More than 140 people tuned in for a Zoom public hearing last week on two mixed-used projects in the vicinity of New York Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital on Route 202 in Cortlandt.
The hearing was a continuation from January when a standing-room only crowd jammed into Cortlandt Town Hall to voice their displeasure with the Evergreen Manor and Gyrodyne developments that would separately occupy almost 42 acres across from the hospital.
Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, who experienced technical difficulties midway through the hearing, reiterated her concerns about the project.
“I told them (developers) from the get-go these are too big,” she said. “They can come back in phases.”
The Evergreen Manor project involves the redevelopment of three vacant contiguous parcels totaling 28 acres with a 120-unit assisted living facility, a five-story, 100-room hotel with 13,000 square feet of retail space, 30,000-square-foot mixed-used retail/office building, 166 residential units (152 studios and one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom) and a 7,000-square-foot restaurant.
The Gyrodyne site includes the redevelopment of eight contiguous parcels totaling 13.8 acres with 100,000 square feet of medical offices, 4,000 square feet of complementary retail, 200 market rate apartments, 180 structured parking spaces and 383 at-grade parking spaces.
If approved, both projects are projected to generate more than $4.5 million annually in tax revenue, along with 780 construction jobs and 195 permanent on-site jobs.
The go-ahead for the projects was the zoning creation by town officials of the Medical Oriented District (MOD), the intent of which is to encourage economic revitalization in the area surrounding the hospital and implement the goals and recommendations outlined in the town’s 2016 Sustainable Comprehensive Plan.
However, the Town Board, which is the lead agency, must approve rezoning the properties to MOD for the projects to proceed. The developers have insisted their plans are consistent with the town’s vision as outlined in the most recent Master Plan.
David Steinmetz, attorney for V.S. Construction Corporation, developers of the Evergreen Manor project, said the site was designed to be fully built over a four to five-year period.
“We look forward to working with the town and our neighbors to develop a project that will be an asset for the community,” Armando Santucci of V.S. Construction said after the hearing.
Several residents maintained some components of the projects, such as medical buildings, assisted living and apartments, had merit, but questioned the need for a hotel, retail and a restaurant in a mostly residential community.
David Weinberger of Birchwood Lane said none of the goals of the MOD would be achieved with the projects, especially with the hospital not being an active participant.
“The plans are designed for the developers benefit, not the residents,” he said. “It is clear that the proposed plans are too big, too dense.”
Salvatore Farina of Northridge Road said Gyrodyne developers have not made any effort to meet with residents or modify their plans, but credited Val and Armando Santucci with reaching out.
“I feel like they’re making an effort to modify their plans and bring something that is better suited for the surrounding community,” he said.
Tom Russo of Buttonwood Avenue said he was skeptical about the tax revenue that would be generated and suggested Councilman James Creighton should recuse himself from any votes concerning the MOD since he was a member of the Master Plan Committee that crafted it. He also contended a permissive referendum or a Town Board supervote, which would require four of the five members to agree, should be considered.
Creighton, who noted Puglisi was chairperson of the Master Plan Committee, said the MOD was crafted in response to comments made by the public.
“This was not just something someone scratched on the back of a napkin,” said Creighton, who declined Russo’s request to recuse himself. “I have not made up my mind about this project. We’ve got to decide whether this is too big or too small. I want what is best for the Town of Cortlandt.”
The board voted to close the public hearing and start the clock for the developers to respond to comments from the public and officials. Councilman Dr. Richard Becker reminded residents “It’s a beginning of a beginning. We have a long way to go.”
“There needs to be a little bit of a reality check. This is America, People can buy property. That doesn’t mean a developer can come in and build whatever he wants,” Becker said. “Most of us feel something on a smaller scale is appropriate. No one is ready to approve this project as it is now. We don’t want to change the character of the neighborhood. We understand the concerns.”
Written and emailed comments can still be submitted until June 30. Written comments should be addressed to: Town of Cortlandt, Laroue Shatzkin, Town Clerk, 1 Heady Street, Cortlandt Manor, NY 10567. Comments can also be submitted by email to MOD@TOWNOFCORTLANDT.COM.