Let’s pause and review: The mantra of the Harmon committee, most of whose members live in Harmon, is “Build it and they will come.” Opponents say it should be “Build it and they won’t come.” Proponents of the divisive Harmon proposal admit they’re greedy for the bigger tax revenues new properties will bring. Fearing a depression is coming, critics say the concept slights other struggling areas of Croton. Moreover, they point out, every Harmon property, occupied or unoccupied, is still yielding tax revenue.
The proposal focuses on the former Dodge and Nappy’s properties. It foresees a developer purchasing them, demolishing the buildings (including a Harmon landmark) and erecting mixed-occupancy structures with ground-floor stores and an indefinite number of apartments on two floors above. The fly in the ointment is the existing zoning law that must be changed. Opponents of the plan, including this writer, have pointed out that such spot zoning is illegal in New York. Why is the Village getting into the real-estate business and accommodating developers anyway?
The Harmon committee cannot guarantee that tenants will show up. One of its members, Jeremy Ezra, 31, currently employed by a New York City real estate firm specializing in large commercial properties, has offered to assist in finding tenants. What the owners of barely profitable businesses elsewhere in Croton will think of this one-sided favoritism to Harmon is anybody’s guess.
With the first phase of new buildings nearing completion, the committee predicts individual property owners will begin to erect matching structures. The scenario goes something like this: I am the debt-free owner of a thriving store on South Riverside Avenue in Harmon, and I live above my store. Succumbing to the committee’s hype, I scrounge for credit and contract for a new building. Next, I close the store, sell off inventory and fixtures at a loss, lay off my two employees, move my household furniture to a storage facility, and rent a furnished apartment.
Fast-forward to the time when the replacement building is ready. After being without income for almost a year. I move into a new upstairs apartment, restock the store and try to entice former customers to return. It’s not easy. Because of my heavy debt load, I must charge higher prices. Kicking myself for ending up with a struggling business, massive mortgage, two empty high-rent apartments above mine, staggeringly higher tax bills—and a view of the new empty stores and apartments of the bankrupt developer across the street, I have just one question for the Harmon committee: What planet do you people come from?
— Robert Scott