Wither the Hebrew Home
The outcome of the tug of war between the Hebrew Home at Riverdale and its neighbors in the Riverdale Community Coalition (RCC) is momentous. Not just for the Home, which is betting its future on a whole new configuration of services and living arrangements at its newly enlarged site on Palisade Avenue near West 261st Street. Not just for the neighbors who fear they will have to live with the noise and dust of construction, increased traffic on their narrow country lanes and a newly urbanized landscape, but for everyone within the boundaries of Community Board 8.
That’s because the community spoke loudly during a city charter-mandated rezoning process begun less than 10 years ago. The board recommended down-zoning several areas of the community to thwart what it saw as overdevelopment and the City Planning Commission obliged them with tighter regulations. The property south of the Home was designated as an R1-1 zone, suitable for single-family homes. How it is developed could be a harbinger of what can happen on other sensitive sites throughout the area.
Nearby neighbors grew nervous as soon as the Home announced it had purchased 14 acres next door to its campus from the Passionist Fathers. And they became inflamed when the Home made its first presentation to the community board last January. It showed architects’ renderings and models of a building complex that appeared greatly out of scale with its surroundings and representatives of the Home even told the board they were seriously considering an application to change the zoning of the site from R 1-1 to R-4.
The good will and trust the Home had built up with decades of carefully nurtured relations with its namesake community were shattered.