Visitation deserves more thought


To the editor:

This is an open letter to Tishman Speyer.

On Jan. 9, residents of the Kingsbridge neighborhood watched boards go up around the former Visitation church site, presumably in anticipation of its demolition. One assumes this means that, despite never having a public hearing on the development — and despite a pending lawsuit against your development partner, the School Construction Authority — you are going ahead with the development of the proposed 340-unit building of affordable housing on the property.

This is deeply regrettable.

Make no mistake — this is not an example of NIMBY. None of us in the community want to see the former Visitation site remain derelict and undeveloped, and we all appreciate the need for both affordable housing and new schools.

Ours is an objection to the size and scale of the project, neither of which considers the needs or the concerns of our community. The pending lawsuit against the SCA cites serious environmental concerns about the scope of the proposed development for their parcel of the property. Concerns that include — but are not limited to — flooding, traffic, parking and public safety.

These concerns apply doubly to your development, which would occupy the majority of the site. And yet you seem not to heed them.

Beyond the impact to those already living in Kingsbridge, we are concerned about those who would be living in your building. Affordable housing should not be bad housing, but that is exactly what you are proposing to build.

Having 40 units per floor is closer to prison conditions than residential ones, and the disproportion of studios and one-bedroom units to two- and three-bedroom apartments suggests that you do not have families in mind with this development, despite the fact it will be right next to a school.

As the real estate corporation behind New York’s iconic Rockefeller Center, you are known for buildings that are both beautiful and functional. Why, then, propose a building in Kingsbridge that is neither? Do you want your name to become associated with irresponsible overdevelopment in environmentally vulnerable areas?

Had you consulted with the community, you would have heard the desire for something more in keeping with the natural beauty our area derives from Van Cortlandt Park — something less monolithic and more organic. Something innovative that respects the contours of the land and preserves some of the mature trees on the property. Something with more green and less concrete.

In its current form, your development plan for 160 Van Cortlandt Park S. is a missed opportunity to build something special in Kingsbridge — something that truly improves and enhances the community, instead of degrading and quite possibly endangering it. But there is still time to change it.

At the last Community Board 8 meeting of 2022, the chair of the land use committee, Chuck Moerdler, promised a public meeting with your company. So far, there is no indication that you plan to meet with us.

But consider this your invitation to do so. Come listen to our concerns and hear our suggestions. Be open to changing your design to reflect the actual needs of the community. And then build something that will enhance both your reputation and our neighborhood.

Christina Carlson

Christina Carlson, Visitation Church, Tishman Speyer, Van Cortland Park S., Community Board 8, CB8