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NY town proposal would give firefighters housing priority

If the proposal is approved, firefighters would get top priority to those seeking affordable housing solutions

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Photo/ Cutchogue Fire Department

Jean-Paul Salamanca

CUTCHOGUE, N.Y. — Southold Town officials said they are considering giving top priority to local volunteer firefighters who are seeking affordable housing.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, who suggested the idea at the town board’s May 21 work session, said volunteer firefighters provide a vital service and he would further discuss a proposal with the board in the future.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is keeping firefighters here,” Russell said in an interview May 22. “What we’d like to do is create enticements and make sure if there are local firefighters that would like to step up and help the community, we’d like to find them a place to live.”

There are limits to how much priority towns can give due to state and federal anti-discrimination housing rules, but Russell said there may be an opportunity to create priorities under certain circumstances and he has directed town attorney William Duffy to look into it.

A similar proposal has been floated in Hempstead Town, where officials have been working on rezoning areas of the town that would give firefighters and members of the military preference in future affordable housing construction.

Affordable housing options or projects had been scarce in Southold for several years, and the town’s priority list of individuals seeking affordable housing had not been updated in years, Russell said.

However, the construction of Vineyard View — a 50-unit affordable housing complex in Greenport set for completion in May 2020 — has sparked new interest for people seeking affordable housing options, he said.

Town fire officials said they would welcome preference for volunteers.

“Anything that helps young people get started in the Town of Southold is a wonderful thing, and the fact that they’re going to help people that are giving back to the community is even better,” Southold Fire Department Assistant Chief Carlisle Cochran Jr. said.

Cutchogue Fire Department Chief Thomas Shalvey Jr. said his department — which has roughly 100 volunteers — has lost volunteers in the past because they couldn’t afford homes in Southold.

Shalvey said the proposal may not immediately help his department because there were no nearby affordable housing options in Cutchogue, but it could help attract new volunteers in the future if nearby housing options do open up.

“I couldn’t see where that would hurt us,” Shalvey said.

By Jean-Paul Salamanca @JPaulSalamanca

Jean-Paul Salamanca covers the East End. He focuses on Riverhead, Southold and Greenport on the North Fork, as well as Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Flanders, Riverside and Quogue on the South Fork.


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