If its demolition work on the Spuyten Duyvil site of Villa Rosa Bonheur is any indication, Timber Equities is a developer that likes to leap before it looks.
The approach for the group’s second project, however, at 3893 Waldo Ave., is a bit different, presenting its basic plan of a four-story apartment building overlooking Brust Park to Community Board 8’s land use committee Monday night. Still, history has a way of repeating itself, and land use chair Charles Moerdler is determined to not let that happen here.
“We want no demolition, no permits until you come back to this board,” Moerdler told Timber Equities spokesman Sam Spokony.
“But don’t even bother to return unless you are prepared to come in good faith and hold up with any demolition on this site.”
Timber Equities — a group that includes Fieldston resident Jeff Torkin — presented preliminary plans for a small plot of land between Dash Place and Waldo, replacing a single-family home with 29 apartments and 10,000 square feet of what they describe as community facility space. It would include 15 parking spaces on-site, with a residential entrance on Dash, and a community center space accessed from Waldo.
“To be clear on the size of what is being planned here, it is not a six-story building,” Spokony said. “It will not rise six stories above Dash Place.”
That has been the concern of some neighbors of the project who worry that not only construction will disrupt neighboring Brust Park, but that the building’s height will cast shadows on the natural area, robbing it of sunlight and air.
Spokony, however, presented shadow studies commissioned by Timber Equities they claim will cast some short dinnertime shadows on the park, but that’s about it. He said neighboring six-story buildings could likely have a greater effect than what’s planned for 3893 Waldo.
The structure also won’t directly abut Brust Park, either, he added. A strip of land separates 3893 Waldo and the park that’s about as wide as a city street — because it’s actually mapped as such. The city, Spokony said, owns the strip, where it could at any time build West 242nd Street. In the meantime, that land could still serve as a buffer between the park and any apartment building.
But there’s another problem the developers will have to contend with, Moerdler said — how will people get in and out?
“General city law requires that you have to have front direct access to a city street,” the chair said. “You are not on a city street. How are you going to provide that access?”
Plans are to create an entrance onto Dash Place for the residential side, but committee member Bob Bender worries how well that street — which isn’t much more than a narrow roadway on the edge of a steep slope — can handle such a project.
“And the other problem, there is a significant retaining wall at the back of the property that keeps Dash Place from sliding down,” Bender said. “You’re going to have to preserve that retaining wall, and I’m trying to understand how you’re going to do that and still build a building the way you want to. How do you preserve Dash Place and ensure this property doesn’t undermine Dash Place?”
Timber Equities bought the property last year for $1.75 million, and pulled a demolition permit for the existing single-family home there last December, although no work has taken place just yet.
In the meantime, Timber officially filed plans with the city’s buildings department to construct a six-story, 55-unit apartment building at 2395 Palisade Ave., about two miles south in Spuyten Duyvil, where the long-standing Villa Rosa Bonheur exists, but mostly in pieces. Demolition of Villa Rosa Bonheur was halted after a neighborhood outcry, especially in how asbestos was being removed.
The buildings department slapped fines totaling $13,000 against the developer there, and work has yet to resume while some neighbors fight to keep what they describe as a historical existing apartment structure intact. Some of those neighbors have formed the Spuyten Duyvil Neighborhood Coalition to fight the project, and are raising money to fight the project in court.
Aurora De Armendi, one of the founders of the Coalition to Save Brust Park, hopes for a different outcome for 3893 Waldo.
“We want you to sell the land to the New York City parks department so they can extend Brust Park,” she told Spokony on Monday. “That needs to be done.”
But what Moerdler says he needs — at least until the next meeting — is more talk among those affected by the project, and no action.
“If you do any demolition of any kind, including the roof,” Moerdler warns, “if you disturb the asbestos that will be found there or if you do anything else before we meet again, you will have a war on your hands.”