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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.

Jupiter Hammon home in Huntington may land historic status

The Town of Huntington is considering placing a

The Town of Huntington is considering placing a historic designation on the last home of Jupiter Hammon, the first African-American writer to be published in the United States. The home is pictured on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. (Credit: Barry Sloan)

The Town of Huntington is considering placing a historic designation on the last home of Jupiter Hammon, the first African-American writer to be published in the United States.

Hammon's home -- at 73 West Shore Rd. in Huntington -- was built between 1790 and 1795, and purchased by his great-nephew in 1799. The 1800 census lists Hammon as head of the household, Robert C. Hughes, the town's historian, said.

"It's a house the preservation commission has had its eye on for a while for its historic and architectural merit," Hughes said. "It was the last home of Jupiter Hammon, which makes it even more important."


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The home is now privately owned and being rented.

The owner has agreed to keep the home intact, even if he develops other parts of the property, Hughes said.

To receive the designation, the home must meet certain criteria, such as possessing special character for historic or aesthetic interests; be connected with a historic person and have a unique location, or singular physical characteristic, landscape or streetscape.

The town's historic preservation commission is making the recommendation for the designation of the building, which also has some architectural significance. "It's a working-class dwelling that shows some evidence of a combination of construction techniques using English and Dutch [styles]," Hughes said. "It speaks to the evolution of Huntington in the early settlement that this was really an international area."

Hammon was born into slavery in nearby Lloyd Neck in October 1711.

His first poem was published in 1761. Titled "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Crienes," it was published with this note: "Composed by Jupiter Hammon, a Negro belonging to Mr. Lloyd of Queen's Village, on Long Island, the 25th of December, 1760."

He published three other poems and three essays, and is considered one of the founders of African-American literature.

A public hearing on the measure has been scheduled during the Oct. 21 monthly town board meeting, which opens at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Main St. If approved, the designation would include some sort of signage and restrictive covenants on changes to the home.

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Firms 'open their hearts,' pave Huntington Station VFW lot

Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469 in Huntington Station,

Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469 in Huntington Station, seen on Nov. 23, 2012. (Credit: Ian J. Stark)

The Nathan Hale VFW Post 1469 in Huntington Station was the beneficiary of the generosity of some local business owners recently when its parking lot was paved for free.

According to Dominick Feeney Sr., president of the post's board of directors, the lot had not been paved in more than 50 years. Town of Huntington board member Gene Cook said post members reached out to him last spring asking for help.

"I was happy to see what I could do," Cook said. "I looked at the lot, put some calls out and not one person I reached out to said no."


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Cook said he reached out to Farmingdale-based Posillico Inc., Kings Park-based Pioneer Asphalt as well as Power Crush Inc., Greenlawn-based EZ Sewer and Drain, Westbury-based Commercial Concrete and Wantagh-based MGM Seal Coating, who worked together to donate the materials, labor and equipment for the paving and striping of the parking lot.

"Right from the get-go Councilman Eugene Cook did a great job coordinating the local business owners to complete the paving of our lot," Feeney said.

Cook said the lot, which is on West Pulaski Road, took about a week to repave and would have cost the post about $72,000.

"This would never have happened, if our local small business owners didn't open their hearts to our veterans community," Cook said.

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Court dismisses part of Huntington Y drowning lawsuit

The Huntington YMCA in Huntington Village is pictured

The Huntington YMCA in Huntington Village is pictured on Nov. 23, 2012. (Credit: Ian J. Stark)

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The State Appellate Division has thrown out part of a lawsuit filed against the Huntington YMCA in the 2008 drowning death of a Greenlawn teen.

The court ruled punitive damages could be taken out of Raymond Dawson v. YMCA of Long Island Inc., et al. The wrongful death and pain and suffering claims can continue, the court said in the decision handed down last month.

YMCA spokesman Mark L. Smith said in a statement that while the agency mourns the loss of Marc Dawson, "the Appellate Division has recognized that there is no basis for punitive damages in this suit, and we believe that it will ultimately be found that the Y and its employees acted appropriately before, during and after this tragic event."


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Michael Perrotta, the Huntington-based lawyer representing Dawson's family, said the decision on punitive damages "has nothing to do with the negligence of the Y and its employees" in the drowning.

"I would be surprised if a jury one day doesn't find the Y grossly negligent in causing the death of Marc Dawson," Perrotta said Thursday.

Dawson, a 17-year-old senior at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn and a lifeguard at the YMCA, was on a break on Feb. 18, 2008, and apparently practicing for Navy SEAL training in a 4-foot-deep lap pool when a lifeguard noticed him unconscious at the bottom of the water. He died a week later.

Raymond Dawson, the teen's father, announced plans to sue in the fall of 2008. In March 2013, the State Supreme Court denied a motion by the defendants to dismiss the complaint.

Last month's decision says that the defendants -- in their request for dismissal -- submitted evidence "demonstrating that Marc's actions in taking several deep breaths and then deliberately attempting to remain underwater in the pool as long as possible were the sole proximate cause of his death . . .

"Given that Marc was a certified lifeguard, and based on 'plain common sense,' he should have known that these actions posed a significant danger," the decision says.

The decision also said, however, that triable issues were raised on whether the defendants acted with negligence, specifically in their alleged failure to coax Dawson to surface earlier and their alleged failure to physically remove him from the pool sooner. The decision said the move to dismiss the complaint was properly denied.

The defendants also include two teen lifeguards on duty, an aquatics coordinator and an adult lifeguard who were on the premises.

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Residents sue to block planned senior development in East Northport

A change of zone, legal notice sign for

A change of zone, legal notice sign for a public hearing held in June still hangs in front of the property at 544 Elwood Rd. in East Northport on the afternoon of July 27, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

A group of Huntington Town residents has filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping the Seasons at Elwood, the age-restricted housing development recently approved for a dairy farm in East Northport.

The suit was filed last week in state Supreme Court in Riverhead on behalf of Lauri Holt of Huntington, and Lee and Ann Itzler, Richard Apollonia, Vincent Modica, David Prestipino and Ronald Starrantino, all of East Northport.

None of the plaintiffs could be reached for comment, but their Elwood-based lawyer, Wendi L. Herman, said their goal is to nullify the town's approval of the project. "Right now, our contention with the town is that what they did was insufficient and faulty in granting the zone change," she said.


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The defendants are the town, its board and planning board; developer BK Elwood LLC and the Oak Tree Dairy Farm Inc., which owned the site of the planned 256-unit community for people 55 and up.

Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the town is not commenting on the litigation.

Last month, the town board voted 4 to 1 to approve a zoning change that will allow the homes in 43 multiunit structures on the 37.05-acre site.

The suit alleges that when the town rezoned the land to allow for the Seasons, it broke from its outline for what should be done with the land. In the town's comprehensive plan published in 2008, Herman said Huntington called for the site to be developed for low-density residential use.

The lawsuit also alleges the defendants failed to prepare a full environmental impact statement and failed to consider "significant adverse environmental impacts," including a soil management plan.

The suit also alleges that because the dairy had ceased operation, it should have reverted to zoning for single-family homes.

"Their [the town's] position was the Seasons of Elwood was better than a working dairy," Herman said. "The comparison is flawed, because what they should look at is the Seasons compared to what the dairy farm is actually zoned for, which is single-family homes."

Jan Burman, president of Garden City-based Engel Burman, parent of BK Elwood LLC, said he did not have enough detail about the suit to comment.

Hari Singh, president of Oak Tree Dairy, said the dairy is named in the suit but the allegations are not aimed at the dairy. "As I understand it, they are challenging how the town handles things administratively," he said. "I am not in a position to comment on how the town manages these decisions."

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Proposed mall to undergo rigorous environmental review

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, seen here in

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, seen here in May 2013. Petrone said an $80-million shopping center proposed for Jericho Turnpike in Elwood should provide an economic boost to the community. (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

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Elwood Park on Cuba Hills Road in East Elwood photos

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Town officials are planning a tough environmental review of an $80 million shopping center proposed for Jericho Turnpike in Elwood.

Last week, the town board voted 4-1 to issue a "positive declaration" for the project, which will require Great Neck-based Villadom Corp. to undergo an intense study identifying and analyzing potential environmental impacts and to present a plan for remediation.

Town board member Mark Cuthbertson voted no.

The vote was based on a recommendation from the town planning board. A positive declaration means there is potential for significant adverse environmental impacts from the proposed project.

The proposed center would cover more than 400,000 square feet on 50 acres adjacent to the Mediavilla apple orchard. The project would feature a center that is two stories in some areas, and would include 1,800 ground-level parking spaces and an outdoor public area with a fountain.

Tenants are expected to include food, retail, service-type businesses and potentially office and medical space.

Kris Torkan, president of Villadom Corp., said his firm requested the more vigorous review. "We wanted to accelerate the process by submitting every conceivable requirement the town may have through the course of the permit review for the change of zone," he said.

The developer applied in March to go from one-acre residential and general business zoning to a planned shopping district. The next step for the zone change application is a public hearing, which the town board can hold before or after the environmental report is complete.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the project, if it goes forward, should provide an economic boost to the community.

"We see that the Elwood school district is having difficulty," Petrone said, referring to the fact that earlier this year Moody's Investors Service revised the district's bond rating outlook to negative, citing declining reserves and projected operating deficits. "If nothing else, it will provide them with . . . the commercial tax base that they don't have."

School board vice president Dan Ciccone said the developer has yet to sit with the school board, so he does not have details about the project.

"I'm very happy to hear that town officials will go through a very rigorous due diligence process before approving any kind of development that would be a change of zoning," he said.

Andrew Kaplan, president of the Manor Plains Civic Association and an Elwood school board trustee, said Torkan met with his group last year. They are concerned about the environmental impact and traffic the development could generate, but are "delighted" the town plans a tough environmental review.

Mary Jane Mackey of the Elwood Taxpayers Association said Torkan has met with her group at least twice. "I like it," she said of the proposal. "It's going to bring tax dollars into our community, and he's going to bring in some higher end stores, something a little different."

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AvalonBay Huntington Station holds grand opening

The AvalonBay development on East Fifth Street in

The AvalonBay development on East Fifth Street in Huntington Station is shown on Jan. 7, 2014. (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein )

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Officials from AvalonBay Huntington Station recently hosted a grand opening for the 379-unit development.

Brandishing a Newsday front page with a headline that declared "Rejected" and dated Sept. 22, 2010 -- the day after the Huntington Town Board voted down a proposed 490-unit development -- senior vice president of development for AvalonBay Communities Matt Whelan said Wednesday's celebration was the culmination of a tough fight.

"We love that we're providing a new housing option for people in this area, and Huntington Station needed it," Whelan said.

The development on East Fifth Street was finally approved for 379 units, but not before the project polarized the community.

Whelan said demand has been high, with about 230 of the 303 rental apartments occupied and a waitlist for apartments that have not been completed. The 43 affordable units -- for which tenants were selected by lottery -- are leased.

The often ugly battle to get the development approved was "100 percent worth it," town board member Mark Cuthbertson said.

"When you look at projects like this, you have to take the long view, which is: Young people are going to live here and stay in the community and that's going to allow the neighborhood to be sustainable and thrive," he said.

Next up to be built on the site are 76 for-sale townhome units. Jericho-based Beechwood Organization will be the developer. Michael Dubb, principal of Beechwood, said the company expects to break ground in early 2015.

"I think the Town of Huntington and the area around that is a terrific area," Dubb said. "It's one of the hubs of Long Island, and I think we're going to do great there."

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the development is an asset to the community. "When we slated this, we knew this would help the station and raise its economic climate for investors and businesses to come," Petrone said.

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