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Hebrew Home, neighbors come to agreement over expansion

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The battle that pit neighbors against a longstanding assisted living facility appears to be over, just in time for the City Planning Commission to weigh in on expansion plans at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale.

Hebrew Home officials have agreed to a memorandum of understanding with four different groups that should pave the way for the Palisade Avenue facility to build what is considered New York City's first continuing care retirement community. Signed on Friday, the settlement limits the height of three proposed buildings that will make up the CCRC, provide pedestrian access to the Hudson River, and restrict future construction, among other issues.

The agreement is substantially similar to earlier interim agreements struck between the parties ahead of a June meeting of Community Board 8, and a July hearing hosted by Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.'s office. Diaz ultimately recommended the expansion, as long as the project was in-line with the earlier agreements. CB8 rejected it.

The memorandum was signed by Hebrew Home parent chief executive Daniel Reingold, Riverdale Nature Preservancy chair Sherida Paulsen, Skyview Owners Corp. president Steven Chait, Riverdale Community Coalition representative Jennifer Klein, and Sigma Place Homeowners Association representative Martin Zelnik.

As part of the settlement, Hebrew Home will reduce its plans for a 12-story building on its north campus to one that is no taller than its existing tallest structure, the Resnick Pavilion — likely reducing it to about nine stories. Two smaller buildings on the south campus, where the former Passionist Retreat building currently sits, will be reduced by a story each to five and three.

The agreement prevents Hebrew Home from seeking to expand its southern parcel in any other way, maintaining permanent open space as well as limit any future buildings on the north campus to the height of Resnick through a perpetual restrictive declaration, which would ultimately bind such restrictions into law. 

The agreement also creates an advisory committee that includes not just the Hebrew Home, but members of the neighboring groups involved in the settlement. They will deal with a number of issues, including design, traffic, lighting and construction. 

Hebrew Home has spent years trying to develop its CCRC, designed as transitional housing for older people who might be ready to move out of former family homes, but not quite ready for assisted living. The residential units are more like individual apartments, but are accessible to medical care, as well as a number of other services. But it covers all of their care through the rest of their lives.

Buy-in is hundreds of thousands of dollars, but Reingold has stated this is well within the affordability range of middle-income residents, especially if they sell their family home and have some savings put together. If the CCRC residents ever move out, or when they pass on, a large portion of their buy-in fee is returned to the family.

The City Planning Commission is expected to hear the Hebrew Home expansion plans as early as this week, and could make their final recommendation by the beginning of September. That would allow city council to take the issue up before the end of the year.

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