by DANIEL BEEKMAN
On Wednesday, August 5, Community Board 10 district manager Ken Kearns and CB10 member Virginia Gallagher traveled to City Hall for a City Planning Commission public hearing on City Island Estates, the 5.4-acre condominium development that New Jersey businessman Tony Errico intends to build at Fordham Place and Fordham Street.
In June, CB10 voted to recommend that the CPC approve a rezone of the waterfront property, the former site of International Underwater Contractors. Errico plans to erect 22 houses and a total of 43 residential units. CB10 voted to oppose Errico’s request for a special permit. There is a height limit of 35 feet on City Island; Errico wants to build houses beyond the limit. It was a tight vote; 13 CB10 members voted no and 11 yes. There were three abstentions.
In step with the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure that steers zoning amendments in the city, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. held a public hearing on Tuesday, July 14. Diaz Jr. recommended that the CPC approve the rezone and the special permit. Errico promised CB10 and Diaz Jr. that he would observe the height limit on Fordham Place; he plans to build five houses at 35 feet on Fordham Place and 17 houses at 41½ feet between Fordham Place and the water. The taller structures wouldn’t appear higher because the property is on a slope, Errico has said.
That argument swayed Diaz Jr., planner Wilhelm Ronda of the borough president’s office stated. It didn’t sway Gallagher, who fought to establish the City Island height limit decades ago. If the City Planning Commission allows Errico to exceed the height limit, other developers will demand the same treatment, Gallagher said.
“We need to preserve City Island’s nautical heritage,” she said. “We need to protect it from over-development.”
City Island Civic Association member Barbara Dolensek is also afraid of over-development; Diaz Jr. upset some when he recommended that the CPC approve the special permit, she said. On the whole, Dolensek considers City Island Estates a reasonable development. Errico made a number of concessions following a CB10 public hearing at the City Island public library in June. He added parking to the interior of the development and agreed to implement a 43-unit cap on the property – in perpetuity.
“I think the [design] is very attractive,” Dolensek said.
Dolensek and Gallagher are somewhat worried about the potential impact of the development on City Island traffic. Errico plans to sell the units for $750,000 to $1 million. The CPC will issue a vote on City Island Estates within two months, spokeswoman Rachaele Reinoff said. The development may or may not go before the City Council.
“If the [special permit is awarded to Errico], other developers will cite precedent,” Kearns said. “The character of City Island will be radically altered. I think we made some salient points [at the August 5 public hearing]. I think the City Planning Commission listened.”