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Honored in Irvington... Develops Seek Waterfront Rezoning

Irvington residents would lose out on an additional $600,000 in expected ratables and a more developed waterfront if Village trustees move forward with the rezoning legislation recommended by the town's planning consultant, Buckhurst, Fish & Jacquemart (BFJ), based in New York City.

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The owners of Bridge Street Properties, LLC, — Jeffrey Reich and William Thompson — submitted a petition in February 2007 asking trustees to rezone a three-acre parcel just south of Matthiessen Park (a 1/2-acre of which is under water) from industrial to a mixed-use zone. Currently, Bridge Street owns three buildings totaling 200,000 square feet of office space over 9.06 acres between Matthiessen Park to the north and Scenic Hudson Park to the south.

After receiving Bridge Street's petition, the village hired BFJ, which returned with its recommendations at the May 5 work session.

"As it was, we wouldn't build," Reich said in an interview on July 17, referring to the possibility that trustees would follow their consultant's exact recommendations. At press time, Reich said he would need to refer to his planner, who was not immediately available, to identify the unworkable differences between Bridge Street's proposal and BFJ's recommendations.

One glaring difference refers to a proposed public esplanade on the waterfront, which Bridge Street said would be not more than 12 feet in width, but BFJ recommended a minimum of 15 feet.

Despite this non-alignment, Village officials said they expected Trustees to vote on legislation in early October. Village Administrator Larry Schopfer stressed that the legislation, which has been modified from Bridge Street's draft, is only for a zoning change and does not deal with the developer's specific building proposal, which is a task for the Planning Board. The existing draft is a work-in-progress and is unavailable to the public.

But Reich seemed less optimistic and repeatedly said during an interview that this issue has been with the Village for five years.

"We do not see any progress whatsoever, with regard to the rezoning of the property, coming from this administration," Reich said.

If, however, Reich and Thompson are successful, they would like to construct 19 residential "Georgetown-style" brick townhouses.

"The townhouses will be in harmony with the type of housing found along Main Street, and [Bridge Street Properties] believes that the result would be aesthetically pleasing to the public, especially in comparison with the existing asphalt parking lot," Bridge Street attorney John Marwell wrote in the February 2007 proposal. The 4,000 square-foot proposed commercial space would be located on the ground level in one of the buildings facing West Main Street, and could include stores, restaurants, art galleries and fitness clubs. The existing area consists of a 251-space parking lot and 3,000 square feet of commercial space.

Bridge Street also proposes constructing a parking structure that would provide the same amount of parking that exists now. In the proposal, Marwell claims the development would bring in an additional $600,000 in village ratables and would have a minimal impact on the school system because of the low-density residential component. He also said the developer would conduct a $1.5 million rehabilitation project improving roads and sidewalks to provide better access to the parks.

In addition, Marwell said that Bridge Street would provide public parking on weekends and evenings, provide a public waterfront promenade and create a destination point in itself.

Meanwhile, residents might have reason to be optimistic if Bridge Street creates new developments as carefully planned as their previous ones. After all, Bridge Street's previous developments were honored by the non-profit corporation, Scenic Hudson, at its gala on May 20.

"By renovating the low-rise buildings on the Irvington waterfront, Bridge Street Properties has protected great vistas that residents have enjoyed for generations and saved an important part of the village's heritage," Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said in press release. "Just as important, the development is adjacent to the Metro-North station and a short walk from Main Street, so employees don't have to rely on cars. Such transit-oriented development is crucial if we are to stem the tide of global climate change."

And while Scenic Hudson — whose mission is to protect and restore the Hudson River and its waterfronts — was effusive in its praise of Bridge Street's previous developments, it makes no "carte blanche endorsement" of future projects, according to a Scenic Hudson official.

"It doesn't immunize any developers from our concerns," said Warren P. Reiss, general counsel for the organization.

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