Get rid of as-of-right building


To the editor:

Does anyone remember Riverdale 10 years ago? About half as crowded. Much less traffic. There was street parking. You could always get a seat on the 1 train in the morning, at least at the first stop.

P.S. 81 could find your child a seat. It was cooler in summer.

What happened? The real estate market, R-6 zoning, and “as of right” happened.

Right now, as of right is being used to try and build a 29-unit complex at the absolute edge of Brust Park on a postage stamp. As of right seems to be a right that extends only to those who can afford it.

Real estate developers in New York City have this right to build almost anything, anywhere. They can buy a tiny bit of land and squeeze every penny out of that property by building apartment towers that destroy the character of the neighborhood — unless some technicality can be found to stop them, and our politicians are convinced, which is rare.

Never mind the community’s right to clean air, peace and quiet.

As of right seems to be sacred, and the rest of us must live in the developer’s world. At least in New York City. Many smaller towns would raise hell if a speculator came in and wanted to change everything around. Here, if they do, they are usually overruled.

Apparently, New York City is stuck in the 1950s mindset of “growth is good,” and “the market is always right.” So every parcel of land is given to the person with the most money, and there is not much the rest of us can do other than to move if we don’t like it (until the developers get there, too).

If the market and its building boom solves housing problems, why hasn’t it worked? Why is it more expensive than ever to live in New York? And why is there no money then for improved infrastructure?

Because increased tax revenue never catches up with increases expenses.

Meanwhile, our communities and neighborhoods are getting destroyed. The Landmarks Preservation Commission was founded in 1965 after Penn Station was irretrievably lost. Do we really need to wait for such a moment to come to Riverdale?

Please change the “as of right” designation and the zoning in Riverdale before it’s too late. There are other ideas that could help house New Yorkers, for example, a tax on empty apartments. Simply building more only guarantees more crowding and air pollution, and in fact, as lower-rent apartments are often replaced with higher ones, it often makes housing problems worse.

Seems to have so far.

Some will call this NIMBY, or not in my backyard. True, we treasure our backyard. But these developers seem to believe that if you built it, they will come. This is true, but suicide for New York City. Do we want a population of 10 to 15 million?

Homelessness is a national problem and needs to be treated that way.

A speculator putting 29 units right on the forest of Brust Park is just one more example of Riverdale’s quality of life being monetized and sold. There are even more ridiculous huge buildings going up everywhere. At least 17 recently in my neighborhood alone.

The time’s come for a serious re-evaluation of Riverdale’s zoning rules, and the whole idea of as of right.

We residents should have rights, too. And there’s a lot more of us.

Jim Wacker

Jim Wacker,