Yet again the Hartley House redevelopment has been granted two more changes in their site plan by the New Rochelle Planning Board. Now managed by Winthrop Housing, LLC and New Rochelle Municipal Housing their principals requested an amendment to the previously approved site plan. It was granted, despite objections raised.
The original master site plan, which was developed after a series of different proposals had been reported in the newspapers, called for two family houses and townhouses with home ownership. Now a request was made to change the home ownership units to rentals. The number of rentals rose from 198 to 228. The reason given by Steven Horton, Executive Director of the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority, was the current dismal national situation in the housing market.
The financing had already been approved. One of the funding sources was Westchester County. According to New Rochelle Development Commissioner Michael Freimuth funding was put together by Steven Horton, and Rella Fogliano with the MacQuestin Development. Some public money included state mortgage and federal tax credits.
Questions arose about the trees and Planning Board Chairman, Douglas Hocking also asked about the rock formation near the northeast corner of the site. He also wanted to know if trees would soften the "stark" appearance that was apparent when he drove by the site. He was told they are fast growing trees. Evergreen types were also to be placed in strategic locations.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Donna Henry wanted to know how they decided on which residents would be given new apartments. She was assured all present Hartley House residents would go to the top of any lottery which is being used to determine who will move into the new apartments. Phase II is scheduled for 2013 and construction will start shortly after. City officials have met four times with the tenants.
Ms. Henry was also concerned about the building on the corner which has windows so close to the street that there is no breathing space because too much is being squeezed into the area. She also felt the buildings are being suffocated with trees. She continued that one of the methods used to select tenants was to eliminate anyone with a felony record and Ms. Henry felt the person could have "changed their life around and no longer be a threat to society." She asked the screening committee to use a "better way" to select tenants.
Questions about the parking plan and marketing of applications were answered. After the lottery for selecting tenants was discussed, the Planning Board approved Iwo negative declarations of Environmental Impact on the site and subdivision changes, and voted in favor of both proposals.
When the Hartley House Revitalization and redevelopment was originally proposed the final Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) had the same conceptual rendering as many earlier drawings. But a note on the bottom of this sketch read, "Rendering does not represent current site plan. Please refer to Exhibit 4, Site Plan, for current proposal. " This statement did not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed these changes. Is it any wonder residents have been concerned for a long time about their relocation in the new lower rise buildings being constructed? Several years ago one of the earlier plans was to build 236 units of housing, 196 subsidized units and 40 market rate homes (ownership) Most of the original buildings on the site were to be torn down. Demolition of these six story buildings would only occur after all the tenants were relocated in the new townhouse style buildings.
So it was no real surprise to see Hartley House Revitalization on the New Rochelle Planning Board agenda for more changes in the site plan and for subdivision approval. The Planning Board's vote could easily be predicted.
Peggy Godfrey is a freelance writer and a former educator. This article first appeared in The Westchester Guardian