A rendering of Concern Housing’s proposed 50-unit Liberty Gardens community in...

A rendering of Concern Housing’s proposed 50-unit Liberty Gardens community in Tuckahoe. Credit: Concern Housing

Daily Point

Southampton nixes Liberty Gardens housing plan

When one door opens, another closes.

That’s especially true in the fits and starts that have accompanied Long Island’s fight for affordable housing, particularly on the East End.

Consider the tale of two efforts.

East Hampton Town opened two new affordable housing programs last week — two years after the creation of the town’s Community Housing Fund, whose .5% tax on most real estate transactions has raised $4.7 million as of last month. The town is using that fund to establish a down payment assistance program and a grant initiative for community housing projects.

Southampton seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

Tuesday afternoon, the Southampton Town board killed the long-awaited Liberty Gardens development — a 50-unit proposal in Tuckahoe split between veterans and workforce housing — by rejecting in a 4-1 vote a change of zone on the Southampton Full Gospel Church property on County Road 39.

“Eighty years after Normandy, just after all of these celebrations about these men that saved our lives — and there are many other veterans that did the same — and the message from Southampton is, ‘Thank you for your service. Go live somewhere else,’” Ralph Fasano, who heads developer Concern Housing, told The Point after the meeting. “And this decision also deprives at least 25 individuals and families from getting the affordable housing they need in the town of Southampton.”

Liberty Gardens wasn’t even on the town board’s agenda for its meeting Tuesday afternoon, although several residents voiced opposition to the development during the public comment period. Fasano said he didn’t know it was going to come up for a vote. Instead, the town board decided to “walk on” the resolution — adding it at the last minute.

“We’re voting today … While not ideal, we generally do have walk on resolutions on the day of our meetings,” Southampton Supervisor Maria Moore texted The Point as the meeting was ongoing.

Then, the board waited until the end of the meeting to tackle the proposal.

The rejection came despite the acceptance by the previous town board of a final environmental impact statement late last year. The resolution that rejected the zoning also accepted a so-called “findings statement” that, because the item was not on the agenda, was not available for anyone watching the meeting to read. Such a “findings statement” usually dovetails with the final environmental impact statement. This time, according to the board members who spoke about it, it did not.

“Having pointed out the deficiencies in the [Environmental Impact Statements], I am happy to say that the findings are as they should be,” said board member Cyndi McNamara, who has long opposed the development and previously voiced concerns about the type of veterans who would be housed at Liberty Gardens. “I’m not saying no to housing veterans, I’m saying no to a project that doesn’t fit the proposed location.”

The Point was not able to obtain a copy of the resolution or the findings statement Tuesday afternoon. Moore told The Point that the findings statement was “on file with the Clerk’s office” and that the resolution would be made available, along with meeting minutes, on Wednesday.

The lone dissenting vote came from board member Tommy John Schiavoni, who pointed to the town’s “housing crisis” and noted that Southampton initially invited Concern to develop the site in an attempt to address that crisis.

Other board members cited worries about traffic and wastewater management. The Suffolk County Water Authority and Suffolk County Department of Health previously had approved Concern’s wastewater management plan for the site.

The vote came less than two months after Moore told The Point she was “very hopeful” she could find a way to say “yes” on Liberty Gardens. At that point, she established a 45-day window, which expired June 9. Moore had sought to move the development, but Fasano had said that state funding, which makes the project feasible, was tied to the current location.

Multiple sources have told The Point that Concern Housing would consider a fair housing lawsuit if the Southampton Town Board votes against Liberty Gardens.

Whether that would be an opportunity to reopen the door to affordable housing in Southampton remains to be seen.

— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Guilty verdicts

Credit: PoliticalCartoons.com/Dave Whamond

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

Where his Roy Cohn was

Much has been published over the past eight years about the late shadowy attorney Roy Cohn and his lasting influence on the younger Donald Trump. But now that the ex-president has been found guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records, there’s one Cohn “lesson” from long ago that seems to neatly foretell the disparaging approach Trump takes to judges with authority over his dealings.

State Supreme Court Justice Edward J. Greenfield was ruling on a million-dollar lawsuit brought by Trump in the 1980s against the Bank of New York, as related in author Nicholas von Hoffman’s 1988 biography, “Citizen Cohn.” Then-New York Post reporter Hal Davis is quoted as saying his metropolitan editor called to tell him Greenfield was “mentioned by three lawyer/witnesses in a Brooklyn grand jury investigation of judicial corruption.” Cohn was the source of the tip. (No public evidence of wrongdoing seems to have emerged that this was true.)

But by then, Greenfield had already tossed out Trump’s lawsuit. The reporter, as quoted, went to see the judge to alert him to “what’s going on.” Recalled Davis: “Greenfield says, ‘How would that benefit him? I’ve already made my decision.’

“I told him … Roy didn’t care about the decision which is gone; he wanted to affect the reporting of the decision. If, for some reason, we decided to make it a big story: TRUMP AND COHN LOSE! In the next column it would say GREENFIELD MENTIONED IN CORRUPTION BY LAWYERS. That’s how he operates.”

Of course, this was all stealthier and more strategic than Trump’s public railing and slander against Justice Juan Merchan and his family members. But the goal in both instances four decades apart was the same — to test whether some slithery defamation could derail and defeat the process.

— Dan Janison dan.janison@newsday.com

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