The White Plains Examiner

White Plains Council Reinforces Policy for Open Space, Renewable Energy in New Projects

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Architect’s rendering of proposed mixed-use project fronting Mamaroneck Avenue at site of former White Plains YMCA.

A public hearing on an application submitted by Southern Land Company LLC, for the redevelopment of 250 Mamaroneck Ave., formerly the YMCA, to construct an eight-story multi-family rental project with retail, took up the lion’s share of the October meeting of the White Plains Common Council.

The mixed-use building proposal with 177 apartments, approximately 1,800 sq.-ft. of retail at ground-level and 268 parking spaces in a garage under the building would replace the “falling down” structure currently housing the YMCA.

During a presentation, the developer indicated it had been back and forth with city boards for about a year and had already received approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals for variances to the front and rear yards to accommodate the irregular shape of the site, including a reduction in the front-yard set-back to allow construction of the new building to align with other buildings on the streetscape along Mamaroneck Avenue, and a widening of the pedestrian sidewalk in front of the building.

Ben Crenshaw, Sr. VP Design for Southern Land Company, explained that the 300-foot-long building would include step-backs and terraces to break up the design. While the streetscape design seeks to encourage pedestrian walkability, there is no public open space planned for the project.

Having been through several meetings with other city agencies, the developer seemed surprised when members of the Common Council asked for more design details, especially with regard to the rear of the building and how it would impact the residences on Greenridge, the lack of public open space along Mamaroneck Avenue, traffic and parking concerns, and what green elements, especially renewable energy options, would be included in the plan.

Mayor Tom Roach said he would like to see geothermal heating and cooling in more development proposals and that with the Con Edison moratorium on new gas heating installations there were good state incentives in place. However, this developer had already negotiated with Con Edison and would be providing gas heat. The mayor’s concerns did encourage the new owners to say they would look more deeply into solar panels on the roof and other green options.

“We are taking away the YMCA, which has been very valuable to the community and bringing in a for-profit project without open space,” said Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona. “What is this project bringing to the common good?”

Cindy Delfino, CEO of the YMCA, explained that the organization had hit hard times and competition from for-profit health clubs and gyms in the city that charged low fees. “It would take $26 million to bring the building up to code,” Delfino said. “That’s not going to happen.”

Delfino explained that the “Y” serves 66 zip codes and the greatest need in the community is for childcare. “We have five of the city’s Universal Pre-K classes,” she explained. She further noted that Southern Land had worked with the agency to enable them to continue programs by giving them $1 million to stay afloat. Part of that financial help includes a build-out at St. John’s for childcare, but the financial help ultimately comes out of the sale price of the building.

Working with the Housing Action Council they were also able to permanently relocate 125 of the 143 residents living in the building.

Lisa Martin, a Greenburgh resident and YMCA member, said the membership had first heard about the financial difficulties in April 2018 and that $26 million worth of repairs do not happen overnight. Martin suggested the YMCA management had not done adequate upkeep and fundraising.

The public hearing was closed, but not before the Council made it clear that it was consistent with policy considerations, especially renewable energy sources and open space, and that members would rather see the open space than money going into an “in lieu of” fund.

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