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Long IslandTowns

Huntington OKs more talks on housing discrimination suit

Huntington officials elected to continue negotiations in a dispute between the town and the local NAACP chapter over affordable housing in the town. Videojournalist: Chuck Fadely (Dec. 10, 2013)

The Huntington Town Board did not settle a housing discrimination lawsuit Tuesday night and voted unanimously to continue negotiations.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011 by the NAACP's Huntington chapter and the Fair Housing in Huntington Committee, claims a proposed affordable housing development in Melville discriminates against minorities and families because it calls for the sale of one-bedroom units.

Supervisor Frank Petrone said the town will present a modified settlement at a conference with a federal judge on Thursday and then continue negotiations.

"It is litigation," said Councilwoman Susan Berland, who has supported the one-bedroom, ownership units on the site. "It's not over until it's over."

Under the proposed settlement, which was publicly discussed last week, the 117-unit development would have been converted to rental units: 77 one-bedroom; 34 two-bedroom; and six three-bedroom.

About 20 people spoke Tuesday night about the settlement, with most favoring rental units.

Ulysses Spicer, second vice president of the Huntington chapter of the NAACP, said after the vote they'd heard from many who support the rentals, including professionals, seniors and veterans.

"The need for rental housing is quite evident and they know it," Spicer said. He added that the NAACP had not known the board was going to vote on the proposal.

Chris Campbell, the Manhattan lawyer representing the NAACP, said his recommendation will be to go to trial.

The dispute -- which began in 2002 -- centers on whether affordable multi-bedroom rental apartments or one-bedroom owned units should be built on a vacant 8.1-acre site on Ruland Road, owned by the developer of the luxury senior complex Greens at Half Hollow.

The Ruland Road units were intended to offset a lack of affordable family housing acknowledged when the luxury development on Altessa Boulevard in Melville was approved in 2000.

At the meeting, a few people also spoke in favor of the ownership units, including Gail Jospa, a longtime town resident.

"It is the realization of the American dream," Jospa said. "By virtue of home ownership we belong, and belonging makes for good citizenship."

Levittown developer Peter Florey, of D & F Development Group, had been poised to build the 117-rental units. The rentals would have preferences for veterans, people with physical disabilities and Huntington Town residents.

After the vote, Florey said his contract to buy the property runs out at the end of the month.

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