Torkin is wrong, very wrong


To the editor:

(re: “Torkin takes offensive on Palisade, Waldo projects,” Oct. 15)

Jeff Torkin’s contention that he has no choice but to go on the offensive regarding Timber Equities’ development plans at Brust Park and on Palisade Avenue is absurd.

Timber Equities misled the community regarding its plans for the Villa Rosa Bonheur on Palisade Avenue in an attempt to lull it into complacency, so it could proceed with plans it knew would be opposed. Exactly one year to the day that Timber Equities filed for just an interior demolition at Villa Rosa, Timber filed for full demolition, then proceeded to tear the roof off the building, ensuring that it would not be salvageable.

Asbestos concerns were expressed at the first community board land use meeting dealing with the demolition of the Villa. Timber’s representative was a public relations consultant able only to provide bland, canned statements that did not address any of the problems being presented.

No follow-up was provided to deal with the fear of asbestos contamination. This led to the community having to dig into the asbestos filings to try and determine what was found by inspectors.

If, as Torkin claims, Timber was in communication with the community, the process of asbestos inspection and abatement could have been communicated through the emails that passed for construction updates. These dispatches were no more than scheduling notices — very few and far between.

Claiming to be constructing buildings that are the “best in class” means nothing when you are replacing a building that was in a class of its own. The Villa had historic significance. The “some” the story refers to as describing it as such includes Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan.

The suite of villas along Palisade Avenue kicked off development in Spuyten Duyvil. There was vision and intent in their design, and they lend unique character to the neighborhood.

Timber’s design for the new building is no more than a box delineating the applicable zoning diagram. The villa as a gateway to our neighborhood set a tone, set it apart — whether you were coming out of the Metro-North station, or coming up the hill past the Henry Hudson Bridge. Timber’s design doesn’t even gesture to what it replaces.

Likewise at Brust Park, the new building is designed without regard to its surroundings, and the qualities that set that neighborhood apart.

Given Timber’s dismal record when it comes to community engagement, the Brust Park neighbors can’t be blamed for being distrustful. We can’t be blamed for wanting development that is pleasing and sensitive to its setting.

It must be nice for Torkin to live in Fieldston, whose setting and ambience are inviolable, while constructing soulless and uninspiring boxes for the rest of the community.

Alex Mustelier

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Alex Mustelier,