Letters – Clearing Up Some Possible Misleading Impressions of Villa Nuits

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To the Editor:

I am counsel to the owner of Villa Nuits. Your story last week (May issue) addressing “…Irvington’s Comprehensive Plan Proposals Near Approval,” contained a series of statements about Villa Nuits that could be misleading to your readers.

Villa Nuits is a 16,000 square foot estate on five acres overlooking the Hudson. It is one of about 2,000 homes recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as being of special historical significance in the United States. Villa Nuits, as with certain other homes in Irvington, has been available on AirBnB and VRBO for guests to join my client at the Villa.

The article conveys several misleading impressions about Villa Nuits.

  1. That Villa Nuits can be used for parties with “loud music and noise.” This is not true. The Villa is only available for residential types of uses which, under the terms of the rental agreement, must expressly be noiseless, “decibel-free” rentals. Specifically, no outside amplification or electronic equipment is permitted to be brought on to the property, no music is permitted outside whatsoever, and guests can only use the house stereo system until 11 p.m. after which time music may only be played in the basement.In point of fact, many potentially noisy bookings have been thoughtfully re-directed by the owner to the Ardsley Country Club, Tappan Hill, Hudson Social, and other larger local venues, to the benefit of the local community.

    Nevertheless, village police came to Villa Nuits twice last summer because of complaints about noise. In each case, the music was immediately turned off, no summons was issued, and my client assured village officials he would make sure his rules requiring “decibel-free” rentals are enforced. Villa Nuits has not received any noise complaints since then.

  2. The article also conveys the impression, citing “Gatsby-esque bashes,” that use of the Villa is somehow unregulated and unsupervised. This is also untrue. In the Villa Nuits rental contract it is stipulated that no fewer than five employees (the Villa ‘ambassadors’) will be physically present on site and in the house at all times, whenever the house is being rented. In addition, Villa Nuits is fortunate to have ample parking to host all its visitors’ cars.
  3. On the point of having the Village issue special permits to allow historic homes to be used for large events, such as weddings, a reader might conclude that this idea was one which Villa Nuits lobbied for, for its own purposes, and that APPOA, the local neighborhood association, thwarted this initiative. This is also untrue.Villa Nuits has never lobbied for large events to take place at Villa Nuits.  My client’s perspective is that such an idea may be of interest to some of Irvington’s other large estates — but this would not be a use appropriate for Villa Nuits. My client has several times communicated this to his neighborhood association and the Village, and has modified his online advertising, at the request of the Village, so as not to convey the impression that large events are welcome.
  4. The article also overlooks the economic challenges facing historic homes that are important to the Village’s history and charm. Because of increasingly high maintenance costs, many of these estates can no longer realistically be used as single family homes. Dozens of these stately homes have dwindled to a small handful in Irvington including three quite recently that have been bulldozed and converted to higher density multi-family residential, converted to use for mental health rehabilitation purposes, or been considered for office or redevelopment use.

My client has also been approached by healthcare organizations, as well as not-for-profit organizations that would take Villa Nuits off the tax rolls. Rather than see that happen, my client has instead supported the Village’s efforts to modernize its zoning code to create another realistic option for historic homes (and really for all homes) to address the new realities of modern lifestyles and booking systems. He feels it is in everyone’s interest to codify the do’s and don’ts into a community-agreed transparent system, and get away from neighbors peering over hedges, self-regulation, and anxiety. The article glosses over any mention of the stakes for Irvington’s historic estates in this modernization conflict, as well as my client’s demonstrated goodwill towards his neighborhood and emphasizes, instead, the year-old complaints of one specific neighbor.

My client believes that Villa Nuits has been responsible for bringing many new people to Irvington and he is grateful that the article notes the Villa’s success. My client also believes that rather than the Villa disappearing into not-for-profit use, it should instead be shared with the local community while simultaneously generating more income for the Village via permits which may be established for short-term rentals.

One interpretation therefore is that Villa Nuits could be seen as a fantastic gateway for visitors coming to see Irvington for the first time, and an exemplary model for adapting a historic home to modern uses. Villa Nuits in this interpretation could be seen as providing a first case study in helping to define for the Village important modifications to its code.

Another interpretation is the one printed in your newspaper: an out of control party house.

Bob Bernstein,
Managing Partner
Bernstein & Associates, PLLC

Editor’s Note: Readers are invited to visit the Village of Irvington’s website section containing written comments to the Comprehensive Plan’s proposal on use of historical houses: http://www.irvingtonny.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8651.

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