The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
Richard Olver says (The Gazette, April 4/10) that “people are trying to scare us with fever dreams of ‘1,000-more residents’ near Brook Street.” He provides no support for this, and I have not seen any such statement. What has been raised is the prospect of the re-zoning resulting in 1,000 new residents, and the re-zoning covers an area starting at the Croton Colonial Diner and extending northward far past Brook Street.
Mr. Olver refuses to tell us how many apartment units and how many residents the Board is aiming for. The Board has long spoken of large numbers of new apartments, and in fact the March 21, 2013 letter from Westchester’s former Affordable Housing Monitor to then-Mayor Leo Wiegman spoke of the need for “many hundreds of units” to be built in Croton.
The former hardware store site at 25 South Riverside was recently proposed for a building with 26 units (but only 32 parking spaces). At 2 and a half persons per unit occupancy, that would be 65 residents. Even at 0.5 students per unit, it would be 13 students. And an estimate of 0.5 students per unit is probably low, given that 10 of those units were to be 2-bedroom units.
The Straddles site at 425 South Riverside was recently proposed for a 42 unit development. A reasonable estimate would have a result of 105 residents including 21 students.
So that was just 2 buildings and we already are at a projection of 170 residents, including 34 students. Extrapolate that to the proposed re-zoning from the diner up past the Washington Engine Co. and make your own guess. A thousand residents is starting to sound conservative.
Ann Gallelli says (The Gazette, March 28/Apr. 8) that “last week Croton’s Village Board began a discussion with residents.” That is true: the public has just now been invited into the discussion.
It is also true that the Board of Trustees has had multiple secret meetings closed to the public, commissioned a $75,000 consulting study, had meetings of a “North Riverside Neighborhood Zoning Working Group” ….and those are only the activity and conversations we know about. That sounds more like the newly-begun discussion with residents has been made irrelevant.
Is there anybody in Croton who seriously believes that this is a beginning of a discussion? If the Board of Trustees really does want a discussion, then stop with the secret “Executive Sessions” and disclose to Croton residents the hard data necessary to evaluate the merits of the re-zoning proposal.
Apart from the Board of Trustees and village employees, the only people in Croton who likely know where this re-zoning is headed are Messrs. Doyle, Brumleve, and Kauderer. And they ain’t talkin’.
All of us in our work lives have done a business plan, strategic plan, or some similar project. The first thing you do is to set goals in accord with where you want to end up. No doubt the Board of Trustees has already made determinations as to how many units and the type breakdown (seniors, municipal/school employees, etc). Why won’t they tell us?
Ms. Gallelli writes a lengthy letter, but nowhere does she tell us how many apartments could be built under the new zoning plan. Nor how many residents and school age children would be added. Nor how many parking spots would be needed. This is basic information which she has but refuses to disclose.
The village has hired a professional consultant which is being paid $75,000 of Croton taxpayer money to do a job. And that consultant went over—lot by lot—the area to be rezoned. Included in that was analysis of floor-area-ratio (FAR) and NYS Department of Transportation setback requirements that would impact building height. Yet still, they refuse to tell us how many new apartments and how many new residents they project.
This is basic math. At the risk of some simplification, look at two scenarios.
The amount of square footage is a function of FAR. So if the property owner is allowed to build 300 square feet and builds a two-story building, Croton would add 150 sq. ft. of apartments and 150 of commercial space. But if due to mandatory setbacks the 300 square feet can only be built with a three-story building, then Croton would add 200 sq. ft. of apartments and 100 of commercial.
Once you have an idea of the square footage, you can make some estimates as to the number of apartments, the number of residential occupants, the number of new students, and the number of parking spaces required. And the square footage data would also give an indication of the ground-floor (retail/office) impact on daytime parking requirements.
This is common sense, and the type of analysis most of us have done in our working careers. I find it hard to believe that our Village Manager and Village Engineer have not demanded the consultant perform work of a sufficient level of professionalism so as to ascertain these basic impact estimates of the proposed re-zoning. I also have enough respect for Ms. Gallelli’s intellect and municipal planning experience to believe that Ms. Gallelli would insist on being provided this data.
In case you are wondering why Ms. Gallelli wrote a lengthy letter which said nothing, it is because the purpose of her letter in the Gazette was not to clarify or inform. According to the statement by our Croton Mayor Brian Pugh, the letter written by Ms. Gallelli was “a useful antidote to some of the demagoguery.”
Mr. Pugh’s attitude toward his fellow Croton residents is a topic for another day. But I would suggest to Ms. Gallelli that resident speech is not a toxin that needs administration of an “antidote” either by Ms. Gallelli or any other member of the Board of Trustees. And I would suggest to Messrs. Doyle, Brumleve, and Kauderer that their neighbors are reasonable people seeking information to which they are entitled.
Mr. Olver is correct on one thing: there are two new buildings in Harmon. And when those buildings were being proposed, people on Young Avenue were concerned because they said their residential street would become a parking lot. And it is also true that the Board of Trustees whispered soothing words of assurance to the residents of Young Avenue, much as Ms. Gallelli and Mr. Olver do so today with regard to the massive proposed re-zoning.
Nobody is living in those two Harmon buildings yet. Not a single apartment tenant has moved in, not a single new commercial tenant. And yet…. Just last week we see that Croton Planning Board agenda item #2 is a discussion of the inadequate parking for the yet-to-be-occupied building, and one of the plans being considered is “street parking on Young (after 10 a.m.).” The concrete has literally not yet been poured to complete the sidewalk, and already there have been village meetings to address the insufficient parking.
Croton needs development of empty lots. Croton needs retail business. Croton has a need for residential apartments. Croton needs to find spaces so those new residents and businesses can park.
Croton also needs a Board of Trustees which speaks the truth. We should not have to wait years to find out that our leaders have fooled us once again.