Archive: Hebrew Home Proposed Developments (2015-2018)
This year our community has achieved a vital success - we have won major changes to a proposal that defied our zoning and community plan
Hebrew Home at Riverdale, now RiverSpring, proposed a massive development for 14 acres along the Hudson River, on a site zoned for single-family detached residences. The development threatened to eliminate open space and bury our streets in traffic.
Over two dozen meetings and 100s of hours of researching, designing, informing and testifying in 2018 alone has paid off.
A compromise has been achieved:
Building heights are reduced
Open space will be preserved
More trees will be planted
We celebrate our community's success. But we are committed to continuing our work.
As part of the agreed compromise, the Preservancy and our partner organizations are forming a task force that will monitor impacts of the project. In the short term, we will monitor construction activity; in the long term, we are committed to a minimum of three meetings per year.
Right: Zoning map with Hebrew Home
The ULURP Process:
Upon certification of an application, the Community Board has 60 days to review and vote. There will be a public hearing during this time. In the case of Hebrew Home, there may be a second public hearing. After the Community Board vote, the Borough President conducts a 30-day review. There may be another public hearing during this time. Next, the City Planning Commission conducts a 60-day review. Another public hearing is held during this time. Finally, the application goes to the City Council for whatever action is deemed appropriate.
Click below to view a flow chart of the ULURP process.
The development of apartment houses along Palisade Avenue, by special permit, authorizations and waivers in an R1 zone, will upend the community's 197-a Master Plan and establish a precedent that over time will destroy the special natural and bucolic nature of this unique area.
Letter to Borough President Diaz, 2013
ULURP Process Information
Hebrew Home Background
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale (Hebrew Home) is a non-profit geriatric care facility located at 5901 Palisade Avenue. Hebrew Home offers a full range of senior care from independent living units to nursing care. Its current facility is zoned R4 and is densely developed with buildings ranging from 4 to 8 stories.
In early 2012 Hebrew Home
acquired an adjacent property along Palisade Avenue, formerly owned by the Passionist Fathers, zoned R1-1
proposed development completely out of character with the River to Reservoir recommendations and R1-1 zoning
raised the likelihood of worse traffic congestion and hazards on narrow Palisade Avenue and increased noise from air conditioning units and service vehicles, particularly at night
The Proposal The proposal was for 300 new, independent-living apartments arranged in several mid-rise buildings on this 14-acre site. The new property, formerly a religious retreat house with ample open grounds, is zoned R1-1, the lowest residential zoning district in the city, and is developed with a 3-story, Victorian mansion and a 3-story, U-shaped brick retreat facility that is set back from the street. There are also several smaller buildings on the site. The property is also located within the Special Natural Area District.
Hebrew Home seeks to bring the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) model of senior living to NYC. CCRCs are currently not an allowed use in NYC zoning law. A Special Permit will be needed for approval of this proposal. The Special Permit must go through NYC's ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure). The procedure will look at impacts on the neighborhood including design and neighborhood compatibility, traffic and environmental impacts.
December 2016 Update Zoning for Quality and Affordabilty (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) were two amendments to NYC's zoning law that were introduced by the NYC Department of City Planning in early 2015 and adopted by the NY City Council on March 22, 2016. In approving ZQA, the City Council made it possible to build long-term care facilities in New York City's lowest-density residential districts, R1 and R2.
Recognizing the intrusion these developments will likely make into low-density neighborhoods, the City Council required developers to apply for a special permit and to demonstrate that the facilities will:
be compatible with the character of the surrounding area,
be sited and landscaped in a way to adequately buffer themselves from nearby residences, and
make provisions to handle traffic on access streets.
The Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale is a test case for ZQA. In 2017, the Preservancy will remain firmly committed to seeing the proposed Hebrew Home development meet its obligations under our 197-a Plan, the new ZQA zoning and SNAD zoning to preserve Riverdale's neighborhood character and natural features.
But it is imperative to recognize the historic nature of this application.
Hebrew Home has applied to New York State to be licensed as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). CCRCs are included in the city's zoning definition of long-term care facility, and ZQA has now allowed them in R1 and R2 districts via special permit.
Final approval of this application will not only impact the character of Riverdale. It will create an incentive for development in low-density neighborhoods throughout New York City. Architects from the Preservancy, the Riverdale Community Coalition (RCC) and Hebrew Home developed a compromise plan in the spring of 2015. The community agreed that although the plan was an improvement, it remained too large and too out-of-scale with the neighborhood to support.
When Hebrew Home presented the revised plan to the Community Board Land Use Committee on September 29, 2016, the Preservancy and RCC argued that not only is it too out-of-scale, but that the presentation did not address the special permit findings required by ZQA. If New York State decides to license this facility as a CCRC, State requirements may require Hebrew Home to change the configuration of its proposal yet again.
The Preservancy and the RCC requested a substantial amount of time at a future Community Board Land Use Committee meeting to give this precedent-setting application the attention it needs.
December 2015 Update In 2015, much of the Preservancy's attention and resources were focused on an expansion proposed by the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, onto its newly-acquired property on Palisade Avenue. The property is zoned R1-1, which normally allows only single-family, detached homes on lots of about one-fifth of an acre in size. The expansion calls for approximately 300 residential units in several mid-rise buildings.
Opposition by the Riverdale Nature Preservancy and the Riverdale Community Coalition (RCC), plus lack of support from Bronx Community Board 8, brought the Hebrew Home to the table in February 2015. Two meetings of architects representing each party resulted in a new plan. Major changes included moving some of the new development onto the Hebrew Home's original site, and retaining open space and views of the Hudson River on the R1-1 site. A version of that plan was submitted to our community board for reference in May, but no public presentations have been scheduled.
In August, members of the RCC and the Preservancy made it clear to the Hebrew Home and our elected officials that the plan remains too large and too out-of-scale with the context and neighborhood to support.
Timeline of Community Engagement
April 4, 2012 Hebrew Home informally introduced the community to its plans at the Riverdale Nature Preservancy Annual Meeting. The theme of the meeting was Institutional Growth, Creating Community, Preserving Natural Assets. The need for dialogue and transparency between institutions and the community were common threads of presentations and discussion. Residents were encouraged to understand that community facilities must evolve, and institutional management and boards were encouraged to acknowledge their responsibilities to their host neighborhood and to proceed with transparency.
April 19, 2012 A group of concerned neighbors write to the Preservancy expressing concerns about negative impacts of the development and asking for help and advice in mitigating or stopping those impacts.
April 2012 Local residents submit a Request for Evaluation of the Allien Estate House (The Victorian Mansion) on the R1-1 property to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). However, the LPC does not consider the application a priority at this time. The Preservancy discusses with the residents that landmarking is a less powerful tool for preservation in this case because Landmarks would be more likely to landmark an individual house than the whole property and Landmarks does not designate landscapes.
April 2012 The Preservancy Board encourages Hebrew Home to host a site walk and open meetings to solicit community input regarding their initial plans.
Nov. 1, 2012 Community members attend RNP board meeting to express concerns with respect to Hebrew Home expansion.
Nov. 4, 2012 Some 50 local residents and consultants for the Hebrew Home, including members of the Preservancy board, tour the site and discuss the proposed development.
Dec. 15, 2012 Preservancy distributes questionnaire via SurveyMonkey to solicit comments and concerns from the community.
Jan. 7, 2013 Community Board 8 Land Use Committee meeting, at which Hebrew Home presents concept drawings in an informational meeting. Hebrew Home proposes a community design meeting, or charrette, at which attendees can identify problems and issues and propose areas for study.
Jan. 15, 2013 Pre-charrette community meeting hosted by the Preservancy. Approximately 30 people attend. The Riverdale Community Coalition is formed.
Jan. 2013 Hebrew Home posts its concept drawings and other supporting materials on its website (these links have been removed). Riverdale Nature Preservancy posts a Fact Sheet on the NYC land use application and approval process on its website, available below.
Jan. 28 and Feb. 12, 2013 Hebrew Home hosts Open Houses where community members raise questions and concerns to Hebrew Home’s consultants. However contrary to the concept of a charrette, plans are already in an advanced stage of development.
Jan. 29, 2013 Preservancy letters to City Council, City Planning Commission and Community Board outline the proposal and issues. View the letters below.
Feb. 2013 Preservancy board agrees not to support zoning change to R4.
Feb. 12, 2013 Preservancy Resolution (see below) outlines the vision of the 197-a Plan, the purposes of the R1-1 and SNAD zoning in Riverdale, and the ways in which the proposed development does not comply with these protections. The resolution is disseminated to members of the City Council, City Planning Commission, Community Board, and NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, as well as leaders of the Historic Districts Council, state officials, additional city officials, and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, which is working on plans for another project in the area.
Mar. 12 and June 11, 2013 Recognizing that the 197-a Plan pre-dates many current members of Community Board 8, Preservancy board members speak at the gallery sessions of two Community Board meetings about the vision and effort that led to development of the Plan.
April 8, 2013 Preservancy and Riverdale Community Coalition boards meet with the Bronx Office of the Department of City Planning. members donate nearly $10,000.
April 10, 2013 Hebrew Home presents a revised plan to Community Board 8 Land Use Committee; Preservancy board members attend.
April 22, 2013 Preservancy letter to Borough President Diaz outlines the proposal and issues.
Spring 2013 The Riverdale Community Coalition retains Mr. Albert Butzel and Mr. Michael Kwartler to assist in evaluating the proposed development. The work involves determining what can be built on the property under the existing R1-1 zoning as well as under other possible zoning scenarios such as a large-scale development plan. In June 2013, The Preservancy contributes $3,000 to this effort.
June 5, 2013 Preservancy and Riverdale Community Coalition boards meet with Hebrew Home CEO and consultants. Hebrew Home is interested in meeting community objections. Hebrew Home commits to develop alternate scenarios over the summer and to return to the community board in August or September.
Sept. 9, 2013 Hebrew Home presents alternate plans to Community Board 8.
Oct. 7, 2013 Preservancy and Riverdale Community Coalition boards meet for a second time with the Bronx Office of the Department of City Planning (DCP). DCP is attentive to all that has transpired and the ideas regarding density and massing that are contained within both the community’s and Hebrew Homes most recent concept plans.
Aug. 2014 Members of RNP board and Riverdale Community Coalition (RCC) meet with planners and general counsel from NYC Dept. of City Planning (DCP).
Feb. 2015 A meeting was held on February 6, 2015, attended by elected officials; their senior staff; Sherida Paulsen, Chairman of the RNP; members of the RCC; counsel for the RNP and RCC; as well as Hebrew Home CEO, owner’s rep, land use attorney and communications representative. Hebrew Home agreed to allow their architects–Perkins Eastman–to work with architects from the community–Sherida Paulsen from the Preservancy and Martin Zelnik from the RCC–to arrive at a consensus plan.
Feb. – April 2015 Two meetings between community and Perkins Eastman architects, along with representatives of Hebrew Home and the community were held, and a new plan was developed.
August 2015 In August, members of the RCC and the Preservancy made it clear to the Hebrew Home and our elected officials that the plan remains too large and too out-of-scale with the context and neighborhood to support.
March 22, 2016 Zoning for Quality and Affordabilty (ZQA) and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) adopted by the NY City Council.
Sept. 29, 2016 Hebrew Home presented the revised plan to the Community Board Land Use Committee. The Preservancy and RCC argued that not only is it too out-of-scale, but that the presentation did not address the special permit findings required by ZQA. The Preservancy and the RCC requested a substantial amount of time at a future Community Board Land Use Committee meeting to give this precedent-setting application the attention it needs.. . .
Jan. 25, 2018 Community Board 8 Question & Answer session with representatives from Hebrew Home. Preservancy submitted a follow-up letter to the Community Board, copied to the Borough President and City Planning.
Feb. 7, 2018 Meeting of community partners.
Feb. 13, 2018 Community Board 8 full board meeting. Preservancy statement during gallery session and submittal of longer written statement.
March 13, 2018 Community Board 8 full board meeting. Community partners present position on Hebrew Home application. Presented by representative of Riverdale Community Coalition. Representatives of RNP in attendance.
March 15 and 16, 2018 Prior to March 16, community partners submit to NYS CCRC Council two letters from counsel presenting opposition to the project on the basis of process (letter 1) and planning principles (letter 2), as well as one letter from an individual partner organization. Community partners submit to the Council on March 15 a joint statement on Hebrew Home’s application for CCRC designation, and attend a Council public hearing on the topic in Albany on March 16. The Council votes to approve the application.
week of April 16, 2018 Community strategy meetings to prepare for upcoming public hearings.
April 23, 2018 NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) certifies Hebrew Home application as complete. Environmental Assessment (EA) concludes that the development is aligned with the 197-a Plan. May 2, 2018DCP issues notice of negative declaration of environmental impact of Hebrew Home proposal. 30-day public comment period on EA begins.
May 7, 2018 Community Board 8 Land Use committee meeting. Public testimony is taken but there is no sign-in sheet. Community opponents attend in force, make statements and carry signs. Twelve neighborhood groups including Riverdale Nature Preservancy place signed advertisement in Riverdale Press stating opposition to the application.
May 8, 2018 Community partners meet with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
May 8, 2018 Community Board 8 full board meeting. Representative of RNP announces during the gallery session (3 minutes) that an information session on land use and the Hebrew Home application will be held at Skyview on May 11.
May 11, 2018 Community partners meet with City Council Member Andrew Cohen.
May 16, 2018 Community Board 8 Environment & Sanitation committee meeting. The committee discussed environmental aspects of Hebrew Home application and concluded that the Environmental Assessment Statement (EAS) did not adequately study the conditions and impacts and that a full Environmental Impact Statement was called for.
May 17, 2018 Community partners meet to develop potential areas for negotiation, for discussion with community board. May 17, 2018Community Board 8 Traffic & Transportation committee considers transportation aspects of the Hebrew Home application.
May 22, 2018 Community partners meet with Chair of Community Board 8 Land Use committee to discuss possibilities for negotiation.
May 25, 2018 Community partners meet with editorial board of the Riverdale Press to discuss land use implications of the Hebrew Home application.
May 31, 2018 Preservancy submits comments on Environmental Impact Statement.
June 4, 2018 Community partner strategy meeting to prepare for June 7 public hearing.
June 5, 2018 Community partners submit to Community Board 8 a letter outlining a compromise position based upon discussions on May 17 and May 22.
June 7, 2018 Community Board 8 Land Use committee hearing on Hebrew Home. Meeting held at insistence of community partners who argued that May 7 public meeting did not conform to the legal requirements of a public hearing. Public testimony taken; representative of the RNP speaks.
June 8, 2018 Meeting between community partner counsel and chair of Community Board 8 land use committee.
June 11, 2018 Community Board 8 Land Use committee meeting. No public testimony is heard. A compromise position is presented by Community Board 8. No vote is taken, to allow time for community coalition to review compromise and for further negotiations.
June 13, 2018 Meeting between community coalition, representatives of Hebrew Home and City Council member. No additional agreements or changes to compromise position are reached at this meeting.
June 16, 2018 Proposed compromise submitted by Hebrew Home.
June 17, 2018 Community coalition counsel sends to members of Community Board 8 a summary of all points of the compromise and a draft restrictive declaration.
June 18, 2018 Community Board 8 full board meeting. Board votes NO to the Hebrew Home application; compromise on the table does not include details of heights of buildings.
June 28, 2018 Community coalition sends to Bronx Borough President a summary of all points of the compromise.
July 10, 2018 Meeting of community coalition and Hebrew Home results in draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that specifies details of proposal and binds members of the coalition to certain restrictions in future opposition to negotiated compromises.
July 12, 2018 Borough President (BP) public hearing. RNP statement asks BP to wait to issue a determination once the MOU has been executed.
Aug. 6, 2018 MOU and Restrictive Declaration are signed by Hebrew Home, Riverdale Nature Preservancy, Skyview Homeowners, Riverdale Community Coalition, and Sigma Place Homeowners. The points of the agreement are spelled out in the Borough President’s report to City Planning.
Aug. 8, 2018 City Planning Commission public hearing. Community coalition engages attendees to oppose the original plan and support the MOU. It is noted that Hebrew Home is preparing changes to the application and to the environmental assessment statement.
Sept. 26, 2018 City Planning Commission votes to approve the application with requirements; they modify the restrictive declaration such that any development on the south site (R1-1 lot) must go through ULURP.
Nov. 14, 2018 City Council votes to approve the plan with additional restrictions.