Hebrew Home overreaching on planned development


(re: “Skyview residents want Hebrew Home plan nixed,” Sept. 14)

Over the past several months, the Skyview Owners Corp. Co-op has watched with increasing concern the progress of a proposal by RiverSpring Health Senior Living Inc. (Hebrew Home of Riverdale) for development of a for-profit continuing care retirement community in an R1-1 single-family zoning district.

Recently, we delivered a petition to members of Community Board 8, Councilman Andrew Cohen, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials with signatures from more than 1,000 households in the Riverdale community expressing the grave misgivings about this project.

We are specifically concerned that if a special permit is granted within the R1-1 district for proposed structures surrounding the development adjacent to the existing Hebrew Home, it not only would have an adverse and irreversible impact on Riverdale, it also would set a precedent across the city and state that all zoning laws are negotiable, creating a domino effect that would destroy the integrity of thoese regulations.

In addition to the R1-1 zoning laws being compromised by the proposed plan, the Special Natural Area District is at risk. This zooming was designed in 1975 with the “intention to preserve unique natural features.” It is the responsibility of both CB8 and our elected officials to protect the best interests of the community, and recognize that our natural spaces are so much a part of the fabric that makes Riverdale unique.

The bottom line is that the Hebrew Home’s proposal simply does not meet the city planning commission’s criteria for compatibility with the character of the surrounding area, nor does it provide an adequate buffer between the proposed facility and nearby residences, or provide a provision to adequately handle an increased flow of traffic expected to be generated.

We and others in the community firmly believe this project to be a luxury real estate development dressed as a CCRC, and an example of corporate greed at the expense of the community. The proposed development consists of multi-unit apartment buildings, and based on 2014 numbers quoted in documents secured via our Freedom of Information Law request, would have an estimated entry fee for residences ranging from $725,000 to $1.30 million, along with monthly service fees ranging from $4,500 to $8,000.

This project should not be confused with affordable housing for needy elderly citizens. The costs for residents of the development would be at the highest level of real estate in Riverdale, and not affordable for the vast majority of those in the community.

We have no issue with creating a CCRC itself, and we do recognize the importance of serving the needs of the elder community — it’s something we do right here at Skyview, where residents can enjoy our facilities year-round, and have access to public transportation. 

We are, however, strongly against it being built at the scale presented in our neighboring R1-1 and SNAD zones that will irreversibly overdevelop an almost unique country-like environment in the city. This type of area needs the utmost protection from developers. It is not meant, not equipped, for the type of development proposed.

We hope our elected officials will take our concerns into consideration and help us to continue to protect the integrity of this R1-1 and SNAD area while serving the needs of the elderly community. Along those lines, we would be amenable to the alternatively proposed development of 40 single-family homes.

Our hope is that our petition and efforts to raise awareness for the nature of this project will help our community board and elected officials to understand the grave concerns of the people they represent, rather than corporate interests.

The author is president of the Skyview Owner’s Corp. Co-op board. This Point of View was submitted on behalf of the board. 

Steven J. Chait