Public Opposition Emerges for Senior Living Plan in Irvington
by Barrett Seaman
For the better part of a year, the application of the Brightview Corporation to build a 150-unit senior/assisted living complex on an eight-acre swath of North Broadway property in Irvington seemed to be moving quietly, albeit slowly, through the approval process in which the village’s Board of Trustees has acted as the lead agency. In contrast to a recent proposal by the Continuum Company to build a similar facility on four acres on South Broadway, closer to the village center, there had been few signs of public resistance—until now.
That quiet phase ended abruptly at the January 4 trustee meeting, when newly energized and apparently organized residents packed the trustee meeting room and raised a litany of objections to the plan, many of them echoes of those aimed at Continuum.
Barry Graubart, who led the movement against Continuum, which would have been right across Broadway from his Sycamore Lane home, questioned whether Brightview too could make its economic model work in a smaller facility than what was planned, comparing it to a “Big Box chain, like Walmart.” His wife, Patty, raised another theme heard during the Continuum controversy: the strain such a concentration of elderly people would place on the Irvington Volunteer Ambulance Corps (IVAC).
Kris Woll, an apparent organizer of the anti-Brightview effort and herself a member of the board of trustees as recently as last fall, challenged the assumption in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted by the company that their facility would generate $762,000 in tax revenues for the village and schools, as well as the comparative revenue estimates for the six upscale houses that could be built on the property “as of right,” that is without amending the zoning laws. Woll asserted that the difference would not be as favorable as Brightview predicted.
“While economic realities dictate certain parameters, I remain confident that our design team can make changes to adequately mitigate the project’s impacts. This is going to be a home run for Irvington.”
The protests seemed designed to undermine every aspect of the Brightview application. Ellen Weissman of Meadowbrook Road, across the street from the planned complex, said she thought the traffic projections were underestimated. Jan Blaire, who has been involved in land use issues in the village for decades, urged that the board stick to the guidelines of the village’s 1987 Comprehensive Plan that designated the area for single-family homes on two acres or more.
Former mayor Dennis Flood told the board that “something of this magnitude was never envisioned” in earlier planning. Indeed, the predominant objection to Brightview’s planned 150,000-square-foot building was its mass. “People here are not against assisted living; they’re not against affordable housing,” stressed Riverview Road resident Neil Maher, who touted an on-line petition against the project bearing 240 signatures (the number has since risen to 294). “They’re against the size.”
Only one of those who spoke cautioned that the proposal should not be rejected out of hand. “This is a process that should not be stopped,” former trustee and Historical Society president Pat Ryan told the gathering. “We need to work with it.” Addressing the Brightview representatives directly, she said: “The reality is that we all have a responsibility here. Come back to the table with a plan that is workable.“
As is customary, members of the board said very little and mainly listened. Later, in an interview with The Hudson Independent, Mayor Brian C. Smith allowed that “I kind of share a lot of the concerns the public has,” noting that when he went up to the property and saw the outline of the main building staked out, “I was blown away by how big it actually was.”
He cautioned that he could not speak for other trustees and said that they each had different views. Speaking for himself, however, he said: ”If they don’t come back with a smaller building, I can’t vote for it.”
Brightview is coming back in early February to discuss the project in a board work session, during which there is no public comment. It is expected that they will bring with them a new design with fewer units and less overall mass.
“Brightview is committed to working with the board of trustees, its staff and the public to make this project work,” said the company’s attorney, David Steinmetz. “While economic realities dictate certain parameters, I remain confident that our design team can make changes to adequately mitigate the project’s impacts. This is going to be a home run for Irvington.”