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Jul 17, 2012 9:19 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Housing Authority Chair Blasts Southampton Town Board For Skipping Survey

Jul 18, 2012 9:45 AM

Southampton Town Housing Authority Chair Bonnie Cannon sharply criticized the Town Board for what she described as the unfair and exclusive process by which it decided to allow only owner-occupied homes, and not rentals, to be built on five Flanders properties as part of an affordable housing initiative.

Her comments came a week after members of several civic associations, led by the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA), strongly urged the board at a work session to build subsidized, owner-occupied homes on the five town-owned properties, located on Vail Avenue and Old Quogue Road, asserting that the area is already blighted with rundown rental properties that are being neglected by absentee landlords. The Town Board subsequently approved a resolution by a 3-1 vote on July 10 declaring that the properties, which were handed over to the town after being seized by Suffolk County for the nonpayment of taxes, be used only for the construction of affordable owner-occupied homes and not rentals.

Ms. Cannon said on Friday that her concern lay not in whether the community would benefit more from building rentals instead of subsidized homes—that is a separate issue, she said—but rather in that fact that the board did not attempt to first gather input from the mostly black and Latino residents of the neighborhood where the homes would be built before making its decision. She also pointed out that those minorities are not fairly represented by the area’s community associations.

“The issue had everything to do with the fact that our people’s rights were not given to them, and the individuals who will be impacted by the new homes or rentals were not given the opportunity to express their opinion,” she said. “We are looking at a blatant situation here where a group of black and brown people were not included in the decision-making process.”

Ms. Cannon added that of the roughly 15 residents of Flanders with whom she spoke, not one knew that the Town Board was going to be making a decision regarding those properties, and some had never heard of FRNCA.

The Housing Authority had planned to mail a survey out to area residents to gather their opinions, and had asked the board to hold off on making a decision on the matter until the survey had been completed. She called the board’s action last week “a blatant disregard” for the individuals’ right to voice their opinion, noting that board members approved the resolution even after she told them that others in the community wanted their chance to be heard.

“The point is, you have to do the common courtesy—include them,” she said. “At times you aren’t able to reach out to everybody, but, in this particular situation, it could have been done.”

Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who sponsored the resolution approved by the board last week, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the lone board member to oppose the measure, also did not return calls. Town Board members Jim Malone and Christine Scalera voted to approve the measure while Councilwoman Bridget Fleming abstained, stating that she needed more information.

Vince Taldone, the vice president of FRNCA, on Friday defended the decision made by the majority of board members. He said that constructing homes for ownership would draw in families who would be invested in the neighborhood, and he said that the Housing Authority’s insistence that it first conduct a survey was out of step with the town’s normal decision-making process.

“Do we represent every last person? Of course not, but, you know, we’re a good sampling, and this is the way it’s normally been done for years, and they have responded to those groups,” Mr. Taldone said. “Even if there is a need in the entire town to have more rental houses, we think this is the wrong spot for a number of reasons, and we do feel that it is just unfair that these are the only community associations that are being circumvented.”

Ms. Cannon said the Housing Authority, which no longer plans to conduct its survey, is now looking to inventory both the number of owner-occupied homes and rental properties that currently exist in Flanders.

“I really think that if they would have let the process just go through, I don’t think the decision would have changed, but at least you can sleep a lot better saying, ‘Hey, I did the process right, and I included all people,’” Ms. Cannon said.

Mr. Taldone countered that Suffolk County gave three out of five of the properties in question to the town more than 11 years ago, and said that construction should not be delayed further. He said the town has requested, and been given, construction extensions and, as things now stand, are eight months into the latest two-year extension.

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I believe that the homes should be owner occupied and built as soon as possible.
By joan s (53), hampton bays on Jul 17, 12 1:37 PM
Why is an elected official from a village on a Town advisory board? I am sure there are enough "civilians" more than willing to serve and get involved in the process.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Jul 17, 12 3:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
What is Bonnie Cannons expertise in housing? Anyone.. anyone? NONE! Homeowners are what we need in Flanders not a bunch of cheap rentals with people who don't care about their property. Flanders has become the capital for slumlords. I'm not for govt being involved in housing but if they must make it a homeowner. Here is an idea work hard and buy your own house like everyone else!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 17, 12 3:23 PM
3 members liked this comment
The driving force behind the rentals is the fact that the Housing Authority has to be sels sufficient according to ATH's State of the Town speech. That means the the Housing Authority needs recurring money (i.e. rent) and not one shots from housing sales, unless the Authority wants to get into the mortgage business. Since Section 8 pays in excess of $2,000 a month a rental can generate $24,000 plus a year. Since the Authority will have these properties"in perpetuity" they will be revenue streams ...more
By Hampton West (5), westhampton beach on Jul 18, 12 9:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
Bonnie Cannon is spot on, right up to and including her gracious comment that the area needs affordable housing whether it's owned or rented, and she'll be there celebrating it either way.

But Ms. Cannon's basic message is loud and clear -- in rejecting the survey that the Housing Authority proposed, the Town Board caved to the civics, trashed the democratic process, and ignored the people, especially minorities.

Sponsor Chris Nuzzi is keeping his head down. Nothing new there. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 18, 12 11:30 AM
put it to a referendum on the ballot. Who will be surveyed?
Who will select those to be surveyed? The Housing Authority?
Turkey Bridge doesn't live in Hampton West Estates, I have for 33 years. I can tell you all sorts of horror stories about absentee landlords and Section 8 renters themselves. This neighborhood has improved itself by going after absentee landlords and encouraging people to own, rather than rent. I wish the same for the Flanders folks.
By Hampton West (5), westhampton beach on Jul 19, 12 8:00 PM
You just can't let it go and accept defeat, can you Mr. Bridge?
Your play on the "we've never done it that way" once again pays homage to your ability to twist.
I've asked you before, would this be the only time the town would do a survey, or is this a new way of governing?
Let me ask you this as well.....on the several stories on this topic, there has been scant support FOR rental units in the area. Are these folks in need of rental housing just to busy to care? Or perhgaps they just ...more
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Jul 18, 12 11:49 AM
Phadreus, thanks for the compliment on what you call my "ability to twist." I just call it plain old logic, going from A to B, but you can twist it any way you like.

You ask, "would this be the only time the town would do a survey, or is this a new way of governing?" Answer: I don't know, let's see how events develop.

I also don't know (because no one's given me a reason) why this survey the Housing Authority suggests is such a bad idea. I ask again: What's wrong with it? ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 19, 12 11:23 AM
The Housing Authority needs to consider saturation rentals/vouchers rates in each community before leaping to a rental only policy. They don’t have the information and until they do it deems all their decisions as questionable, reckless, and unprofessional.
By Woohampton (35), Westhampton Beach on Jul 19, 12 1:59 PM
We asked at a recent meeting with the Housing people how many Section 8 vouchers were there within Hampton West. They were able to tell us the Southampton Town total, but they had no idea if other housing authorities on Long Island had any (such as Community Development Corporation of Long Island, or Community Housing Innovations - or Riverhead Town. (Pssst, they do.) So in terms of saturation they have their vouchers only, and no idea how many others there are. Can they really set policy when they ...more
By Hampton West (5), westhampton beach on Jul 19, 12 8:07 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 22, 12 4:07 AM