A presentation to the Town Board at their weekly work session by the owners of Inspired Places touched on a good number of items that could potentially change the Hartsdale 4-corners (4-C) area. However, for this area to change, some radical thinking, fresh ideas, money and most importantly zoning changes will be required. Whether or not these changes can happen must begin with the Town Board. To that end, Mr Feiner asked for a report in two weeks on how to make this process move forward. Cooler heads prevailed, however, and it was decided that Garrett Duquesne would work with the women and notify the Board when the information required would be ready for the next step.
Much was said as to what might be required to transform the 4-corners area from what it currently is now to what it might become. There were six topics of discussion: zoning, mobility, infrastructure, environmental, aesthetics and community well-being. Zoning, the first and probably foremost catalyst to a 4-C change, rests solely in the lap of Mr Feiner and his Board. Since we know they are more than willing to change zoning codes for any developer faster than a hooker asking if you’re looking to party, we don’t see much resistance here. However, while his Board’s zeal to please their master aside, it will be up to residents to ensure the zoning changes are correct, qualified, and will not be used by others elsewhere. An example is that the apartment buildings on Hartsdale Avenue in Hartsdale are zoned M-174. Mr Feiner pushed for the Westhab building in Fulton Park to also be M-174. Fortunately, after much community opposition, Westhab acquiesced from a 7-story building to a 4-story one with an assurance from them and Mr Feiner’s Board that they would never build “up” in perpetuity.
So with no cohesive zoning plan for the Town, Mr Feiner routinely offers zoning changes to developers for what zoning we do have and then informs the public that the Town will benefit from the changes and reap millions in taxes, permits and fees – even though those numbers rarely, if ever, materialize. Or, if they do materialize, those funds are used to pay off guilty verdict fines such as the Fortress Bible Church discrimination case for $6.5 million. Given Mr Feiner and his Board’s willingness, if not eagerness, to spot-zone, the Town needs to have a vehicle to control this wanton disregard for the early Town planner’s vision for the Town. This could have happened when the Town spent, or rather wasted, 8-years and $600,000 developing a Town Comprehensive Plan that effectively does nothing to address zoning, future growth and/or growth limitations for the Town. Nor does it reign in control of the Supervisor and his Board from spot zoning as they please. This too is one of the costs of not having term limits. After some 25-years in office, most residents are hungry for a leadership change. Sadly, both the Democrats and Republicans will offer none.
Based on the recent and very protracted Edgemont Incorporation Council’s (EIC) attempt to have the Edgemont Unincorporated section of Town seek to incorporate and become a village within the Town, we believe Mr Feiner will appear to make every attempt to placate Hartsdale residents. This is primarily because since Mr Feiner has tried numerous ways to thwart the EIC attempts, the rumor mill began churning of Hartsdale incorporation talk – which must scare the hell out of Mr Feiner and his Board! They don’t need to be dealing with incorporation on two fronts.
With Inspired Places, LLC, presentation, represented by Hartsdale residents Patrice Ingrassia and Christine Broda, they highlighted some of the issues that have plagued the 4-C intersection. Basically, the retail environment has suffered due to high permit fees and length of time to acquire them, inadequate parking, flooding, heavily congested roadways with bottlenecks, internet purchasing, a lack of foot or pedestrian traffic and so on. These problems have all been talked about before, lamented by the Town administration and later ignored as they move to the newest shiny object that they can publicize and politicize.
Other issues also factor in to the equation, such as an abhorrent area of uncoordinated signage, strings of overhead wiring, old and outdated building facades and that there is little if any pervious space. The entire area is taken up by the various buildings’ footprints, concrete and asphalt. As pointed out during the presentation, the 4-C area is mainly regarded as an intersection of two major roadways. Central Park Avenue and Hartsdale Avenue, providing the lion’s share of east-west and north-south automotive connectivity. What is seriously lacking is a safe and easy manner for pedestrians to park and frequent the businesses that have staked a claim in the 4-C area.
We are happy to see this study undertaken and endorsed by many. And while it would prove interesting to see how well it progresses, it is but the tip of the iceberg. First, traffic congestion and flow needs to be addressed beyond saying everyone should use mass transit or we should have more buses. We have witnessed repeated issues with the Bee-Line bus system cutting routes and frequencies of buses due to declining ridership, limited schedules (including holiday schedules), availability to key areas and cost to operate. Several years in a row have seen the Express Bus System in jeopardy as well as other routes abandoned as not being cost-effective where they were.
Second, flooding must be addressed as a Town and County-wide issue if we are to truly make any inroads in controlling flooding, assisting our taxpaying residents and businesses, and helping everyone in the Town flourish. The Bronx and Saw Mill rivers are the two major pathways for flood and runoff water to exit our area. Both of these rivers must be cleaned, dredged, widened and then maintained so our residents can live safely and dryly. The County, Towns and Villages must also limit new construction and upgrade existing infrastructure to help with all of this.
Third, zoning must be changed in a way that will not allow it to be bastardized by a developer and then agreed to by any elected officials. The pseudo-Comprehensive Plan could have addressed this and put forth a zoning plan that assisted in the Town’s future growth. But they did not. Instead, they chose to politicize the effort and create a document that discusses global warming and such. Want to address global warming? Create a document that does what the residents told you they wanted: less impervious space, smaller buildings, more green space, bike and walking paths to name a few and leave the political statements for another time.
Finally, with or without a Comprehensive Plan that is viable, we need to have a direction that the public requests and that politicians can join in to have a focus to improve the Town (and County) resident’s lives. The Hartsdale 4-Corners project could be the first step in the right direction. Let’s hope so. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.