To the editor:
NOTE: The following is the text of my letter to The Gazette of July 30, 2009:
Governments often work in ways contrary to the interests of those who elected them and whom they profess to serve. Croton is an example of this. With local retail businesses struggling to survive, Croton’s government recently waived permit requirements for itself and cut a rent-free deal with a for-profit corporation. By installing a so-called “farmer’s market” on public property and providing village traffic control personnel without so much as a public hearing, Croton facilitated competition with local food businesses, making their survival more unlikely. All the while it sheds crocodile tears over the sad state of retail business in Croton.
The controversial Harmon plan is another glaring example. It proposes to make substantial changes in the flawed Gateway Law, a poor foundation on which to construct anything. A small army of critics is attacking these changes that will affect all Croton neighborhoods. I am one of them. The Gateway Law mandates that new development in the Harmon area be designed “to enhance the district’s small-scale character.” Yet an examination of the plan for Harmon proposed by the committee’s consultant reveals a gross departure from those guidelines.
For the three lots described as the Dodge property, the plan shows a building containing 24,800 square feet of total floor area. Such a building would enclose 289,325 cubic feet of space. By any standard, that’s one helluva bulky building. Behind this massive structure will be an equally large parking lot, illuminated at night, containing 47 parking spaces to serve 16 retail or professional units and some 40 residential units. Despite its enormous capacity, 47 spaces are admittedly inadequate for the building’s needs. The consultant’s solution is for parking spaces to be shared by residents and outsiders in what can best be described as an intricate game of musical chairs played with automobiles.
Unfortunately, too, the Harmon committee neglected to point out to the consultant that the corner lot was a site of historical significance—namely, Harmon’s first and oldest building, the original sales office of Clifford B. Harmon. Their totally unacceptable plan calls for its destruction.
I am a firm believer in the natural superiority of women. Studies have shown that women excel in a wide variety of areas: intelligence, physical and emotional health, sensory perception, sociability, and longevity, to name a few. As caregivers women are unsurpassed. I showed the consultant’s layout to my wife, Edith. It took her about three minutes of study to detect the fundamental flaw in the plan. “Where’s the open space? Where will the kids who will live in these apartments play?’ she asked. “Will their mothers caution them, ‘Go outside and play—but watch out for traffic. And don’t play in the parking lot. It’s dangerous with all those cars backing up.’?” The nearest of Croton’s too-few playgrounds is almost a mile away, my wife pointed out.
In the 1930s many small retailers got their start by “living over the store.” This gave them reasonable rent and a way to work long hours in the family delicatessen at street level. The Harmon plan is a bastardization of that concept. Croton’s planners seem bent on creating a veritable rabbit warren of retail stores, professional offices and barely habitable attic apartments. By injecting a large number of transient renters into a suburban commercial neighborhood, they will re-create an overcrowded urban landscape—the very conditions many Croton homeowners fled the city to escape.
Opponents of the Harmon plan have taken to calling the eventual result a “housing project,” an appellation that upsets proponents. I prefer to describe it as a “visual blight certain to be sparsely tenanted and a totally unacceptable slum.”
— Robert Scott, Croton-on-Hudson