15 Sep 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by idealcheeseandwine
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Town Board OKs AvalonBay Zoning; 1 Man Arrested

Despite rejection by school board and pleas to stop apartment project, Huntington Town Board approves zoning change to clear the way for planning to begin.

The approved zoning for the proposed Huntington Station AvalonBay project by a 4-1 vote Monday — but not without a fight from some opposed to the plan.

Raucous from the start, the regular town hall meeting reached a boiling point just before voting regarding a zoning change which cleared the way for the planning and construction of 379 AvalonBay housing units in Huntington Station. 

Laboring to maintain order from the large, vocal crowd throughout the meeting, Town Supervisor Frank Petrone ordered security to escort Anthony Caruso, 60, from a front row seat at about 10 p.m. for disrupting proceedings as board members gave final opinions regarding the AvalonBay project.

Throughout the meeting, Petrone called for order and warned Caruso several times after being interrupted.

But the warnings eventually gave way to mayhem.

"You destroy everything!" yelled Caruso to Petrone as the board supervisor spoke regarding his AvalonBay zoning vote. After the outbursts continued from Caruso, Petrone signaled for security as a room full of stunned residents looked on, some gasped in dismay.

In a loud scuffle, Caruso was physically removed from the meeting by Suffolk County police and charged with 2nd degree harassment and disorderly conduct before being released on bail for arraignment at a future date, according to police.

Petrone said he was "a little disappointed" with some of the displays at the meeting, but "proud" of others who carried themselves as professionals.

"All of us have to be civil whether we agree with something or not," said Petrone.

A previous AvalonBay plan met considerable opposition from some in the Huntington Station community and was rejected by the Town Board in September. In March, the builders submitted a new,  scaled-down proposal for review.

Despite what she said were "uncertainties" with the new plan on Monday, board member Susan Berland voted in favor of the revised AvalonBay project.

"It will bring immediate benefits and serve as a catalyst for even greater improvements and growth," said Berland. "The proposal now before us, if not perfect, is better."

At a meeting at Jack Abrams Intermediate School in Huntington Station earlier in the evening, the Huntington School Board voted unanimously against the AvalonBay project in a "posture of nonsupport based on financial impact.” 

"We've been completely thrown under the bus again," said school board trustee Kim Brown, regarding the AvalonBay proposal.

Before construction begins, AvalonBay must go through the entire planning process, said Petrone, after the vote. Monday's vote "means the zone has changed and they can proceed."

In a written statement, AvalonBay's representatives said they were grateful to their supporters and pleased with the vote.

"We recognize that we have our work cut out for us, but we are confident that, in the end, this development will help to bring the community together and result in a better Huntington for all residents,"  said Matt Whalen, AvalonBay's vice president for development.

Town Board member Mark Mayoka cast the lone vote against the AvalonBay plan.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission cleared the way for the town board's vote Monday by unanimously approving the zoning change last week in Riverhead. 

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