Letter to the Editor: Late to the hearing, but prime seating

June 26, 2009
by Judy Siber

Dear Editor,

Everyone is familiar with the old saying:  “the early bird gets the worm.”  An interesting twist to this is “the latecomer sees the worms!” Let me explain. I attended two town meetings on the proposal by Summit Greenfield to build 278 condos at the Reader’s Digest property: the scoping session more than a year ago, and the hearing on the draft environmental impact statement last Tuesday evening.

Due to my difficulty in finding a parking space, I arrived at the scoping session a bit late. As a result, I ended up sitting at the back of the room, which provided an unexpected view of operations. As soon as a pro-Summit Greenfield speaker left the podium and, ultimately left the room, the person would be met with broad smiles, hearty handshakes and congratulatory back-slapping from the group’s publicity representative as well as a number of their employees. After witnessing this display of affection multiple times, I felt the need to inform the board and the audience of what had taken place. I went to the microphone at the end of the session and related what I had seen.

Repeat orchestrated performance
A repeat orchestrated performance took place at Tuesday’s DEIS hearing and what proved to be even more interesting was the fact that most of the “pro” Summit Greenfield speakers were not Chappaqua residents. They represented a cross-section of the target buyers Summit Greenfield hopes to attract to this project. There were senior citizens wanting to down-size their homes and pay less tax; caregivers of elderly people who felt their charges would thrive in this atmosphere; and a veteran from Briarcliff who works in Chappaqua but cannot afford to live here with his wife and child unless he can live in a subsidized unit. 

It was obvious that this group had been hand-picked by the developer. This activity, as well as the glossy mailings sent to excite their “target demographic” both here in New Castle and all across the county, is a measure of just how much is at stake for Summit Greenfield in their application to have us grant them a zoning change, and how single-mindedly they will pursue their goal. 

Our elected officials, all of whom hold day jobs, as we do too, have a limited amount of time to devote to this full-court press on a very complicated matter that will affect our town far into the future. It is essential that the citizens of this town remain informed and skeptical about this high density development plan. 

The town board has wisely postponed the next hearing until July 28, one month away. That will be the time to voice your concerns to the board about this high-density residential project. If you miss this opportunity, it will be too late.

Judy Siber

The author has been a Chappaqua resident since 1978 and lives in the vicinity of the Reader’s Digest property.