Letter to the Editor: Reader’s Digest developer blind to today’s economic realities

April 17, 2009
by Steven Swirsky

Dear Editor,

It is mystifying to read about how the owners of the Reader’s Digest property continue to push forward with their plan to develop the property as if they were wearing blinders to everything that has been happening in the world around us. Since they first announced their desire to build 348 townhouses and condos back in March 2006, the economy and the real estate markets have changed, not just nationally, but here in Westchester and New Castle.

Since then, the housing bubble has burst, real estate prices have tumbled and continue to fall across the region, including here in Chappaqua. Unemployment has climbed and financing has dried up. However, despite all of these facts, the developers blindly continue to claim that their plan to add 278 condominium units is somehow a good thing for our town. Adding those 278 units – the equivalent of about 5% of New Castle’s 6,000 existing homes – would increase the supply of condominium units by 50%. There are around 600 condos in New Castle now.

It is now clear from all of the proceedings to date that the impact on our schools and the town’s finances would be much greater than originally projected, and clearly would be a net negative if the developer were allowed to go forward with this plan.

Plan calls for town to enforce age restrictions

There is no market for age restricted housing in this area. That is what Donald Trump found when he built in Yorktown and why he sought to have the age restrictions lowered, from 55 to 45. The units weren’t selling.  Even if Summit Greenfield could initially sell age restricted units – which is doubtful – they have acknowledged that it would be up to the town to enforce the restrictions in perpetuity. Once the town stopped being the enforcer, the age restrictions would be over. The reality is that the restrictions would never last. At that point there would be no doubt of the true economic cost to the town and the school district.

It is clear that the developers made a series of bad decisions, predictions and misjudgments when they purchased the property from Reader’s Digest. They hoped to make a quick profit, move on and leave us with the damage done to our town and its economy. By pressing this same old plan and refusing to admit that the economy and the world have changed, it has become clear that the developers are trying to pressure the town to bail them out for their mistakes. The last thing we need is another bailout, particularly one at the expense of the town and people of New Castle.

Steven Swirsky