Greenwich Residents Rail Against Port Chester Multi Story Apartment Building

On Thursday night an application for the multi-story “Tarry Lighthouse” rental apartment building went before the Zoning Board in Port Chester, New York, just over the Mill Street Bridge from Greenwich’s Byram neighborhood.

The developer is David Mann, who has built several high-end multi-story apartment buildings in White Plains.

The proposed multi story rental apartment building for the block on the corner of North Main Street/Abendroth/Mill Street has been reduced 2 stories since originally proposed. Photo: Leslie Yager

Looking toward Byram from Port Chester. Sept 4, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

View from Port Chester toward Byram over the Mill Street Bridge. Photo: Leslie Yager

Image of David Mann, Brian Dempsey and Anthony Gioffre projected onto large screen in the court room at Port Chester Police headquarters. Dec 19, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Zoning Board commissioner Evelyn Petrone presided over the meeting that included an application for a multi-story building, “Tarry Lighthouse.” Also pictured, commissioners Keith Moreland and John Allen. The three commissioners constituted a quorum. Photo: Leslie Yager

The applicant’s attorney Anthony Gioffre said the applicant has been working on this proposed development for over a year.  The block is in the C-2 Main Street Business District.

Mr. Gioffre said that while the revised application still incorporates the entire block,  7 stories are proposed, down from 9 stories as previously proposed.

Also they reduced the number of units from 274 to 242 units, with 96 of them being studio apartments. Gioffre said that would reduce the impact on the local public schools.

The development would have 358 off-street parking spots.

“It’s a reduction of 32 units,” Mr. Gioffre said, adding, “No parking is required for any proposal in the C-2 area.”

Mr. Mann said the building height has been reduced from 113 ft to 90 ft.

Gioffre noted there has long been a dearth of parking in the area, and the parking spots will available to the community when they are not in use by the tenants.

Because FEMA regulations preclude underground parking, the applicant is seeking a variance for height.

“Any required parking will have to be above grade and require a taller building,” Gioffre said.

Pedestrians in front of the now closed Tarry Market which would be demolished to make way for Tarry Lighthouse. Photo: Leslie Yager

The site currently serves the Tarry Lodge, Tarry Market (closed), Tarry Wine, and a Warehouse, as well as the Port Chester Dine & Design Building where Acuario and Tandoori Restaurants operate in addition to Redi Cut Carpet.

The development is about 1/3 of a mile from the Port Chester Train Station.

“The applicant has taken efforts to bring a dynamic project to the village, address questions and downtown parking issues, which it’s not required to do. And we’ve made significant modifications since we were here before you.” – attorney Anthony Gioffre

The applicant’s engineer, Brian Dempsey of Provident Design Engineering, talked about coordinating traffic and pedestrian signals across state lines.

“We know congestion exists at times,” he said, adding that the challenge is to coordinate across jurisdictions, referring to New York DOT, Westchester, Greenwich Traffic Dept and the Connecticut DOT.

“There is no synchronization,” he continued. “Changing signal timing to coordinate all signal timings would improve flow.”

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Dempsey said the main congestion takes place at the intersection of North Water Street, and that the “walk” signal is shorter in Port Chester than Byram.

“Now, if a pedestrian in Byram presses a button – all traffic stops,” he said, adding that he recommended “concurrent pedestrian phasing.”

“This is where someone gets ‘the walk,’ but you are walking in conjunction with traffic flowing. It improves the operation conditions.”

Dempsey said Mill Street and Delavan Ave are the only connection from US Rte 1 in Port Chester to I95 in Connecticut, and that drivers avoid the intersection of Midland Ave and I95 due to construction and ramps being closed.

“It is meant to handle traffic between I95 and here,” he said, referring to Mill Street and Delavan. “It’s designed to be a collector road.”

“I never go that way. I go further north,” said commissioner Evelyn Petrone, who ran the meeting. “I go to Byram, to Carvel in Byram. There’s not as much traffic there.”

“If it is a public safety issue for us. We’d look at any and all options, including closing the bridge.” – Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo

Mr. Dempsey said traffic also comes from Connecticut, over the bridge to Port Chester, with destinations including Costco Wholesale and AMC Movie Theaters.

“These people are coming in here,” he said.

Mr. Gioffre said the applicant’s traffic report had already been approved by the village.

“We’re just showing what the signal change can do to improve the project,” he said.

Greenwich First Selectman testified in opposition to the proposed Tarry Lighthouse multi-story apartment building in Port Chester. Dec 19, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

During public comment, Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo said he strongly opposed the proposal.

“I grew up and lived adjacent to this. Traffic is a nightmare now. It’s intolerable and dangerous,” he said. “It’s a cut through on both sides. I worry about not just noise and air pollution, but lost travel time and public safety concerns for our EMT, Fire and Police vehicles that will have a hard time.”

“If it’s deemed that it becomes a public safety issue for us, the Town of Greenwich would look at at any and all options including closing the bridge,” Camillo added.

Joshua Koerner, who lives in the Landmark “Lifesaver” building, said he was concerned about the carpet company owner in business for 40 years, and minority owned businesses on the block that will be razed to make way for the apartments.  Also he was concerned for La Placita Supermarket next door.

“How can you have a realistic traffic study? You don’t see the third of a mile backup on southbound I-95?” he asked, describing the applicant’s traffic study as “really just a cartoon.”

He described the applicant’s assertion that tenant parking spaces would be available during the day for the public as unrealistic.

“If you charge people, they simply won’t park there,” he said.

Samarpana Tamm said she opposed the multi-story apartment building, Tarry Lighthouse. Dec 19, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

Samarpana Tamm of Byram asked the commission to decline the application.

“We have a terrible traffic problem as it is. It’s backed up to the bridge – it’s frozen,” she said. We have a school and a library a block from Mill Street, and a crossing guard, but it’s still very dangerous for pedestrians and our children. There have been two accidents with pedestrians being hit by cars.”

Matt Popp of Byram said crossing the street by Tarry Lodge is already dangerous.

“When I walk, I have to run across,” he said.  “But in Byram, when you push the button, cars stop.”

“I don’t think Greenwich would ever change their crosswalks,” Mr. Popp added. “There would probably be strong opposition.”

Al Shehadi of Byram said he opposed the project, even as amended with fewer apartments, and two fewer stories.

“The building is still way too large,” he said. “Don’t get sucked into someone saying, ‘Let’s build an Empire State Building and compromise by saying, ‘Ok, we’ll build the Chrysler building.'”

As for parking he said, “Anyone who thinks adding 358 spaces is not going to have an impact is smoking some of the stuff Joe Biden doesn’t want to legalize.”

Mr. Shehadi said, “If this were located elsewhere in Port Chester, a multi family outside TOD (Transit Oriented Development) or Main Street, it would want 1.5 parking spaces per dwelling unit. You’d need over 500 spaces.”

“When they say 242 units won’t have impact on traffic in the area, that is not credible. Turn this down,” he said to a round of applause.

Dennis Schack, owner of Sam's Bar & Grill at 1 Mill St, Port Chester, NY.Photo: Leslie Yager

Dennis Schack, owner of Sam’s Bar & Grill at 1 Mill St, Port Chester, NY.Photo: Leslie Yager

Dennis Schack, owner of Sam’s Bar & Grill at 1 Mill St, Port Chester, took a different point of view. He pointed out that towns like Harrison are already developing multi-story housing and the younger generation doesn’t want to own cars.

“Change is coming,” he said. “Greenwich is looking to add units too. “Most of Main Street will get dropped in the next 10 years. We’ll either evolve and adapt or get left behind.”

Magaly Cochachi, who works at XS Hair in one of the buildings to be torn down said her minority owned business has years left on its lease. “Where are we supposed to go?” she asked.

Ms Cochachi said customers already complain about parking. “Let alone the tickets every hates in this town,” she said.

After public comment, Mr. Gioffre pointed out most of the comments were from people outside Port Chester and were beyond the scope of the application.

Mr. Dempsey repeated that the proposal will add parking for the community.

Now, he said, “If you want to go to Sam’s, you park all the way back by Colony Grill. …This is designed as a TOD transit oriented development, which is what municipalities have been asked to do. It’s one third of a mile from the train station.”

Mr. Dempsey said millennials use Uber for transportation.

“Ubers are cars!” someone in the audience shouted.

“If you don’t drive, then the car is there and so the parking space won’t be available for the village,” said commissioner Petrone. “I don’t see how you can have it both ways.”

“No parking is required by code,” Mr. Gioffre said. “We’re not requesting relief for parking from this board.”

Mr. Mann said he had empirical data from his other multi-story buildings in White Plains and that overall 67% of residents leave in their cars during the day.

Mr. Gioffre refuted Mr. Koerner’s characterization of the traffic model as “a cartoon.”

“I disagree that the synchronized model is a cartoon. We’ve seen it work.”

He urged the board to approve the one story variance for seven stories, noting that FEMA regulations make it impossible to provide underground parking.

Tarry Lodge is still a going concern at 18 Mill Street in Port Chester, but the building would be demolished to make way for Tarry Lighthouse mixed use development. Sept 4, 2019 Photo: Leslie Yager

The building that housed Tarry Market (closed) would be demolished to make way for a 7 story apartment building. Photo: Leslie Yager

Still, Ms. Petrone noted that the roads at the intersections are narrow.

“If residents from the other side of the river are coming out and saying the streets are clogged now, I’m not sure adding another 240 cars in this location is the right thing to do,” she said.

“The turning from Main Street onto Mill Street is tight and very narrow,” she added. “It’s hard to make those turns.”

“You’re underestimating the detriment that four districts have in refusing to coordinate,” Mr. Mann said. “In White Plains it’s just one jurisdiction.”

“Even with 247 cars, they’re not all leaving in the same hour. It would be dispersed,” Mr. Dempsey argued. “All our numbers have been reviewed and approved by the village’s traffic consultant.”

Curt Lavalla, Port Chester’s assistant director of Planning & Development, said the pedestrian safety issue is not resolved.

“The method for traffic studies is notoriously inadequate,” he said, adding that existing pedestrian movements on Mill Street and Main Street are “difficult and dangerous” and have to be addressed.

The applicant was asked for more information on pedestrian safety data and traffic studies.

The meeting was adjourned to January 16th.

See also:

Port Chester Planning Commission: ‘Pump the Brakes’ on 9-Story Tarry Lighthouse

Oct 1, 2019