L to E: In defense of the survey on CC Whole Foods and retail commissioned by Summit Greenfield

Friday, August 8, 2014
by Robin K. Liebowitz, Principal and Founder of rkl3D llc

To the Editor:

I was interested to read the story and the wide range of reader comments in the current edition of New Castle NOW pertaining to the New Castle resident opinion survey my company, rkl3D llc, conducted for the owners of Chappaqua Crossing regarding a Whole Foods Market and ancillary retail being built at the site.

While I was pleased to see many positive comments about our work, I have been dismayed by the comments about the survey made by some town officials and residents.  Having designed and personally conducted 50 percent of the surveys, I am fully aware of every aspect of this matter.  I thought it would be worthwhile to address two specific areas of criticism the survey has received.

The first is that an unknown number of residents were told that the survey was being conducted on the town’s behalf in the first days of the polling. The question that elicited this response was: “Who authorized you to be here?”  The response from our survey team was the Town – by which we meant that our company was properly licensed by the Town to conduct the surveying, not that the Town was sponsoring the survey.  When asked the question “On whose behalf are you undertaking the survey?” our response was Summit Development”.  That said, when Town Board member Elise Mottel made a request on July 3rd (day 5 out of 15 of the survey cycle) to provide more clarity on this topic, we took the necessary steps to make it clearer that Summit/Greenfield was the sole sponsor. 

When calculating the survey sample, we accounted for any potential bias in the findings.  Nevertheless, Ms. Mottel and others continued to contend that some respondents might have been confused, thereby invalidating the survey findings.

For this reason, we broke out the 168 survey responses that were collected prior to July 3, 28 percent of the 587 total responses. We then analyzed the answers of the residents who took the survey after that date.  Analyzing only those 419 responses, we found that the findings and conclusions did not materially change. 

o 84% of respondents were aware of the proposal for Whole Foods at Chappaqua Crossing (no change from previous findings)
o The majority of respondents interviewed (68%) favor having a Whole Foods Market at Chappaqua Crossing (increase of 1%)
o In addition to Whole Foods, the preference amongst (72%) of respondents is for small stores as co-tenants (decrease of 2%)

With regard to Councilman Brodsky’s comments about the survey questions and the interview process, I would like to emphasize that there was no tailoring to elicit survey responses.  We simply do not do that.  Clearly Mr. Brodsky wasn’t privy to most of the hundreds of survey discussions that took place. I am not sure which conversation he may have overheard, but there are times during the survey process when respondents ask for clarification or begin to give responses that more appropriately fit in later sections of the questionnaire. He may have overheard a conversation in which one of our pollsters was providing a clarification or suggesting that the respondent’s comments be saved for a later portion of the survey.

Contrary to Mr. Brodsky’s and some other comments I have heard, our survey did not tailor or skew data in favor of the developer.  Those opposed to the plan were not screened out.  In fact, an extra effort was made to seek out the opinions of people who were not favorable to Whole Foods and/or retail development at Chappaqua Crossing.  This effort was undertaken specifically to try and ensure the survey findings demonstrated a balanced perspective.  I personally encountered people who were reluctant to take the survey because they were against the Whole Foods project and retail development at Chappaqua Crossing. However, after I explained that negative opinions would be included, they participated. 

I live in Larchmont, a community not dissimilar to Chappaqua, and one with similar development challenges. I understand the emotions that development plans can generate. But as I told the hundreds of people who spoke with me during our Chappaqua surveying, my company’s job is to capture key data in the best and most objective way we can.  We take our work seriously and we conduct our surveys in a professional manner. While some may not like what the results show, I stand fully behind the validity and objectivity of the survey on Chappaqua Crossing and thank the 587 residents who took the survey for their time and candor.

Robin K. Liebowitz
rkl3D llc
11 Knollwood Dr.
Larchmont, NY
www.rkl3d.com

___________________

Related:  SG releases results of its survey of how residents feel about Whole Foods and retail at CC, NCNOW.org, 7/25/14


Comments(33):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

To R Leibowitz- thank you very much for your letter and for clarifying the details and circumstances of the survey. I must apologize for the behavior of some of my neighbors and residents of my community. A small but very vocal group are determined to prevent development of a multi use facility in our town. This development will include a Whole Foods and ancillary retail. As you stated you come from Larchmont ( similar to Chapp) and your community has a supermarket and other facilities we do not.
This small group aka NIMBYs , have for 8 years stood in the way of all development and plans. Whenever an expert has been called in or a study done that supports development at Chapp Crossing they immediately discredit the source.
I completed the survey done by your company. I found it fair and to the point. Board member Brodsky was incorrect when he said the questions were “tailored”. Others dismissed the results because Summit Greenfield paid.
I too am a professional - I am a consultant. What these people fail to understand is that true professions with reputations to uphold do not change or influence outcomes simply to satisfy those that hired them. That would be the end of our career. We are paid to deliver results and answers regardless of which position they support. Facts are facts. Results are results. They don’t change because of who writes the check. Maybe lawyers twist the facts to defend their clients ( Brodsky/ Katz are lawyers) but most do not.
Once again, I apologize for their behavior.

By RayJ on 08/09/2014 at 7:19 am

Thank you Christine Yeres for being an editor willing to provide a platform where all sides of the story can be presented.
I hope the NIMBYs realize that when they disparage and marginalize those that oppose their views they insult and attack the integrity of their targets. There have been several professional studies and surveys conducted on retail at CC. All have concluded support for the project. Each and every one has been targeted by the NIMBYs as compromised biased or poorly done. Not just the NIMBYs but also those with a personal agenda like downtown property owner Brodsky and downtown developer Napoli. When they do this they insult the integrity and professionalism of the person/ people who conduct them. Hats off to Robin Leibowitz for fighting back and standing up!!!

By Resident on 08/09/2014 at 7:45 am

Thank you Robin.  I had not seen the previous reference to the survey on NCN.  I do have a question about the design of what appears to be the most significant survey question.  Specifically, the following question was asked:

How do you feel about Whole Foods moving to Chappaqua Crossing?

The two most relevant responses being:

I am concerned because…

It will be great to have a supermarket back in Chappaqua.

My question about this is that these don’t seem to be designed in a way where they are mutually exclusive.  Specifically, the second response seems to be written in somewhat of a leading manner.  Personally, I think it would be great to have a supermarket back in Chappaqua.  But if I choose that does that mean that I have no concerns with the plan?  Or am I being asked to weigh any concerns against my enthusiasm for a supermarket?  That is not at all clear.  Perhaps this may have been fodder for some of the explanatory dialogue throughout the process.  But what jumped out at me is that the question could easily have been sculpted in a much clearer way.  I won’t necessarily question your objectivity or approach based on SG’s role in this, but the design of this question does raise some concern.

By Survey Question on 08/09/2014 at 7:48 am

I appreciate your defensive comments (it is, afterall, your company who conducted the survey). But they don’t speak the truth. I took the survey, and my mind is not made up about a Whole Foods.  Even with that mindset I found the questions to be completely biased toward development to elicit responses favorable for your client, Summit Greenfield.  I even mentioned the bias of the questions to the surveyor, who shrugged and said, “I didn’t write them.”

I also was told that the survey was being conducted by the town, which we now know is incorrect.

I think that if you want to be taken seriously as a survey company (and if you want the results of your surveys to be taken seriously) you need to train your employees who write the survey questions in how to write fair questions that are designed to elicit fair, unbiased, responses. The questions you asked this town were neither fair, nor unbiased.

By These words don't match the survey on 08/09/2014 at 9:28 am

I took the survey and although I do not want retail at Chappaqua Crossing I responded that I wanted Whole Foods.  The question posed to me was “What gocerery would I want if a grocery had been approved”.  Also I have a Mount Kisco Post office but live in New Castle so I don’t know if they even counted my response .

By Resident10549 on 08/09/2014 at 10:12 am

I was one of the 587 residents who answered the survey at the farmer’s market.  I am in favor of the development of CC and in favor of WF.  When I initially was asked the questions, I actually assumed the survey was being sponsored by an anti-development group.  When I asked specifically, I was told that SG sponsored the survey. I will repeat here, what I said to the young lady who asked me the questions, Don’t give up.  Bring WF to Chappaqua. I am still not clear why it is so shocking that this is what the majority of residents want. People like me are the silent majority and I believe the survey truly reflects the majority opinion.

By I took the survey on 08/09/2014 at 11:24 am

Bravo Rayj! Very well said.
In regards to retail at CC, there has now been a professionally done study by the town (last administration) and one done by the developer. There has been an informal online survey done by 2 residents (Whitehouse/Greenburg) and this professional survey done by rkl3d (Liebowitz). In addition a top of the line highly regarded traffic expert was commissioned (by SG). Every one of these surveys/studies supports retail at CC. Not one has yielded any evidence of all the negative claims made by the folks living near CC. Those of us supporting retail at CC are accused by the NIMBYs of having no evidence but it is they who have no evidence to support all their fear mongered claims. All the studies and surveys done by professionals prove the NIMBYs wrong. Their tactic is to discredit and insult the people providing the surveys/studies as well as residents in support. They circulated a deceptive petition and manipulated a well intentioned resident survey.
Their last desperate chance is to demand a new Master Plan which they have every intention of manipulating. That is why the MP plan is a charade. Its a last gasp effort to block retail at CC.

By Jay RAy on 08/09/2014 at 2:12 pm

@ RK Liebowitz- I took the survey and I found nothing biased or tailored in your questions. You can be sure if the results indicated a large majority of residents were opposed to retail ( Whole Foods) at Chapp Crossing then your methodology and questions would not be called into question. The truth continues to come out that the majority of residents support retail at CC. You have been questioned and criticized because the same obnoxious selfish small group didn’t like the findings of your study. The ignore the message and attack the messenger.
I recall Lisa Katz repeatedly scolding the last town board that ” nobody wants this” and she has ” not met a single person in favor”. Sadly she sits on the town board and is committed to her nimby position. Brodsky incorrectly categorizes the survey questions as “tailored” and Editor Yeres prints that as a headline as she is a nimby too. 
Now we have another survey proving residents support this. Add this to the other consultants reports , studies,  surveys , and expert opinion and there is no doubt how residents feel and that it can/ should be built.

By Chappmom on 08/09/2014 at 2:48 pm

I was at the meeting where this survey was presented and SG never said that the first responses were jettisoned after the identity of who was conducting the survey was not being explained clearly. How unfortunate. However, about the survey, a resident had an interesting point.  He said what if the survey had asked “Would you be in favor of a supermarket at CC if it meant it would take you ten minutes longer to get to the train station on the morning?  15 minutes?”  In a vacuum my answer might be yes, but balanced by the disturbing traffic increases, I am leaning toward no.

By ML on 08/09/2014 at 3:20 pm

To ML - Readers Digest once employed thousands. They drove, they carpooled and they were shuttled to the Readers Digest Campus at rush hours. There was a bit more traffic and getting to the train station In the morning took a few more minutes BIG DEAL!
That is hardly a reason to obstruct development at CC. Besides peak hours of operation for Whole Foods is not morning rush hour.
Talk about selfishness. Maybe we should reroute buses and change school hours so drivers are not inconvenienced as we drive around town.
This is a perfect example of the nit picking and criticizing meant to discredit the survey.
Look - if you are opposed to retail/ Whole Foods at CC your survey responses would reflect it. If you favor and support it your survey responses would be reflected.  It is clear how residents feel. I’m sorry if you are disappointed but stop the silliness.

By Commuter on 08/09/2014 at 5:16 pm

RayJ- beautifully said. Spot on. I agree

By Townie on 08/09/2014 at 5:38 pm

Robyn,

Curious what your response is to the people who questioned the structure of the questions or are you going to simply not respond. I have concerns and I live nowhere near the property. Please respond to these valid questions.

By Waiting for response on 08/09/2014 at 10:13 pm

I would like to know more details about how the ‘random sample’ was selected, and how representative it is of all of New Castle.  For example, a non-negligible number of residents live in the east and west side of town, and pay their taxes just like those closer to Chappaqua.  Were they represented proportionately?  If sampling centered around the main areas of Chappaqua, my guess would be ‘no.’  Many of us from the east side of town go to Mt. Kisco for the train, and shop in Mt. Kisco or Armonk.  Retail at CC would predominantly represent traffic jams for accessing the Saw Mill, without significant benefit from retail.  It would seem much more appropriate on all fronts to focus on revitalizing Chappaqua with desirable retail.

Editor’s Note:  No one claims that the survey was of a “random sample” of residents.

By East Sider on 08/10/2014 at 1:13 am

ML - grow up. Any logical reasonable person understood the survey. I took the survey. I answered the questions. If you oppose retail at CC with Whole Foods answer the questions accordingly.  If you are for retail at CC with Whole Foods answer the questions accordingly. They were not ambiguous.
The childish behavior and attacks on the survey questions come from those that will not accept the fact that our community wants this development. I keep hearing how intelligent and accomplished our residents are. You wouldn’t know by the behavior of those determined to stop retail at CC.

By Ron on 08/10/2014 at 6:51 am

Robyn,

Please respond to Survey Question and ML.Their concerns are shred by many.

By Waiting on 08/10/2014 at 11:30 am

ML - a survey question regarding an acceptable commuting time that you would tolerate in getting to the train station presumes your ride to the train station would in fact take longer. That would be an inappropriate question because we have no proof that traffic will delay your commute 10 or 15 minutes. In fact, a highly reputable traffic expert has concluded minimal if any time will be lost. I drive to the train station everyday also. I happen to make a very early train. Assume you make a later train like 8 am.  You really think Whole Food shoppers will be on the road creating a traffic delay for you at 8 am?
Do you see how ridiculous your argument is? You are just trying to discredit the survey becUse you don’t like the results.

By Silliness on 08/10/2014 at 6:13 pm

Robin- you have done an excellent job articulating your methodology. You eloquently explained and defending your survey. There is no need to respond to ” waiting” “Survey Question” and ML. They will never be happy. They just won’t accept results that clearly and repeatedly show residents approve of this development.
Don’t lower yourself to their level. Thank you

By Enough said on 08/10/2014 at 6:20 pm

This was not a survey. It was a kind-of opinion poll. It wasn’t a random sample of residents. It wasn’t any more or less valuable than that survey by Connie Whitehouse. And, frankly, Whitehouse asked more questions and was able to look more closely at the responses. This “survey” was for a client, Summit Greenfield. Or, rather, it was a survey paid for by Summit Greenfield to persuade itself (and town govt) that the WF and retail are wanted. Not exactly the market analysis the planning board is asking for.

By Not a survey on 08/10/2014 at 8:20 pm

To This was no a survey- you are incorrect in your characterization.  For the sake of discussion I will humor you and agree that it is more an opinion poll. The results of the opinion poll conclude a large majority ae in favor of retail - WF at CC. I know that’s not what you NIMBYs want to hear but it is more evidence in support.
You refer to the survey done by Connie Whithouse ( actually done with Dawn Greenburg).  That survey also showed a large number of residents in support of the development. You suggest the Whithouse survey asked more questions and looked more closely at responses. That may be true but you failed to mention that her survey lasted 2 days online before Connie and Dawn had to take it off line. Their survey was corrupted and manipulated by the NIMBYs that called emailed and texted each other on how to fill out multiple surveys using multiple devices. Even with this dishonesty the survey showed significant support.
You prove your ignorance when you tow the nimby line that since the developer was the “client” the results are not reliable. I suggest you read RayJ comment above.

By Another resident on 08/11/2014 at 6:47 am

@Enough said,

You are just plain wrong.  To be honest, I have no dog in this fight.  I believe I represent the vast silent, silent majority that would think it would be very nice to have another supermarket in town (we do have one in Millwood) and a Whole Foods in particular would be awesome.  But we also are fully cognizant of the traffic concerns.  We don’t feel so horribly inconvenienced by the lack of another supermarket to feel strongly enough such that we would condone the project if the outcome were materially adverse to those residents that live the area.  We also realize that the train may have already left the station as a result of the findings approved by the prior town board.  I say this because I think the silent, silent majority are for the most part reasonable and intelligent people that also care for their neighbors, without all of the deeply entrenched anger that is often visible in these comments.

I appreciate the efforts to arrange a survey to assess the public sentiment on this project.  My question above is sincere.  I think there are a lot of residents with thoughts along the lines of my own.  I also think there are a lot of residents who have not really followed this all that closely that would quickly endorse having a Whole Foods if asked, as would be my response if in that situation.  I really do not think the queston was designed well, and in thinking about it further it reads like a question formatted in a way that one would expect if it had to be signed off by the developer.

By Survey Question on 08/11/2014 at 9:27 am

All polls and surveys show that there is no majority against the development.

By There is no groundswell against it on 08/11/2014 at 9:39 am

And there is no groundswell FOR it. That’s the problem. Both “sides” would be best served by a town board that deals with MORE information rather than the LESS info they have now.

When has there been ANY attempt by the town bd to really-actually-truly find out wht this community wants? The last bd didn’t try becasue they didn’t want to know. They wanted the project too much.

And this board has wasted seven - going on eight - months NOT FINDING OUT too.

By Find out really on 08/11/2014 at 10:31 am

Survey Question – I am of the silent majority favoring retail/Whole Foods at CC. You make this an issue of supermarket convenience. Your statement that many who oppose have repeated but have yet to prove – that this project outcome “were materially adverse to those residents that live the area”. Says who? The cries of property value decline,emergency response hampered, dangerous traffic, noise etc are rally themes for the NIMBYs. Studies done – findings approved- experts consulted. As you say, reasonable intelligent people care for their neighbors and I do. I just don’t buy their exaggerated unproven claims. I have lived here 26 years. There was always traffic around Readers Digest and 117.  Since Readers D and Grand Union in MT Kisco vacated, the surrounding residents have become accustomed to a near empty facility. Understand this property is surrounded by a parkway, train tracks and truck Rt 117.Today’s peace and quiet is not the norm- never was.
This is more than the inconvenience of not having a supermarket – that’s the NIMBY accusation. I think about current tax loss and revenue gain when CC is utilized. That impacts our tax bill. Home buyers- young families have many more quality school districts to choose from these days and will buy in communities that provide supermarkets AND rec facilities, town pool and lower taxes.. Absent in your comment is that Chapp has no viable “downtown”. Given its up hill-down hill topography, its nail salons, and over priced stores – it never will. I view retail at CC as a positive overall not just about a supermarket.  If I believed this project would create all the negatives claimed I would object too. But I do not believe it and nobody has proven otherwise. The inconvenience argument is all wrong. The NIMBYs don’t want the inconvenience of a bit more traffic and for that they want the entire community to go without a supermarket and all the other benefits this development can/will bring.

By Old timer on 08/11/2014 at 10:50 am

Count me in the silent majority also– I favor Whole Foods and ancillary retail at CC in my hometown. I hope Supervisor Greenstein can deliver and get us recreational facilities , gym and other concessions from the developer. I think moving town hall to CC is a fantastic idea!
I am offended whenever those in opposition (the nimby’s) make insulting remarks about those of us in favor. They call us selfish and spoiled because we want a local market. Since when is having a super market in the town we live in an indulgence for spoiled people? They claim it’s a small inconvenience driving to Mt Kisco Armonk or Pleasantville which pales in comparison to the consequences they would suffer. I totally disagree. Retail at CC may bring some traffic but it can be managed and worked out with careful and proper planning/hours of operation.
The NIMBY’s might be inconvenienced because of a bit more traffic and for that they want the entire community to suffer. In their minds the residents of New Castle should go without a Whole Foods and without other retail- recreational facilities, a gym, and increased tax revenue so that they don’t have to deal with a bit more traffic. REALLY? So who’s selfish?
 

By Silent majority on 08/11/2014 at 3:49 pm

Dear Silent,

Where does it say, as you say, that these things are included:

“other retail- recreational facilities, a gym, and increased tax revenue”?

And the people who live there will be “inconvenienced because of a bit more traffic”?

And a shopping center of 120,000 square feet across the street (a six-lane highway) from HG high school?  That’s more than inconvenience to the school.  It’s downright damage.

By You're dreaming on 08/11/2014 at 9:29 pm

I took the poll. Nothing I said was written down, no notes were made of my comments and only a box was checked to specific questions
The first question was do you know about WF?
Then what kind of stores and so forth. I know a poll turns “questions into answers”, my problem is who made the questions; one of them that I overheard was “how about a high end restaurant?——the pollster asking that question was Principal and Founder, Robin Leibowitz.
How the propaganda shapes the public opinion is the work of skillful public relations people; all paid for by a company looking to get out of a not so skillful purchase of the Readers Digest property.

By Wool over my eyes, not. on 08/12/2014 at 7:01 am

Hey,Wool over my Eyes- so you are another in the camp that since the developer paid for the survey it is not valid. You call it propaganda and skilful public relations. I totally disagree.
Then what do you make of the town survey conducted by 2 residents (Whitehouse-Greenburg)? They were not paid by anyone. The results were consistent with popular sentiment and with this survey by Liebowitz., Residents want this development – of course the NIMBYs do not. Residents are sensitive to the traffic issues and expect that town officials ensure traffic mitigation and safety.
The Town of New Castle paid for a study that concluded retail at CC would be a net positive for our community. The study concluded that the many negatives NIMBYs howl about will not happen. Let me repeat – The Town of New Castle paid for the study – not the developer. Then there is common and everyday dialogue between residents. Most residents talk openly about wanting Whole Foods and retail at CC. We think it will be great. Nobody paid for that opinion either.

By I can see clearly on 08/12/2014 at 9:05 am

Dear Ms. Liebowitz:
Your survey was not academically rigorous or scientifically valid. It did serve its purpose to support your client.  If it hadn’t, the results would not have been released publicly.  Be glad that you were paid and don’t feign shock at the criticism from people who take the practice of social science seriously. 
Regards,
Tim Abernathy

By social science on 08/12/2014 at 11:07 am

@ Your Dreaming (aka Editor) – These things are included or projected to be negotiated. Here you go-
“other retail” the plans call for Whole Foods and ancillary retail. That means other retail.
“Recreational facilities” were proposed by Greenstein as part of what he hopes to accomplish through negotiations with the developer.
“A gym” has been mentioned many times and most recently at a board meeting and presentation by SG
“increased tax revenue” – currently and for years the tax revenue generated at CC (Readers Digest) has been steadily declining. The owner continues to successfully grieve taxes. Stabilizing the tax revenue would be a positive -building a viable development will increase value and increase tax revenue. That is not a theory – it is a fact. I do not know how much increase but it will increase. And that is better than decrease.
If the final plan is 120,000 sq ft and WF and Gym take up more than half than it is not the retail complex many worry about. Most of the space will be occupied by 2 tenants.
HG high school is set back on a campus setting. The students will not be exposed. They are tucked in many hundreds of yards into a protected campus.  Btw– Bell Middle School is totally exposed to downtown commerce traffic and commuter traffic to station parking lot.

By I vote yes on 08/12/2014 at 4:01 pm

The issue impacts the entire town. Do people think that residents who live on the other side of town have no valid concerns on this?  I don’t care who sponsored the survey, I think the questions were very poorly structured.  Just because you want WF at CC doesn’t mean that you are happy with SG’s plan. I can like WF, but only if they can figure out the traffic, get binding commitments on all the “other stuff being promised” and come up with a plan for downtown.  I won’t hear the noise or see the lights, but if you turn 117 and RB road into traffic jams, you will kill the quality of life for all in this town.  We can’t get any real comfort on the traffic other than taking a leap of faith.  Not a single current or prior board member understands the traffic. WHY HASN’T ROBYN ADDRESSED SURVEY QUESTION’S CONCERNS IF SHE IS THE “EXPERT”?

By Not a NIMBY on 08/13/2014 at 9:18 pm

Here’s a look at what’s next for New Castle. At least I don’t have to worry about any Chappaqua Crossing related lawsuits raising my school taxes.

http://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2014/08/13/hampshire-country-club-sues-mamaroneck-for-55-million/14008949/

By West Ender on 08/14/2014 at 3:22 pm

There is no good answer to the traffic that this proposal for a zoning change if given will engender.
Anyone who carefully listened to what Dr. Collins, the traffic expert said, would understand that.

By no answer to the traffic problems on 08/18/2014 at 11:42 am

All I am left with is that Robyn has realized that her questions were poorly phrased and that both she and SG can’t run from the truth. 

Very disappointing.  There will always be people who are rude, but you were asked legitimate questions and you came up with nothing.

By Not a NIMBY on 08/20/2014 at 6:37 pm


Post a comment:

Display Name*:

Your Display Name will be associated with this comment on NewCastleNOW.org. We encourage commentators to use their real name or initials.

We encourage civil, civic discourse. In other words, be pithy and polite. All comments will be reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.