a Democratic primary against now-freshman town board member Tracey Edwards, but backed out. At the time, Suffolk County Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said Barrett's and the other Democratic candidates' withdrawal from the primary was an effort "to go into this election unified."

Edwards said it was actually seven Democratic Party candidates who stepped aside to give her the nomination, and that "all received the same thing in return: A heartfelt 'thank you' and a commitment that I would do my best to represent Huntington."

Edwards said she had been asked by Petrone after her election in November to streamline departments across the town. After a three-month review, a reorganization of the general services department was approved by the board in May by a 5 to 0 vote.

Petrone said Barrett's original job had been funded but was in contingency. He said cost-saving efficiencies introduced by Barrett into the department, such as in-house car inspections and participation in a car-leasing program, will pay for Barrett's pay increase.

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Huntington bans smoking on town beaches; sets housing hearing

Helene Lach of Centerport reads by the shoreline

Helene Lach of Centerport reads by the shoreline at Centerport Beach on July 3, 2014. (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein)

The Huntington Town board has unanimously voted 5-0 to ban smoking at its eight town beaches.

Previously, smoking was banned only at town playgrounds. The ban does not include the parking lots at the beaches.

Town officials had cited public health, medical research and published studies as part of the their desire to protect the health and welfare of those who use the town's beaches.


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"I am pleased that we have passed a common-sense measure to limit exposure to secondhand smoke at our wonderful beaches," said town board member Mark Cuthbertson, sponsor of the resolution.

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said officials expect the public to help enforce the law.

"Like any no-smoking regulation, it's prohibited so you expect people will obey signs and if not, and someone sees this, they can report it to a town employee for action which in a first instance most likely would be ejection from the beach."

He said there is the possibility of a summons and a fine.

Also at its Tuesday meeting, the board set a public hearing for next month to consider tightening local laws for nonowner-occupied rental properties.

The board voted 5-0 to set a public hearing for Oct. 21 to consider tightening local laws for nonowner-occupied rental properties.

Town board member Tracey Edwards, sponsor of the resolution, said she wants the town to consider increasing the standards of the rental registration law to require landlords of nonowner-occupied properties to obtain annual permits before a unit can be shown to prospective tenants and certify annually that the units meet all town codes.

"I think it is a good start to an existing issue," Edwards said after the vote. "We still have work to do so we can fund the budget to get adequate personnel in order to fulfill the legislation."

She said she has discussed the funding of the policy with town Supervisor Frank Petrone.

"It's perfect alignment because it's budget season. Once we find out how much personnel we'll need, I'm going to be asking the supervisor for an authorization," she said. "The revenue that we generate from this will pay for the personnel."

According to 2010 census data, rental housing accounts for 16.1 percent of Huntington's overall housing stock.

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Huntington bans smoking on town beaches; sets housing hearing

The Huntington Town board has unanimously voted 5-0 to ban smoking at its eight town beaches.

Previously, smoking was only banned at town playgrounds. The ban does not include the parking lots at the beaches.

Town officials had cited public health, medical research and published studies as part of the their desire to protect the health and welfare of those who use the town's beaches.


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"I am pleased that we have passed a common sense measure to limit exposure to second hand smoke at our wonderful beaches," said town board member Mark Cuthbertson, sponsor of the resolution.

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said officials expect the public to help enforce the law.

"Like any no-smoking regulation, it's prohibited so you expect people will obey signs and if not, and someone sees this, they can report it to a town employee for action which in a first instance most likely would be ejection from the beach."

He said there is the possibility of a summons and a fine.

Also at its Tuesday meeting, the board set a public hearing for next month to consider tightening local laws for nonowner-occupied rental properties.

The board voted 5 to 0 to set a public hearing for Oct. 21 to consider tightening local laws for nonowner-occupied rental properties.

Town board member Tracey Edwards, sponsor of the resolution, said she wants the town to consider increasing the standards of the rental registration law to require landlords of nonowner-occupied properties to obtain annual permits before a unit can be shown to prospective tenants and certify annually that the units meet all town codes.

"I think it is a good start to an existing issue," Edwards said after the vote. "We still have work to do so we can fund the budget to get adequate personnel in order to fulfill the legislation."

She said she has discussed the funding of the policy with town Supervisor Frank Petrone.

"It's perfect alignment because it's budget season. Once we find out how much personnel we'll need, I'm going to be asking the supervisor for an authorization," she said. "The revenue that we generate from this will pay for the personnel."

According to 2010 census data, rental housing accounts for 16.1 percent of Huntington's overall housing stock.

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Developer updates residents on Huntington Station plans

A boutique hotel and office space at southwest

A boutique hotel and office space at southwest corner of Railroad Street and New York Avenue in Huntington Station is proposed during a hearing on April 26, 2013. (Credit: Renaissance Downtowns)

An official for the master developer for Huntington Station has updated residents on the latest in approvals, applications and images for projects on the drawing board for the community and discussed the Community Benefits Agreement being finalized with the town.

Ryan Porter, vice president of planning and development for the Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns, addressed about 20 curious residents at Monday night's meeting of the Huntington Town Economic Development Corp.

"It's always a great opportunity to get out there and speak with the community about the plans," Porter said after fielding questions during the two-hour meeting. "I think people get frustrated because they think things aren't happening, but when you lay out the details -- but not too much details because there is a lot of technical stuff -- about what's going on, it gives them a sense of ease that things are moving and that they understand what's going on."


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Three sites are under state environmental review, including a complex on the southwest corner of New York Avenue and Railroad Street that will feature a 140-room hotel with a 100,000-square-foot office building, both four stories, and a parking structure, Porter said. There are also 21 live-work units with a one-level parking deck on the commuter lot between Railroad and Church streets along New York Avenue, with 28 artist lofts on the north end of the lot; 34 studios and 34 one-bedroom market-rate apartments to be built above 16,000 square feet of retail space at 1000 New York Ave. and neighboring properties.

Porter said all development will come with a parking management plan to offset loss of parking caused by new construction.

Scott Fried, who three months ago moved from Plainview to Huntington Station, said the meeting was informative.

"When I moved in, I had heard about it and did some research about the revitalization and was curious as to where they are in the process," he said. "Anything that's going to bring business, bring life to the area is critical for success."

William Walter, president of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in Huntington Station, said he came to find out more about what is going on with the redevelopment and to see how the association could be a partner in the revitalization effort.

"I was wondering how students in the station area who are not particularly interested in sports but who instead are interested in art, if there is some role we can play," he said.

After hearing from Porter, Walter said, "There should be some way for all of us to get together in helping all kids," he said.

Porter says he's working with town officials to wrap up a CBA, an agreement that will dictate how fees derived from revitalization projects will be used to benefit the community. The town board could vote on the agreement next month.

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Huntington may require permits for rental homes

A sign outside Huntington Town Hall is seen

A sign outside Huntington Town Hall is seen in an undated photo. (Credit: Alexi Knock)

Town of Huntington officials could tighten local laws for nonowner-occupied rental properties.

Town board member Tracey Edwards is planning to sponsor a resolution at Tuesday's town board meeting for a public hearing next month to consider increasing the standards of the current rental registration law. If approved, the measure would require landlords of nonowner-occupied properties to obtain annual permits before a unit can be shown to prospective tenants and certify annually that the units meet all town codes. The process will go from being a registration to a permitting process.

Edwards said the changes would address safety concerns brought to her attention by first responders, who pointed out that many times they don't know the actual layout of some of the dwellings they enter, such as those that have been illegally subdivided.


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"Also, when I was reviewing the code it looks like there is a disparity in how we treat landlords," Edwards said. "If you are renting a home and you live in the house there are restrictions and obligations that you must fulfill, which include that you're meeting the building and fire code upfront, but in nonowner-occupied rentals, those obligations were not present."

Besides the permit, which would also be required for hotel and motel rooms, the law would establish procedures and fees and require that an application include a certification from a licensed professional engineer, architect or town code enforcement officer that the property complies with all local, state and federal codes, laws and regulations.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he supports the legislation as a common-sense measure to protect first responders and tenants and promote fairness to all landlords in the town.

"This gives an opportunity to know who they are and where they are and how to get to them," he said. "And we charge people when they rent out part of their home most likely to make ends meet, so why don't we charge people who are doing this for a profit?"

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Huntington fights unauthorized installation of cellphone antennas, equipment

A telecom company installed unauthorized equipment in as

A telecom company installed unauthorized equipment in as many as 30 locations around Huntington, with some of them in use for as long as three years, and town officials say they will sue if necessary to get the equipment removed. Pictured is one on top of a utility pole at Sweet Hollow Road and Gwynne Road in Melville. (Credit: Steve Pfost)

A telecom company installed unauthorized equipment in as many as 30 locations around Huntington, with some of them in use for as long as three years, and town officials say they will sue if necessary to get the equipment removed.

The Huntington Town Board voted 5-0 to authorize a civil action against Queens-based Crown Castle NG East LLC to recover financial damages and take "all appropriate legal and equitable action to remove the installations and recover damages and or seek other relief as deemed necessary."

Crown Castle officials said permits issued by the town highway department allowed the installations on utility polls. Further, they said, the equipment was in place before December, when the board passed legislation to regulate use of roadside rights-of-way, and was thus exempt from the law.


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Town officials rejected the company's position, saying Crown Castle needed town board approval to install the equipment, including antennas.

"We've come up with a . . . system to regulate what they are doing, and they won't cooperate and avail themselves to it," town board member Mark Cuthbertson said. "The problem is they've put up their apparatus illegally."

Fiona McKone, a spokeswoman for Crown Castle, said in a statement that the company has provided wireless infrastructure to Huntington and town residents for five years, "and we are working closely with the town to resolve this matter expeditiously."

Cuthbertson said residents told the town last fall about the equipment, which he said "put the wheels in motion" to pass the December legislation that requires town board approval for equipment installed on utility poles along the town's rights-of-ways.

"There was nothing on the books that regulated these types of installations" before the December law, Cuthbertson said of the antennas attached to the utility poles. "The town code only regulated cell towers, and antennas on cell towers only."

Former Huntington Highway Superintendent William Naughton had issued permits for Crown Castle for the installations. But town officials maintain the company still needed approval from the town to do work because it own the land where the utility polls are located.

"The town board is still the owner of the land, and it needs its approval first" before any work could be done, Cuthbertson said.

Crown Castle said the permits issued by the highway department were sufficient. Naughton did not respond to requests for comment.

"We tried to work it out and told them that all they had to do was apply for permission to legalize the equipment and have a public hearing, but they have declined to do so," Cuthbertson said.

If approved, Supervisor Frank Petrone could then sign a license agreement allowing the company to use town land.

Crown Castle faced a similar issue in Northport Village last year. A pole at Main Street and Laurel Avenue was put in place by the company before getting final approval from the village.

The company had been granted a building permit by the village in November 2012 to do the work. But the village's attorney, Jim Matthews, said the permit should not have been issued because Crown Castle was supposed to go back to the zoning board of appeals for final approval on locations for the equipment.

An agreement last year kept that equipment in place.

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Community Benefits Agreement being ironed out for Huntington Station redevelopment

Town officials and the master developer of Huntington Station are finalizing an agreement that will dictate how fees derived from revitalization projects will be used to benefit the community.

The Community Benefits Agreement, or CBA, will be a contract between the town and Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station LLC.

It will be based, in part, on initiatives decided by input from the community; and it will govern the use of fees to be paid by Renaissance, projected to total from $300,000 to $400,000.

"It's been a great collaborative process," said Ryan Porter, vice president of planning and development for Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns. "We're glad to have all the input that's been provided; the hope is that in the coming weeks we'll finalize the document that reflects that input."

But residents, businesses and civic group representatives who town leaders and the developer recommended to help devise the CBA are concerned that they will not see the final draft before the town board votes on it, which could be next month.

Dick Koubek, president of the Huntington Housing Coalition and a member of a CBA subcommittee, said he hopes the agreement reflects the committee's desires.

"We've agreed to a conceptual structure," Koubek said. "I have concerns that the concepts we agreed to will be translated into open and vague language in a piece of paper with holes so big you can drive a Mack truck through it."

Susan Nielsen, a member of the Greater Huntington Civic Group and also a CBA subcommittee member, said there should be language in the CBA that allows for transparency, an advisory group and third-party representation. "It's an accountability issue for our public officials or anyone who is benefiting from becoming a stakeholder in this town," she said.

Joan Cergol, director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, said the attorney representing the town in drafting the CBA has made it clear the town and developer are the two legal parties to the agreement. "As result, that document is not subject to community negotiation," she said. "The town and developer initiated a process that began in February 2014 whereby input and concepts from the various stakeholder groups were invited, debated and discussed."

The CBA must be in place before Renaissance can obtain site plan approval on its projects. Porter is scheduled to discuss the agreement and provide an update about the revitalization at the town's Economic Development meeting Monday at Town Hall, 100 Main St., at 7 p.m.

Huntington Station stakeholders in the project have been meeting since February to decide how to convey the community's vision.

"The purpose of the nine months of effort we put into the CBA was to get all this input and the town was going to consider all the input for what they want to negotiate into the document," Porter said. "We're working through it."

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Mark Cuthbertson, Huntington Town Board member, released from hospital after ice bucket challenge

Mark Cuthbertson, member of the Huntington Town council.

Mark Cuthbertson, member of the Huntington Town council. (June 26, 2013) (Credit: James Escher)

Huntington Town board member Mark Cuthbertson was released from a hospital around 8 p.m. Friday after going there because he was feeling "lightheaded," according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

All Cuthbertson's tests came back negative and he was never admitted to the hospital, Carter said.

Earlier in the day, Cuthbertson was taken by ambulance to Huntington Hospital as a precaution. The episode happened between 11:30 and 11:45 Friday morning.

"He was feeling lightheaded at town hall and was taken to the emergency room as a precaution," Carter said.

Cuthbertson, 48, a Democrat, was re-elected in November to the town board, a position he has held since 1998.

Early Friday, Cuthbertson and other town board members took part in an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at Mr. P's Playground at Veterans Park in East Northport. The challenge was made by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce.

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Huntington to study capacity of sewer district

The Town of Huntington approved a study of

The Town of Huntington approved a study of its sewer system capacity following additions of the AvalonBay development in Huntington Station, seen here on Jan. 7, 2014, and some apartments-over-stores projects. (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein )

A study to determine the unused and potential capacity of the Huntington sewer district is expected to begin this fall.

The town board recently voted 5 to 0 to authorize a $25,900 contract with Melville-based H2M Architects and Engineers for professional engineering services to conduct the study.

"There is new development of properties within the district so we need to do an analysis of what the district can handle and what we need to do if necessary to increase the potential capacity," town board member Susan Berland said in an interview Tuesday.


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The district runs from the north side of the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Huntington Station to the sewage treatment facility on Creek Road in Halesite, with varying east and west boundaries.

Town officials said that since the last analysis of the system was done in 2007, there has been development and proposed development in the district, such as the AvalonBay residential community and some of the apartments-over-stores projects in downtown Huntington that have affected or could impact future development and sanitation.

"The parameters of the district have not changed, but what's inside has changed," Berland said.

The capacity of the sewer district is 2.6 million gallons per day. In 2013, the average daily flow was 1.9 million gallons per day, about the same as this year -- 1.899 million gallons per day.

The district was created and a plant built in 1915. The plant was updated in 1938, in the 1980s and in 2007-08, town officials said. There are 3,201 parcels in the district.

The study is being paid for from a fund the town set up following the 2007 update. Town code was updated to include a provision to charge developers impact fees for sewer-related projects.

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Huntington to hold hearing on altering historic properties

Huntington Town Hall, at 100 Main St., on

Huntington Town Hall, at 100 Main St., on Feb. 7, 2012. (Credit: Carl Corry)

The Town of Huntington has scheduled a public hearing next month on a proposal to streamline the approval process for altering properties that are historic or are in historic districts.

Every application for a certificate of approval -- needed for a building permit in a historic district or for a historic structure -- has to go through a series of town board meetings.

At its Sept. 16 meeting, the board will consider amending the code in limited, defined situations where no significant impact on the historic district or site is expected, allowing the town's Historic Preservation Commission to issue the certificate of approval without a town board public hearing.


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"It's an effort to make it a little more time efficient for homeowners," Robert Hughes, town historian and secretary of the commission, said.

"Every application for a certificate of approval has to go through a series of three town board meetings: You need a meeting to schedule a public hearing, you have to hold the public hearing and then you have to vote on the application. That will add three months to the process."

"People will still have to go to the preservation commission and get approval from them, and then it goes back to the building department to get a building permit," Hughes said.

Some of the more routine application requests that would have a shortened process include putting in a swimming pool, building a shed or a small addition on a house.

"Pools are the perfect example because people apply for their permits in March with visions of swimming that summer and then we tell them, 'This is going to take you four months' and they don't get their pool until September," Hughes said.

The meeting is at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Main St.

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