Wall might fall, but retains nabe’s character

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The 93-unit high-rise proposed for the vacant lot at 3469 Cannon Place has been stalled because of concerns over the stability of a retaining wall on the site.

Charles Moerdler, chair of Community Board 8’s Land Use committee and member of the Board of Directors of the New York City Housing Development Corporation, said HDC would not issue bonds to Jackson Development because the project is not a priority considering the city’s financial constraints.

At a Community Board 8 hearing on April 4, Jackson Development announced the building would consist of 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent affordable apartments,  making it eligible for financing through municipal bonds. Neil Weisman, owner of Jackson Development, said at that meeting that the company would need those bonds to move forward.

“At this time, this is not a priority item,” Mr. Moerdler said of HDC. “What does that mean in English: it ain’t going anywhere for a while.”

For members of the Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association — a group of neighbors fighting for years against development on the lot — that’s good to hear. 

“We’re happy and relieved to hear that news, but we’ll remain extremely vigilant about this property,” Kristin Hart of FIPNA said.  

FIPNA’s “Ten Reasons FIPNA Opposes the Proposed Cannon Place Development” begins with the public safety risk posed by the fragile retaining wall, which partially collapsed in 1979.

If the wall were to fall again, there would be extensive damage to houses and apartment buildings on Cannon Place and below the wall, on Fort Independence Street.

The Department of Environmental Protection plans to fix the Cannon Place wall in 2013, but Mr. Moerdler said the wall needs to be fixed now. 

 “If we don’t get that wall fixed and it comes down, what happened on Henry Hudson Parkway will be a plaything,” Mr. Moerdler said at last week’s Community Board 8 meeting, referring to the retaining wall that collapsed in Upper Manhattan in 2005. 

Mr. Moerdler tried to get CB 8 to pass a resolution urging the DEP to fix the retaining wall immediately, but Traffic and Transportation chair Dan Padernacht, who lives in Kingsbridge Heights and has represented FIPNA as an attorney, held off because he said the board should wait for public input before taking any action.

An architect representing Long Island-based Jackson Development said at the April CB 8 meeting that the company would not touch the retaining wall during construction. FIPNA hired Grigg and Davis Engineers, P.C.  to conduct a study of the project. The group reported that the amount of rock excavation required for the project would result in a “very high” probability of damage to adjacent properties on Cannon.

In May, Jackson announced it would build a parking garage with an  entrance on Fort Independence instead of Cannon Place to address the community’s concerns over a retaining wall collapse as the result of increased traffic. 

Jackson’s proposal is for a 96,000-square-foot mixed-income apartment building on the same 30,000-square-foot site Urban Pathways once planned to build a homeless shelter, which was also met with strong opposition from the community.

Mr. Weisman of Jackson did not respond to a call for comment.

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