CB8 bulldozes through SNAD-destroying plans


What a waste of a summer evening. 

I had checked online for the land use committee meeting scheduled for July 27. I was particularly interested in the first two items on the agenda dealing with the city planning application to construct two houses on property adjacent to the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture.

I registered at 7:15 p.m. as a speaker and waited quietly. The room at The Riverdale Y was packed. Most of the people attending the meeting were there to protest the city’s homeless services department’s selection of 5731 Broadway as the location of a shelter for families with children, which was last on the agenda.

Other items were addressed quickly, but nothing was announced regarding the first two items. When I was finally called to speak, I tried to express my opposition to the two items that were also on the agenda. Chairman Charles Moerdler immediately cut me off and informed me those items had already been approved. I do not understand how something that is on the agenda could have been passed before the meeting.

I found this particularly ironic since much of the objection to the homeless project was due to the fact that the community was misled about the intended purpose of this new building, and was not given an opportunity to be heard. Since I was not given the opportunity to be heard on the other items on the agenda, I am writing to express my opposition to both the process followed by the community board, and on the approval of these building applications, which allows the Special Natural Area District to be further eroded.

I own a home on Fieldston Road adjacent to Villanova Heights. When I purchased my home, there was a wooded area adjacent to my backyard that was on 16 acres of woodland called Chapel Hill Farms. In 2005, the owner of the property removed every tree between Christmas and New Year’s days. I heard he did this because he knew that a regulation was going into effect on Jan. 1, 2006, that would have prevented him from removing the trees.

This was a loss of 16 acres of SNAD without any review by the community. All the property owners along Fieldston Road between 5031 and 5075, seven properties were devastated. Due to the illegal tree removal, every property owner experienced severe flooding in his or her backyards and basements.

After many complaints to Community Board 8, we were able to get the property owner to construct the necessary drainage system to prevent further damage to our properties. 

Where was the approval process, and what could be done after all the trees were removed? It was a hopeless cause by that point.

By approving these two agenda items, the city is allowing the SNAD to be continually decimated. I have seen plans that originally were filed with the city planning department proposing to build a total of five houses on this property. With this approval, what is to stop this owner from building the other three proposed buildings, which will further reduce the SNAD?

How did these two agenda items get approved and subsequently removed from the agenda? SNADs were created and should be protected for a reason. 

As a community, we need to protect the natural features on as much of the private property in Riverdale as possible.

John Benfatti