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Jul 17, 2012 6:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Affordable Housing Project Pitched For Westhampton

Jul 18, 2012 1:29 PM

A new proposal for an affordable housing project in Westhampton has caught the interest of Citizens Advisory Committee-West members who said they support most aspects of the project and see it as a great opportunity for the town.

The proposal was pitched to them last Thursday night by Kristina Lewis, the founder of the nonprofit organization, We Build Communities, and could happen if the Southampton Town Housing Authority purchases 5.75 acres near the town’s transfer station on Old Country Road from local developer Joseph Gazza and builds a 19-unit affordable rental complex featuring one- and two-bedroom apartments.

While most civic members said they support the project, many requested—to Ms. Lewis’s disappointment—that she research alternatives to the standard septic system that the proposed development would feature.

“We would suggest that you go back and at least try and address the issue of the septic tank,” CAC-West member John Bouvier said during the presentation. “What you are proposing now would add more to the groundwater problem without considering that we are going to have these issues come forward again in the future.”

Others agreed with Mr. Bouvier, citing recent presentations by Dr. Christopher Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook University, who blames the decline in many species of shellfish in local bays on high nitrogen levels in tidal areas due to outdated septic systems in high density areas.

Ms. Lewis, who appeared irritated at times throughout her 40-minute presentation, said she was not happy with the idea of upgrading the septic system, citing potential cost increases. She noted that the project is still in its early planning stages, and does not yet have an estimate for how much the project will cost. She also said she is open to suggestions if civic members could offer cost-effective solutions that address their septic issues.

“I think the more immediate problem is that people need housing,” she said. “I’m not looking to make money; I am looking to put people in decent, viable housing. Quite frankly, folks, it has been a long haul with this project, and nobody makes it easy. With you trying to make it more difficult, you will probably sink the project.”

Visibly taken aback by Ms. Lewis’s comments, some civic members said they will investigate some inexpensive septic options.

“We want this project—we have been asking people to develop affordable housing projects,” said group member Janet Beck, who is married to CAC-West Chairman Hank Beck. “We know there is an urgency here, and we do want this built, but the issue is the septic system. If you have a project where you can use something innovative to show how this can be done, then this can be a great opportunity for the area.”

Based in Water Mill, We Build Communities was started eight years ago with the goal of creating affordable housing initiatives across Long Island. In Westhampton, the group would facilitate the project by using a mix of grant money and funding from the Southampton Town Housing Authority.

According to Ms. Lewis, the current plan is for the Housing Authority to buy the land, which is located just east of the town’s Westhampton transfer station, from Mr. Gazza. The complex would be a joint venture involving both We Build Communities and the Town Housing Authority, with the latter eventually managing the apartment complex.

The complex would feature one main building containing most of the one-bedroom apartments and a community room. Two smaller, ranch-style buildings would feature two-bedroom apartments, and a fourth building, resembling a cottage, would serve as a main office and feature a second-floor two-bedroom apartment to be used as a manager’s office and home.

“The idea is that it would be a mixed group of people that form a neighborhood,” Ms. Lewis said during last week’s meeting. “You might have senior citizens, families with children or returning veterans—all types of people who need affordable housing.”

Mr. Beck said he is in favor of building affordable housing as long as the associated septic systems do not contribute to pollution.

“I would love to see this project come forward—it is a great idea,” he said. “But there is a line with this septic tank problem that we simply cannot afford to cross anymore. It has to stop here.”

After the meeting, Ms. Lewis said she has already met with both the Suffolk County Health Department and the Town Housing Authority, both of which are in favor of the project with the standard septic system. She said she plans to file official paperwork with the town within the next few weeks.

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Affordable housing is available when you let market forces match the housing to the income profile of a community. The subprime crisis was created when housing costs were artificially elevated by guaranteeing loans to people who could not afford to pay the mortgages.

When we don't give away property to subsidize housing, then builders will build more modest homes. Or, heaven forbid, people live in an affordable home in another community and commute to work.

Foreclosures also ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jul 17, 12 10:52 PM
2 members liked this comment
That's right--let those peons who cut our lawns, educate our children, enforce our laws, administer IV's in our emergency rooms, fight our fires, and rescue us from car accidents commute from Mastic. Wanting to live in the Hamptons--what nerve!

BTW--my mother retired with 40 years service from the NYC school district lives in a $829/month rent controlled apartment. The unit across the hall rents for 4,200/month. She visits the Met on 5th Ave. (across from the park) at least twice a ...more
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Jul 18, 12 9:40 AM
Yes and that is exactly the problem. There should be no rent control and both apartments would then sell at market rate of about $2500 a month.
Like the old saying goes: "There are two ways to destroy a city. By bombing it or by rent control."
Affordable housing is always a mess. When the economy turns around, nobody wants them any more.
Look at all the homes available in Eastport, Speonk, East Quogue and Hampton Bays. There are plenty of places available right now without these silly ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Jul 18, 12 3:05 PM
Your point being what? We all know what kind of element winds up in affordable housing complexes. We don't need a slum and crime coming to our area. We already have the homeless shelter.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Jul 18, 12 2:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
2 words-NO THANKS
By ba (50), speonk on Jul 18, 12 2:20 PM
So within a 3 mile radius there are 4 affordable housing projects on the table. 1) Where the castle is on North Phillips Ave just south of the rail road.
2) Kaywood Downs located at 85 North Phillips Ave just north of the rail road
3) The project discussed in the article above.
4) Silent Pines subdividion on Speonk Riverhead Rd on top of the Plume
5)There are condos already being constructed on Old Westhampton Riverhead rd.
Westhampton is becoming the Low income housing town. ...more
By lifesaver (118), speonk on Jul 18, 12 3:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Gazza wins again . . .
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 18, 12 4:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Has anyone checked the tax exempt status of "We Build Communities" on the IRS webpage Exempt Organizations Select Check? I can't seem to find it.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jul 19, 12 5:45 AM
WE BUILD COMMUNITIES has not as yet had a project. I have been trying for 8 years, but obviously there is opposition. Therefore, no income, no tax returns. Joe Gazza has generously supported this project. He has attended a meeting with the County, and allowed me to use his property to propose the possibility. He will sell the property and make money if things go through, but that is his right as owner.
By rabbit (65), watermill on Jul 20, 12 12:22 PM
Am sure he has "generously" supported this project on some level because there are no other buyers. I'm sure he won't be housing his own family within 1/2 mile of this project.
By Leon789 (50), westhampton on Jul 20, 12 3:15 PM
This is NOT about Joe, this is about Affordable Housing. His only involvement is that he owns a workable piece of land.
By rabbit (65), watermill on Jul 21, 12 7:05 AM
Government subsidized "Affordable Housing" is a fraud. It raises property taxes on some making their homes unaffordable, and gives those taxes away to people who are in the government's good graces (in this instance Joe Gazza and players to be named later). Socialism.

It is remarkable that some people think a commute to work is unfair. Look at the Long Island Railroad, it is a commuter train. People travel to where the work is and live where they can best afford to live.

If ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jul 23, 12 6:55 AM
Its better then the welfare hotel they snuck in to Hampton Bays, Its ok madam supervisor, Election day is approaching. and we will not forget what you stuck us with. No we will not forget, because we see the evidence skulking around the streets every night after dark.
By 27dan (2854), Southampton on Jul 26, 12 4:29 PM
Rental units next to the town dump-who dreamed up this idea? Let Mr Gazza keep his unsaleable land.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 4, 12 12:46 AM