Despite protests, Waldo Ave project nears start

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Timber Equities is about to go 2-for-2 when it comes to getting controversial construction projects out of the ground.

Just weeks after clearing some of the final hurdles with the city’s building department to raze Villa Rosa Bonheur on Spuyten Duyvil’s Palisade Avenue, the developer with a Fieldston connection now has a green light to move forward with another apartment project at 3893 Waldo Ave.

Posts were erected Tuesday for what is expected to be the standard construction fence around the property that will eventually be the home of a four-story apartment building between Dash Place and Manhattan College Parkway. It’s exactly what some neighbors — especially those who are quite active with nearby Brust Park — had hoped they could stop.

“For the last few months, we have been trying to get (the city’s parks department) to take jurisdiction of West 242nd Street,” said Aurora De Armendi, who lives near the construction site, and has been organizing resistance against it.

Normally, any construction that borders a park would require special permitting. And although 3893 Waldo appears to border the southern end of Brust Park, there’s actually a strip of land — about the width of a city street — separating it. That’s because the land, which is controlled by the city, is platted as a continuation of West 242nd, which ends at nearby Greystone Avenue.

If the parks department had taken control of the land designated for the never-built West 242nd Street extension, De Armendi and others in her group had hoped it would slow down the entire project. Or even better for them, discourage Timber Equities from even continuing with it.

In the end, however, there wasn’t much parks could do, De Armendi said. Such an action would require a very complicated and time-consuming Uniform Land Use Review Procedure — something the parks department was not interested in taking on, and something that could never be completed by the time Timber Equities would earn final permits to start construction.

“We have been trying over and over again to have (Councilman Andrew) Cohen’s office schedule a meeting with parks and DOT, to talk about these two agencies initiating ULURP,” De Armendi said.

“We’ve been ignored. Parks and DOT don’t respond. It is so disappointing.”

At a Community Board 8 land use committee meeting Monday night, one of Timber’s partners — Fieldston resident Jeff Torkin — confirmed that green lights have been coming in to get the Waldo Avenue project started.

“A new building permit was issued last week,” Torkin said. “We have a pre-existing demolition permit, and a new building approval once required items are met. Then the new building permit will be issued, and construction will commence.”

Torkin did not provide details on what the city was still requiring him to do, but he’s not anticipating any delays in getting his apartment building constructed.

Land use committee chair Charles Moerdler used the news of this project moving forward to once again bring to light what he says could be a major destroyer of the neighborhood — properties where many single-family homes stand now are zoned for much higher-density buildings. And projects like Timber’s Waldo Avenue construction could just be the beginning.

“This massive development and construction is changing the character, the integrity, and the livability of the Community Board 8 community,” Moerdler said. “Something has to be done about it before it’s too late.”

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