The Briarcliff Manor Public Hearing to discuss the highly-controversial proposed Zoning Code amendment to permit "Shared Residence" developers to acquire neighborhood homes and transform them into legalized Single Room Occupancy housing units has now been set for Wednesday November 2nd at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 1111 Pleasantville Road. Such SRO housing zoning changes could be coming to your neighborhood unless you act now to oppose such changes.
The Village Planning Board soundly rejected the idea of SRO housing for Briarcliff Manor at their meeting of October 11th. In the words of member Jay Neveloff - "SRO housing would not be a good idea for Briarcliff." The Chairman of the Planning Board, Edward Nolan, Esq. was quoted as saying - "I have been involved in SROs for more than 30 years and they just do not work."
The Village of Briarcliff Manor had on the evening of July 20th released it's newly-modified proposed General - "Local Law on Shared Residence Special Use Draft 7/01/11" zoning code legislation and you can find it here near the bottom of this page.
The Village has chosen not to furnish the document on its Internet site...the proposed wording can only be found either on this site or by visiting the Village Clerk of Briarcliff Manor in person.
The Village of Briarcliff Manor Mayor William Vescio and his Board of Trustees have been maneuvering beneath the public radar screen for as long as the past 18 months to accommodate a "Shared Residence" developer spending $650,000 of various grant funds and your Westchester County (taxpayer) money to acquire from the Scarborough Presbyterian Church a surplus house it wishes to dispose of and to spend $1,103,785 to restore this 90+ year old "Manse" to build nine Single Room Occupancy (SRO) housing units for low-income occupants to be selected from eight counties surrounding Westchester County without notice to us, the affected communities... @ $194,865 / occupant¹ in a highly unsafe location known to New York State Department of Transportation officials in Albany to be among one of the most dangerous such locations in New York State.
The Village is hereby put on notice that a serious pedestrian injury or death suffered by an SRO occupant could result from walking on Revolutionary Road and / or Route 9.
This controversy has now grown to become a Westchester County taxation issue and also a "Home Rule" local zoning issue since the Federal Government has decided to force Westchester County to build two and three bedroom units at significantly greater expense instead of supplying the single bedroom model agreed upon in the "Final Settlement" and that Washington D.C. is attempting to force local communities such as Briarcliff Manor to alter it's Zoning Code whether the community desires to or not....contravening New York State Municipal Law. The demand by HUD could bankrupt Westchester County, according to a pronoucement by County Executive Robert Astorino.
This new demand, in a letter to County Executive Astorino from the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") dated May 4th, has been estimated by Mr. Astorino to have a tax-increase price tag in excess of $45,000,000.
"SRO Housing Zoning Amendments Could Be Coming To A Neighborhood Near You."
The next Briarcliff Manor Board of Trustees "Public Hearing" to discuss this Single Room Occupancy / Special Use Permit zoning code amendment, originally planned for June 15th and continually put off for several months will be held on:
Wednesday November 2, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 1111 Pleasantville Road.
The Board lawyers and an outside law firm had spent over three months modifying the language of the originally-proposed zoning amendment due to overwhelmingly negative reaction voiced by Briarcliff Manor and Village of Ossining citizens in a packed conference room last April 8th.
Curiously, the Board had not met in open public work session to discuss the revised / proposed language for the six weeks before finally releasing the document on July 20th which is dated July 1, 2011. SaveScarborough.com attended these meetings which might have suggested to the Board that they resort to telephone calls, emails and other requests to exchange ideas. The Mayor asked that his fellow trustees submit written reports to him to effectively slide this issue once again under the public radar screen.
And according to what he was quoted as saying, he was disturbed that his hand-picked Trustees still had not returned their written comments (except Trustee Sullivan) as of the last Work Session before the July 20th release date.
"A-HOME actually approached us before the settlement".
--Village Manager Phillip Zegarelli speaking at the April 6,2011 Board of Trustees Public Hearing and referring to the settlement signed August 7, 2009.
Dear Commissioner Lawlor: February 9, 2011
"On behalf of the Mayor and Board of Trustees of the Village of Briarcliff Manor I would like to express our full support for the A-HOME Briarcliff Manor affordable housing proposal: located at Scarborough Presbyterian Church Manse: Route 9, Briarcliff Manor."
--Philip Zegarelli- Village Manager extracted from his letter to NY Homes and Community Renewal Office
¹ See Application pages 20-47 for expense verification
The Village of Briarcliff Manor and developer Apropos Housing Opportunities and Management Enterprises, Inc. ("A-HOME") had been working behind the scenes under the radar screen of public review and scrutiny ....behind closed doors since A-HOME contacted the Village back as far as 2009 (according to Village Manager Zegarelli) to allow shared low income housing (SROs) or "Shared Residences" or "Single Room Occupancy" units to be established within a residential district situated at the corner of Albany Post Road and Revolutioary Road in Scarborough. The subject property is named "The Manse", a home owned since its construction in 1913 by the Scarborough Presbyterian Church and located directly across the street from the church to provide housing for the congregation's minister and family. The sales contract for "The Manse" was initiated between the Scarborough Presbyterian Church and A-HOME in February 2010....fourteen months before the Briarcliff Manor neighborhood learned about the Trustees' zoning amendments.
The communities and neighbors involved.....those directly affected by these actions were tipped off at 4:30 p.m. on April 4th, 2011 and eight neighbors proceeded to 'crash' a A-HOME/ Scarborough Presbyterian Church /Briarcliff Manor Low Income Task Force meeting at 7:30 p.m. that same evening.
It was at that meeting that the neighborhood first learned that a shared residence plan had been in the works for well over a year. Two hundred pages of project literature were obtained on April 9th, 2011 and has been presented in its entirety in the tab sections at the top of this page for your review and consideration.
The Briarcliff Manor Board of Trustees ("BOT") is now proposing an altered, revised amendment to the Village Zoning Code to amend Section 220-6(C) and Section 220-6(F) and adding a new Section 220-6(J)(15) to the Village Code for "Shared Residence Special Use" permits.
A copy of the newly-revised revised proposed zoning change document can be reviewed near the bottom of this page .
A-HOME states in their application to Westchester County:
"The project is consistent with the County's strategic priority to produce rental units for those at the lowest income levels, the lawsuit Settlement's call for units to be developed in communities where blacks and Hispanics are under-represented and the Court Monitor's recent decision that this project of 8 SROs and one two-bedroom apartment (9 units in total) in keeping with the Settlement's conditions for new affordable housing units needed in Westchester."
Continuing from the application: "Moreover, in 2008, the County of Westchester was sued by a civil rights group claiming that instead of promoting fair and affordable housing, the County's community development efforts were discriminatory and perpetuated segregation. A Settlement was reached, and a subsequent court order dictated that 750 units of affordable housing must be built in seven years and that the majority of that housing should be in communities with fewer than 3% African Americans and/or 7% Hispanic residents - communities like Briarcliff."
Tony Hoeltzel of the Community Housing Resource Center at Housing Action Council in a February 2011 appearance in front of the Briarcliff Manor Affordable Housing Task Force, itself created in May of 2010, said that 31 municipalities in Westchester are required to provide 750 affordable housing units..... however none of those communites has an actual quota or target number of residences required to be built. There would be no racial or ethnic quotas. For units to "count" toward the Settlement and receive financial assistance from the County of Westchester, they must be affirmatively marketed to populations deemed "least likely to apply" in a 9-county area including Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Fairfield, CT and the five boroughs/counties of New York City. After applications are screened for income-eligibility lotteries will be held and the applicants will go through a final review in lottery order.
It is noteworthy to observe that Briarcliff Manor has established a working number of approximately 32 housing units it feels it should be responsible for creating....based on its population total divided by the total population of Westchester County.
The settlement between Westchester County and the Federal District Court for the Southern District at White Plains in 2009 signed by then-County Executive Andrew Spano makes no requirement that the units be rental, co-op or condominium. And as a matter of fact, the Briarcliff Manor BOT has already approved the application of another private developer, Comstock Development of 445 North State Road, to tear down an old, vacant office building at that address and construct 14 unit housing 'pods' that low-income individals and families can purchase on a heavily-subsidized basis. It plans to build two commercial units on the ground floor of one of the units.
Comstock has calculated that it can earn a regular fair-market profit on a private basis on the construction as long as the project gets the go-ahead to be among the initial 375 units to be built.
After unit # 375 has been approved and constructed Westchester County was slated to run out of funds for this Settlement and all units built thereafter would lose significant funding support. That was before receipt of the May 4, 2011 letter from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C.
Oddly, the A-HOME model does not provide for owner-occupied residences at "The Manse" project, despite public statements made on April 6th by its Executive Director Joan Arnold at the regular Briarcliff Manor Board of Trustees meeting and in A-HOME application materials that reads that A-HOME does "Encourage home ownership."
The original proposed amendment and the new-proposed amendment to the Village Code on "Local Law on Shared Residence Special Use" both fail to include a stipulation that on-site management of the population of "The Manse" be maintained on a 'live-in' 24-hour basis. The A-HOME application, available for your review at the tabs above specifically states that NO ON-SITE Supervision will be provided to the population...a stunning irregularity for such a cozy, closely-knit association of Village and Developer.
Application literature describes potential renters as "...persons with physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities..." and "...households without special needs..." and "Public Assistance Households or <=30% median="" income="" and="">30% through 50% of Median Income..." people will comprise the residential population.
Interestingly, the A-HOME application provides the following information:
"Elderly Population Targeted: Not Applicable."
Village Manager Philip Zegarelli was quoted in April 2, 2011 as saying that the community "...should not worry..." as there will be only "...vets and seniors...". Apparently that will not be the case according to the formal Application.
The Briarcliff Manor Board of Trustees rushed a request down to its Planning Board on April 12th asking for their opinion as to the likelihood of obtaining Planning Board sanctioning or approving the proposed zoning change to permit the Special Use of the Shared Residence.
In the ordinary course, as explained during the Board of Trustees meeting of April 6th, the Planning Board normally is called into service when a candidate seeks to build something in the Village....it is unusual for this request to occur months before a possible approval process of a candidate such as A-HOME.
It was hidden (once again) in the agenda for the Planning Board April 12th meeting, available only to those attending, and was not publicized except for a vague reference to an unidentified zoning district change on the agenda sheet and became matter #6 on the Planning Board agenda...again at the last minute. No automated email notices were sent out and no agenda was posted on the Briarclif Manor website. Anywhere on the website.
No notice was observed in the lobby of Village Hall on the night of the Planning Board meeting as required by law. Under the radar screen.
Intrepid local community members, nevertheless, were able to attend and presented a credible series of objections to said zoning changes including providing BFJ-generated traffic accident studies, a PowerPoint presentation and printed evidence of the dangerous area "The Manse" is situated within...noting that there exists not one inch of sidewalk for people to traverse to and from the train, buses and area shopping venues. Looking at the pictures in the materials provided you will observe the extra layer of danger presented in Winter when snow plows push snow to the curb area making it virtually impossible to walk the half mile to the supermarket. Look at the photographs provided. And walking Route 9 is even more dangerous and four deaths in this immediate section in front of The Manse general area will grimly attest.
The Planning Board had rejected the draft proposal for the SRO zoning change in April and met again on October 11th and for a second time conclusively rejected the newly-revised draft proposal for SRO housing. The only person on the Planning Board who danced around the question and once again failed to directly support it was Shelley Lotter who again stated that she was not prepared to oppose the proposed law at this time.
It should be noted that Ms. Lotter was 'planted' on the Board by Mayor Vescio to directly convey through her his agenda to the Board and to report directly to him of the feelings of Board members. She has three times now in three meetings failed to convince the Board of her position while at the same time has not been able to "...get my hands around opposing this issue...".
The Briarcliff Manor Board of Trustees each acknowledged that they would not set foot on Revolutionary Road unless they absolutely had to....and they each testified that they had been on a Saturday 'field trip' to make their personal assessments and confirm their earlier impressions.
BFJ has been the Villages' exclusive planning consultant since the 2001 Scarborough Multi-Level Parking Garage controversial proposal failed under the crush of community opposition under former Mayor Peter Chatsky's original plan. BJF continues in that role presently for the Village.
The Planning Board flatly refused to comply with the time-line requested by the Board of Trustees and tabled the discussion until its next regularly-scheduled Board of Trustees meeting of May 10th...(which was cancelled by the Board of Trustees "...because we could not achieve a quorum to conduct business...") when all members of the Planning Board would have had a chance to review the community-provided digital and printed presentation materials. The Board of Trustees was obviously seeking 'political cover' for when the matter of the Special Use Permit for The Manse Shared Residence is again open for Public Comment.
The next Public Hearing session of the Board regarding this issue has been scheduled for Wednesday November 2nd at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 1111 Pleasantville Road.
Please continue to refer to our website in the event that the Board of Trustees decides to change the date or location of the Public Hearings for the fourth time. The telephone number to reach the Village Clerk is 941.4801 .
Report of the Board of Trustees Public Work Session of June 28, 2011:
Save Scarborough.com attended the work session attended by all Trustees and Mr. Zegarelli (Village Manager) with the exception of Mayor Vescio. The meeting came to order about 7:00 p.m.
First item on the agenda was called "The Manse". The proposed new zoning language had not been received from outside counsel (outside of the Village's counsel firm headed by Clinton Smith, Esq.) but was expected by Thursday. It was to have been reviewed by Mr. Smith and then passed along to Trustee Sullivan for distribution to the community.
It is noteworthy that even the Trustees had given this zoning issue that working title...Deputy Mayor Dave Venditti urged all to refrain from using that name association in the future because he said the new proposed zoning legislation would involve a wide variety of parcels around the Village where such a Manse-type project could be established.
He added that the new proposed language would eliminate the 'spot zoning' charges that were raised against the Village on April 6th during the first Public Hearing. (It did.)
Note during the April 6th Public Hearing that the Mayor aggressively, even with a bad case of laryngitis, vehemently denied that 'spot zoning' was at the heart of the issue.......but three months later the final version of a reworking of the zoning language still languished with a outside law firm contractually-connected with the Village's Clinton Smith, Esq. law firm. .....it must have warranted a lot of work for a proposal that had no 'spot zoning' tinge to it.
And why was the Village's counsel unable to handle the language of the proposed zoning change as in all other cases in the recent past? To whom was it sent out? And Why? SaveScarborough.com raised the questions numerous times with Village employees and officials but no one seemed to know the answer.
Highly interestingly, the revised amended language finally released on July 20th had no such association with the "spot-zoning" concept but it now opens much of the Village of Briarcliff Manor to the insertion of Shared Residences nearby a multitude of neighborhoods.
Trustee Sullivan promised at the Work Session of June 28th that a copy of the proposed language would be given to the public on a prompt basis.
It didn't happen until July 20th.
Attorney Dave Venditti added that the changes were made to make it an overall Village-wide zoning change that would be appropriate to low income housing, planned downtown development and that the new generic zoning code would have many applicable locations throughout the Village.
"Just because we're putting forth a proposed new zoning code, we still have a long way to go before voting."
The subject of The Manse lasted until 7:07 p.m. at which time other subjects were discussed. The meeting ended about 8:10 p.m.
Note Regarding Future Board of Trustee Work Sessions:
All Briarcliff Manor community members are invited to these meetings as these types of actions can be initiated to intrude into any neighborhood ..at any time....anywhere a house can be purchased by a not-for-profit entity and turned into a residence of 8-12 people who are unrelated to one another and who could conceivably invite others to reside with them in the "Shared Residence" bedrooms.
We are informed by an official of New York State Department of Mental Health in New York City that the SRO model has been deemed a complete FAILURE and that such SROs, like the proposed A-HOME model, are currently being closed and disbanded by the very individual providing us with this report.
That official is expected to offer testimony at the upcoming Public Hearing on Wednesday November 2nd at Village Hall. You can contact the Village Clerk at 941.4801 for additional information or read about this proposed law in The Patch on the web or in print in The Gazette.
The larger concern must remain the lowering of your homes' property values throughout your neighborhood and the unit cost to the taxpayers of almost $200,000¹per occupant / unit...an astounding amount of money even Donald Trump would consider excessive and more expensive than his Briarcliff Manor residential community townhouses originally cost per square foot. According to figures obtained by the Westchester County Housing Department on July 26th, 2011 the current cost per unit for a studio or a one bedroom affordable housing unit is averaging $68,800 / unit as compared against the almost $200,000 / unit for "The Manse."
Low-income housing was promised by the Westchester County "Final Settlement" to be completed by the year 2017. This is 2011. Five and one half years of time remain. The Briarcliff Manor Mayor and Board of Trustees have plenty of time to source and act upon a safer and more appropriate "Plan B" as A-HOME is known to have solicited other homes in the Briarcliff Manor area from which to harvest a new "Shared Residence".
A-HOME had already solicited a home from a SaveScarborough.com supporter who angrily refused the offer.
After County Executive Robert Astorino travelled to Washington D.C. to meet with HUD and locally-elected congressional representatives, he awaits the Monitor, Mr. Johnson's adjudication relative to whether Westchester County has to add those $45,000,000 worth of second and third bedrooms to the apartments referenced in the Settlement Agreement in the first place.
Interesting, Mr. Johnson, had not yet decided whether Single Room Occupancy dwellings are even to count toward the number of housing units agreed to by the county. In his recent pronouncements, he is said to be leaning against such a SRO count.
The report of Federal Court Monitor James Johnson, Esq. for the period April - July 2011 has been completed and is due to be released on October 29th. We will post a copy of his opinions as to the SRO 'counting question' as soon as we receive it.
It is possible that the SROs will not even be considered in the overall equation.
The citizens of Briarcliff Manor have an opportunity to appear at the Public Hearing of Wednesday November 2nd at 7:30 p.m. at the Village Hall to express their feelings about the issue of the Proposed Zoning Code Amendment and whether Briarcliff Manor will permit Single Room Occupancy housing or "Shared Residences" to be established in the various neighborhoods.
Citizens (and voters) can voice their opinions and ask questions of their elected officials by emailing them at their official government addresses below:
NOTE: There is so much more to add to this subject ....additional information is being added from time to time. Please visit again soon for more facts and factual analysis about this proposed neighborhood project.
We will also be showing website visitors plans approved for the NEW Scarborough Park in Briarcliff Manor now awaiting ~$850,000 in funding by local government. Stay tuned! Due to budgetary problems this park keeps being pushed back and back in the Village priority list. Would make a nice WPA project for government money to develop and add local construction jobs to the economy...the Village says it has retained approximatley $220,000 within it's budget to apply against the estimated total cost. Efforts to secure grants from the Federal government and the State have so far failed...........
And we will be talking about Mayor Vescio's decision voiced to his Trustees and Village Manager at a recent June Work Session to bulldoze the 130 year old Scarborough Post Office, the original and first train station, beyond the old Grand Central Terminal, of the New York Central Hudson Line servicing the Briarcliff, Ossining and Tarrytown area. The intial station was commissioned December 4th, 1864 and eventually replaced by the one we treasure and use as the Scarborough Post Office.
TheMayor said he wanted to tear it down and build public bathrooms there to service the new Scarborough waterfront park.
SaveScarborough.com has offered and still offers to hire a structural engineer to confirm it's remarkably solid inner structure and underpinnings.
Inside the post office lobby a modest pictorial history of the building and of the surrounding area from 1864 to the 1920's Scarborough Park Sewage Pipe Dock (no park existed until the 1960's) can be viewed seven day a week during normal opening hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Save Scarborough.com Post Office Box 9232 Scarborough 10510
¹ See Application pages 20-47 for expense verification
Site last updated: October 23, 2011
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