While General Motors states it is “still in the process of selecting a developer” for its vacated 96-acre site along the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow, its prospects apparently have improved following a State Supreme Court judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Tarrytown against GM and Sleepy Hollow, according to a GM spokesperson.
“We hope the removal of that challenge will speed up our progress so that we can select a developer more quickly,” the automaker’s representative said.
However, still hanging over the site’s development is the possibility of further legal action by Tarrytown which has filed a Notice of Appeal of the judge’s decision that rejected its lawsuit this past September over the environmental impact, notably the increased traffic, caused by the density of the site. From the time of that notice, Tarrytown has up to six months to appeal the judge’s verdict. It has also asked the judge “to take another look at his ruling,” claiming that Sleepy Hollow has backed down on its commitments. (See Point/Counterpoint Columns from mayors of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, page 9.)
The village’s concern is that the size of the project, which includes 1,177 residential units and 300,000 square feet of commercial space, including offices and a small hotel, would cause southbound traffic congestion in its already heavily used routes, particularly Broadway. It claims that the proposed mitigation would not be adequate to provide a solution and that Sleepy Hollow had not looked at “serious alternatives proposed by Tarrytown.”
Tarrytown also wants Sleepy Hollow to detail how much of and when an $11.5 million fund that a potential developer will provide to Sleepy Hollow will be used toward mitigating Tarrytown’s traffic problems. It has stressed its willingness to enter talks with Sleepy Hollow that might lead to a resolution and possibly avoid an appeal. Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell, writing “...on behalf of the Village’s Board of Trustees,” stressed that position in a letter to its neighboring village early last month.
Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray responded with a message that read, “To say we are puzzled by your statement that you are hoping ‘to reach a resolution of the differences between our two villages’ would be an understatement.” It further noted that, “As far as Sleepy Hollow is concerned, Judge Hubert’s decision has resolved the issues regarding the General Motors development and no one need look further than the Findings statement for clarity.” Sleepy Hollow has also stressed the financial costs of the legal battle to both sides. The combined total for both villages of accumulated legal expenses at the beginning of October was $163,756, dating back to 2007 when an initial legal suit was brought by Tarrytown. Of that amount, Tarrytown had paid out almost $98,000 and Sleepy Hollow about $65,000. Mayor Wray is convinced that Tarrytown would lose an appeal of the judicial ruling if it goes through with one.
Even as Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow remain locked in a feud over the plans for the “Lighthouse Landing” project, there is progress on another environmental front. Further decontamination of the former auto plant area by General Motors is scheduled to begin this month. The work is being done by GM voluntarily as part of the New York Department of Conservation’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. Preparation for the task began in October and it involves dredging up from the river’s bottom nearly an acre of contaminated soil near an old sewer outlet and placing it in a staging area on the land’s western parcel. It will be tested there to determine whether it can be used for landfill or carted off the site. The process will not be completed until early next year, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The clean-up project, as outlined in a DEC Fact Sheet, requires “...the assembly of a water treatment facility, installation of construction office trailers, delivery of construction equipment and installation of storm water erosion controls.” Using a barge near Ichabod’s Landing and land-based cranes, steel sheeting will be placed in the river to facilitate the dredging work along 150 feet of shoreline, upstream and downstream from the sewer outlet. The dredging will scoop up soil as deep as ten feet below the river’s bottom and extend into the Tarrytown Harbor Channel.
Additional decontamination will be required as a developer builds on the former auto plant facility which once employed 4,500 people. The plant was abandoned by GM in 1996 and subsequently torn down. The land’s re-development has been stalled by legal entanglements for more than a decade.