It was deeply disappointing to read the opinion piece “Don’t mess with our zoning” by a familiar group of Riverdale homeowners who incorrectly assume that what is good for a few homeowners, is good for Riverdale’s seniors and the greater Riverdale community.
It is particularly shameful and disingenuous that this small group of private estate owners has continued a campaign of antipathy towards Riverdale’s senior community. The Hebrew Home at Riverdale has worked diligently with this group, other community members, as well as public elected officials in a unique, collaborative and transparent process that has resulted in numerous significant changes to our proposal. These amendments were made after we already made several changes, over four years, based on recommendations from the entire community.
This small group of homeowners urged the Hebrew Home to move as much density as possible from the south campus to the north campus, and in direct response to this request, our architects and professionals reworked the entire project to do just that. Yet, this group not only remains dissatisfied with the vastly reduced density on the south campus, but now has the chutzpah to criticize the very density we moved to the north campus – as per their suggestion.
Despite this group’s insistence that it does not want to disenfranchise Riverdale’s senior community, it now seems very obvious that this is just NIMBY at its worst. And the Riverdale community should not fall for this false advocacy.
The fact is, the Hebrew Home at Riverdale serves thousands of residents and families and employs thousands of staff who continue to advocate for enhanced senior services. We are a proud Riverdale neighbor and a true advocate for senior services in Riverdale, New York City and throughout the nation. We were an active participant in the 197-A plan, which is the basis for the current zoning. Of note is its inclusion of an obligation to protect and promote “adequate housing and support services for the elderly in Riverdale.” It may be convenient for a few adjacent homeowners to forget this commitment to Riverdale’s seniors, but that doesn’t make it right – or accurate.
Of equal importance to the entire Riverdale community has been our commitment to providing open space -— a significant underpinning of the 197-A plan. Our “Open Space” proposal preserves beautiful Hudson River views and acres of open space for the entire community. Historically, this “Open Space” concept will provide public access to a connected Hudson River Greenway, a previously inaccessible Riverdale treasure. Is it possible that critics of our plan do not want public access to the waterfront and wish to restrict such access to others in the community? We certainly hope that is not their intention. That would be wrong and not what Riverdale is all about.
Back in the fall, we presented two plans to the Community Board. The “Open Space” plan, which incorporates the four year dialogue with the entire Riverdale community, provides public Greenway access, preserves views and moves density to the north campus. It is the plan that works best for seniors, and for the community.
The alternative, a single-family scheme, would not require a ULURP. This plan includes the construction of nearly 40 single-family senior residences. This design will not accommodate open space or provide public access to the Greenway.
The underpinning of the 197-A Plan was to ensure the viability of local institutions like the Hebrew Home while retaining local character. Our “Open Space” plan does just that, and we arrived at this plan after exhaustive community collaboration and significant changes to the design. The Hebrew Home at Riverdale intends to proceed with this thoughtful and inclusive plan that will benefit seniors and the entire Riverdale community. Our community should not be misled by NIMBYism that benefits a privileged few.
Daniel Reingold is President and CEO of RiverSpring Health which operates the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. The home has proposed expanding its campus with apartment towers on adjacent land — currently zoned for single-family homes — which had been used as a Catholic retreat venue. This column is in response to “Don’t Mess with Our Zoning,” a column signed by 10 community organizations which ran in The Press on Feb. 22.
Point of View is a column open to all.