[Breaking news: The Armory Building has been surplussed and the Town now has it available for public redevelopment.]
From the earliest days of Man communities developed around central gathering places. In early America, like in Europe these typically were outdoor town centers (plazas, town squares) that almost always had a church, and grew to be surrounded by both public (sheriff, courthouse, school) and commercial buildings (stores and services).
Community and Social gatherings occurred outside in good weather or in the church or other community center in winter and rain. The public buildings provided services and formed the bones of a community.
In Huntington Station public social gatherings are limited to outdoor parks, like Manorfield and for events like the Unity Parade; the station parking lots.
There are really great proposals on Source the Station for outdoor park areas that will accommodate large groups for a variety of public events.
This proposal is for a two story building to be used as both an indoor social and community gathering place on the first floor and office space on the second floor. Since the Armory is now available, It also would be directed connected to the Manorfield outdoor park.
Social gathering areas have for decades been replaced by fraternal organizations, fire house and church social halls. The uses of these spaces are typically limited to members. The geographic area of the scope of this project has is a high density, working class neighborhood. When an average family, people who are on work force class budgets, or a community group wants to hold a social event; do-it-yourself events: Weddings, Christenings, Sweet 16 partys, Memorial gatherings, Anniversaries and even Small Business Holiday Parties, they need to be able to rent a a space to do what people all across the country do; have pot lucks and small scale locally catered events.
Additionally, not for profits need a space available for community based and public gatherings like civic and commerce group meetings, scout groups, craft and sports clubs, blood drives and other not for profit group purposes. Local Restaurants, Markets, Delis, Bakeries, Florists and Bodegas will all benefit when event sponsors use their catering services and other products. This attracts and keeps business in the Station.
If built right, this facility could also serve as a shelter if we ever face a Sandy or Irene again (we know we will!).
Other non-profit groups, such as food pantries, housing organizations, Huntington Youth Bureau, Youth and senior groups and arts and cultural groups could all have their information available in one place as a community resource. Social Services, Local Gov’t representatives and other government related services could use office space on a rotating basis to meet with constituents and those who need of assistance.
I can picture groups such as volunteer ESL tutors utilizing the office area as a place to meet with clients for tutoring. The town could maintain an office that could serve as a walk in branch of ToH services for people to access the many services that exist to improve the overall community. The key to all of this is that be centrally located within the community, within walking distance to most and on a main bus artery to the rest of the island and beyond. As a hub, buses would pick up and drop off seniors who go to their Center at Village Green and children in the many youth programs in town.
Yes, this will require an investment on the part of our entire community, along with money from the state and federal government, but it protects the other investments that are for the future of the residents of Huntington Station and our ultimately our entire Town.
Strong, welcoming communities filled with families who love their community and have hope, values and goals are the antidote to crime, poverty, blight, slumlords, drugs, vice and all the other terrible things that too many cite as reasons for the decline of the Station neighborhoods. THE ENTIRE TOWN BENEFITS!