Residents await ruling on 13-story high rise
With all arguments heard, board to vote at January meeting
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Dec 02, 2012 | 8814 views | 7 7 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE SITE IN QUESTION – The decrepit former Exxon station which currently sits at the corner of 67th street and Boulevard East is the ground for a battle between concerned West New York residents and a real estate developer.
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After a recent meeting, the West New York Zoning Board hopes to make a ruling on the controversial Meridia Le Boulevard high-rise proposal the next time the board convenes, which will be in January, Board President Kenneth Blaine said this week.

Before the January meeting, representatives of Capodagli Properties, the firm hoping to build the high-rise, and West New York residents strongly opposed to its construction, will both submit summations of their arguments.

Blaine said that while it would be not be appropriate to comment on the proceedings until the board has reached a decision, he did say that he and his colleagues would be looking at the proposal with the best interests of the town and its residents in mind.

“We’ll be weighing the benefits and the detriments of the proposal, and looking at them fairly,” Blaine said. “We treat each application individually and equally.”

This may come as bad news for several hundred residents who have risen in opposition to the proposal, which would allow for a 13-story, elevator-style high-rise to be built on the corner of 67th Street and Boulevard East, on the site of a long-decrepit Exxon gas station. At the last Zoning Board meeting, resident Doug Borden attempted to enter into the record a 2009 zoning application for a similar building, the Alpy, which the board denied due to a request for a higher than average number of variances.
“Not one resident has shown up to any of these meetings and said one positive thing about this proposal.” - Rose Puerto
“I understand that they don’t take previous applications into account, and I agree that it’s only fair,” said Borden. “But I do hope they take the similarities between the two situations into account when they make their ruling.”

The Alpy proposal was denied by the board on the grounds that it was “too much in too small an area, with a crowded roadway at its frontage.” The ruling goes on to say that “[the Alpy’s] benefits (expanding housing availability) do not substantially outweigh the existing detriments presented to to the existing roadways and neighborhoods.”

Borden, along with his wife Rose Puerto, and Joshua Breakstone, the founder of the website, said that because The Alpy proposal and the Meridia Le Boulevard proposal are so similar, they hope the board will vote to deny Capodagli’s application.

In fact, Breakstone said, if the Meridia Le Boulevard application were approved, the project would have to apply for more variances than The Alpy would have had to apply for had it been approved.

Breakstone’s website outlines 13 such required variances, which range from the minimum allowed lot surface area (zoning laws require an elevator building to have 40,000 square feet, the Exxon lot is only 13,194 square feet) to the percentage of said lot which is allowed to be occupied by the building (the law requires that only 75 percent can be occupied, while Meridia would occupy 95 percent of the lots). Additionally, the town, which is the third most densely-populated in the country, requires that only 80 units can be built per acre, while the Meridia would have 406 units per acre.

The concerned residents said that the facts were incontrovertible, and that they trusted that the zoning board would make what Breakstone called “the reasonable and responsible decision.”

“I have faith that they’re going to do the right thing,” Puerto said. “Not one resident has shown up to any of these meetings and said one positive thing about this proposal. Even the board’s own expert witness said that the space would be much better used as a park.”

Borden, Breakstone, and Puerto have made the case that the town’s zoning laws, which were adopted in 1972, were written with exactly this type of proposal in mind. Meridia Le Boulevard would decrease the amount of open space available in the area, would congest traffic and cut down on parking significantly, would cause a canyon effect on light, wind and noise, and simply hurt the aesthetics of the area, said Borden.

“The zoning laws set out by our town’s elders in 1972 specifically warn against allowing properties like this to be built,” he said.

The zoning laws state that the board’s mission be “to lessen congestion in the streets [...], to provide adequate light and air and open space [...], to prevent overcrowding of land or buildings [...], and to promote a desirable visual environment.”

Jeffrey Kantowitz, the attorney representing residents opposed to the Meridia, said that the developers had not, up to this point, shown that their proposal meets necessary standards.

“I hope that the board will look at the variances that the project would have to apply for, and the extent to which those variances would affect the area,” he said.

“If you look up and down Boulevard East, there’s sort of a pattern,” said Puerto. “If there’s a high rise on one side of the building, there’s not one opposite it, and vice versa. That’s what makes Boulevard East beautiful, it’s what guarantees that there is open space. We don’t want West New York to become New York City.”

Neither Capodagli Properties, nor its lawyer, Alvaro Alfonso, returned phone calls by press time.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 06, 2014
January 01, 2013
Resident's biggest concerns are parking and mass transit. Do any members of the board have to park on the street or take the bus to NYC during rush hour? Unless directly affected, foresee them dismissing these reasons.

As for all of the variances that the developers are requesting- the board has to remember that there are rules in place FOR A REASON. Instead of continually granting variances, why don't they take a hard look at the purpose of the rules. And we should challenge them to make a permanent change instead of granting variances - one that would affect all new development. This would be a much more serious task and one which may make them think twice about Blvd East's quality of life.

The last meeting I attended, a board member told the audience to stop asking the developer questions because he just wanted to go home. For someone like this, it is easier to grant variances and go home than to really look at the issues above. That is why I, and I hope you as well, will continue to go to zoning meetings and fight for my rights as a taxpayer and citizen of this town!
December 02, 2012
This proposal would have only negative impacts on the area. It will worsen the already ridiculous parking situation as well as the daily commute (public transit or private cars) of the residents, and will further congest road traffic and create hazardous situations with regards to emergency access. It will destroy the vegetation, space, and the light sought after by the residents of West New York (as well as by those living everywhere up and down the Palisades) who want to preserve a quality of life that is now very difficult to find in such overdevelopped cities as NYC, Hoboken, Jersey City etc...
December 02, 2012
It's unbelievable that this project is even being considered, it is an aberration, it would destroy the quality of life of all residents in it's vicinity.
December 02, 2012
An immediate area in which the building will have an impact is on the NJ Transit bus system. Rush hour capacity of the buses is already unbelievable. If the building is approved, against the wishes of the area's residents, then at the very least the building should offer a bus service for its residents. It's extremely unfair for those not living in the building to bear the consequences of the expected dramatic and adverse effect on the buses.
December 02, 2012
Three points:

(1) The excessive number of variances requested makes it obvious that this proposal is totally unsuitable for the site.

(2) The Alpy proposal, which was denied by the West New York zoning board, was significantly more within the bounds of WNY zoning statutes than the Meridia proposal. In THAT case (Alpy), the board, in it's decision, found that, "the request for the subject approvals will adversely affect the existing neighborhood, and the community as a whole, in consideration of the detriments. The Zoning Board of Adjustment hereby determines that approvals sought do not serve the objectives of the MLUL or of the town's zoning ordinances and master plan." Also that "The height of the structure contributes to the crowding of the one-family neighborhoods, resulting in lack of air, space, and light." Also that "the property does not sufficiently accommodate the problems associated with the significant density, FAR, lot coverages, and yard setback variances needed here." Remember that the Meridia proposal is several times larger in scale than was Alpy!

(3) Our hope is that our board will be consistent and deny the Meridia proposal for the same reasons it denied the Alpy proposal. In view of it's denial in the Alpy case, approval of the Meridia proposal would be capricious, unreasonable, inconsistent and foolish.

December 02, 2012
After weighing the pros and cons of this project, there is only one valid decision that the board could possibly reach -- and that is to deny the application.

To do otherwise would contravene not only the Zoning Code of West New York, but also numerous court decisions which hold that variances are the exception, not the rule, and are not to be granted lightly.

This project appears to consist of nothing BUT variances, evincing a complete disregard for the law on the part of the applicants. Their audacity must not be sanctioned or rewarded by the Zoning Board.

In addition to its non-compliance with the zoning laws, the proposed building is garish and unattractive in design and completely out of character with the town's architecture. It is more suited to Las Vegas than the Town of West New York.

This proposal is so wrong on so many levels that its approval would be a travesty. We are counting on the board members to send the message to developers that our zoning laws will be upheld and the character and quality of life in our town will be preserved.