BusinessGovernmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Developer Seeks Approvals for Senior Affordable Housing in Ossining

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By Jim Roberts
Rendering of former Sun Valley Nursery site in Ossining.

Cleanup of a contaminated site and new units of below-market-rate senior housing are the offers on the table to Ossining from a Westchester-based developer focused on constructing affordable housing throughout the county.

MacQuesten Development LLC, based in Pelham, wants to redevelop the former abandoned Sun Valley Nursery and construction materials yard at 136 Croton Ave. and build a $30-million, 74-unit affordable senior housing project but faces several hurdles before getting the necessary approvals from the village planning and zoning appeals boards.

Joe Apicella, managing director of development at MacQuesten, has led a team of consultants making presentations before the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board to try and get the needed variances, including a height variance.

“We want to be where there’s a significant need,” Appicella said. “Residents right now don’t have the option to age in place, particularly in northern Westchester. “We see an opportunity to really improve the community by cleaning up an environmentally hazardous site while at the same time replacing that use with a much-needed home for seniors who can’t afford very expensive apartments.”

The property’s ground water is contaminated and qualifies as a brownfield cleanup site and application has been made to New York State to provide funding to remediate the property at a cost of about $3 million.

The new building would be 3.5 stories and include 106,110 square feet on the 0.8-acre site. The first floor has 1,732 square feet of flex community space along with a fitness room, computer room and laundry. The original mix of 30 studios, 46 one-bedrooms and one two-bedrooms has been reduced by three units to meet the village’s minimum unit size requirement.

The project includes two levels of underground parking and is within walking distance of shops and along a county bus line.

The units, which will be priced at 20% to 30% below market rates and income requirements will be set between 50% to 60% below the Westchester Area Median Income of $102,000, according to Apicella. At least one resident must be 62 years or older.

However, the developer is facing some time constraints on knowing whether the project can win approval from the village.

According to the firm’s attorney, the developer faces a closing date of April 21 to buy the property from the current owner. “The applicant understandably needs to know whether it has a viable project prior to such date,” attorney Michael Zarin wrote in a Jan. 20 letter to the village planning board, asking for a ruling on a state SEQR decision by the board’s March meeting.

The current owner, Amak Development LLC, of Greenwich, Conn., bought the property from Vincenzo and Antonietta Bomba in 2018 for $795,000.

Several neighbors who live on Watson Avenue and other streets behind to the proposed three-story building have been outspoken in their opposition. One neighbor recently hired an attorney to try and bring changes that would downsize the building height.

The new building would be up against the Crisci family’s 1,000-square-foot home and tower over their bedroom windows.

Their attorney wrote: “Due to the immense bulk of the proposed four-floor building and the multiple variances and substantial nature of the variances requested by the applicant, Mr. and Mrs. Crisci have serious concerns about the application, including without limitation, visual impact, diminution of Mr. and Mrs. Crisci’s property value, inadequate parking, inadequate traffic safety, inadequate pedestrian safety and the potential safety issues with the proposed retaining wall.”

The developer presented a revised proposal at the Jan. 25 planning board meeting that would plant trees to create a screen between the properties.

The Crisci’s attorney, Keith Betensky, is asking the planning board to order more extensive environmental studies under the state’s SEQRA laws.

Letters in support of the project were sent by the Business Council of Westchester and Jerry Gershner, a former president of the Ossining Chamber of Commerce.

“This project would create affordable housing for senior citizens on a long-term vacant lot that was previously a nursery,” Gershner wrote. “I have been living in Ossining for 40 years and I never saw a building on this property. Affordable housing is needed here in Ossining where many seniors are experiencing housing insecurity. This project is also in line with the village’s Comprehensive Plan goals on affordable housing.”

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