An angry crowd of at least 300 people jammed Greenburgh Town Hall tonight to protest a proposed 272-unit apartment complex planned for Lawrence Street off Saw Mill River Road in the unincorporated area of Ardsley.
Most of those attending said they lived in either the Village of Ardsley or in the Ardsley School District as speaker after speaker, including Ardsley’s mayor and several former mayors, as well as Ardsley trustees and members of the Ardsley Board of Education all demanded that the Town Board either reject the project outright or impose so many conditions to study that the analysis alone would take years to complete and the project itself would become too cost prohibitive to build.
The complex is on the site of the former Akzo Nobel plant and is zoned for industrial use, which in Greenburgh allows for multifamily housing. The Town Board in such circumstances only has the right to grant site plan approval, which it may do following a state-mandated environmental quality review or SEQRA analysis.
The purpose of tonight’s hearing was to gather subject matters for the Town’s consultant to study, known as a scoping session.
The crowd was so large that access to the Town Hall auditorium had to be limited to 150 persons; persons who couldn’t fit inside the auditorium were sent to the Town Hall cafeteria where a television monitor was set up for residents to watch the proceedings. The building’s foyer was also packed with residents.
Many residents complained that the Town’s poor public audio – a chronic problem at Greenburgh Town Hall — made it impossible for them to hear what anyone was saying.
Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, who by law is supposed to remain neutral was anything but. He has been an outspoken opponent of the project, has been using the Town’s email list to whip up opposition to the project, and interrupted the hearing numerous times to help create a long laundry list of issues he wanted the Town’s consultant to examine.
The hearing stretched for several hours as residents were told they had one minute to speak – under so-called “Twitter” rules adopted by the Town Board for tonight’s hearing. They were then given an additional five minutes after everyone who spoke for one-minute had spoken.
Many residents and public officials from Ardsley and its school district said they thought that the project, if built, would create traffic, crowd the Ardsley schools, and adversely impact the quality of life in the Village of Ardsley which, they pointed out, would get no tax revenues from the project.
Many said that they feared that this project, combined with the Rivertown Square development that was approved by the Village of Dobbs Ferry, would destroy the quality of life in the Village of Ardsley.
Except for the applicant and its lawyer, no one spoke in favor of the project, and the meeting itself took on the appearance of a well choreographed political rally that had been orchestrated by Mr. Feiner, who not only lives in the Ardsley School District, but gets most of his political support from that area.
When the meeting was over, Mr. Feiner asked Police Chief Chris McNerney, who is a resident of the Village of Ardsley, if he thought the applicant had gotten the message that the community is against its project and that, as a result, it would now withdraw its application.
Chief McNerney said he was sure the applicant got the message Mr. Feiner wanted the crowd to deliver, but he didn’t know whether the applicant would back away.
Town officials meanwhile received a barrage of criticism from civic leaders opposed to the Town’s efforts to charge civic associations retroactively for seeking to enforce the Town’s zoning code by challenging pro-developer interpretations of the code by the Town’s building inspector.
Mr. Feiner said he would now oppose the proposal, claiming the cost to the Town was financially negligible — but there was no indication that any of the other board members agreed with him. Mr. Feiner said the issue would be placed on the town board’s work session next Tuesday for a discussion in public – at which time the town board, he said, would decide what to do.