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Land transfer for Huntington Station project derided as ‘terrible deal’

The property of 1000 New York Ave. in

The property of 1000 New York Ave. in Huntington Station on Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Huntington Town Board member blasted a land transfer approved at a meeting Tuesday by his colleagues as “unconscionable.”

Ed Smyth said the board’s transfer of 1000 New York Ave. in the heart of Huntington Station to Plainview-based master developer Renaissance Downtowns, which is charged with transforming the hamlet, is a terrible deal.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the transfer.

Smyth said that while he does not take issue with the merits of the proposed project, he voted against the transfer because he says the town “gave away for free” a marketable property using a two-year-old appraisal that used an “unconscionable” formula.

“The appraisal for this property comes to negative $872,000,” Smyth said. “A first-year lawyer could walk into court and say, ‘Your honor, this contract is unenforceable based on its unconscionability that it comes up with an appraisal of a negative number.’ ”

Renaissance plans to construct a mixed-use building and parking deck at the site, which formerly housed an automotive shop, and five other parcels just south of the lot that are owned by three private owners who have partnered with Renaissance.

Town Board member Joan Cergol, who co-sponsored the transfer resolution with Mark Cuthbertson, said the transfer is in line with language in the master development agreement the town signed with Renaissance in 2012.

As per the agreement, the town and Renaissance would each do an appraisal, and if there was more than a 10 percent difference a third appraisal would be commissioned. Both appraisals, completed two years ago, came back within 10 percent.

The town had also agreed to deduct the amount that Renaissance invested in the development of 1000 New York Ave. and a portion of the money Renaissance paid out for all of its work in Huntington Station from the appraisal.

“We had a very specific appraisal methodology that was laid out in the master development agreement that we followed,” Cergol said. “This is what we agreed to do.”

Renaissance president Ryan Porter said his company and Uniondale-based RXR Realty, the developer’s partner in redeveloping the hamlet, have spent almost $5 million over four and a half years on Huntington Station.

“After this deal closes we will have recouped 40 percent of that money,” Porter said. “This is a very long-term investment for us that requires us all to collaborate and work well together over the next 10 years to create economic development. Without that collaboration, not only will the town not see that economic development, but developers like us won’t take the risk that’s necessary to do these complex projects.”

In 2015, the town board approved paying $175,000 to Dish Realty to settle litigation against the town board and the planning board over the firm’s plans to build a laundromat at 1000 New York Ave.

In 2010, six years after the suit was filed over the proposed laundromat, the town board approved the appropriation of $535,000 to acquire the site through eminent domain.

According to town officials, once a government votes to take a property by eminent domain, the property becomes the town’s and the only issue is the price. Dish Realty sued, challenging that price.

Earlier in 2015, the town paid an additional $177,000 following a state Supreme Court decision regarding litigation over the property. The town ultimately paid $712,000 for the property.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said there is language in the transfer agreement to Renaissance that protects the town’s interest in the event Renaissance does not build or complete the project.

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