The plan to convert the former state armory on East Fifth Street in Huntington Station into a recreation center is off the table, replaced by a proposal to build a fieldhouse next door.
Supervisor Ed Smyth told Newsday that building a new fieldhouse would cost less than trying to continue to renovate the armory. The Town Board approved $10 million for the project in 2017 but estimates ballooned to about $14 million. In 2014, the state awarded the town $1.5 million for the work.
The Huntington Station community has long clamored to see the old armory turn into a space for recreational and community use. Mostly recently, some lobbied to see the work advance under the Downtown Revtialization Initiative but the area is outside the zone covered by the initiative, which is designed to boost economic activities.
The Huntington Town Board voted in October 2012 to rename the building for the late Assemblyman James Conte, just hours after he died of cancer. Conte had sponsored the bill to give the town control of the armory after the operations of National Guard units were consolidated and based in Farmingdale. The state had declared the property surplus.
Smyth told Newsday that he “envisions building a steel field house on a parcel of land adjacent to the armory with an indoor soccer field, an indoor basketball court, an elevated running track and meeting rooms.”
And the armory itself would be converted into a storage facility. Initial work on the site included cleanup and remediation to remove asbestos, lead and mold,
At the time of the vote to name the center for Conte, then-Supervisor Frank Petrone said, “Jim Conte was a distinguished legislator and a dear friend who kept the interests of his constituents and community foremost in his heart,” Petrone said. “He worked with us as we undertook and continue the process of revitalizing Huntington Station and, in particular, he was relentless in making sure that the Town was able to secure the Armory in Huntington Station for community uses. Naming the Armory after him is a fitting tribute and a living memorial to someone who will truly be missed.”
Construction experts have said of other projects in the area that renovation of old buildings to bring them into use can frequently cost more than putting up new ones.
The armory was built between 1958-1960, and housed Battery C of 1st Missile Battalion, 245th Field Artillery, 42nd Aviation, according to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center