In 1996 The Village of North Tarrytown’s Zoning Board notified General Motors that 1900 units of housing were permissible on their waterfront site. In 2003 that number decreased to 1650 units.
Top: Beekman Place looking west, Bottom: Ammended Riverfront Development Concept Plan
Last year, 1250 units were presented by General Motors and its development partner Roseland Properties. According to Mayor Philip Zegarelli that number will be reduced further to 1100 units or even 1000 housing units. According to the Mayor, any further reductions in housing units will significantly affect Village amenities built into Lighthouse Landing. Futhermore, "A drastic cut in the number of units will cause the project to fail," Mr. Zegarelli said.
The amenities for the Village of Sleepy Hollow include the public access to the riverfront and parkland. Approximately 44 % or 42 acres will be parkland or governmental use which is tax exempt. Under the governmental use status will be a new Village garage for the Department of Public Works and a new firehouse as well. A new boat house and visitor’s center on the Hudson River, adjacent to the Lighthouse, are two other amenities scheduled to be built. Tennis courts and two soccer fields will be built and made available not only for residents but for school use as well. These amenities are particularly important in light of the Board of Education currently considering artificial turf fields that could increase school taxes over and above the yearly budget ascent. Additionally, the Pocantico River will be restored with an estuary system which will run through the site and empty into the Hudson River.
"Most importantly the numbers (of units) we will drop to in the density (of Lighthouse Landing) will still provide a positive cash flow to both the schools and the Village," the Mayor noted. Even with the estimated 200 additional students coming from Lighthouse Landing, the development will contribute (after all expenses have been paid for these students) an additional $1,500,000 annually to the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns. "This is definitely an easing of school taxes for the Sleepy Hollow taxpayer," he added. To the Village of Sleepy Hollow the net cash benefit (after all services have been factored in) will be about $650,000 annually. "This will also ease the Village taxpayer’s burden," he noted.
Traffic issues surrounding Lighthouse Landing are in tandem with density concerns. Regarding increases in traffic it should be noted that 1500 square feet of residential space generates two automobiles. That same 1500 square feet when it is for commercial use generates 9 cars, according to the Mayor. "We need a certain amount of commercial space for the viability of this project. We have to weigh this because it definitely has an effect on traffic. All the little shops that will draw people to the waterfront along with commercial office space are going to have an effect on traffic and it’s up to the Board to carefully consider the percentages of each," Mr. Zegarelli said.
"Look at Tarrytown’s Main Street with its nice shops and restaurants. It gets congested! Is it because people live there? No. It’s because of the commercial use of the street. That’s why they have valet parking," he said. To further his point about the need for commercial space and shops along the waterfront, Mayor Zegarelli commented on Tarrytown’s proposed waterfront development. "Ferry Landings will have beautiful homes, but what will draw visitors down there? There are only so many times that you can go and see the river. Lighthouse Landing is a much more complex project. What we are doing in Sleepy Hollow is to get people down to the river and have them come back on a regular basis. We realize the need to draw people to Lighthouse Landing, and the commercial aspect of it is key."
Lighthouse Landing is not slated to be a stand-alone entity creating two villages, but rather, Beekman Avenue will be renewed as a result of the development. The entire length of Beekman Avenue will experience a renaissance and a committee is in place to oversea the various phases. "We have been conducting linkage studies for years. Lighthouse Landing will be a very open area with no fences or gates. It is heavily oriented to both active and passive recreation and that will draw people to the waterfront. There is a commitment from General Motors contained in the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) to assist the Village in improving our own business district on Beekman Avenue. Not only will they contribute money, they will also contribute expertise. We have already set up a not-for-profit organization to work with GM and we have obtained close to $300,000 in grant money even before we start, Mr. Zegarelli said. The work on Beekman Avenue’s business district is slated to be done concurrently with the development of Lighthouse Landing. "Everyone will move together," the Mayor added.
Traffic concerns during the development phase of Lighthouse Landing have been answered, in part, with a system for getting materials into the site and cleanup materials out of it. Rail and some barge traffic will account for 75% of all materials entering or leaving the site. The remaining 25% will be materials needed at the site but not able to be brought in via rail or barge due to the origin of the shipment. Plans are also underway for handling traffic issues once the project is complete. There won’t be a railroad station at the site, however a regional bus transportation authority will be heavily supported by GM and Roseland. The bus service will be designed to carry people from as far north as Phelps Memorial Hospital through points in the Village, with stops at Lighthouse Landing as well.
An interesting fact that has not been published, details the costs to General Motors and Roseland even before the first unit of housing or commercial space is built.
Environmental and pre-construction costs will total in the neighborhood of $85,000,000, with environmental cleanup of the site accounting for $25,000,000 and pre-construction costs (to include clearing the site and installing waterlines) estimated at $60,000,000. Additionally, amenities to the Village of Sleepy Hollow will be in the range of $20,000,000. "My background is in banking and economics and we (the Board) would love to have very low density, but we also know what needs to be done to keep Sleepy Hollow on a firm footing economically. It’s not just the Village but the school system as well. People complain to us about school taxes and the Board knows we have no control over those taxes. With this project however, we know we can help out," Mr. Zegarelli said.
As Lighthouse Landing becomes more a reality than a plan, the Mayor and his Board are keenly aware that this is the first opportunity in 100 years for the Village to take back its waterfront. "Everyone knows we are trying to do the right thing and that includes planning and traffic consultants, environmental organizations, county and state agencies and our residents," he added. With the last of the reductions in density being put into place, Sleepy Hollow sets the stage for its transformation.