Ex-Swiss Benevolent Home Could Be Demolished Soon

Large colonial, near top of Captain Merritt's Hill in Mount Kisco, to be torn down as part of land deal with village, developer.

The white house that once served the Swiss Benevolent Society in Mount Kisco could soon become rubble.

Mount Kisco's Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved changes to an agreement, at its Aug. 13 meeting, that it has with developer Robert Mishkin for the time frame of tearing it down. Under possible language discussed - it was left up to Village Attorney Whitney Singleton to hammer out - the demolition would be within 30 days of a permit being issued.

The demolition could happen this fall, according to Singleton. He believes it's possible between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Asbestos abatement needs to be done first, however.

The large, white colonial is on 53 Mountain Ave., at the top of the village's Captain Merritt's Hill neighborhood; looking south, the street offers sweeping views of the downtown. The building is in poor shape, however, as its roof appears visibly worn. The structure has been condemned, Singleton said.

Plans to demolish the structure, along with any ancillary structures, are part of a deal that is long and of a timeline that is convoluted.

The Swiss Benevolent Society first made its Mount Kisco presence in the 1920s, according to its website.when it acquired rouhgly seven acres and an old hotel. Eventually, it owned about 54 acres in the area, according to Mayor Michael Cindrich.

About four of those acres were taken over by Miskin; the society closed its nursing home in the early 1990s and remodeling was done for his facility in 1994. Mishkin called it Town & Country, which became an assisted living residence for senior citizens.

Legal troubles plagued the site for years. First, the Swiss Benevolent Society had a protracted legal fight with the village. In the 1980s, the property was rezoned in a way that the society felt limited its ability to use it economically. It sued over the zoning status. A settlement was made eventually, with the village taking over roughly 50 acres not owned by Mishkin, plus a payment of more than $3.6 million to the society, according to current and former village officials, and published media and court records.

Mishkin soon had his own legal battle. In the late 1990s, he sought to expand Town & Country, boosting capacity by 46 people. The facility could only have 44 senior citizens, according to court records.

The plan, which garnered opposition from folks in Captain Merritt's Hill, failed to garner Planning Board approval after an environmental review was done. Mishkin sued the village in January 2002 in federal court. The lawsuit claimed that the planning board's lack of approval was connected to a dislike in the community of having more disabled seniors live locally, and thus were discriminating under the Fair Housing Act. He also argued that the village's zoning discriminates against the disabled. Mishkin was then denied a variance needed for the proposal, in October 2002, by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The lawsuit, which dragged on for nearly four years, resulted in a settlement, which the village board approved in December 2005. Under the terms, Mishkin would purchase nearly 18 acres of the former Swiss property owned by the village, with only about 5 acres being disturbed. Most of the land would become open space. The village, in turn, will take ownership of the Town & Country site; the senior center is now defunct. The settlement includes the agreement to demolish the white colonial, along with any other structures. It has been amended five times, with the most recent one at its August meeting.

"We're very happy with the board's decision," Mishkin said about the vote for the latest amendment, which includes an update to the demolition process.

Most of the land that will be held by the village and the undisturbed portion of Mishkin's will be open space.

The purchase price agreed to by Mishkin was about $4 million, according to Cindrich. About $2 million has been paid to the village, he said.

The settlement paved the way for a new development proposal from Mishkin, called It calls for 129 senior housing, independent living units, with a roughly 3-story building of about 291,000, according to records. It would have an access driveway from Kisco Avenue, and include amenities.

The Planning Board conducted a detailed environmental review of the club proposal, from 2006 to 2009, before wrapping up. The village board, in the spring of 2009, voted to rezone the property to permit the development's construction. The next step, going to the Planning Board for site plan approval, has yet to take place. Cindrich attributes this to the weak economy.

“It’s a very complex, ongoing endeavor that we’ve entered into,” Cindrich said of the deal.


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