Win wars, not just battles


To those opposed to the Hebrew Home at Riverdale’s plan to expand its campus to include New York City’s first continuing care retirement community, the rejection by members of Community Board 8’s land use committee earlier this month must have been music to their ears.

Instead, however, this vote was nothing more than yet another example of how CB8 fails to lead, and to further reduce already waning influence this group has with city officials.

The Hebrew Home had little incentive to seek a compromise. While a good portion of the neighbors immediately surrounding the Palisade Avenue campus were vocal in their opposition, the fact is that even more people as you pulled away geographically had no opinion, or may actually have no issue with plans to build three multi-story independent living structures.

The willingness to compromise on Hebrew Home’s part, then, had to come from a willingness to be a good neighbor, to find some sort of compromise that everyone could live with, even begrudgingly.

And more or less, such a compromise had been struck. The mishmash of residents opposed chose lawyer Albert Butzel to represent them, and he worked tirelessly with land use chair Charles Moerdler and Councilman Andrew Cohen to create a deal that wasn’t perfect, but was at least tolerable — high praise for any compromise.

But CB8 wasn’t having it. The choice instead was to further complicate an already complex issue, focus on minutiae that had many others scratching their heads, and sending yet another no vote to city officials, leaving them to clean up the mess.

Cohen was right when he said the community board level is where this issue needed to be “aired out.” That means looking for solutions, looking for common ground, looking for resolution. It doesn’t mean lighting the whole issue on fire, and then sifting through the ashes to see what might be left in the end.

And it’s not the first time CB8 has done this in recent memory. All one has to do is look back to the city transportation department’s plans to reconstruct travel lines on Broadway along Van Cortlandt Park. The traffic and transportation committee ultimately said no, and instead of offering concrete alternatives, presented what seemed like an endless list of disparate ideas. 

Sharing ideas from the community is great, but then it’s up to the committee to decide how those ideas can come together, and which should make the final cut (and which shouldn’t).

Instead, DOT was forced to review ideas with no focus, that weren’t even vetted, and ultimately rejected them. 

Hebrew Home’s CCRC plans didn’t die in the land use vote. In fact, they are alive and well, on their way to borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office. 

But something did likely die after that vote: The compromise deal so many worked hard on. Hebrew Home now has no obligation to follow that compromise, and Diaz is not compelled to force the issue. 

Most great generals are remembered for the wars they won, not individual battles in a losing effort. The battle won here will likely be lost in the sands of time, because the war itself will likely finish in a much different way.