There’s a flyer in the mail this week from the so-called “Citizens for a Sustainable Huntington”. They are opposed to turning the Elks Lodge on Main Street into a C6 building with 14 apartments above stores. Their solution? The town should buy the Elks building and turn it into a parking lot.
It’s hard to think of anything less sustainable than a paved-over piece of land like a parking lot. That we should spend our tax dollars to collect less taxes in the future by removing a taxable piece of land from the rolls is also not a fiscally sustainable strategy. “Citizens for a Calcified Huntington” might be a better name.
Because the town increased the parking requirements for new buildings a few years ago, the builder needs a parking variance, even though they probably need fewer parking spaces for the 14 apartments than the Elks Lodge needed as a catering hall. The increased parking requirements, along with requirements like upper floors being only 150% of the ground floor, were specifically designed to make building apartments impossible to build, and they have indeed stopped all new projects in their tracks.
The town has entertained proposals for over 50 years to build a parking structure on the New Street lot, but groups such as this always opposed building one, then show up to complain there is no parking when someone wants to build apartments above stores. They say that having 14 apartments here will gridlock that part of town, a highly dubious claim. They say they need more parking to support the merchants, but the merchants will probably get a lot more business from the residents of the 14 apartments who will walk to their shops several times a week than they will from the occasional driver from further away who comes to town a couple times a month.
History never stands still, and attempts to freeze the town in one configuration will hurt us in the long run. No one in their right mind would choose Long Island to start a new company. Many of the companies that are here for historical reasons think about leaving, and hire people who live and remain in other parts of the country. If we don’t find a way to make housing more affordable, there will come a day when there is no business tax base to support our lifestyle. Increasing the supply will help.
Detroit thought the gravy train would go on forever, and they tried to convince us all that it was unpatriotic to buy Japanese cars. But as time went on, people realized the Japanese were building better cars, cheaper, with better gas mileage. Eventually they were even assembled in the US, but in places like Tennessee and South Carolina. Detroit and the big car manufacturers eventually reacted and improved the product- but not before the city’s finances collapsed and the population dropped to 1/3 of its peak. If you try to hold off incremental change, you will eventually suffer catastrophic change. Better to have a plan to cope with the change.
Huntington and our neighboring towns fought the governor to keep her from imposing a solution to the regions’ housing crisis. They claim they have a solution, which we have yet to see. Allowing this building to be built would be a tiny step forward. Don’t tell us no- tell us HOW.