Letter to Councilman Cohen from the Coalition 4/23/18

4/23/18

Dear Councilman Cohen,

 

We, civic groups of your district, stand together as a united front to protect and respect Riverdale. We strongly opposethe granting of a Special Permit to allow high-rise apartment houses in the Bronx’s only Special Natural Area District (SNAD), an R1 district, and modification of height requirements for an exception to height limits in an R4 district as requested by the Hebrew Home of Riverdale (HH).  In 2011, HH purchased the R1 site from the Passionist Fathers, who discontinued its use as a retreat, with full knowledge of the zoning restrictions and of longstanding community and city policy to preserve the area’s tranquil character.  The R4 portion lies within the Hebrew Home’s existing campus.  Proposed developments must be examined not merely in light of developers’ interests, but in the neighborhood context.  We urge you to take a stand to defend our community from incompatible developments. 

 

Despite this City’s notoriously rigorous land use regulations, and despite the strict regulations and SNAD protections in Riverdale, a massive CCRC development has been proposed, which, if approved, would upend zoning and destroy years of preservation efforts.  The Hebrew Home seeks permission to build New York’s first CCRC on its RiverSpring campus in Riverdale, which it would call River’s Edge.  We oppose the development for the following reasons.  

 

The CCRC apartment towers sought by Hebrew Home/RiverSpring, two towers of four and six stories on land zoned for single-family residences, violates the intent of existing R1 zoning intended to protect the area’s low density.  The CCRC apartment building proposed on the R4 zoning lot, a twelve-story tower, would rise 144 feet, 99 feet higher than the 45-foot height limit permitted, inappropriate given the immediately surrounding low-rise neighborhood.

 

Granting a Special Permit to construct apartment buildings on the R1 site and allowingmodifications for an out-of- scale tower on the R4 site establishes a dangerous precedent that would permit further development of high rise apartment houses in the (relatively few) R1 and R2 districts throughout New York City.

 

Community Board 8 has devoted years to preserving western Riverdale’s low-density character.  With broad local support, the community has resisted the Hebrew Home’s plan to construct apartments in an area whose single-family zoning was reinforced through the City-approved 197-a Plan in 2003.  The new provisions advanced under the rubric of Zoning for Quality and Affordability -- ostensibly to promote affordable senior housing -- have become a vehicle to allow multi-family apartment buildings in an otherwise sacrosanct R1 Special Natural Area District. The luxury River’s Edge Continuing Care Retirement Community, if allowed, would not only be Riverdale’s most expensiveand largest apartment building constructed since the 1970s, but it would render its zoning meaningless, and contradict the provisions of the 197-A plan.

 

Very soon you will cast a most influential vote on New York City’s first CCRC application, one that will set a precedent concerning the construction of multiple dwellings in single family districts.  You will also have the opportunity to influence the terms of a likely, and important, restrictive covenant concerning future development on the Passionist site.  We believe that allowing CCRCs in R1 and R2 districts, albeit by Special Permit, is an unfortunate concept tailored for the Hebrew Home. Nevertheless, to build on the Passionist Site the Hebrew Home must clear three hurdles set forth in New York City Zoning Resolution.

 

First, is the use of this 14-acre property for apartment buildings compatible with the R1 surrounding residential character of the neighborhood?   The issue is not whether these apartment buildings are compatible with the HH’s existing nursing home located on its adjacent R4 campus, already an outlier in scale. The issue is whether the use is compatible with the single-family residential character of the neighborhood.  The answer is clearly “no”.

Second, HH needs to demonstrate whether the “building access, orientation and landscaping create an adequate buffer between the proposed facility and nearby residences”.  Again, with single-family residences opposite and just south of the Passionist (R1) property, we submit that an adequate buffer cannot be established.

 

 And finally, HH needs to demonstrate that the streets (some of them private and not City owned) are adequate to handle the traffic generated.  We encourage you to speak to your constituents who use Palisade Avenue.

 

All of the above criteria must be met. The application calls for the type of careful analysis that we know you will want to conduct.  (We have haveneverexpressed support for any version of the CCRC except for a cottage scheme on the R1 property, which HH presented at an informational land use meeting in September 2016.)

 

We do not oppose CCRCs, but the law should not have been devised to permit multiple dwellings where they would not otherwise be allowed. In addition, it is ironical that this luxury development is facilitated by the Mayor’s “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” ……prices for the proposed River’s Edge CCRC will start at $825,450 and range up to $1,384,450... with additional maintenance fees of $5100-$7500 a month for one person and additional fees of $1630-$2030 per month for an additional person……. hardly affordable for most Bronx residents and certainly not for those on Medicaid.

 

Sincerely,

 

Along the Hudson Homeowners

Broadway Community Alliance

Bronx Climate Justice North

Fieldston Property Owners Association

Hillside Homeowners

Riverdale Nature Preservancy

Riverdale Community Coalition

Riverdale-Spuyten Duyvil Coalition

Sigma Place Homeowners

Skyview Co-op 5700, 5800 & 5900 Arlington Avenue

Vinmont Home Owners Association

 

 

 

 

 

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