To the editor:
(re: “What’s next on natural area zoning?” Oct. 17)
On June 16, I wrote a Point of View piece where I wanted people to define, in their hearts and heads, a picture of a community they were willing to fight for in the face of the looming Special Natural Area District battle.
Community consensus has been that both the process and content of the zoning proposal was flawed. Many objected to removal of Community Board 8 from the oversight role of SNAD applications for smaller properties, viewing it as one step toward removing meaningful community control of development. Others felt the content of the proposal was inappropriate for Riverdale, as it had originally been written for Staten Island.
The city planning department seemed dismissive of sustained efforts to assert our objections.
Riverdale spent the summer trying to make its feelings clear to Councilman Andrew Cohen, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., and city planning. Finally, on Oct. 10, city planning withdrew the proposal, in response to Councilman Cohen’s letter asking them to do just that. In his word, zoning changes “do not meet the current needs of the community.”
Councilman Cohen knows that those needs are because of you, as a resident of Riverdale, defined them clearly for him in the form of emails, letters and phone calls to his office. Councilman Cohen came through for Riverdale — and speaking for myself, I am very appreciative.
In addition, approximately 125 elected officials, institutions, community organizations and individuals submitted comments, opinions and testimony to city planning during the public comment period of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
The withdrawal of this zoning proposal is remarkable and virtually unheard of in this age of unrestrained development in New York City. Every Riverdale resident who spoke up deserves to feel a great sense of pride, and going forward, empowerment.
Riverdale residents realize that change is inevitable and often desirable. We realize that we must grow and adapt, and be respectful of the needs of all residents and institutions — both big and small. But Riverdale has made it clear for decades that unrestrained development has no place in Riverdale.
Going forward, we will continue to develop and adapt to future challenges and opportunities. At the same time, we will continue to protect our green space, and preserve the best of our community character and history, as the unique and self-defined community we are in New York City.
It’s what we are willing to fight for, in the place we want to grow old in.