Huntington Station needs to focus on ending gang violence and sparking redevelopment of its business district, not building hundreds of new homes, residents said at a packed meeting.
More than 100 community members, activists, and school board and government officials attended Tuesday night's Brownfield Opportunity Area meeting held by the Town of Huntington's Community Development Agency and Economic Development Corp. They filled a community room at the Big H Shopping Center to standing room only.
The meeting was designed to gather input about redevelopment of 640 acres around the Long Island Rail Road station.
The town received state grants in 2008 and 2011 to study the site -- the Brownfield Opportunity Area -- and determine the community's vision for redevelopment. The area includes contaminated spots, properties with perceived contamination and underutilized parcels known as brownfields.
Drawing particular ire at Tuesday's meeting was a 2010 study funded by the 2008 grant that found, among other things, that Huntington Station could support 1,600 additional housing units.
"Has anyone taken into account the effect this will have on the school district?" asked Jim Polansky, superintendent of the Huntington school district.
Joan Cergol, executive director of the economic development corporation, urged audience members to move beyond the report, saying it was simply a study of market conditions, not a plan for action.
"Let's turn the page. Let's move forward," she said.
Many in attendance urged a focus on reducing violence and increasing businesses along New York Avenue.
"The thing I hear over and over from parents and community members . . . is they want to see more businesses and commerce, not more high-density housing," said school board trustee Jennifer Hebert. "Focus on not adding so many students into our district, but providing more businesses to provide tax dollars."
Cergol said that when the first phase of the study began in 2009, "It was not easy to get people out for Huntington Station." Now, she said, "Huntington Station has gotten to the point where everybody is interested."
The first two community meetings in 2009 attracted 40 to 50 people. Another meeting, along with smaller focus groups, will be scheduled for a later date, organizers said.
Resident Dennis Pape, who spoke at the meeting about his desire to return Huntington Station to the "beautiful bedroom community" he encountered when he moved there 41 years ago, said after the meeting that organizers appeared interested in community input.
His feeling about Tuesday night's meeting was "a combination of 'here we go again' and some hopefulness that maybe it will work out right this time," Pape said.