Several hundred Edgemont residents yesterday jammed Greenburgh Town Hall for more than six hours of public hearings to register opposition to a proposed comprehensive plan that calls for construction of hundreds of new multifamily housing units to be built on top of retail stores in three Edgemont locations — two on Central and one by the Hartsdale train — that the plan calls “nodes.”
The hearings were held by the Town’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, which last month released its “second” draft of the plan — a draft which remained largely unchanged from last year’s version which Edgemont residents also opposed in droves.
Even though the hearings yesterday were on short notice — one day in advance of the ECC’s annual meeting tonight at Greenville School — and conflicted with one of the most important Edgemont school board meetings of the year prior to a vote on the school budget, almost every person who spoke during more than six hours of hearings was from Edgemont, with many saying they were angry that their comments from last year were apparently ignored.
ECC president Bob Bernstein told the committee that in its present form, as far as Edgemont was concerned, the plan was “existence-threatening.”
Residents, including dozens of residents from Edgemont’s Chinese community, came armed with research and anecdotes demonstrating why, in a community where one third of all housing units is already multifamily, approving a plan to encourage the construction of hundreds of additional multifamily housing units could potentially cripple the ability of a school district regarded as one of the best in the country to continue to provide a quality education at an affordable price.
Mr. Bernstein also made light of the committee’s argument that it was doing Edgemont a favor by recommending the construction of such housing in the “nodes” because the potential already exists, the committee said, for more than 1,800 additional apartments to be built in Edgemont along Central Avenue if no changes were made. Mr. Bernstein pointed out that no such apartments had been built in the 40 years the Town’s zoning code allowed for it, and what’s mroe, in order for those apartments to be built, most existing shopping centers along Central in Edgemont would have to be torn down, including Midway, Greenville Shopping Center, the A&P, Curry Chevrolet, and Archway Plaza.
Instead, Mr. Bernstein recommended that the comprehensive plan should instead modernize the zoning code for Central Avenue in order to attract state of the art retail and office uses, which are important ratables that would actually be beneficial to both Edgemont and the Town.
Whether Edgemont residents made an impact remains to be seen. Only four members of the 7-member committee, chaired by town board member Francis Sheehan, even attended the hearings, one of which was held in the afternoon between 1 and 4 p.m. and the other between 7 and 10:30 p.m., and once the full brunt of the opposition became apparent, committee members said very little.
However, hours after the hearing ended, at 1:37 a.m. today, Mr. Sheehan announced that a planned second hearing for May 14 — announced at the last minute at midnight the night before — was now being canceled and that the committee would instead meet to “consider” the six hours of comments “in the coming weeks” and “edit the document to address issues raised.”
Mr. Sheehan’s noted that “turnout at both sessions was terrific,” but never mentioned that almost everyone that turned out was from Edgemont, and that no one from Edgemont expressed any support for the plan. The hearings will be available online on the Town’s website and will be replayed on the Town’s cable access channel.
Edgemont residents yesterday were skeptical that any substantive changes would be made, noting that the committee had had a year to to digest the same things and still came back with a report that had only “cosmetic” changes.
In the meantime, Edgemont residents will be gathering tonight for the ECC annual meeting where Cotswold resident Aubrey Graf Daniels will receive the Silver Bowl Award for distinguished community service and the annual speaker will be Greenburgh chief of police Chris McNerney.
Mr. Bernstein will also give a report on yesterday’s hearing for all those who were unable to attend.