On The Street

How to Develop in Mount Pleasant: That is the Question

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By Michael Gold

To develop Carl Fulgenzi’s way or Joe Bonanno’s way – that is the question Mount Pleasant faces.

Fulgenzi believes we can’t stop development. Bonanno’s recent campaign for a Mount Pleasant Town Board seat put up signs that stated, “Protect our quality of life. Stop runaway development.”

Even though he lost his race, Bonanno remains engaged with the issues facing the town.

“Mount Pleasant is a pristine place, and we cannot let it turn into Levittown,” Bonanno said, referring to the Long Island suburb, which features seemingly unending rows of strip malls on congested roads.

Bonanno pinpointed four pressing development problems the town faces – flooding, traffic, overtaxed services and deforestation.

He predicted the Toll Brothers plan to build 162 luxury townhomes on the Legion of Christ property, behind the town’s recreation center, will result in flooding for downslope homeowners. The development will involve cutting down an unknown number of trees.

“When people have four feet of water in their basements, flooding affects the value of your home. People are spending thousands to mitigate flooding,” Bonanno said.

Anna Nelson, a Thornwood resident who lives on the hill near Columbia Avenue, confirmed that many of her neighbors have suffered basement flooding. A rainstorm in July flooded several homes downhill from the proposed Kingsview Estates development, she said. Ten to 15 homes are planned there.

“New construction is happening and no one’s doing flood mitigation uphill from Warren Avenue,” Nelson said.

Additionally, there’s the North 80 project in Valhalla, with an initial construction phase of 500,000 square feet of space for medical offices, retail, biotech research and a hotel, and the new Amazon warehouse on Route 9A in Hawthorne, which is nearing completion, will create about 150,000 square feet and 100 jobs.

“I’m not sure the tax benefit outweighs the congestion and just plain unsightliness of having a warehouse across the street from your house,” Bonanno said. “I’m not sure that’s helping the residents of Hawthorne, hearing the beep, beep, beep of trucks at the warehouse.”

Other developments in the works include assisted living developments, one on the ridge above the Rose Hill Shopping Center in Thornwood and the other off Grasslands Road by Westchester Community College in Valhalla.

Once completed, seniors living in these developments “will drive a lot more activity from the volunteer ambulance corps,” Bonanno said. “The emergency services are all overtaxed,” explained Bonanno, who is a member and commissioner of the Valhalla Volunteer Fire Department.

“Fulgenzi and his team are negligent in terms of water mitigation. They’re not holding developers accountable for water runoff at the Summit development,” Bonanno said. The Summit Estates housing development, at the top of Stevens Avenue, bordering several office buildings, has been completed.

“All these office parks are built and they’re half-empty,” Bonanno said. “Look at the parking lots there; there’s not a lot of activity.”

Office parks could be converted into senior housing, for example, he said.

“We save the trees and keep the open space and don’t add any more impervious surfaces that contribute to the flooding.”

Also, “Flooding at the bottom of Elwood is horrendous,” Bonanno said. Elwood Avenue intersects with Stevens Avenue at the bottom of a hill.

Bonanno, who worked for Nestle for 25 years in White Plains and is now in private equity, stated, “I’m for sustainable development that allows Mount Pleasant to grow and keep our quality of life and not overburden our services.”

“I find it hard to believe that someone in power is saying that it’s hard to make a difference. You’re telling us you have all this experience, but you can’t impact anything, traffic, for example,” Bonanno said. “I’m not sure they (the town board) are negotiating hard enough. I’d like to get underneath these deals to see how helpful they really are.”

Fulgenzi, who was re-elected town supervisor last month, explained in an interview that any new development requires “zero runoff and has for many years.”

“You can’t randomly say the reason for flooding is because of development. That’s not an accurate statement,” Fulgenzi said.

“Six inches of water in 30 minutes, there is no drainage system that can handle it,” Fulgenzi said, in reference to the torrential storms that often plague our area now.  “You can’t stop the development,” but he said, “you have to follow the rules and regulations. We will continue to do drainage work.”

When asked about Bonanno’s statement on traffic congestion,” Fulgenzi said, “Did he (Bonanno) come up with a solution about the traffic? Traffic is a problem and will always be a problem. All major parkways and a rail system come through Mount Pleasant. I’m looking at setting up a traffic committee to get a different idea about what they see. There has to be a traffic study.”

“The town engineer will be more stringent in making developers accountable to follow drainage regulations,” Fulgenzi said.

Pleasantville-based writer Michael Gold has had articles published in the New York Daily News, the Albany Times Union, the Hartford Courant, The Palm Beach Post and other newspapers, and The Hardy Society Journal, a British literary journal.


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