In letter to County Legislature Supervisor Carpenter defends Hunts Place project

December 6, 2013

Editor’s Note: Following is the text of a letter from Supervisor Susan Carpenter to the Catherine Borgia, Chair of the Government Operations Committee of the County Legislature, whose approval of funding the Conifer project requires.  Carpenter’s letter responds to the criticisms of the Conifer project voiced by Bill Spade and Supervisor-elect Rob Greenstein in a meeting before the same Committee of Government Operations nine days earlier.

December 4, 2013
Honorable Catherine Borgia
Westchester County Legislature
800 Michaelian Office Building
White Plains, New York 10601

Dear County Legislator Borgia:

I watched your hearing on the Conifer project proposed for the Town of New Castle and, as the current Town Supervisor, I would like to bring several things to your attention.

This project was proposed to the Town Board as early as 2009, and was publicly reviewed by both the Planning Board and the Town Board.  While the site is not ideal, the Town determined that there were few other options and that, as transit oriented development, with easy access to both the Metro North and the bus line, it should be considered.  The review process and the rezoning of the Chappaqua hamlet to accommodate this and any other AFFH or workforce project that might be feasible was conducted in a very public review process.  I understand Mr. Spade, who attended your last meeting, felt he was unaware of the project and the rezoning, but I can assure you it was not done in secret.  I believe any review of the record for the rezoning in the Chappaqua hamlet will make this clear.

The Town has looked for other sites, I have personally walked every site Mr. Spade suggested and others that the town has identified for other AFFH projects, and called affordable housing developers to suggest they look at these sites.  So far we have been unable to identify another site, and while Mr. Spade told you he was working on several, he has been telling me that for two years, with nothing actually ever being identified.  The site they brought to your attention is a wetland site that the Town was not even able to pave.  When the opponents of the Conifer project has suggested this site, they had been told that it is unlikely to be a potential site because it is a wetland, so being told that at your hearing should not have been a surprise.

The incoming Supervisor represented to you that the opposition in the Town is only to the Conifer site and not to affordable housing.  I would note that there has not been an affordable housing site in the New Castle that did not spark public opposition, but I doubt that is unique to this town.  However, Mr. Greenstein supported his argument by declaring there was no opposition to the affordable housing at Chappaqua Crossing.  I would suggest that you consider the record of strident opposition of any housing at Chappaqua Crossing, and Mr. Greenstein was one of the loudest voices in opposition.  At the time Conifer was originally proposed he used the Conifer project as an argument against any housing at Chappaqua Crossing, and argued that the affordable housing should be at the Conifer site instead.

I am aware that this is an extremely expensive project.  As originally proposed, with 36 units, it would have been more in line with other projects.  However the Town of New Castle, in a very thorough review, worked with Conifer to reduce the number of units and increase the 2 bedroom units to allow residents to take advantage of Chappaqua schools.  While this is a constrained site for families, I expect there may well be families who would value the opportunity to provide their children with the education most of us moved to Chappaqua for.  The reduction in the number of units and the increase in 2 bedroom units, along with a significant redesign of the building to have it be architecturally more appropriate to its location has indeed driven up the cost.

In addition, Mr. Kaplowitz noted something I have raised numerous times with the Monitor, the County and HUD.  The Model Ordinance, which New Castle passed over 2 years ago, was designed by people who did not necessarily understand the land use issues of Northern Westchester.  We have very few sites left for subdivisions of any size, and the 10% AFFH requirement is not likely to result in many units.  The density bonus, which would allow any single family lot in town to be a duplex is unlikely to be effective without subsidies for owner-occupied housing.  Rental developers so far have not found it cost effective to manage two-unit rentals.

Finally, most of the Town of New Castle does not have sewers, and much of the town is in the New York City watershed making it difficult to develop multifamily housing.  The Conifer site happens to be one of the very few undeveloped parcels that is served by the sewer line.  The Town is currently working with the County and DEP to extend a sewer line through the north and west side of town, passing through Millwood, to remediate failing sewers at Random Farms, Yeshiva and Riverwoods.  We have asked the County to provide in its agreement with the Town for adding parts of Millwood to the sewer line in the future to allow AFFH and mixed use development.  Access to the sewer line in the undeveloped part of the Millwood hamlet would be necessary for any multifamily housing.  I hope going forward that the County will consider that as an important reason to allow this additional part of New Castle to become part of the County sewer district.

Sincerely,

Susan Carpenter, Supervisor, Town of New Castle


Comments(19):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

A supervisor with such obvious disdain for the people of New Castle creates a culture of animosity that pervades town hall and the police department.

Town employees are paid to serve the town and its residents. This notion seems to have been reversed in the minds of many who are employed by New Castle.

By Mike Nolan on 12/06/2013 at 5:38 pm

Your misguided views and opinions have been resoundingly rejected by the voters of our town, but yet you persist in your fantastical vision of hundreds of units of affordable housing being built all over our town, even on top of existing buildings if necessary. 

I pray that the Conifer project is never built on the Hunts Lane site.  Stigmatizing to residents, racist in it’s horrible/noisy/contaminated/unsafe location, and by your own admission, extremely expensive at $545,000.00 per unit.  I would add embarrassingly expensive to the description, since $15,000,000.00 for this building is such a colossal boondoggle that it is nothing short of an indictment of the entire process the current Town Board hatched when it first approached Conifer with the idea of the Hunts Lane project that was previously rejected by our town not once but twice.

Spade and Greenstein want to do better than the Conifer project, and for you to imply otherwise is downright offensive.  New Castle deserves better than Conifer.  Potential residents of Hunts Lane deserve better.  Spade and Greenstein are proposing better projects, not an abandonment of AFFH housing in New Castle. 

Susan, you have settled for the worst AFFH project in Westchester, at the highest cost, in the most racist location imaginable.

 

 

By B on 12/06/2013 at 6:27 pm

Painting Rob Greenstein as anti-affordable housing is more than a bit pathetic.  Being against housing at Chappaqua Crossing is very different than being against affordable housing. 

By saying that “there has not been an affordable housing site in the New Castle that did not spark public opposition” implies that people here are against affordable housing but that accusation has no genuine support.  Rather, people are up in arms that you and your colleagues are suggesting that people of less affluent means should live on a contaminated property sandwiched between the train tracks, highway and bridge when this same piece of property wasn’t approved for market rate housing a few years earlier.

What is also disconcerting is that a lack of sites is not the reason that Conifer will not consider changing their location from Hunts Place because this summer when you yourself suggested that Conifer look at other sites, the head of the company told you that that is not going to happen because of the money they had already spent on Hunts Place. 

I wish you would stop talking about this project as if it’s for the people who would live there because it’s clearly not and I’m very confused why you are personally sticking your neck out for this sorry project. 

By RJM10514 on 12/06/2013 at 6:58 pm

That confusion is why all of the money being added into this project creates a huge conflict for Susan. The lot is grossly overpaid for and the developer is carrying out a boatload of money. How someone can track that money between Conifer, Delbelo’S law firm, his contributions and role with the Westchester Land Trust and Susan’s salary from the same organization should make anyone’s head spin. It’s not too late for the ethics board to tell her to either butt out our fully disclose all of her conflicts when she airs her opinions.

By Not confused on 12/07/2013 at 2:22 am

I am shocked, outraged and saddened that our very own Supervisor would represent to Westchester County that “there has not been an affordable housing site in the New Castle that did not spark public opposition”.  Her comment is not even accurate.  The oppostion to Chappaqua Crossing was in response to the number of market rate condos not the affordable housing component.  Susan Carpenter is supposed to represent the residents of New Castle not Conifer and not Alfred DeBello.

By Carpenter's comment is inaccurate on 12/07/2013 at 7:54 am

@Not confused,

The problem is our current ethics board is ethically, and morally, challenged.

By bob on 12/07/2013 at 11:01 am

Susan,

Just as you met with Summit Greenfield to create retail at CC before presenting the idea to the town,  Barbara Gerrard met with Conifer before she presented her plan to the town.  Process followed those meetings.  Sorry, that is not the forthright way to work with the community.

By Jeff on 12/07/2013 at 11:50 am

It was always obvious from the get-go that there was the serious issue of a conflict of interest by Susan Carpenter on this project.  There is no reason to repeat this issue that has been raised over the years and again by Ms. Carpenter’s ill advised letter.

I ask myself if is there a possibility that it has always been Mr. DeBello, who has exerted pressure on her to refuse to recuse herself for the benefit of his client.

If the approval for the project is reversed, that will be the end of it.  If it is not, and it winds up in court, we may get an answer as to what the business relationship between Ms. Carpenter and Mr. DeBello meant to the approval of the project for Mr. DeBello’s client

By conflicts abound on 12/07/2013 at 1:37 pm

Hunts place is perfect if the project is scaled down to 10 units and the legal “theft” of public funds is clawed back. The “affordable” people with children can live at chappaqua crossing. Those without children will gladly take the bargain on hunts place.

By Too bad "highway" robbery on 12/07/2013 at 8:36 pm

Who the heck are you to call anyone racist? Town hall employees, school employees, sanitation employees, town yard employees, police,
even NYS or County workers are contemplated by affordable housing. The operative word is “affordable” not “low income” .

The readership can get a understanding of your illogical thinking through reading your scores of postings on this site.For example, you have written that the mere fact that Walgreens as a few aisles of convenience store packaged goods and milk, Chappaqua does not now nor will ever need a full service supermarket like Whole Foods. The quote is that your ability to “have Walgreens cereal with your morning coffee” is good enough.

Is it even remotely possible that you may not be as right as you think you are?

Please, readership, understand B’s prism. She has every right to say whatever she wants and those who can’t believe their eyes should point out her track record.

By Dear B on 12/08/2013 at 10:46 am

To those that think a scaled down version is OK, the more you dig into this project, the more it becomes obvious that nothing works in this location.  It is dangerous for fire and safety issues and even if you thought it made sense, I doubt it is legal to exclude children.  Also, if Conifer and the property owner and all of the related players can’t back up the truck to the bank (pull and A-Rod), I can’t imagine they are interested in earning a market return.

By I used to think that way too on 12/08/2013 at 11:55 am

Ok, I get it as to safety.  But that is variance and building department responsibility to approve or not. If its not approved.    Great!  It’s over.  But not for the bleeding heart, ultra liberal , claimed to be racist reasons.

By That way too on 12/08/2013 at 1:43 pm

To “Dear B”:

The quote that you attribute to me -regarding eating cereal and drinking coffee - is not mine.  I do not eat cereal or drink coffee.  Not one bowl of cereal in recent years, and not a single cup of coffee, not ever.  Sorry, but the quote you attribute to me is not mine.

Affordable housing is a laudable notion for municipal and public employees plus all of the others you listed.  Sorry, “Dear B”, but the Affirmatively Furthering Affordable Housing (AFFH) is NOT FOR THESE PEOPLE!  Instead, the whole purpose of AFFH is to bring African Americans and Hispanics, with or without any actual income since Section 8 must now be treated by the landlord as a source of funds, to predominantly White communities on order to correct past discrimination against African Americans and Hispanics.  Please do not confuse housing for public employees with AFFH, they are most assuredly NOT NEARLY one and the same thing.  My assertion that the creation of an apartment building on Hunts Place is racist is in fact correct when you understand the building is being built expressly for minorities.

I like Walgreen’s - it has saved me a bunch of trips to Thornwood and Pleasantville.  I would ALSO like a supermarket in Chappaqua, however I would much prefer a new supermarket in the existing commercial area of Chappaqua, instead of what I consider to be a residential area surrounding Chappaqua Crossing.  I am not convinced that traffic can be sufficiently mitigated at CC, and so far nobody has shown me enough facts to prove to me that my fears about traffic congestion are unfounded. 

I am proud of my “track record” on this site - and I know that a check of any of my many posts will prove that I proudly, and loudly, stand for a better New Castle for everybody who lives here, or who wants to live here in the future.

By B on 12/08/2013 at 6:36 pm

Editor’s Note:  Why should he or she answer that?

By Yikes on 12/09/2013 at 11:37 am

When “we the people” hired Barack Obama, it was a clear repudiation of George Bush.

What did Bush do after the election? He kept a low public profile and never once attacked any of Obama’s policies even though it’s clear he has different views. Bill Clinton took a similar path after Bush became President.

I would draw a parallel with our most recent election. Susan wasn’t running but this election was a clear repudiation of her policies and approach.

I’d suggest she learn from George Bush and Bill Clinton and move on with grace and dignity.

By A Lesson From Bush and Clinton on 12/09/2013 at 2:32 pm

@A Lesson From Bush and Clinton,

It is quite obvious that not everyone is capable of doing as you suggest.

By sad fact on 12/09/2013 at 4:45 pm

Dear Ms. Carpenter and the Members of the Town Board,

During the town board meeting tonight, Ms. Carpenter was correctly questioned about her liberal usage of as town supervisor to write letters and make comments on behalf of Conifer in support of the Hunts Lane project.  This is the same project where the special permit was approved by a 3-2 margin, that that was not supported by any of the members of Team New Castle that were elected to the incoming town board and was not supported by any of the Democratic slate that also participated in the election.  Leaving the content of the Ms. Carpenter’s comments aside, her use of town stationary and her signature as town supervisor give the distinct impression that such comments represent both the views of the town and all of the members of the town board, each of who clearly stated that they were not consulted in any way about the letter before it went out to various entities throughout the state.  Given the very specific clarifications provided by the other town board members, and regardless of what may be provided for in the town code (assuming she even has the authority to do this), I would ask Ms. Carpenter to issue a retraction of such letter.  Based on her replies to the resident who questioned her on the letter, which questions were posed with the utmost respect, I do not expect her to do so without prompting.
 
- continued below -

By Robert Fleisher on 12/11/2013 at 1:28 am

I would therefore ask the other members of the town board to issue an immediate resolution that clarifies that Ms. Carpenter made these comments by herself rather than on behalf of the town.  While Conifer undoubtedly knows this, the members of the County Board of Legislators do not and Ms. Carpenter repeated this performance and made similar types of representations in her testimony today at a meeting for a state building code committee that is evaluating several fire and safety code variances that are required for the Conifer project to move forward.  Your failure to do this in a timely fashion allows this misconception to continue while important votes are being taken on the funding of the project.  As Mr. Klepper, who is an upstanding citizen in the community and has donated his time to assisting on financial issues for the CCSD, correctly noted, the letter paints an unflattering light on the community which Ms. Carpenter knows is incorrect because she has personally witnessed ongoing attempts to provide affordable housing projects in other locations in town.  I would think that this is especially both offensive and inconsiderate to the positions of Mr. Buckely and Mr. Chapin who voted against the project.  Nobody is denying anyone’s right to free speech, but issuing such statements without the proper clarifications is bad practice at best and intentionally misleading at worst.  Time is of the essence.  I hope you will clear up this issue immediately (e.g. tomorrow).  As an example, anytime I have heard or seen a member of the school board make a statement that is specifically authorized by such board, they are always quick to point out that such comment is their own personal view and is being made as such and not as a member of the board.

Respectfully,

By Robert Fleisher on 12/11/2013 at 1:32 am

As even the other members of the board implied, the writing of this letter was disgraceful.

By bob on 12/13/2013 at 12:10 pm


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