Dobbs Ferry Residents Voice Rivertowns Square Concerns

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Residents spoke for and against the Rivertowns Square proposal at Thursday's public hearing.
Residents spoke for and against the Rivertowns Square proposal at Thursday's public hearing. Photo Credit: Contributed

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. – Dobbs Ferry Mayor Hartley Connett and the Board of Trustees fielded public opinions on the pending Rivertowns Square project Thursday night in the Embassy Community Center.

Though some residents offered a positive outlook on the project’s likely impact, the majority of those in attendance voiced concern for what some felt was a large development in a small space.

“The biggest problem is the traffic it would warrant,” said Dobbs Ferry resident Hubert Herring. “Whatever else you want to say about the project is irrelevant, because the traffic would be a disaster.”

Apprehension about more traffic in Dobbs Ferry was the most frequent complaint. The project, located between the Saw Mill River Parkway and Lawrence Street, would  include an apartment building with 202 units, a gourmet supermarket, retail and restaurant businesses, and a Sundance Cinemas complex with eight theaters.

Some residents see this combination as an exciting addition to the area.

“Sundance’s cooperation is the anchor this project needed,” said Dobbs Ferry resident Bettina Speyer. “It is the kind of hook Dobbs Ferry needs to become a truly unique destination.”

Before the public hearing began, Final Environmental Impact Statement attorney Mark Weingarten gave a PowerPoint presentation which highlighted changes that have been made in the past two years in attempts to mitigate common concerns from residents, such as traffic.

“The vision for Rivertowns Square has consistently moved in a direction that aims to maximize the pedestrian experience,” said Weingarten.

Despite changes such as a 67 percent reduction of the size of the proposed supermarket, and the addition of the state-of-the-art Sundance Cinema - which the developers said would tend to draw more traffic in the evening rather than at peak-traffic hours - many in attendance remained unconvinced.

“For the last two years, I have been living a nightmare,” said Dobbs Ferry resident David Santini. “The complications this project would bring to our community have me sick. We’re in the home stretch here on whether or not this project will pass. And right now, it does not look good for the home team.”

The Board of Trustees is expected to issue a decision on the findings statement for Rivertowns Square by the end of the year. There are several more steps in the review process before the board can vote on whether or not to approve the project.  

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I disagree with Tina Spire when she says “It is the kind of hook Dobbs Ferry needs to become a truly unique destination.” Dobbs Ferry is a quaint, unique village. Many of us moved here because we found the village to be charming and picturesque. We loved the small town feel.

The proposed development would rob the village of all of those qualities. It will become the very opposite of unique. It will become another planned shopping destination with big name stores. It will be another Ridge Hill, Central Park Avenue, Long Island strip mall, etc. This project will add to the urban sprawl that we were trying to escape when we moved here. Certainly, those who choose to live in that type of environment can find it in any number of towns. Why ruin ours?

Thanks for the clarification! Duly noted.

Thanks for the coverage on this important project. In an effort to avoid confusion, it should be noted that this application has not yet moved into the approval process. An approval of the project is not yet being considered.

The action you are reporting that the Board of Trustees is expected to make within the next month is adoption of the Findings Statement. That is a required step in the SEQRA process. The FEIS was accepted by the Board several weeks ago, and the FEIS is the document prepared by the Board as lead agency stating the conclusions that pertain to potential impacts that the proposed project may have on the environment. The Findings is where the lead agency sends a message to all other agencies, including the Dobbs Ferry Planning Board, summarizing what the goals should be for the project when it is being considered for approval. In effect, the Findings give direction to other Boards as to what needs to be taken into consideration in the evaluation of the applications for Site Plan Review and Subdivision.

The Findings are not an approval of the project. The approval of this project will be something considered by the Planning Board during both Site Plan and Subdivision Reviews, with the Planning Board making the final decision on the Subdivision and a recommendation on the Site Plan. The approval of the Site Plan is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees, taking the recommendation of the Planning Board into consideration. Neither the Site Plan nor the Subdivision Review processes have yet begun.

It was great to have 31 people willing to speak their opinions at the microphone and I appreciate the 21 who expressed their fears and objections about the project. as well as the 10 who were brave enough to voice their support for the process and the project.