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Half Hollow Hills School Leaders Slam Melville Apartment Rezone

By Niall Fitzgerald


The leaders of the Half Hollow Hills (HHH) School District slammed the Huntington Town Board's proposed Melville 3,000 apartments rezone, for providing false enrollment and tax estimates, and cutting corners on required environmental, traffic and economic impact studies.


In March, 2024, Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth and Councilman Sal Ferro filed a proposal to rezone one square mile (700 acres) of office and light industrial properties in Melville, into high-density four-story apartment blocks of up to 70 apartments per acre. If built, it would be the largest apartment development in Long Island history.


Smyth and Ferro sold the project as creating a "Walkable Town Center" off Route 110, but there was no plan for a Town Center - just thousands of dense apartments.  And the properties are owned by private owners, some of whom would see multi-million dollar windfalls, while others would be rezoned into access roads and asphalt parking lots.


In an open three-page letter to the entire Town Board, HHH Superintendent Dr. Patrick Harrigan and School Board President Diana Acampora raised a series of objections to the Smyth-Ferro proposal - including that it would impose a massive $20 million-plus tax increase on taxpayers in the school district.


"Typically, when a project of this scope, and frankly much smaller is under consideration...we have the opportunity to review the State Environmental Quality Review [SEQRA]... Impact statements," stated the HHH Schools letter. "At present, no such studies or information is available."


That is because Smyth had the Town Planning Department declare - ridiculously - that the 700 acres of new construction would have "no environmental impact" on Melville - in an attempt to evade normal state SEQRA requirements.


In addition, the HHH school leaders debunked the rosy student enrollment figures provided by Smyth, noting that the actual student enrollment from existing apartment blocks in HHH are "double the '11 units to 1 student' industry standard that you are using." 


The HHH leaders projected that increased student enrollment would be "approximately 640 students, not the 273 students you are using," and would force HHH to open an additional elementary school, hire more staff and raise taxes by more than $20.5 million annually.


The letter also questioned the arbitrary "pause" in construction after each 400 unit apartment block is constructed.  "Why then start with a large 3,000 residential unit plan if you recognize that 400 units are significant enough of a number to measure impact ?"


The Half Hollow School District is the largest school district in Huntington, covering Melville, Dix Hills, West Hills and part of East Northport. The district has nine schools, with an enrollment of 7,350 students and 650 teachers, and has a larger budget than the Town of Huntington.



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