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CI developer asks for variance

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City Island Estates, the 5.4-acre condo community planned for Fordham Place and Fordham Street, is not a sweatshop, not a hip-hop club, not a high-density development.

It is attractive. It is controversial, judging by a packed Community Board 10 public hearing at the City Island public library on Tuesday, June 2. Not only that, the waterfront property is up for sale.

Owner Tony Errico of New Jersey has engaged Massey Knakal Realty Services to sell 226 Fordham Street. The asking price is $8 million. Errico bought the property to honor his late father, who loved City Island, he recently said. According to Barbara Dolensek of the City Island Civic Association, he has put 226 Fordham Place up for sale before.

“It is an exit strategy,” said Errico’s lawyer, Carmine Alampi. “We don’t plan to flip the property. To sell it is not our goal.”

Errico acquired 226 Fordham Street, formerly International Underwater Contractors, in 2001. Since then, he and land use lawyer Melanie Meyers have presented a handful of plans. In 2008, the pair showed a 44-unit, 22-house plan. The current plan calls for 43 units and 22 houses. In order to build, Errico must secure a special height permit and a rezone. The property is zoned for light manufacturing. Errico wants to build five houses at the City Island height limit – 35 feet, 17 houses beyond the limit – 41.5 feet. The 35-foot houses will face Fordham Place.

Only a few properties on City Island are eligible for the permit; 226 Fordham Street is one. Community Board 10 held an emergency meeting to discuss the plan on Tuesday, June 9. At the public hearing, City Island residents and CB10 members peppered Errico, Meyers and architect John Jenkins with questions.

Parking is a chief concern. Errico is required to offer between 64 and 86 parking spaces on site; the current plan offers 72. Each unit will boast a one-car garage or a front to back two-car garage. According to Meyers, residents will also park curbside on the condo street grid. Fordham Place and Fordham Street residents who attended the hearing are certain that the condos will steal street parking. Residents and guests won’t park on Fordham Place or Fordham Street, Meyers said. There will be eight Fordham Place curb cuts and Errico will widen the street.

“Parking is going to be a problem,” said Carol Fitzpatrick of Fordham Place. “Parking is already a problem.”

Traffic is another concern. The residents of City Island Estates will add 86 cars – one or two more on City Island Avenue each minute of rush hour, Meyers said. Some neighbors want to withhold the special height permit. The 41.5-foot houses are located on a downhill slope, Meyers said. The existing houses on Fordham Place don’t enjoy waterfront views.

On June 2, Errico did not have a garbage collection plan ready, but said he would likely engage a private carter. Errico will build a public promenade on the waterfront, facing Eastchester Bay and the NYC Department of Corrections-operated ferry launch to Potter’s Field.

“We are frustrated,” CB10 chair Diane Locke said. “These are the same concerns that we addressed two years ago.”

According to Meyers, the condo community will add 40 school-age children to City Island; there is room at P.S. 175, she said. The clapboard-sided houses will sport one of four exterior designs and will boast breakaway walls in case of a hurricane. The site has undergone some environmental remediation, Meyers said, although neighbor Robert Cox and others believe it is still contaminated. Cox and real estate agent Jackie Kyle Kall want the city to build a park on the site. The condo units, which Errico hopes to set at $750,000, won’t sell, Kall said.

“Build a senior home,” she said. “Sell a mansion to Brad Pitt.”

According to Meyers and some neighbors, City Island Estates is better than a vacant lot and better than a factory. If another developer acquired the property and secured a rezone, he or she could build up to 76 residential units. At the June 2 hearing, Errico promised a City Island resident that he would stick around to supervise the property until the last unit sold. He expects the housing market to pick up soon. The condo community won’t be ready until 2011, he said. Of course, 226 Fordham Avenue is already on the market.

Updated 5:24 pm, October 21, 2011
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