Local architect returns with affordable housing plan for land behind town hall
September 26, 2014
Editor’s Note: Local architects Wallace Toscano and Bill Spade paid a visit to the Town Board work session of September 16 with plans Toscano developed in Spring of 2012 for 36 units of affordable housing on 1.3 acres of town-owned property behind town hall. He presented the plans as a better alternative to the one-third acre Hunts Place property that Conifer, a Rochester-based affordable housing developer, was proposing. At the time, then-Supervisor Susan Carpenter and former-Supervisor Barbara Gerrard stated that wetlands issues would prove a deal-breaker. But recently Toscano and Spade have run the plans past the town’s Environmental Coordinator, Steve Coleman, who believes that existing wetlands shouldn’t make for an automatic “No.”
Spade further estimated that county funds for the purchase of land for the creation of “fair and affordable” housing to be in place by the end of 2016 are still available. Purchase price is calculated based on the number of units approved—at $50,000 per unit. On that basis, the county was prepared to pay in excess of $1 million for the tiny Hunts Place property. Town Board members weren’t sure how a transaction in which town-owned land is sold would be worked out. They heard Toscano’s proposal with interest.
Reprinted from original April 27, 2012 article in NCNOW
Local architect shows town board affordable housing plans for two sites behind town hall
April 27, 2012
by Christine Yeres
Last Tuesday, Wallace Toscano, a local architect who has been critical of the Conifer proposal for 36 units of affordable rental apartments at Hunts Place in downtown Chappaqua, appealed to town board members to reject Conifer’s plan. He urged board members to instead consider two sites substantially bigger than the 0.36-acre Hunts Place lot, both behind town hall, both owned by the town.
“We agree on the need for affordable housing,” Toscano told board members, but called the five-story building proposed “excessively out of scale” for the town and, looks-wise, “a budget hotel on a busy interstate.” Setting up a tripod with for his drawings, Toscano showed the placement of a single 36-unit residential building on the 1.5 acre wooded strip between town hall and the slightly lower commuter parking lot roadway. A small playground and climbing equipment now sits there.
The second site is the 1.3-acre wooded strip that sits at the far south end of the commuter parking lot, running along Washington Avenue. [Photos of both plans on both sites appear at the end of this article.]
The open green space in each, Toscano argued, would make for a far more “humane” environment for housing than the Hunts Place lot, which would taken up edge to edge by the Conifer building. He pointed to plenty of parking at the two town hall sites and a play area for children in each of his scenarios. In addition, Toscano told board members, the sites have ready access to the library and to public transportation.
Both plans sketched out by Toscano include the necessary parking within their lot lines, he emphasized later this week in speaking with NCNOW, and “could be built without stealing from existing parking either at town hall or the commuter lot.” [*See correction/explanation below.]
Even accounting for on-site parking on each property, he said, “there’s still green space,” since each lot is larger than Hunts Place by about one acre.
Toscano informed board members that the County had recently paid $1.5 million to acquire a three-quarters-of-an-acre lot in Briarcliff Manor for affordable housing, and plans show that it includes two new two-story buildings, each with seven two-bedroom apartments, and two commercial office spaces. A bond for the $1.5 million will cover the purchase of the property, while federal HOME funds and a grant from the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation will go toward construction expenses.
Toscano’s two scenarios (photos below) include:
• One 36-unit building of four stories
• Three 12-unit buildings of two stories each
Toscano’s drawings showed both scenarios on both sites [see below]. [Toscano designed the six-unit Spaccarelli apartments on Saw Mill River Road in Millwood, below:]
This photo was taken during construction; the units are now completed.
“I urge you to reject the Conifer request for a special permit. The proposal is overly dense and in the worst possible location. The planning board previously found it [in an application several years earlier for market rate condos] to be unsuitable for residential usage. Are [prospective tenants of the Hunts Place affordable housing] less human than those who would have resided [in the market rate units]?”
Toscano offered to speak with Conifer’s architect for Hunts Lane, Gary Warshauer, and show Warshauer his alternative plans. However, NCNOW reached Andy Bodewes, the manager of the Conifer project at Hunts Lane, yesterday to learn whether the New York State funding approval which Conifer has received is tied exclusively to the Hunts Lane project. Bodewes responded that the funding may be used only for Hunts Place.
Board members listened attentively to Toscano, but asked no questions.* The Conifer application has yet to be reviewed by the New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals.
[*Editor’s Note: CORRECTION—One question was asked: Elise Mottel asked Toscano whether, in his plan for Site A, the skate part would be affected. He responded that his Site A plan does, in fact, include the unstriped overflow—or what he calls “reserve” parking lot—used as a skate park in summer (not yet set up), and currently used as staging ground for Conti Construction supplies in their wrap-up of the bridge and roadways in the center of town.
Toscano suggested that very little use was made of the skate park, that it was a sport possibly out of fashion, and that the town might want to consider discontinuing it. A visit to the skate park lot in late morning on Thursday, April 26 showed the skate park lot [which Toscano calls a reserve lot] empty of cars and the adjacent commuter parking lot with empty spaces.]
Far end of the commuter parking lot along Washington Avenue:
Single 36-unit building, some parking under building, playground area at far right
Single 36-unit building, parking surrounding; playground area at far right
Three two-story buildings of 12 units each, with parking; playground area at far right
Behind town hall, on the town hall side of the commuter parking lot:
Three two-story buildings of 12 units each, with parking; playground area at far right
Single 36-unit, four-story building, 27 cars parked under; playground area at far right
Overview of the two locations:
Site A (curved plot bordered in red at top of photo) directly behind town hall; Site B (triangular plot bordered in red, running down right side of photo) fronting on Washington Avenue, at the far end of the commuter lot
For background on the Conifer Hunts Place project, click HERE.
the only problem with this plan is i cannot see any problem. could a solution be this simple? i can’t wait to hear what the naysayers have to say.
oh, spoke too soon, the nimby coalition will have a lot to say.
Much better, BUT, most of us would prefer not to build any new “affordable” housing in Chappaqua. Are we volunteering for it? Has the Federal government said Chappaqua must carry Westchester’s burden. If not, please don’t volunteer us for this.
Currently, there are apartment buildings a short distance past the parking lot on Washington. Affordable. On 117 heading towards Shoprite, a big tudor style apt complex. Affordable. Behind Dagastino buiding, apartments. Plenty more affordable housing in Mt Kisco and Pleasantville in addition to Chappaqua. We do need to be forced into something that is not good for our town.
This plan is better than the insane Hunts Lane plan—which is an eyesore for the town and a slap in the face for whoever is interned there. But that ‘overflow’ lot is used 2-3 days a week. Before it opened, there was literally not a single spot in Chappaqua for commuters on later trains. People are more important than parking, but does Mr. Toscano know what it’s like to live in a commuter town when you can’t park at the train?
Mr. Toscano’s architectural renderings clearly illustrate that there are far better alternatives to the ill advised Hunts Place site and this is merely one alternative proposal. Since the alternative sites are Town owned property, a pro-active request for proposal from developers could be issued by the Town, Conifer Realty could be only one of a number of interested developers. As Town Supervisor Carpenter has publicly stated, “New Castle is not held to a certain requirement of units. The county settlement does not allocate specific units to any town.” Therefore, if 36 units are too many for the sites proposed by Mr. Toscano, a smaller scale project would certainly be viable. My sincere compliments to Mr. Toscano and all of the other concerned residents who are volunteering their time to prevent the wanton abuse of the historical landscape of the Chappaqua hamlet, a hamlet that was left in our guardianship by Horace Greeley.
The Town Board did not ask questions to the new proposal because they have already made up their minds. Why else would they not at least show some interest. It is a dis-service to the town tax residents, who they are elected to serve, to allow the Hunts Place to even be considered. It is a horrible location. How many Board members would agree to live there with their families jammed between railroad tracks and a parkway.
One of the newly elected Board members wrote an article last year stating how badly Chappaqua needs affordable housing. He and the rest of the Board have made up their minds and this is a done deal.
Hunts Place is a terrible location to live. Nobody should be allowed to live there. Finding another location is in the best interest of everyone.
I like Mr Toscanos proposal because it is a much better location to live than Hunts Place. But the Town Board doesn’t like Mr. Toscanos proposal because the land behind town hall is going to be used for the new expanded town hall they want to build once the economy turns around. The other location at the rear parking lot would take up parking so that gives them an easy excuse to say no.
The Hunts Place plan has gone so far my guess is that the Board has already decided to approve it. All these meetings is just lip service to the residents.
Perhaps if conifer agrees to moving the plan to town property behind the Town Hall, we could exchange the property for the Hunts lane parcel and consider a multi story parking structure that has walkway access level with the bridgeway. It could be even with the bridgeway deck ,nota hugh bldg LOOMING over the town and provide additional town and commuter parking. It seems more reasonable to place a descrete parking structure along a train track rather that a towering apartment bldg.
I’m going to donate a plaque to the Hunts Lane Housing that the town board seems to already approved. It will be placed on the building with the year and the name of the town board members so that everyone knows who built it.
I would urge the Town Board to challenge Mr.Warshauer’s assertion that the state’s approved contribution could not be applied to a different site preferred by the citizens of Chappaqua and more appropriate for the housing development’s future residents.
From my experience as the head of a nonprofit which applied for and received an acquisition grant from the State of NY, the State is completely reasonable about applying funds for the same purpose to an alternate site, because they realize that a project which does not have the support of current residents is doomed to fail (and such is certainly the case with the Hunt’s Lane proposal—I have yet to encounter ANYONE in favor of it!)
I don’t think the board has made up their minds. Maybe there is some uncertainty about where this is all going because, I believe—but could be wrong—that Astorino is challenging the federal government’s position that affordable housing does not have to comply with local zoning.
I’m with Swap the Land. We are desperately in need of more parking at the train station and Hunt’s Lane seems the perfect place to put it.
I thank Mr. Toscano for putting his time and expertise into presenting much more viable options for affordable, livable, and thoughtful public housing.
Build the new town hall at Hunts lane and build affordable housing next to the Rec field and across from the library. If it’s such a great spot I am sure the Board would love to move there.
Thank you, Wally, for showing how proper vision, contextual understanding (and talent) can deliver a much better alternative for our town. Let’s hope this helps to shift the dialogue on this issue to a more positive place.
It took close to fifteen years to get that skate park put into town. I would hate to see it removed because of these plans.
Does the need for affordable housing in the area imply that the rest of us live in unaffordable housing?
Hunt’s Lane is clearly inappropriate. Removing the skating area is unfair to our kids. And using this issue to get more train station parking would only encourage more development in an already overdeveloped town. The Chappaqua parking lot is already White Plains North, and the town infrastructure cannot handle more development. Let’s determine what the minimum amount of additional affordable housing the town is required to build is, and then find a reasonable alternative location.
I think this is a fine place for affordable housing to be built. I wonder why it needs to be so big. I believe that everyone is better off with smaller structures that fit into the area.
We only needed 28 town wide, minus the Chappaqua Crossing 20= 8 units that would be required. If the decision is to allow this 36 unit project, then, release the developer from its 20 unit commitment and obtain an additional concession from it.
I thought we are trying to make downtown more inviting an appealing and to keep our ‘rural elegance’. 36 units at our front door certainly is the antithesis of what downtown and the Chappaqua ‘brand’ needs.
Why are we trying to squeeze an affordable housing development onto small lots. Why not use some of the larger lots around town and develop those parcels? The problem with behind town hall and Hunts lane is that we’re trying to cram 30 something units into 1 acre lots. I think all the residents of Chappaqua agree that affordable housing should be built in town, the question is where should it be and how should it be built. Putting 36 units on 1.3 acres is too much.
If the town can get the Hunts Place land and the money needed to build a parking garage there, then its a good swap. If not, its not. The town keeps growing- think about how you would like a multi-year long wait for a parking place if you are a commuter. People forget that our parking lot sells our town as much as our schools. The surrounding towns have good schools too, but they don’t have the guaranteed commuter parking. And you need some space around the housing unless you are going to trade an apartment building next to the railroad for one in the middle of a parking lot. Thats not all that great either.
Why does most of chappaqua agree that affordable housing should be built in town? Why more here than Dobbs Ferry, Scarsdale, Pleasantville etc?
Imagine if all of the energy and effort devoted to “affordable housing” in our town were spent actually trying to enhance what we currently have. We might actually have some solutions instead of being a laboratory for certain residents’ political agenda…
With the Chappaqua Crossing 20 affordable units, we have satisfied our legal obligation under the County HUD settlement. Even the Court Monitor agrees with this fact, by not mentioning us in his
‘non-compliance’ report. That being said, why, for cripes sake, must we seek out controversy, expense, and an eyesore for this or any other plan?
Lets simply wait until all the towns in the County comply with the settlement. In this manner, we can see if the 750 unit mandate is fulfilled by all the other towns in the county without our volunteering to build DOUBLE the mandate. For example, if we build these uncalled for 36 units, we will be fulfilling the requirement for Armonk and some other affluent non-compliant towns mentioned by the monitor. What’s wrong with this picture?
Forcing issues rather than allowing the natural or normal course if events to occur
Indicates an agenda by those who are pushing things.
Re the above correction:
Motel, it should be noted, voted for the Hunts Lane monstrosity.