(Editor's Note: Below is a copy of a statement made by Jane Lindau, of the New Castle Task Force for Fair and Affordable Housing, at Tuesday's town board meeting. For more on our coverage of the Chappaqua Station proposal, click here).
I am here to represent a group of New Castle Citizens, some of whom are here with me today, who support affordable housing. We have been following the Hunts Lane development, also known as Chappaqua Station, closely. First I want to say that we agree in certain aspects with the local group that has been critical of Hunts Lane. Specifically we believe 1) the building is too large, is not in scale with the rest of the town, and at a minimum the fifth floor should be eliminated; 2) it is critical that the environmental review be completed very carefully, and that any contamination be completely remediated; and 3) that all safety issues be properly addressed. If these three issues cannot be addressed adequately we will not support the Hunts Lane project.
However, we are here tonight to implore the board not to reject the Hunts Lane site out of hand, because we believe that the site is viable and indeed may be the best available site for the development of affordable housing in town. It’s important to get the fact out there that not everyone in New Castle is opposed to Chappaqua Station – there are people who are for it, and others who have concerns, but are willing to compromise and see how the developer can address those concerns. Not everyone is as vocal as the group of neighbors and other local residents who have come out against development of the site.
We believe that the site deserves careful review for several reasons. Let me quote one of the conclusions from the Chappaqua Comprehensive Hamlet Plan of 2003:
“Throughout the planning process, Hamlet residents expressed the need for more diverse land uses in the downtown area, particularly affordable housing within walking distance to the train station and downtown shopping, school, library, community center, park, and athletic fields. “
We agree that it is crucial that any affordable housing be built within walking district of the train station, and where there is access to sewer lines. While we know many people have suggested other sites in town such as the property where Bistro Maxime (also known as the Hakim site) used to be, there is one major problem with this and other sites that have been mentioned: they are all privately owned and none of them are available at a price that would make affordable housing feasible on those sites. It is simply not constructive to say that we want affordable housing but that it should be built at another site. One of the major reasons that affordable housing has not been built in many of the communities covered by the housing settlement is that it is not economically feasible to do so. The Hunts Lane site is available at a price where the building makes economic sense.
Over the past 16 years since we last built affordable housing in New Castle, several sites have come and gone: the Burden property, the Warburg site, and the Amsterdam property, to name a few. All of these properties faced neighbors’ objections, as does the Hunts Lane site. But none of these other locations were in the Hamlet, and none were on a sewer line. I also remind you that when the affordable housing was being discussed for Chappaqua Crossing, there were many comments made in this room by New Castle residents about how Hunts Lane was a much more appropriate site.
I remind you that Hunts Lane is proposed to be affordable housing, not low income housing. 20% of the residents of New Castle meet this income level, and it is an affordable level for work force housing. All applicants will have to have good credit ratings, and they can be turned down for inadequate credit or income. We believe the tenants of Hunts Lane will contribute to the revitalization of downtown Chappaqua. One of the attractions of the site will be that families can get by with one instead of two cars, and will therefore be likely to support the merchants in town.
It may be that if the scale of Hunts Lane is cut back, as most of us desire, it will not be economically feasible for Conifer, or that it will not pass environmental or safety reviews. However, if indeed these issues are dealt with adequately, we urge you to approve the Hunts Lane proposal at the appropriate time.