Compromise isn't fun, but it's essential in our society


As 2013 was drawing to a close, an editorial appearing in this very space talked about the need to work together — with our government agencies, with our elected officials, and most especially, with our neighbors.

That editorial highlighted a number of “bad actors” throughout the course of that year, like Montefiore Medical Center’s plans at the time to build a medical facility in the heart of Riverdale, or LG Electronics wanting to construct a small tower across the border in New Jersey, easily visible by anyone with a Hudson River view.

Montefiore’s plan never came to fruition. LG scaled back its efforts. But there was one project that, at least when it came to community outreach, was winning praise in this spot — the expansion plans proposed by the Hebrew Home at Riverdale.

That doesn’t mean neighbors embraced the plans. Far from it. But there appeared to be an awful lot of transparency, and it seemed Hebrew Home officials didn’t want neighbors to suffer through any real estate surprises.

“Residents would like to tamp down development in order to maintain their unique environment,” the editorial read. “The Hebrew Home is seeking to adapt to a rapidly changing eldercare industry.

“Both sides have acted responsibly and reasonably as good neighbors working towards a compromise.”

When it comes to resolving disputes, there’s no better medicine than compromise. 

History isn’t kind to compromise. In fact, stealing land from Native Americans, the Vietnam War, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and especially slavery are all considered results of bad compromise.

But when it comes to working with each other, neighbor to neighbor, compromise is quite literally the promise we make to each other to share this experience we call life.

No, compromise isn’t going to make anyone completely happy. But it’s not supposed to. In order for both sides to get what they want, they must be willing to give something up — preferably of near-equal value.

That includes both sides. To achieve something of value, there is going to be a cost. It’s a give and take, and it’s the cornerstone of simply being a good neighbor.

The Hebrew Home plan is far from perfect. It’s a massive investment, which it hopes will come with massive returns — at least enough to keep the facility sustainable as a nonprofit for the foreseeable future.

But neighbors must be respected as well, not just when it comes to preservation of green space and unobstructed views of the Hudson, but also with what’s going to be massive disruptions when it comes to construction traffic.

The fact is, the community along Palisade Avenue is absolutely stunning. Protecting it is imperative. But we can’t ignore the fact that Hebrew Home is a part of that community, and protecting it also is imperative.

And let’s be frank — without some sort of continuing care retirement community, there is no pathway to save Hebrew Home from being gobbled up by for-profit entities, which will likely be more worried about the bottom line than the quality of care.

Government officials and our elected leaders know this, which is likely why Hebrew Home could refuse to make a single change without worrying whether this will earn its necessary approvals.

Yet, they keep coming back to the table, they keep trying to find that common ground. At some point, enough must be enough. 

That doesn’t mean either side should get up from the bargaining table, but a conclusion must be found soon. And it’s a conclusion that no one will be fully happy with, but still one where everyone feels they at least accomplished some of their goals.

Everyone at the table has proved they are good neighbors. Everyone has the best interest of the community in mind. 

Now it’s time for everyone to recognize that of each other, and finally find a way to truly come together.