Open Letter to TB members: New Castle doesn’t deserve “good”—it deserves “great”

Applicants for train station lease gravely disappointed in the process and final decision
Monday, May 19, 2014
by Peter and Erin Chase

Dear Mr. Greenstein & Town Board:

Our family moved to Chappaqua because we fell in love with the small town feel and sense of a strong community.  We immediately knew we wanted to open a small restaurant and be a part of this community.  For almost a year we have been working with a local broker trying to find a space to lease.  In February we were made aware, by our broker, that the train station was possibly available, as negotiations were breaking down on the lease.

We quickly put together a proposal and presented it to the board along with Carla Gambescia on March 11, 2014 .  The following week we attended the other two presentations from Leslie Lampert and Gerry Petraglia.  All presentations were done prior to the RFP being issued and on March 20th we were given the RFP with a deadline to submit it by March 28th.  We then waited to hear. 

After waiting two weeks we reached out to Mr. Brodsky and were informed that indeed the town had made a decision, but due to negotiations he was not at liberty to tell us who was chosen.  Yesterday, we were made aware of the fact that Leslie Lampert was chosen.  We spoke to Mr. Brodsky today and he did confirm that they were negotiating a lease with her as “she is a known quantity and no one knows who Erin and Peter Chase are.”  If this is the test for new businesses coming into our town, we will have a difficult time attracting new and unique businesses.  After all, people come to our town to experience something new and different, not something they already know.

So, to answer the question of who we are, we have been in the hospitality industry since 1989, just the hospitality industry – it’s what we do.  We have been involved in creating, opening and operating more than 40 restaurants and bars in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Atlantic City, London, and Montreal.  We both attended Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.  We are currently re-concepting the entire public space of two hotels, and operate in food and beverage in 5 hotels internationally.  Oh, and we just happen to live here in Chappaqua.  Most of this can be found out quite easily by watching our presentation or just taking a few minutes to look at our website. 

Businesses have been closing downtown, one being a restaurant.  One complaint we keep hearing over and over again is that the town is having a difficult time drawing non-residents to its downtown core.  Leslie’s Ladle of Love and Café of Love are just a 10 minute drive away from the train station. How do we expect this to draw people to our town? The original is offered one town over, and the parking is easier. How is this helping our town? 

Watching Leslie’s presentation to the board is even further proof that what she will be offering is not unique.  She mentions that she will close at 8pm.  Shouldn’t we expect our restaurants be open a little later? Our town is becoming a ghost town at night, it needs energy. Robert Greenstein to Leslie “What is the name of the place going to be?” Leslie’s response “I don’t know.” Robert Greenstein to Leslie “I like the idea of Chappaqua having something original.”  We agree with you Mr. Greenstein, Chappaqua needs something original. Do we really need another place that offers soup and ice cream that is in direct competition with our existing small businesses? Our town needs a unique offering, and it doesn’t deserve good, it deserves great. 

We were committed to investing several hundreds of thousand dollars into the train station and as per Leslie’s presentation she “will do nothing to the station” as she likes to “drive the car before I buy it” – does our town really need someone to test out the train station or would we prefer someone with a long term committed investment?  Furthermore, we were prepared to pay market rent, significantly greater than the prior RFP.

As residents we are gravely disappointed in this entire process and the final decision that was made.  We do not think this will help our town grow.  The train station is the epicenter of our town and should have a unique offering to help draw more people.  In our opinion, the exact opposite decision was made.


Peter and Erin Chase

Editor’s Note: As of this afternoon, according to the Town Board’s counsel, Nick Ward-Willis, the town is still negotiating with the entity that was chosen to operate a business at the Chappaqua Train Station.

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