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OpinionOpEd

OPINION: Every 20 years, a new old plan for Huntington Station

Robert A. Lifson lives in Huntington.

Recent events regarding Huntington Station bring to mind the George Santayana line that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Huntington Station "revitalization" is like Brigadoon, the mythical Scottish town that time forgot, but which reappears every 100 years.

I'm old enough to recall Huntington Station with a commercial center surrounding the train station. In the 1960s, the town adopted an "urban renewal" plan rather than make selective public improvements to encourage private-sector development. The commercial center was obliterated. Confronted with the difficulties and expense of fulfilling any commitment to infrastructure improvement, subsequent town boards moved forward with the "affordable housing" component but neglected restoration of the commercial center.

Twenty years later, the town appointed a citizen's advisory committee to offer solutions to Huntington Station "revitalization." I served on that committee, along with a person instrumental in the formulation of the Urban Renewal Plan, two future councilmen, and representatives of Whitman Village (one of the housing projects), the NAACP and other groups.

We initially recommended that the town spearhead a combined federal, state, county and town response for infrastructure improvements, utilizing the train station as a hub for a vital commercial center, including a community center and a police substation.

The town found the plans too grandiose. Once again, the affordable housing was built, and the remainder of our committee's ideas was ignored.

Another 20 years later, Huntington Station "revitalization" is again the topic of public discussion - now exacerbated by a public safety crisis. Again, the primary emphasis is on an infusion of a massive affordable housing component. The failure to consider all aspects of the problems confronting Huntington Station - code enforcement, public safety, the lack of a vibrant community center, etc. - will probably once again result in confronting the Huntington Station problem 20 years hence.

I probably won't be around to see Brigadoon the next time. Exploding real estate taxes caused, in part, by subsidizing the affordable housing that may be granted by the town board will make it impossible for many current residents to afford to live here.

Einstein observed that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." I would urge all who hope to see a comprehensive, imaginative, long-term plan for Huntington Station to take a rational first step: a building moratorium in the Huntington Station overlay district, until a multifaceted plan - incorporating the updated work products of prior endeavors - is presented for public scrutiny.

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