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Irvington Board Hears a First Proposal for Affordable Housing on North Broadway

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April 19, 2022

By Barrett Seaman–

Ten months after passing a comprehensive, but controversial zoning plan for the 50-acre stretch of property along the village’s North Broadway corridor, Irvington’s Board of Trustees heard the first presentation of an affordable housing project for the southernmost portion of the property, currently owned by the Maxon Corporation.

Making the presentation at the board’s April 18 meeting were representatives of Wilder Balter Partners (WBP), a Chappaqua-based developer with a long record of building and managing affordable housing projects in Westchester County. One of Wilder Balter’s ongoing projects is the reconfiguration of the Tarrytown Y into 109 affordable units. Another is the iconic Readers Digest building off the Saw Mill River Parkway, which WBP is converting into affordable housing.

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A bird’s eye view

The Irvington proposal envisions 65 units comprising 27 one-bedroom apartments, 24 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units distributed in three buildings surrounding a community plaza. Parking for 102 vehicles would be entirely underground.

The monthly rental cost of one-bedroom units would range from $720 to $1,900; twos would range from $1,250 to $2,290 and threes would cost up to $2,700 a month, according to location and other amenities. The rent spread aims to meet an overall standard of 60% of Average Median Income (AMI) for the area, required to qualify as affordable housing.

The project is designed to meet the requirements of the village’s new code, including setbacks and compatibility with the surrounding residential neighborhood. It was also configured to respect the integrity of the historical Woodcliff mansion that sits atop the property but is not part of the affordable housing plan as presented. The firm looked at ways to utilize the mansion in the affordable scheme, but as one presenter allowed, “We just couldn’t get there.” How Woodcliff will fit in remains to be determined.

Removing Woodcliff from the housing calculus, however, could affect the density of the project in ways that may put the complex out of compliance with the code. Another issue is the prescribed setback from Route 9. The new code specifies that there must be 250 feet from Broadway to the first building, but the WBP plan currently calls for only 221 feet, in part to accommodate the mansion. Unless other adjustments are made, that discrepancy may require a variance from the village.

Looking west to the Hudson

Public reaction, delivered both in person and via Zoom, was divided between those who opposed both the underlying rezoning plan and this particular proposal on the one hand, versus those who both applauded the goal of creating more affordable housing and liked what they see from Wilder Balter.

More often than not, critics who spoke out were residents of Strawberry Lane, which comprises the southern border of the project and presents some of the project’s thornier obstacles. Reminiscent of an English country lane, the road is narrow to the point of being almost one-way and lined by rustic stone walls that give the neighborhood much of its character. Several of these residents spoke out about density, mass, traffic and design aspects. One recent transfer from Hastings, pronounced himself “terrified” by the prospect of blasting during construction. “I just shudder when I think about the amount of construction that’s going to be going on,” he told the board. Others focused on more permanent issues, like access for fire trucks and school buses and the need for a traffic light on Broadway.

Nancy Adler, a longtime member of IVAC, the village’s volunteer ambulance corps, asked if Wilder Balter would include a contribution to IVAC as a way of partially offsetting the projected addition of some 200 residents and the potential increase in demand for emergency services.

Members of the village’s progressive network, the Irvington Actvists, were particularly enthusiastic. “I just couldn’t be happier,” said Activist co-leader Peter Bernstein of North Cottenet Street in the village. “As an opening salvo, this looks like a great project.”

And an opening act this proposal is. The April 18 presentation was repeatedly described as preliminary, with many important details still to be worked out. “This is the first we have seen this project,” Mayor Brian Smith reminded the meeting attendees. There are many meetings to go and much to be resolved. “We’re not even in the first inning,” he said. “We’re probably still in training camp.”

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