By Jon Craig
Con Edison silenced debate over the fate of an outdoor shooting range in Ardsley last week by announcing its 57-year-old lease is being terminated in 30 days.
The gun range at 693 Ardsley Road drew heightened public attention since June 12, when a resident of the Ardsley Chase subdivision claimed she was struck by a bullet fragment in her backyard off Birch Hill Road. A lawsuit quickly ensued against the Westchester County Police Revolver & Rifle League, which operates the non-profit range, and Consolidated Edison, which owns the property.
Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner followed through with a proposed ordinance to regulate outdoor shooting ranges. The proposal, originally scheduled to go to a public hearing in August, likely would have closed the range permanently due to its tight restrictions and potential fines.
On Monday, Feiner said a ballistics report on the June 12 fragment is expected in about two weeks. He said other residents notified police “that bullet fragments have been found on their property. I have been supportive of the requests of many residents of Ardsley and Edgemont that outdoor gun ranges not be permitted in residential neighborhoods, near schools and playgrounds.”
The gun range had been using a former quarry for target practice since 1941. An attorney for the Westchester County Police Revolver & Rifle League called Con Edison’s decision politically motivated. “If this truly was a public safety issue, it’s one we could have easily resolved,” the lawyer said in a statement.
In a Facebook posting, Edgemont resident Bob Bernstein, an attorney who drafted the proposed ordinance for Feiner, wrote that Con Edison’s problems “may have had less to do with public safety and more to do with environmental problems stemming from 73 years of lead ammunition being pumped into an earthen berm on Con Ed’s property.”
The proposed town ordinance would have required all outdoor shooting ranges to use “frangible’’ or non-lead ammo that turns to dust upon impact. Local residents also had complained about the increase in noise from the range the past two years after Con Edison removed large trees in the area that had served as a sound buffer. The new law would have required a quarter-mile buffer between any gun ranges and homes, schools, churches, playgrounds, public parks or childcare centers. An indoor gun range is set to open this fall along Route 9A in Elmsford, near the Captain Lawrence brewery.
The Ardsley gun range operators voluntarily shut the six-day-a-week practice facility down in June after the Ardsley Chase resident was struck in the leg by a flat circular object.
The proposed ordinance would have required valid town permits for new shooting ranges, and would require existing ranges to comply with the provisions within six months of the local law’s passage. The gun range owner/permit holder also would be required to carry $5 million in liability insurance coverage. Civil penalties of $1,000-a-day could be assessed by the Greenburgh Police Department for violations of the proposed ordinance.
The Ardsley gun range, which is not affiliated with the police, also is within striking distance of the Sprain Brook Parkway. However, its operators insisted a 30-foot rock wall, the steep angle of the former quarry and the location of shooting stations made it impossible for bullets to escape the facility, which is close to Ardsley Middle School.
There are no state regulations specific to shooting ranges, according to Feiner, including the one in Greenburgh. The range was not required to provide security at the site. And there are no required safety inspections of shooting ranges, he said.
Operators of the shooting range invited Town Board members to tour their facility before Con Edison’s decision was announced Wednesday.