Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D-Babylon) is trying to revive the long-dormant “Matinecock Court” low-income housing project for the corner of Elwood and Pulaski Roads in Northport. Bellone just signed a $2.6 million commitment by the county for infrastructure and sewers for the controversial project.
The project was first proposed in 1978, to place a high-density low-income housing development into the single-family home neighborhoods of Northport and East Northport. The organizers - a left-wing activist organization called “Housing Help” - denounced the Town of Huntington's zoning regulations and the residents of Northport as “racist” - and demanded that a predominantly minority multi-family housing be built in the then-predominantly white, single-family homeowner neighborhood.
Housing Help sued the town to force the zoning change, and won its case in the local federal court. Appeals went all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 1981.
In 1996, Housing Help again tried to force the Town to approve the high density low-income project, but received heavy opposition from Northport community groups. Then-US Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens) tried to force the community and the Town Board to accept the project. But under the leadership of Northport community leader Ginny Volpe, and then-councilwoman Susan Scarpati-Reilly (R), the project was denounced as “slum housing,” and again blocked.
The Fire Department refused to certify plans for the high-density project, because the buildings were packed too tightly to allow fire engine access in case of a fire emergency. The administration of then-Governor George Pataki (R-Peekskill) also blocked funding for the project. For the next 23 years, the project was stalled - and the 15 acre property remained a wilderness of woods and fields.
Now, the newly-re-elected County Executive Bellone and a group of local Democrats are determined to build the low-income project. In its latest form, the proposal is for 17 two-story buildings and a Sewage Treatment Plant with 146 apartments. 76 of the apartments are to be sold as condos, and 70 units are to be "affordable" rental units. Of the rental units, eight are to be restricted to people with developmental disabilities.
The proposed project is located a mile away from the Northport LIRR station - too far for pedestrian use, and would be located adjacent to Northport High School. In past years, residents expressed concern that like many low income housing projects, the Matinecock Court complex could become a haven for drug dealing - only 500 feet from the schools.