Community activists and the Melville Fire District are asking the Huntington Town Planning Board to halt plans for new construction along the service road of Long Island Expressway in Melville until updated traffic studies and issues of congestion are addressed.
Representatives from seven Melville civic groups, as well as fire officials, spoke before the planning board Thursday to request a moratorium on the building of a six-story office building at 270 South Service Road where a Fed-Ex now stands. The zoning board approved the demolition of the Fed Ex building last year, as well as an application by LBA Melville Associates to build the office space.
A member of the Melville Fire Department started off the special meeting, which was requested by the local civic groups, with a letter from the Melville Fire District Chairman Robert Reiser.
In his letter, Reiser recommends that the building’s construction be put on hold until safety issues concerning traffic in the area, particularly along the Walt Whitman Road bridge over the Long Island Expressway, are mitigated. The bridge leads to several residential senior-housing facilities and is often clogged during rush hours.
“Many seniors have limited mobility…In fires, every second is going to count,” he wrote in his statement to the board. “Any delay means the difference between life and death.”
LBA Melville Associates said it will donate land in order to widen Walt Whitman Road to create a turning lane to the South Service Road, and therefore, ease traffic. However, residents argued Thursday that it cannot yet be known if the additional lane would be enough to ease congestion, since the new Canon building is not yet occupied. The fire district predicts that the Walt Whitman Road overpass will experience between 2,000 and 2,500 additional vehicles per day to accommodate Canon’s employees.
During the meeting, several residents expressed frustration over the town’s ideas for the future of the Melville community, as outlined in the Town of Huntington Comprehensive Plan, known as Horizons 2020. Melville community members said the plan emphasizes the area as an industrial center and downgrades its status as a residential community
“Sadly for the residents, tax payers and voters of Melville, the plan all but ignores our existence,” said Fred Gross, who is the president of the Northgate Homeowners Association, as well as the acting president of the joint civic associations of Melville and Huntington encompassing Northgate, the Villas, Millenium, the Coves, the Knolls, Drexel, Pineridge, Tuxedo Hills and Sweet Hollow.
According to residents, the roads are already strained, and traffic is reducing the quality of life.
Mike Petrizzeli, whose children attend Sunquam Elementary and West Hollow Middle School, said his children have had to miss out on participating in after-school activities because it takes 25 minutes to travel the 2-mile distance between the schools.
Planning Board Chairman Paul Mandelik said that the board will review the residents’ comments and consider coming up with a recommendation for LBA Melville Associates, and that a public hearing will be set before voting on the application.