Forgetting about SNAD already?


To the editor:

(re: “Nabe planning must start from the bottom: CB8,” May 6)

Listening to the discussion regarding the Special Natural Area District at the May 3 Community Board 8 land use committee meeting, the SNAD was never mentioned. During the meeting, the discussion was about the 197-a plan.

SNAD was a special zoning regulation adopted to protect natural features on private property. Two areas were designated — one in Staten Island, and the other in Riverdale. In 1991, the City Planning Commission adopted rules establishing standards, procedures and timelines for the 197-a process.

The Riverdale SNAD has been slowly, but steadily, destroyed. Property originally called Chapel Hill Farms was a 16-acre densely wooded area bounded by Fieldston Road, West 250th Street, Iselin Avenue, Delafield Avenue and West 253rd Street. The owner of this property wanted to develop this land.

In 2005, he had all the trees removed without any notice to the community. The trees were all removed between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, while the community was celebrating the holidays. He eventually developed several super mansions priced between $5 million and $10 million.

The development was named Villanova Heights. In the beginning, he was unable to sell any of them, so he rented the houses. This property was part of the Riverdale SNAD.

Another section of the SNAD is bounded by Fieldston Road and Manhattan College Parkway. This property is owned by a person living on the corner of Fieldston Road and West 246th Street, and is several acres. The owner has been trying to develop this property for more than 20 years. The plan is to develop five mega-mansions.

The owner finally got approval to develop two of the five parcels a few years ago. The development involves creating drainage through large outcroppings of rock between the site and Fieldston Road, as well as connections to Manhattan College Parkway.

Both of these developers are lining their pockets with large amounts of money while the homeless population is reaching its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

I am sure this fact never enters the minds of these developers. Yet when projects are proposed to help homeless individuals, the racist cry of “not in my backyard” — NIMBY — screams loud and clear. They will state that they want to help homeless individuals, but do it somewhere else.

Where else? And how, I ask.

John Benfatti

The author is chair of the emergency overnight shelter with the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture.

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John Benfatti,