(This letter was originally addressed to Rosemary Ginty, chair of Community Board 8.)
The Bronx chapter of the American Institute of Architects is strongly opposed to the granting of a special permit for the construction of high-rise apartment houses in the Bronx’s only Special Natural Area District on adjacent R1-1 and R4 zoning lots in the Riverdale section of the borough.
The buildings are intended to be part of a new continuing care retirement community attached to an existing nursing home, operated by RiverSpring Health.
Our opposition is based upon the following factors:
• The CCRC apartment buildings proposed by RiverSpring’s Hebrew Home at Riverdale are out of compliance with existing R1-1 zoning, which is intended to protect an area of low-density, single-family housing.
• The CCRC apartment building proposed on the R4 zoning lot is 85 feet higher than the 45-foot height limit allowed, and out of context with the immediate low-rise neighborhood.
• The proposed CCRC buildings and site plan would violate the 197a Plan developed by the Riverdale community, and adopted by the city planning commission and city council in 2003. The plan codified the need to preserve the residential character of this unique area of stately streets and rock outcroppings along the Hudson River.
• Granting a special permit to construct apartment buildings on the R1-1 site and an out-of-scale tower on the R4 site establishes a dangerous precedent that would permit further development of high-rise apartment houses in recently downzoned low-density and low-scale zoning districts, not only in Riverdale, but in Kingsbridge Heights, Morris Heights, Country Club and other Bronx neighborhoods.
We recognize the need for the construction of CCRCs in the five boroughs, but using the city’s new zoning for quality and affordability to shoehorn these high-rise luxury apartment houses into a bucolic neighborhood of single-family homes is contrary to the intent of this zoning change. The record shows that prices for the proposed RiverSpring CCRCs will start at $800,000, and range up to $1.4 million per apartment — hardly affordable for most Bronx residents.
In the 1960s, the community fought hard to convince the city to create the Special Natural Area District, and generations of Bronxites have been vigilant in protecting it.
The community was deeply involved in promulgating the area’s existing carefully thought out 197a zoning plan. It earned high praise from the city planning commission when it was proposed and adopted.
RiverSpring has sufficient property on which to create a CCRC that conforms to zoning laws.
We support the broad-based opposition of Riverdale community groups to this project in its current form.
The author is president of the Bronx chapter of the American Institute of Architects.