Roiled Waters… Irvington’s Rezoning Stirs Sentiments

One Bridge Street, IrvingtonIn effect, it’s safe to say that the Mayor and the Irvington Board of Trustees had hoped to have the waterfront rezoned as of this date. That rezoning would have changed the current industrial use into one of mixed use with the potential for retail and residences, along with a tiered parking garage in place of the current parking lot owned by Bridge Street Properties. With the exception of the two parks that bookend Irvington’s waterfront, all the remaining land and buildings are privately owned by Bridge Street Properties.

To say that the process to rezone Irvington’s waterfront has been a long and winding road is a safe description. The complete history of what has transpired is documented on the Village’s website. According to Village Administrator, Larry Schopfer, “The Board put forth legislation in January that they thought was responsive to their goals. There was significant opposition to that legislation and specifically to a potential parking garage.” Approximately 85 emails were received by Village Hall, opposing the parking garage. The Board regrouped and put forth legislation that eliminated the parking garage possibility, which didn’t achieve their goals (as they stated publicly). However, it did rezone the area and achieve some other goals.

One of the owners of Bridge Street Properties, Bill Thompson, then submitted a petition to the Board on April 4, that “gave the appearance” of community support for the parking garage and development on the privately-owned waterfront. According to Schopfer there were approximately 106 signatures on that petition. After that, the Board did not adopt the proposed legislation that would have eliminated the parking garage from the rezoning. In essence the Board has expressed the need to regroup and address the polarization that exists within the community on the issue of a parking garage on the waterfront. In short, they need to bring people together before addressing any further rezoning.

[inset side=left]“What caused me to speak out against the parking garage is that Irvington is a special community. This project would change the character of Irvington and my neighborhood as well”
Peter Bernstein[/inset]At the time this publication went to print no concrete methods for uniting the polarized camps within the Village had been achieved. The Board is trying to formulate what their next steps will be. Suffice it to say that if any redevelopment of the privately-owned property on Irvington’s waterfront is to occur then the issue of additional parking will have to be addressed. Short of razing existing buildings, there are no options for redevelopment, because the north lot of Bridge Street Properties has to remain a parking area. That was mandated by the Village in 2003 when they granted the construction of a new building on the southernmost parcel of the property.

At the time we went to press with this story River Journal had reached out to Peter Bernstein, Arthur Semetis and Bill Thompson. Both Bernstein and Semetis talked at length about their opposition to a parking structure on the waterfront. Thompson was unable to speak with us when contacted and did not return our second call. 

“What caused me to speak out against the parking garage is that Irvington is a special community. This project would change the character of Irvington and my neighborhood as well,” Peter Bernstein said. Bernstein, an employee benefits consultant, lives in the inner Village and his focus is on preserving, protecting and maintaining those unique traits of Irvington which he believes are in jeopardy with any major redevelopment and in particular with a parking structure on the waterfront. He asks a valid question, “What is the right amount of development that residential neighborhoods can sustain?” He believes that inner Village streets like his are not designed to handle commercial traffic nor are residents prepared to lose their river views. He cites the current Village ban on parking garages and has been impressed with the Board’s consideration of his and other like-minded residents’ concerns. Arthur Semetis stated that he lives in an area of Irvington without a river view, yet, he does commute and cannot envision looking at a multi-level parking structure from his daily train. Semetis is an attorney and currently sits on the

Village Zoning Board. Like Bernstein, he is deeply committed to keeping the character of Irvington which he believes is singularly unique to the river towns both north and south of the Village. He mentioned that the current owners of Bridge Street Properties have already been given leeway with the building they constructed on the south end of their parcel. He does not see the need for any further concessions or special variances by the Village with regard to that property. “I got involved with this because I want to try and do the right thing for the Village,” he said. For Semetis doing the right thing would mean to rezone the waterfront from (I)  industrial to (WF) mixed use, however it would not mean any other special concessions to the property owner. He would let the “market” decide what might or might not be best at that location.

The issue of any further development on the private parcel nestled between two waterfront parks has polarized the Village of Irvington. It remains to be seen how elected officials will address this issue and what common ground, if any, exists. ©


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