21 Aug 2014
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Lottery Moves Applicants a Step Closer to Avalon Housing

Jubilation, anxiety as those seeking apartments are chosen by lottery.

More than 150 people looking for better housing went to Huntington Town Hall Tuesday night, hoping for luck in a lottery that could put them into an affordable apartment at Avalon Huntington Station.

As Councilwoman Susan Berland read off the sequence of names of the 488 applicants in the drawing for 43 apartments,  some people waiting to hear the results were smiling, eager to hear their names called. Others looked anxious or grew downcast as each number was drawn, putting them farther down the list and realizing that the odds were mounting against them.

But other seemed happy just to have an answer, including two young parents who applauded with their child when their number, in the mid-300 range, was called. Another praised God and hugged Berland, though he, too, had a high number. 

 The Long Island Housing Partnership will screen applicants, conducting background and credit checks and matching applicants' needs with available space. Some estimated that as many as 125 people would be screened before the all final 43 applicants were confirmed, as some would be disqualified, drop out or find the housing stock they need wasn't available.  

The apartments, which could start renting in February, are available at affordable prices in three configurations: 9 three-bedroom, 20 two-bedroom and 14 one-bedroom.

Neither of the first two people whose names were drawn came forward Tuesday night but they will be notified by mail. The two women who were chosen third and fourth though, were ecstatic, dashing out into the hallway to celebrate. 
Darren Knight, chosen third, is a retired flight attendant who lives in a small apartment over a garage in East Northport. "I don't know how it changes my life but it just makes my life better," she said. "I feel like I'll have a place where I can have people come over and visit. 

"Huntington needed affordable housing," she added. "The rents were way too expensive and for nothing, you weren't getting much benefit. You had to go off Long Island and out of New York or have a lot of money to buy a condominium."

Knight, who is 62, described her current apartment as tiny, comparing her kitchen to an airplane galley. 

Sherina Cashwell, chosen fourth, lives with a grown daughter and a grandson in Huntington Station. "I've been waiting for a long time to find housing. Living with my children is okay but I can't wait to have my own."

She and Knight joked with each other, calling each other neighbor. While they were in the hallway, shouts of joy could be heard from some in the crowd whose low numbers could bring them the apartments they need.

Also pleased was Matt Whelan, senior vice president for development at Avalon Bay, who helped shepherd the project as it encountered considerable resistance from many people in Huntington Station who felt it was too large for their community.

"It's exciting. It was nice to spend some time in Town Hall in such a positive fashion. It's exciting to see how emotional people are at the opportunity to get one of these units. It was a long road to get here but this surely makes it feel like it was worth it."

Berland, slightly hoarse after reading out the names, said, "I support home opportunities for people in the town of Huntington, both rentals and ownership.  This was a very exciting evening. I congratulate everybody. I wish there were places for everybody."

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson spoke at the session and helped draw some numbers from the tumbler.

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