Developer Under Orders to Remove Pier on Sleepy Hollow Riverfront

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by Rick Pezzullo

A prominent area developer is being pressured by federal officials to remove unauthorized work on a pier on the riverfront at 11 River Street in Sleepy Hollow.

The Regulatory Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a strongly worded letter August 10 to Joseph Cotter ordering him to change work performed on the pier that “was more extensive than the work previously proposed and authorized” by its office on March 25, 2016.

The additional pier improvements cited by the Army Corps that are not in compliance with its 2016 authorization include three timber piles, four steel piles, a 44-feet-long by 10-feet-wide floating dock, a 20-feet-long by 8.5-feet-wide floating dock and a 30-feet-long by 5.5-feet-wide gangway.

Failing to comply with the Army Corps directives could result in substantial civil and criminal penalties, stated Rosita Miranda, chief of the Western Section of the Army Corps, in the letter.

Paul Janos, a spokesperson for Cotter, issued a statement through National Resources attorney Daniel Pennessi’s office on the matter, saying, “The applicant continues to work with the Army Corps to facilitate the issuance of the applicable permit. In addition, we continue to work with the Village and its Fire Department.”

According to Miranda, Army Corps representatives inspected work on the pier on December 7, 2017 after receiving a report of potentially unauthorized structures in the Hudson River. On December 12, the Army Corps offered Cotter, in conjunction with River House Sleepy Hollow Restaurant, LLC, two options to resolve a Section 10 violation of the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899, including submittal of an after-the-fact permit application to maintain the non-compliant structures on the pier.

An application was received by the Army Corps on April 6, 2018 and a 30-day public notice was issued on May 8. On June 26, the Army Corps sent comments from the public notice to Cotter and asked for a response within 20 days. An additional request from the Army Corps, including information necessary to evaluate potential impacts to the adjacent federal navigation channel by placement of fixed and floating structures within the side slope of the channel, was made on two separate occasions in early July.

As of August 10, according to Miranda, no response was received from Cotter, triggering the withdrawal of the April 6 application. Therefore, in accordance with Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 326.3, Cotter is required to “restore the property to its authorized condition.”

Sleepy Hollow Village Administrator Anthony Giaccio explained the pier was constructed as part of the site plan approval for River House, a 57-unit complex. In lieu of paying a required recreation fee per unit, Cotter provided the pier, which was acceptable to village officials.

“The village requested that there be a pier for public access,” Giaccio said. “It’s a nice amenity for the village. We were under the assumption everything was done legally.”

Giaccio said the pier became an issue after several residents from River Street publicly complained about an historic fire boat that has been moored at the end of the pier since late November. The major complaint from residents was that the John D. McKean FDNY fire boat, which was utilized in rescue efforts following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in Manhattan and the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency airplane landing on January 15, 2009, was blocking their scenic views.

He added it was currently unclear whether the village or the Army Corps would enforce any changes to the pier and chalked up the disagreement between the Army Corps and Cotter to possible “miscommunication.”

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Giaccio said. “We don’t want the pier removed. I don’t think anyone does. It’s the boat that caused the controversy.”

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