There was no decision today from a state panel on the Chappaqua Station affordable housing plan in downtown New Castle.
Conifer Realty, of Rochester, is seeking several variances from the state building code in order to build the 28-unit affordable housing project at 54 Hunts Place, on a parcel bordered by Metro-North tacks, the northbound exit ramp to the Saw Mill River Parkway, and Route 120.
I detailed the controversy in last week’s Tax Watch column, which has generated a fascinating discussion in the comments section at Lohud.com
The Hudson Valley Regional Board of Review, which met this morning in Cortlandt, adjourned the matter until its April 8 meeting, said Laz Benitez, a spokeswoman for the New York Department of State.
Only three of the five-member board were present this morning. Present were Megan Smailer, Marco Gennarelli and Ronald Cummings. Absent were Robert Gruffi and Richard Carlson, Benitez said.
Conifer attorney Randall McLaughlin said he asked for the adjournment, noting that three votes are needed to grant the variance. He said he’d like the full board to make the decision.
“They need three votes to do anything,” he said. “I wasn’t going to take that risk.”
The proposed development has roiled the exclusive community since it was proposed four years ago, at the behest of the New Castle Town Board, which rezoned the one-third acre parcel to allow housing to be built there. The town’s high-profile residents include Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and former President Bill Clinton, and his wife, Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, and considering the leading contender for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino backs the plan, which would be part of the county’s response to the 2009 settlement of Westchester’s fair housing lawsuit. New Castle was among the predominantly white municipalities singled out for not “affirmatively furthering fair housing.”
The county’s affordable housing allocation plan, updated in 2005 by Rutgers University, calls on New Castle to create 255 units of affordable housing. There are 20 units planned for the former Readers Digest development. The Chappaqua Station’s 11 one-bedroom apartments would rent for between $944 and $1,140. Its 17 two-bedroom apartments would rent for between $1,128 and $1,360.
Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein, who opposes the Chappaqua Station plan, said it was unfair to say that he opposed affordable housing.
“The site is not safe for the inhabitants or our first responders,” said Greenstein. “Our building inspector and fire chief have raised safety concerns. Let’s see what the panel decides. They are professional, and they will make a decision, based on the safety concerns.”
Greenstein wants Conifer to drop its plan for Hunts Place, and consider building on town property on Washington Avenue.
“They knew they needed the variances, that was Conifer’s decision,” said Greenstein. “They could have chosen a site that didn’t require variances, but they didn’t.”
McLaughlin has charged that the opposition is a “rear-guard action” by the new administration, which he said was using the safety concerns as a “pre-text” for its opposition to affordable housing. McLauhglin wrote a column for The Journal News, which has sparked quite a good discussion in the comments section.
“They don’t get it,They live in a monochromatic bubble,” said McLaughlin. “They are fear-mongering, that’s exactly what it is. We had two fire experts to testify today. We need to put an end to this nonsense about fire safety. It’s a manufactured issue to kill an affordable housing project. That’s why I call it pre-text.”
He said Conifer had no interest in the Washington Avenue site, which has environmental issues involving wetlands.
“Someone else can take the other site,” McLaughlin said. “We aren’t going to go back 300 years and start. It’s too little too late.”