Like so many others, we were appalled when a prior Town administration approved a 28-unit affordable housing project at 54 Hunts Place. We believe that the location is unsuitable for residential housing of any kind.
Years before we ran for Town Board, we raised our concerns about public safety, housing stigmatization and the astronomical cost of developing this particular site for residential housing. We expressed our negative opinions about the site, a vacant 1/4 acre lot that is sandwiched between the Quaker Street Bridge (Route 120), the Metro North Railroad tracks and the Chappaqua exit off ramp on the Saw Mill River Parkway. The soil on the property is badly contaminated due to its prior industrial usage.
Nevertheless, that prior Town Board decided that a full environmental review was not necessary. They ignored the advice of our Planning Board about the suitability of the location for residential housing. They ignored residents who pointed out serious issues relating to traffic safety and other problems. And they circumvented our ZBA by adopting a special law that give themselves the sole power to grant area variances for the project. In 2013, they closed the environmental review, rezoned the property and granted approval for Conifer Realty, LLC to erect a 4-story residential apartment building that will sit next to the railroad tracks.
We inherited this mess when we took office in 2014. Since taking office, my administrations fought with the developer and the federal government for over 3 years over these issues. Two federal judges issued opinions in which they said that the Town Board was “hindering” the project. An appeals court agreed with them. The developer also sued the Town in state court. A Fair Housing Act complaint against the Town remains pending. We could not undo what prior administrations had done.
We tried to persuade the developer to relocate its project to a different location, but they refused. In the end, two Town Boards could not convince Conifer to even consider relocating the project to an alternative site. See timeline We continued to express our objections to the project site even after being told to “cease and desist” our criticism by the federal government. We refused to be silenced or intimidated. We also pushed Conifer to change its design plans to make the building safer.
We opposed Conifer’s efforts to obtain additional variances and agreements for the project from other agencies. But the developer received strong support from NYS agencies like the MTA, which is allowing the developer to use part of its railroad right-of-way. The developer also obtained the variances it needed from the NYS Department of Buildings, over the Town’s objections. The County also supported the project and committed approximately $2.95 million in funding as part of its housing settlement with HUD. In the end, the developer obtained the necessary variances, easement, lease, permits and funding.
Our opponents only now started to familiarize themselves with this project, and other important community issues, when they decided to run for Town Board. They were never involved before. As a result, they aren’t aware of the history and legal issues surrounding this very important New Castle issue. They blame us, instead of blaming those who championed and approved this irresponsible affordable housing project – all members of the New Castle Democratic Committee. The same committee who endorsed them! We already know what we get when one political party holds a monopoly on Town government and only focuses on State and Federal agenda – local matters are ignored! We are left with irresponsible housing developments like Hunts Place and unresponsive leadership.
Today, the environmental remediation that was part of the approval process in 2013 has started. Strong chemical odors are pouring off the site. Residents are understandably concerned about potential health risks associated with the strong odors, not just the odor itself. This project site stinks, in every sense of the word!