by Robert Kimmel –
Almost three years have gone by since Citibank abandoned its branch at 1 South Broadway in Tarrytown and ended the village’s leased use of 21 spaces for public parking in the lot behind its structure. The spaces have remained idle since January 2016. A large “For Sale” sign is displayed on the building. However, the parking spaces may not remain unused much longer.
Within several months of Citibank’s leaving the property, Tarrytown sought to acquire the unused parking spaces by eminent domain, the law which permits a government to procure private land for public use under certain conditions following a condemnation procedure.
Citibank challenged the village’s pursuit with a legal petition claiming that Tarrytown’s needs were greater and that alternate sites would better serve the business district parking problems; therefore, eminent domain acquisition of its 21 parking spaces was not a legal solution for the village.
That challenge was dismissed by the Appellate Division of New York’s Supreme Court in April 2017, when it ruled Citibank’s petition provided no reasons to prevent the village from moving ahead with actions to “acquire a portion of owner’s property for public parking.” It further stated that “ the determination to condemn a portion of the petitioner’s property is rationally related to the stated public purpose and there is no basis on which to disturb it.”
Tarrytown had straightforwardly established its need for the spaces in two public hearings before the Board of Trustees in 2016. During those hearings, the Greater Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce, the Tarrytown Merchants Association, the village’s Chief of Police and members of the public asserted the need for more business district public parking. It has also been pointed out that there are 15 remaining spots for use by whatever business that may occupy the structure in the future.
The hearings also supported two studies by traffic engineers: the first in 1998, and one in 2005 that described the available parking in the business district as having “significant deficiencies.” It has also been noted that vehicular traffic and parking requirements will be heightened by the development of more than 1,100 residences within the Edge-on-Hudson development on the nearby Sleepy Hollow waterfront.
At the hearings, Citibank’s attorney acknowledged that there was a need for more parking; however, he argued that there was a greater need than for the 21 spaces, and he also proposed that the village should buy all of the property or “take nothing.”
Acting on the basis of the Appellate Court’s dismissal of Citibank’s effort to prevent the use of eminent domain by Tarrytown, the Board of Trustees completed a survey of the property, and, “We have informed Citibank that we are going to proceed with eminent domain,” Village Administrator Rich Slingerland, stated last month. “Our attorneys have filed back and we are waiting to see what happens with the next step.” The parking spaces have been appraised for an offering price for their purchase from Citibank; however, with negotiations soon underway, the amount has not been disclosed.
“Though these spaces alone won’t solve all of our parking issues, they certainly will provide a welcome and needed boost to our downtown,” Mayor Drew Fixell said.
Tarrytown had leased spaces in the lot for metered parking since 1999, from both Citibank and its predecessors. The building was constructed in 1898 by Westchester County Savings Bank which occupied it up to 1995 when that bank closed. Other banks, including Wachovia, used it until Citibank took over the building and its parking lot in 2012, modernizing it as a local branch until it left in January 2016.