The Examiner

Dispute Jeopardizes Via Vanti! Deal at Chappaqua Train Station

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The more than century-old town-owned  building at the Chappaqua train station that New Castle officials plan to have used as a restaurant.
The more than century-old town-owned building at the Chappaqua train station that New Castle officials plan to have used as a restaurant.

A spat between a restaurateur who hoped to open a second location of her establishment at the Chappaqua train station and New Castle officials erupted recently forcing the town to pursue other operators for the building.

Talks between Carla Gambescia, owner of Via Vanti!, an Italian cafe at the Mount Kisco train station, and the town board broke off after there was an apparent disagreement over keeping the building’s restrooms open to the public.

Supervisor Robert Greenstein said both the current and former town board had made it clear to Gambescia that any lease agreement would be dependent on having the facilities available to the general public. However, Gambescia, a Chappaqua resident, had balked at that condition forcing the town to consider other options.

“They need to be open to the public while the establishment is open,” Greenstein said. “That’s a requirement. It’s the only bathroom at the train station.”

Greenstein said the matter is important for commuters to be able to use the 112-year-old town-owned building and for taxi drivers who wait outside the station for fares.

However, Gambescia, already irked that Greenstein had been quoted as saying that she reneged on her end of the agreement, went the offensive last weekend. She said she was willing to agree to the public’s access to the bathrooms, although not her preference; however, it was the town, specifically Councilman Adam Brodsky, the point man for Greenstein and the board on the matter, who broke off communications with her at the end of January.

“They’re trying to make it look like it’s my fault,” Gambescia said. “That’s not the case. It’s not happening with anything that I did.”

She said she had email communications with Brodsky through Jan. 27 and thought everything was on target to complete the agreement. Then about two weeks passed before she learned the town was looking elsewhere.

Gambescia said that with the time, energy and money expended, there was no way she would jeopardize her investment simply over the bathroom issue. She estimated spending a good “five figures” to get to this point.

“We’ve been working with everybody for over a year and you really have to wonder what’s going on,” Gambescia said.

Brodsky, though, responded on Monday that Gambescia was still trying to negotiate the bathroom access issue and it wasn’t until after she was told that the town would pursue other operators that she decided to agree to the condition.

From his perspective, the town has three key goals regarding the space: to raise the most revenue it can from rent, make sure the tenant does not alter the landmark building and to keep the restrooms open for the public.

“We were elected to do what’s right and we have a fiduciary responsibility to make the best decision,” Brodsky said.

Meanwhile, the town has been entertaining proposals from several other restaurant operators, Greenstein said. All of the new hopefuls currently have at least one other establishment, he said.  Officials drew up a Request for Proposal but the RFP may not be distributed because the town doesn’t want to be overrun with proposals, he said. Greenstein is hopeful that a decision on an operator will be made by the end of the month.

He said Gambescia is welcome to try again knowing that the bathroom issue may be the most important part of the deal.

Gambescia said she was undecided about whether she would continue to pursue having a restaurant at the location. However, favorable response to her last weekend on the Chappaqua Moms Facebook page has made her consider pressing on.

“It only makes me want to fight,” she said. “I feel so energized by the community.”

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