(Editor's Note: Below is a letter from Lori Morton, who lives near the site for Conifer Realty's Chappaqua Station affordable housing proposal, off of Hunts Place)
The proposed Conifer housing project is almost in our back yard, and would, literally, cast a shadow on our home. I attended the Planning Board/Architectural Review board meeting last week and witnessed the unveiling of the most recent revision of the design plan. There was actually an illustration of the proposed building taken from the Horace Greeley statue. In that projection, my home and my neighbors homes were literally dwarfed by the massive structure. I am filled with serious dismay, bordering on panic, that our town government could seriously consider this project and support its construction.
I have no objection to the integration of affordable housing in Chappaqua, I have no "not in my backyard" snootiness. I can prove it, as I live next door to affordable housing. When we bought our home, the house next door was vacant and condemned, missing doors and windows. The A-Home organization renovated it and has made it a lovely home for three elderly adults, providing them affordable housing close to town and train. This project is an example of an approach for providing affordable housing, while improving the landscape, and allowing for the full integration of the residents into the Chappaqua and Newcastle community. The project only increased our home's value by improving the nearby dilapidated structure and added appeal to one of the gateways of our town.
We are also no strangers to major construction projects near our home. The Rt. 120 bridge has its base adjacent to our property. In 2010, with a newborn baby and a toddler in the house, we endured steel beams jackhammered into granite bedrock shaking our whole house from 1 am to 4:30 am every night for weeks, and construction lights illuminating our bedrooms, trucks, machinery and yelling workers at all hours of the day and night for over 2 years. We endured it with the belief that the project had an end...and the final product would be a necessary improvement to our critical transportation infrastructure. The resulting bridge is as attractive as it is functional, again..adding appeal to a gateway to our hamlet.
In contrast, the proposed Conifer project is not a temporary inconvenience that will give way to an improvement. Once it's there, we're stuck with it. It is not an integrating housing solution, it is instead an exile. How could we in good conscience house our lower income residents on a polluted island between the train tracks and the highway? Because it's better than nothing? There have been other, more integrative and less disruptive proposals submitted to the town board, so its clear that we have the power to select a solution that best meets the needs of our town's residents and businesspeople, has a positive impact on the aesthetics of the hamlet, and allows us to contribute to the County's obligations for affordable housing.
I remain shocked, honestly, that anyone could consider this project reasonable or appropriate, Conifer representatives included. The logistical and aesthetic incongruities of the project are nearly irrelevant given the grossly inappropriate scale and location of the project, but I list some of my major concerns anyway:
-insufficient parking to support residents' needs for access to AFFORDABLE grocery shopping, doctors, local employment-awkward, delayed access for emergency services.
-proposed for a predominantly pedestrian population-but in a location dangerous to pedestrians on every side. (train/highway exit and on ramp/Rt.120)
-aggravating an already overburdened and dangerous intersection of Saw Mill exit/on ramps and Hunts Place (There are already dangerous traffic back-ups onto the Saw Mill Parkway from the off ramp at peak times)-stigmatizing for ALL residents. One can only imagine the nicknames that could be given to this monstrous "PROJECT".
-insufficient open space to foster any sense of community within the building, minimal green space for the general well being of all residents.
-Complete failure to integrate into the landscape of the hamlet center.
-Inflated scale of construction, dwarfing surrounding homes and town structures.
We love our home, we have fully intended to make this the place where we will raise our girls and spend our lives. However, my first reaction upon seeing the Chappaqua Station proposal was "Oh My God…we have to move." The approval of this project will be a massive disruption to our home, lives and happiness. I believe my surrounding neighbors agree. This project would be an obscene addition to downtown Chappaqua, ultimately disrupting the "home, lives and happiness" of our town and its residents. We can do better. We are obligated to do better.