Matinecock Court in East Northport, a development of affordable apartments first proposed 43 years ago, got the go-ahead Tuesday from the Huntington Town Board.
The vote was 4-1 on the resolution proposed by Councilwoman Joan Cergol, and seconded by Mark Cuthbertson. Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Town Councilman Gene Cook also voted yes, while Town Councilman Ed Smyth, who will become supervisor next month, voted against it. He maintained his opposition to the structure of the units, insisting that the “limited equity cooperative” meant that the units would really be rentals, not ownership.
When developer Peter Florey shifted the arrangements from half apartments, half apartments ownership to the limited equity plan, the town needed to sign off again on the agreement, which is what Tuesday’s vote achieved.
At one point before the vote, 55 people were signed up to speak, many of whom supported the housing development. After several people spoke, with little opposition, Lupinacci decided to move the resolution forward on the agenda and the proposal passed.
First proposed in 1978, the project has gone through a series of battles over the legality, need and appropriateness in the community. It is planned on 14.5 vacant acres on the northwest corner of Pulaski and Elwood Roads.
Opposition at first from the town and residents included complaints about traffic, overcrowding the schools, effect on nearby homes, environmental issues and challenges about who might move into the development. Race and income have factored into the debate. As recently as November, a weekly publication referred to the project as a “low-income welfare housing development.”
But at Tuesday’s meeting, the speakers were mostly united on why the project should be allowed to continue.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, residents mostly urged the board to approve the plan.
A Centerport woman said, “It’s not even vaguely amusing that it’s taken more than 40 years to get our act together.”
Another resident said, “The people who are going to live there are living here now—in basements, with parents, or substandard housing.”
And another said to the board, “You people have the ability to do the right thing. The time is now.”
Housing Help, which has been shepherding the project and pledges to break ground by June, said, “This is a historic moment for our town. After over 40 years of waiting, Huntington’s hard-working families, first responders, nurses, teachers, young professionals, intellectual/developmental disabilities community and others who can no longer afford to live in our town will finally have a home.”
Smyth denounced the process that led to Tuesday’s vote, saying, “This resolution eliminates affordable home ownership. If you want a master class on how not to amend the settlement,” this was it, he said. “This limited equity is not equity. This is a rental project; it eliminated a component of affordable home ownership.”
But Cuthbertson, said, “We need all variety of affordable housing. Highland Green has proved to be a successful model. To make this happen and at affordability level, you have to jump through dozens of hoops. To say ‘it’s a master class in how not to govern’,” he said, is an overstatement.
Cergol, referring to the years she has spent on the project in different capacities with the town, said, “It’s time to move this forward.”
Roger Weaving, vice president of Huntington Township Housing Coalition, said, “We are truly grateful to all the Huntington residents who came last month and this month to town hall to support Matinecock Court. We’d also like to thank the four board members who voted in favor of the limited equity co-op structure. We look forward to the day in 2022 when we can finally break ground.”
And while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer don’t agree on much, they both encouraged the board to vote for the Matinecock project when they addressed the board during presentations honoring Cuthbertson and Lupinacci, who are both leaving town government at the end of the year.