Community not getting full story on 2395 Palisade Ave.


(re: “Developer bringing new, rent-stabilized housing to Riverdale,” Nov. 8)

As a resident of Spuyten Duyvil, and a member of the community organization Save Villa Rosa Bonheur, I would like to offer my personal response to the Point of View piece by Mr. Mitch Perle.

Mr. Perle is the managing director of the development company that savagely and duplicitously initiated a demolition of the beloved historic landmark Villa Rosa Bonheur. In early autumn, we (myself included) were told that a renovation of the roof was underway as we watched the tiles removed and stripped to the beams.

When it became apparent that what we were witnessing did not appear to be the renovation of the roof, community members alerted elected officials and Bronx Community Board 8. CB8 initiated an investigation and scheduled a land use committee meeting to inform the community of the “revised” intentions of the owner and developer.

At the first land use meeting on Oct. 25, community members were told that they were owed no explanation for the developer’s intentions, and that they had complied with all permits extended by the buildings department. As a result of community complaints and city agency investigation, the developer has received violations and stop work orders ranging from demolition work not allowed by existing permits at the time, illegal dumping, dangerous and unsafe conditions, and now asbestos contaminations of the site.

The community is still in the dark as to whether this asbestos contamination extends beyond the borders of the site.

In spite of a rocky start to our relationship with the developer, we are now assured that all is well. Mr. Perle assures us that Timber Equities has the best intentions for the Riverdale community, indeed for the city as a whole, by bringing rent-stabilized housing to our corner of the Bronx. From my personal recollection of the first land use committee meeting, project spokeswoman Diane Cahill informed us that the decision to provide rental versus so-called luxury housing was based on an examination of current market forces.

Now Mr. Perle would like us to believe that Timber’s intentions are altruistic. He goes into great detail as to why they will be providing rent-stabilized units to the Riverdale community (not the Spuyten Duyvil community, which is a specific middle-class enclave of Riverdale), which they identify as satisfying “an urgent need.”

I am not disputing the statistics he cites. I have no particular knowledge as to their veracity. I do question, and am offended, by the developer’s attempt to manipulate the community by expressing intentions that they do not appear to possess (as evidenced by their own words and actions).

Let us be clear: Based on my observations and in my opinion, I believe Timber Equities’ behavior reveals that their intentions are to enrich all parties associated with this proposed development, truth and well-being of the Spuyten Duyvil community be damned. Mr. Perle’s opinion piece reflects their tone-deaf and duplicitous approach to community relations with Spuyten Duyvil.

I find it particularly egregious that, in a matter of weeks, we could go from being told that we were owed no consideration, to a “recognition of the importance of communication with local officials and local residents to provide accurate information throughout the course of the project.” I am not impressed by this epiphany of respect.

In my opinion, it might be more convincing if Mr. Perle did not attempt to push assertions negated by permit violations and stop work orders.

In an age of “false facts,” Mr. Perle appears to be in good company. But it is no less insulting to the community. And personally, I’m not buying it.

Mr. Perle makes a claim that Timber Equities’ “commitment that will never waver.” I find this commitment to be of little comfort. But on the flip side, one thing does appear more true: The Spuyten Duyvil commitment to holding parties responsible for the desecration of this historical house (and the potential exposure of toxins to our neighborhood).

Mr. Perle, please observe a broken relationship of Timber Equities’ own making: Spuyten Duyvil was once bitten, now very shy of this proposed development.

Stephanie Coggins,