Life after Irvington’s Budget Approval, Returning to the Waterfront

Irvington has begun to redirect its energy now that the crucial Village Budget has been approved. The waterfront is front and center along with attending to rejuvenating the streetscape on Main Street for merchants, residents and visitors alike.

In January the Board of Trustees questioned Bridge Street Properties’ petition for a zoning change on their waterfront property. It was felt by the Mayor and the Board that a three-tier parking garage was simply too far from what the Village envisioned as acceptable. The view shed from Main Street and side streets to the Hudson River would have been irreparably damaged with that proposal. Also included was a proposal for the addition of 19 townhouses, according to Village officials.

Prior to a public hearing on the petition, Bridge Street sent a letter to the Village withdrawing it. The owners of Bridge Street Properties, Jeffrey Reich and Bill Thompson, also ran a newspaper ad in February, addressed to Irvington residents, withdrawing their rezoning petition. In that ad Bridge Street Properties mentioned that they would be collaborating with Scenic Hudson to plan and design a new concept on Irvington’s waterfront. In speaking with Ned Sullivan, Scenic Hudson’s President, that claim has proven not to be true. He went on to say that Scenic Hudson was surprised by the advertisement that Jeff Reich and Bill Thompson ran. "The letter that I submitted a few weeks ago to the Enterprise made it clear that we were not working with Bridge Street Properties," Sullivan said. He stated that Scenic Hudson was prepared to comment formally in any public setting. That public setting would take the form of a hearing set by Irvington’s mayor and Board of Trustees. "We think it is up to the Village and its residents to decide whether they want a townhouse proposal," he added. In addition Sullivan went on to say, "Bridge Street Properties did a great job renovating the Burnham Building and we have recognized them for that." He repeated a singular position that Scenic Hudson has always taken and that is to create a public esplanade running the length of Irvington’s waterfront. Bridge Street Properties has never agreed to that.

The issue of waterfront development will soon take a twist in Irvington and other riverfront communities. Scenic Hudson has a Hudson Riverfront Planning Guide before the State. The guide will be published this coming summer and was developed with the aid of a $180,000 grant from the New York State Department of State. It will address how to protect the environment, balance environmental issues, address public access and deal with ongoing climate change as development occurs along the Hudson River. "It’s ninety percent complete and should be published later this summer. We hope to offer training sessions with municipal officials and developers later this fall," Sullivan said.

At present, Irvington’s waterfront remains an industrial zone. The Village’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan recommended that it be rezoned to some sort of a mixed use district which could include residential and commercial. Around 2007 Bridge Street Properties presented their plan to rezone the waterfront and that is the plan that the Board rejected earlier this year. At the time of this writing, Irvington was endeavoring to put together a series of public hearings that would begin in late May or early June.

According to Village Administrator Larry Schopfer, the Board is attempting to have outside organizations present to them and the public, the "cutting edge" issues that exist surrounding waterfront development. "We are trying the bring in Westchester County to explain their vision as stated in their Westchester County 2025 plan as it relates to the waterfront. We have also asked Scenic Hudson to do some community outreach and explain their new Guide to our residents later this year," Schopfer said.

Bridge Street Properties, as of this writing, has given Irvington no indication as to when and if they will return with another development proposal. Three phone calls to Jeff Reich and Bill Thompson went unreturned.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento