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

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

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