by Robert Kimmel
Five notables wielding golden shovels turned over crusts of soil signaling the formal start in mid-May of what is expected to lead to a transformation of the Village of Sleepy Hollow. The ceremonial action marked the groundbreaking for Edge-On-Hudson, the 67-acre, billion dollar development that will be built on the long vacated, former GM site, and add as many as 3,000 residents to the village’s population.
Twenty years have gone by since General Motors closed its motor vehicle factory along the Hudson River, and, ever since, 96 acres of cement slabs separated a section of the village from the Hudson River.
Speakers at the event heralded the connection to the river that Edge-On-Hudson would bring to local residents. Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett called it “a great day for Westchester….and a revitalization of the waterfront.” He noted that the public park to be created on the site would link to the adjoining Kingsland Point Park, creating a new greenway to the river.
“I know that what we are doing is reclaiming the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow and we are also adding to the great economic atmosphere that we have created here in Westchester County,” Plunkett, a resident of Tarrytown, told The Hudson Independent. “This is a win-win for the county and it is a win-win for Sleepy Hollow, and it is a win-win for the environmentalists who are working to reclaim the Hudson River.”
“I see it as making a huge change in the village over time,” Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray said. “We are going to grow by a third, in terms of the number of residents so that is going to have a dramatic impact. And physically it will have an impact because we get the riverfront as a new park and long term that will have a very big impact on the village. I’m very excited that we get the parkland back.”
Wray has some specific ideas as to what should happen with the park. He said he saw the area as a gateway to the Hudson Valley, and that “…critically important to us are the arts, and with the river symbolizing energy and movement, there is an opportunity for us to capture that by creating a sculpture park within the parkland.” He described it as a way also to connect with the great art institutions in New York City and the Hudson Valley. “I am looking forward to getting underway the creation of a rotating, continuing sculpture exhibit in the park itself.”
“Sleepy Hollow is a very diverse community now, certainly in terms of income, and the growth by a third will be mostly high-end households, and that is going to have a big impact on us,” the mayor added. “This is a defining moment for our village, a real turning point.”
Peter Johnson, of SunCal, a co-developer of the site, said, “ It is going to become a vibrant waterfront development that will be a new center for the Rivertowns, specifically Sleepy Hollow. Our goal is to bring the waterfront back to the people and energize this waterfront and make it something very special, and we have the opportunity to do that. This is not going to be a gated community.”
Jonathan D. Stein, of Diversified Realtors, which joined with SunCal to create Lighthouse Landing, Ltd., to purchase the site for $39.5 million, recalled that he has been associated with the site’s development for 18 years. Two years after the plant closed, GM contacted Stein, then a partner in Roseland Property Co., about developing the site. However, Roseland bowed out of an arrangement with GM, following delays, including a failed lawsuit by Tarrytown which claimed Sleepy Hollow did not fully plan for the potential traffic impact and the eventual scaling down of the development’s plans by the village.
Citing his various activities over the years leading up to the event, Stein told this newspaper, that “…this groundbreaking ceremony…is one of the proudest moments in my professional career…having the ability to share with the village, and the county and the state, that this great site is about to be developed after so many years.”
“We are extending the village, bringing people down to the waterfront,” Stein said. “They have never been able to access this site. It has been gated off, an industrial facility and then a wasteland for so many years, and now we have the ability to bring people down with 16 acres of additional parkland space we are donating to the village.”
Demolition of the existing slabs and the hauling in of material to raise up the site is expected to begin this month, according to Peter Johnson. He said that vertical construction will begin next year and that, “we hope to see some occupancy in 2018.” The entire project could take from eight to 10 years. Johnson said development is expected to stick with the plans in the Special Permit approved by the village. That includes 1,177 condominiums, townhouses, and rental apartments, and a 140-room hotel. There will also be 135,000 square feet of retail space, and 30,000 square feet of office space, along with the park and a riverfront promenade. The initial phase of construction consists of 306 housing units, which includes 61 units of affordable housing.
Speaking to the audience at the groundbreaking, CEO Jim Tinson of Hart Howerton, the architectural firm designing the project, said, “We’re not creating an isolated development project. It’s a place that’s going to bring people together.”