Cortlandt residents express concern over project on Peekskill border

Comments on traffic and environmental impacts draw cheers, jeers in Town Board meeting


By Regina Clarkin

Traffic – too much of it already, by most accounts – was one of the top concerns of the more than 100 people that crowded into the Cortlandt Town Hall Monday night for a public hearing on the proposed Medical Oriented District (MOD) across from NY Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital on Crompond Road. Residents spoke passionately for nearly two hours about the impact the medical office and residential development will have on the character of their neighborhoods, and how it will add to the horrific traffic on that thoroughfare now. 

The public hearing was a step in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) part of the development process before the Town Board. The next step involves a public work session where town board members will make known their opinions on the density and scale of the project and whether they will approve a zoning text amendment that is needed for the project to proceed. 

View from Tamarack Avenue looking at the parcels proposed for development.

A presentation from Assistant Town Planner Michelle Robbins showed that the developers of Evergreen Development Corporation and Gyrodyne Corporation have reduced their project from the initial 34 parcels on 105 acres to 13 parcels comprising 69 acres. This reduction came as a result of public comment during the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) part of the process. The Evergreen portion of the plan now includes a 114-unit assisted and independent living building in three stories with 77 parking spaces; 70 two-story townhomes; and a five-story, 166-unit residential building with 275 parking spaces – along with 7,000 square foot of retail property with 75 parking spaces. 

From local homeowners extolling the character of their suburban Cortlandt neighborhoods, to one resident (who is also a doctor) citing the folly of urban planner Robert Moses, who thought building more lanes was a solution to increased traffic, the audience frequently applauded after impassioned pleas from residents.  

Supervisor Richard Becker, in introducing the format of the evening, noted that “traffic on Route 202 sucks” – to more audience applause. He said studies showed that if nothing gets done [to mitigate traffic impacts], it’s going to get worse. He mentioned the high-rise building that is going on in Peekskill, and the development in Yorktown – which places Cortlandt in the middle. “Even before this project goes forward, traffic gets worse.”  

Resident David McGuire suggested that officials from Peekskill, Cortlandt and Yorktown form a commission to upgrade Route 202, using the federal money coming to municipalities for roads and infrastructure.

Intersection of Conklin Avenue and Rt. 202, one of the entrances to the MOD project.

Other comments centered around the light pollution from the parking lots for the approximately 1366 spaces on the property, noting that medical offices require more parking than residential buildings and that some of the parking will be in structures. 

Disturbances to the wildlife habitat on Buttonwood Avenue, which forms a border to the project, were cited by Stacy Rivera who has lived there for 13 years and said she felt like she lived on a wildlife preserve. “Coyotes, foxes, skunks, deer all come to our yard. Where will all the animals go that live in the woods? When the developers talk about there not being any accidents, are they considering the animals that will have nowhere to go? “ She cited the June 16 meeting where Supervisor Becker said he didn’t want to change the character of the neighborhood.

A portion of Buttonwood Avenue.

“Change the plan to make the environment an equal partner – consistent with Envision Cortlandt. Minimum targets for fossil fuel reduction, energy efficiency, green space, sound and light pollution are just that — minimums. We can and should do better than minimum voluntary targets. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a good start, said Birchwood Lane resident David Weinberger. “We need successful certification for all new construction in the MOD. Require solar panels and solar parking canopies. At this point, it’s not that we don’t know what needs to be done.”

The proponents of the project spoke on behalf of the 500 or more construction jobs that will be created during the five-to-seven year span building portion of the project. The representatives from Operating Engineer unions as well as the Construction Industry Council all echoed the same points: the creation of local jobs, the estimated $3.5 million spent on traffic mitigation and sewer infrastructure improvements. They mentioned the 72 permanent jobs created by the assisted living facility, and the benefits of having such a place for residents to ‘age in place’ in their community. They also cited that there was little or no impact on schools – yet there would be additional tax revenues for the town and schools.

Dr. Frank Dorsa said he’s seen the amount of traffic and development in the 30 years he’s been in Cortlandt, and he referenced the book about urban planner Robert Moses, “The Power Broker” – saying “when Moses built highways, parkways and parks – creating traffic increases – he always said build more lanes and traffic would decrease. It turned out to be the opposite of that,” referencing the Long Island Expressway. “I oppose this project.”

Sal Farina of Northridge Street said he didn’t get a mailed notice about the meeting, despite the Town sending out 350 mailed letters versus the 70 they were required to send to property owners bordering the development on Buttonwood and Tamarack Avenues. 

Farina took issue with the Gyrodyne aspect of the project which calls for redevelopment of two contiguous parcels to include a three-story medical office building with 513 parking spaces for phase one of the project; and another three-story medical office building with 385 parking spaces, plus 150 residential units in a four-story building in phase two. The total amount of parking for all aspects of the project would be about 950 spaces.  The first segment of the proposal would be to construct on the property that is directly across from the hospital that currently has two houses used for medical offices. The second phase would be to construct where the current medical complex is, behind the two houses. “This company said they were making a project specific to Cortlantdt; yet they propose the same exact type of project in Smithtown, Long Island,” said Farina. 

Artist rendering of Gyrodyne part of the project.

He questioned the empty medical office space on Route 6 and 202, and wondered what happens when the developer can’t rent the buildings. “I’m not against the MOD and I’m not against Santucci (the developer of Evergreen Development Project) but I am against change of this scale. Is it less acreage with the same thing just repackaged?  We can go forward as a town with smart and intelligent decisions where everybody comes out a winner,” concluded Farina. 

By last night’s meeting the town had received about 1,000 comments. The public comment period is open until May 23 and comments can be mailed to the Cortlandt Town Clerk at 1 Heady Street, Cortlandt Manor, NY 10567 or emailed to [email protected].