WPCNR COMMON COUNCIL CHRONICLE-EXAMINER. By John F. Bailey. October 2, 2012 UPDATED 11:00 A.M.:
The Common Council held two dramatic public hearings Monday evening: the first hearing on the Sunrise Detox Center for diagnosed substance abusers proposed for DeKalb Avenue and a continuation of the hearing on the proposed Open Space Recreation District.While the Sunrise Detox Center hearing was carried over to November, the OSRD hearing was closed. It's fate is not clear.
After a presentation by the Sunrise Detox applicant, 21 persons from the Carhart Neighborhood Association, some of whom have professional experience with dealing with substance abusers, spoke out forcefully against the project, with 5 persons scheduled to speak who had left. Their overwhelming concern was the security of children and neighbors.
Linda Burns, Chief Executive Officer of Sunrise Detox in describing the company’s present detox centers in Lake Worth, Florida, and Sterling, New Jersey, responding to Councilman David Buchwald's question about the facilities safety record in the communities, said “to our knowledge, no patient or staff member has ever harmed or committed crimes in the communities we're operating in."
Burns’ statement was later challenged by a resident of the Carhart Neighborhood, who read off a list of offenses based on police responses to actual calls originating from the Sunrise detox centers in Lake Worth and Sterling, New Jersey calling in the community police departments for a response.
The speaker, a criminologist with the John Jay College of Justice, said police in Lake Worth and Sterling told him there were over 200 police records of Sunrise-reported incidents, involving assault, burglary, attempted suicides, and one conviction of a Sunrise counselor involving sexual assault of two women clients, who is now a registered sex offender. Later the hearing, this list of 200 offenses was described by one speaker as “a rap sheet.”
The Sunrise attorney, William Null, said the facility was applying for a Special Permit as a community residence. The facility eligibility for that designation, was challenged by a speaker, saying that "residents" had to stay over 30 days, according to state law, and Sunrise patients usually stay 5.7 days.
Representatives from the Fisher Hill Association, the Gedney Association, and the Rocky Dell Associations each urged the council to not approve the Sunrise proposal. The hearing was held over to the next Common Council meeting on November 5, 2012, with no vote taken.
Open Space Ordinance in Deep Water
A continuation of the hearing started in September on the possible establishment of the Open Space Recreation District ordinance followed at 10 P.M.
Two new speakers spoke: one in favor of the OSRD ordinance, and a representative of Westchester Hills Country Club, who said present city ordinances and procedure were adequate enough to protect the environment, and that the OSRD detail was “obsessive, and crosses a line.” The Mayor then opened the door for repeat speakers.
Daniel Seidel, expressed disappointment with the city for not exploring sources of finding to buy the former Ridgeway property from the French American School, (for $6 Million), then exploring the alternative of a horticultural farm and Stone Barns type restaurant on the property. He also repeated his opinion that the Bonnie Briar legislation that the Town of Mamaroneck crafted to prevent Bonnie Briar from being developed had been upheld, because the Supreme Court had refused to consider it.
After a pro-FASNY speaker Christine Clark stepped up calling the OSRD itself “a setback,” encouraging the Council, “We do not need setbacks. We need advancement. Vote it down.”
Terrence Guerriere, President of the Gedney Farms Association took the podium and appeared in his remarks to stop just short of abandoning the Open Space Recreation District Ordinance in its present form by encouraging the Common Council to undertake a long term open space plan (“A Comprehensive Open Space Vision,” he called it), involving in interworking roadmap of how all remaining open space in the city could be developed, not just involving the properties the OSRD ordinance affects (Ridgeway, Maple Moor, Westchester Hills, all golf courses).
Seth Mendelbaum, the attorney for Westchester Hills, indicated his client was opposed to the ordinance, because the setbacks included in OSRD legislation took away the only area Westchester Hills could expand to enhance its facility, if it needed to do so to remain viable as a golf club.
Michael Zarin, the attorney representing the French American School of New York, talked with a silken toughness. After detailing what he thought were flaws in the OSRD restrictions concerning issues that the proposed ordinance failed to explore in the intricate detail required of his client to address, Zarin said that if the council passed the OSRD, the city could be in “for a period of protracted, costly and unnecessary litigation.”
A representative of AKRF, the French American School environmental consultant, showed how schools in a residential setting in Greenburgh, Eastchester and White Plains had coexisted among homes similar to the quiet estates of Gedney Farms, saying “There’s nothing special about the Gedney neighborhood.”
A resident of Ethelridge Road, disputed that statement as insulting. She said the schoolsin the neighborhoods the AKRF man shownhad already been in the neighbohoods for years, and then the homes were built, referring to the AKRF consultant’s contention that schools helped improve neighborhoods. She also said that describing a golf course as a pollutant was not true, because she said the course had stopped using pesticides five years ago.
Phil McGovern, lifelong resident of White Plains, took the microphone and called the FASNY School and Conservancy, “A once in-a -generation proposal.” He pleaded with the Common Council to accept it. “We are defending the indefensible” (declining the project), he said. He said approving the project would put “White Plains in a whole different league.” “At the end of the day you have a world-class institution. You get a central park. I don’t know what the discussion is. This is like the emperor’s new clothes.”
John Botti, head of the French American School of New York Conservancy planning team closed the hearing, disputing the claim by the opposition that Ridgeway had not used pesticides five years prior to the FASNY purchase. He said he would be furnishing the council with Ridgeway receipts for pesticides dated in 2010, the last year FASNY was in operation.
The Mayor closed the hearing on the Open Space Recreation District, without voting on the ordinance. The fate is uncertain at this time.
IN OTHER ACTION...
The Common Council this evening approved Elizabeth Cheteny of East Aurora, New York as its new Commissioner of Planning effective Tuesday for at the salary of $144,330 a year, (the council approved pay $20,910 less than the previous Planning Commissioner was paid) . Ms. Cheteny begins her assignment October 9.
The Council extended the city hotel occupancy tax through December, 2015.
It approved the first project under the new ordinance allowing scientific facilities in office parks along Westchester Avenue by approving Combe, Incorporated request to build a 4,200 square foot research lab on the first floor of 1101 Westchester Avenue.