In Irvington — Questioning a Project’s Location ~ Letters to the Editor ~

The government of Irvington has a choice ahead of it that could severely impact the nature of our Village forever.  I don’t lightly invoke the notion of irreversibility, but the usage is appropriate in this case.  The reason of course, is the prospect of a large assisted living community planned by the Continuum Company on South Broadway, just below Main Street.  

In May of last year, the Continuum Company petitioned the Mayor and Trustees to grant a change to current zoning laws, a change which would accept considerable densification, exponential increases in coverage, and exceptions to some twenty or more provisions in Village law.  It should be pointed out that Continuum does not own the property in question, but has entered into a sale contract contingent upon these requested changes being granted.   The current owner, the Foundation for Economic Education, or FEE, has been resident on the four-and-one-half acre parcel for a half century. The landscape was designed by a protégé of Frederic Law Olmstead, and Olmstead himself contributed to some of the design.  Within the mansion  are Tiffany glass windows, as well as notable woodwork and grand stairways.  FEE,  a non-profit entity, has not paid taxes to the village, town, county or school district during its tenure.  When the organization decided to decamp to Atlanta last year for economic reasons, it sought to dispose of the mansion and grounds.  Since the property is in a multi-family zone in Irvington, MF Zoning laws would apply to whatever use a buyer might consider.  Given today’s steep slope restrictions ( 20% of the terrain is steep slope) and coverage and parking requirements, the trustees of FEE realized that a denser use might prove more lucrative, and  sought to interest institutional buyers, eventually entering into the current agreement with Continuum.

[inset side={left}]The sale is not executed, and the citizens of Irvington can still voice their opposition to the Mayor and Trustees, before an irreversible mistake is made.[/inset]On March 7 of this year, Continuum’s lawyers and engineers presented its plans to the public in Irvington at a hearing before the Planning Board.  The purpose of the hearing was to vet the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) publicly, as required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA.) Continuum’s proposal is classed Type 1, that is, potentially having adverse environmental impact.  This potential became obvious to the citizens in attendance at the hearing.  While the 120-unit facility was touted as beneficial to Irvington, the engineers and attorneys failed to convince many in the room, who questioned how such an institution could possibly benefit their neighborhood. They learned that along with the 150 or more residents of the complex, there would be 80 or so employees spread over three shifts, a commercial kitchen to feed all the occupants and staff, garbage compactors, linen and food deliveries, 17,000 gallons of sewage discharged daily, medical personnel and visitors entering and leaving, and 95% coverage of the lot.

Continuum’s designers and attorneys maintained that the impact on the neighborhood would be slight, and moved on to discuss the merits of razing the mansion on the property. Needless to say, many neighbors were appalled, and asked how the proposal’s impact could be described as slight, given the already congested Broadway traffic between Station Road and Main Street.  The renderings provided to assuage neighbors do not provide any approximation of noise or odors emanating from a large commercial institution such as this.  The applicant is petitioning Irvington’s Trustees to change zoning laws to permit large four-story high structures on land that already towers forty feet above Broadway, for a use not permitted under our zoning laws.  The Village ambulance corps and fire department would be burdened, traffic would be severely impacted, and recreational use of the adjoining Croton Aqueduct Trailway would be diminished by this institution.

Our Trustees and Mayor obviously would like to see the property on the tax rolls, and this is understandable in a climate where politicians must jump into the freezing Hudson to raise revenues.  But a permitted use that is less disruptive to our life here, and does not require dismantling the established zoning, would also pay taxes.    I urge our Village planners and trustees to carefully examine this proposal. We could as easily opt for a solution which will benefit the entire community, not only Continuum and FEE.   This project is the wrong one for that location.  The sale is not executed, and the citizens of Irvington can still voice their opposition to the Mayor and Trustees, before an irreversible mistake is made.
Francis Goudie,

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