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Downtown Huntington food pantry opens; gets code violation warning

Philip Colwell, Huntington Code Enforcement Inspector, talks with

Philip Colwell, Huntington Code Enforcement Inspector, talks with Pastor Enrique Carbajal about code violations at a new Huntington food pantry run by Carbajal's church, Mastic Beach-based Iglesia La Mission Long Island on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Deborah Morris

The owner of property at the corner of Route 25A and Park Avenue in Huntington opened a food pantry Tuesday, finding himself again at odds with town officials.

Deer Park-based developer Dominick Mavellia was warned shortly after the opening that the pantry operating out of the building in the Old Huntington Green Historic District violates several town codes. Huntington Code Enforcement Insp. Philip Colwell visited the site and issued a verbal warning to Pastor Enrique Carbajal, whose church, Mastic Beach-based Iglesia La MiSion Long Island, operates the pantry on Tuesdays from noon to 1 p.m.

Colwell said written notices of violation will be issued for a sandwich board sign that was on the sidewalk that announced “comida gratis” (free food) on one side and, on the other side, also in Spanish, that there will be a church service at 4 p.m. Sunday. Notices also will cite having litter and debris on the lot and operating without a certificate of occupancy or a certificate of permitted use for the food pantry, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

“They need to have site plan approval from the planning board and to get site plan approval they need to go to the zoning board of appeals to get variances for the parking,” Carter said. Additionally, parking in front of and on the side of the building is not allowed in a residential zone, Carter said.

Summonses were issued last week to Mavellia for signs that are affixed to the building, Carter said, adding the owner will have to apply to the public safety department to get the needed sign permits.

Mavellia said he is being “harassed” by town officials. He said he previously operated his charity, Spirit of Huntington, out of the building and never received any notices of violations.

“I’m going to . . . argue that because I’m a charity and church I’m permitted to put up temporary signs as per the code,” Mavellia said. “I will take each notice as they come and I will argue them in the court.”

In 2015, Mavellia had proposed building a 10,000-square-foot urgent care and medical office building at the site, but opposition from residents and historians derailed the plan over complaints that it did not fit the character of the historic district.

A Greenlawn resident stopped by the pantry Tuesday to choose from the assortment of food including lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onion soup, cereal, cookies, bread and soda. He said he was grateful to see the pantry in the area.

“I would never know it was here without the signs,” he said. “You usually have to go far.”

The church operating the pantry has partnered with Bellport-based Lighthouse Mission, a mobile food pantry organization, to provide the food.

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