Thursday, August 14, 2008

Schervier minimizes loss of trees for parking

by John DeSio

Riverdale Review, 08/14/2008

New parking opportunities are headed to Spuyten Duyvil, thanks to a new parking facility set for construction at the Frances Schervier Nursing Care Center.

Schervier spokeswoman Nadine Baker announced this past week that her organization would build a parking lot on its campus. The lot, which would be available only to employees of Schervier, would free up 18 parking spaces on the adjacent streets.

In addition, the as-of-right project sits outside of the Special Natural Area District and would not be subject to more stringent greenbelt regulations.

"The City of New York Planning Department, Bronx Division, has assured us that the area in question is not in the Special Natural Area District, and our professional surveyors have confirmed that information," said Joseph Gordon, project manager and engineer for Schervier.

Gordon showed this newspaper a detailed map of the Special Natural Area District, which shows that the proposed parking lot sits outside of the greenbelt.

Three trees were felled for the project. One was split by wind and presented a danger, but two others came down specifically for the project.

Gordon said that three new trees would be planted on the Schervier grounds to replace the others.

"The Special Natural Area District [the Riverdale Greenbelt] starts at the center line of Palisade Avenue and goes west to the Hudson River, along the area where the project will be completed. At no time will any of the project, including material storage, be located in the SNAD," said Gordon.

Dr. Louis Harris, Executive Vice President of Bon Secours New York, Schervier's parent organization, said that his organization was sensitive to the needs of the Riverdale community and would take great care to ensure that the project fits the character of the neighborhood.

"In the interest of the aesthetic integration of the project into the community, when the work is complete, Bon Secours New York Health System will landscape it and create a beautiful retaining wall that will be as lovely as the landscaping created around it," said Harris. "Being a good neighbor is and always has been a high priority for us, and we are careful to be good stewards of the Riverdale community."

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has been Riverdale's greatest champion for more parking. He has proposed in the past that zoning laws be changed to force new developments to construct at least one parking space for every housing unit created. The assemblyman said that he would reserve judgment on the project until he examined it further.

"It's hard to comment on a plan I have not seen," said Dinowitz. "It would be helpful if cars were removed from the streets, but I would hope that the addition of a parking lot would not result in any significant loss of trees or green space. And if some trees are lost, I would hope many more are planted to replace them."

Charles Moerdler, chairman of Community Board #8's land use committee, was upset that Schervier had not reached out to his committee prior to the announcement, especially due to the removal of three trees and the project's proximity to the Special Natural Area District. He added that his committee would examine the matter at its September meeting.

"I am surprised and disappointed that neither Bon Secours nor Schervier notified the land use committee to request prompt public review of this proposal, especially since they say they are acting in the community's interest," said Moerdler. "Such review has been the consistent practice of community facilities in this board area."

Ari Hoffnung, co-president of the Riverdale Jewish Community Council and a candidate for City Council in 2009, last week outlined a five-point plan to increase parking options in Riverdale. He was thrilled to see Schervier take a major step towards increasing parking on its campus, thereby adding street parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

"Riverdale is fortunate to have neighbors like Schervier Nursing Care Center who not only recognize that parking is a serious local concern but are also actively seeking ways to address this problem," said Hoffnung. "I applaud Schervier's plans to build an additional parking lot for their staff. This project is a 'win-win' for Riverdale as it will not only be helpful to Schervier employees who drive to work, but will also create more parking for people, like myself, who live in the surrounding neighborhood.