The corner of Riverdale Avenue and Main Street located in downtown Yonkers, may soon be transformed into an affordable housing site. https://www.realestateindepth.com/news/yonkers-ida-votes-preliminary-approval-for-50m-mixed-use-residential-building-2/
MacQuesten plans on proposing 31 below-ground parking spaces, which would fall below code requirements. The company would propose a payment in lieu for the other spaces needed. The deal is yet to be finalized on many levels. MacQuesten doesn’t own all of the property needed for construction. The firm is in contract to buy two of the lots, but the other three are owned by the Yonkers Community Development Agency,
MacQuesten Development of Pelham is slated to build the ten story mixed use development which will have a set aside of 76 units for affordable housing.
Both Mayor Spano and District 1 Councilwoman, Shanae Williams have applauded the proposal. “Having access to good quality affordable housing is a right that every person deserves. I am proud to support this development along with the IDA and Mayor Spano because it will make a difference in Downtown Yonkers,” said Shanae V. Williams, Yonkers City Councilwoman, District 1." - Real Estate In Depth
However, what is not being addressed is the toxicity of the area on which the development is being built.
The City of Yonkers was built by commerce and industry. Long before green grass and modern hi rises became the landscape that Yonkers is touting today, the City was a hub of factories, warehouses, and businesses loaded with toxic chemicals used in manufacturing. Considering that the EPA, (Environmental Protection Agency) was not created until 1970, there was minimal supervision or awareness as to the consequences of hazardous waste.
MacQuesten Development has applied to the DEC for a permit to clean up the brownfield that the proposed site is located on. The program provides tax incentives to the buyer.
On October 4th., 2016, the location was the site of a day time demolition, after concerned citizens of the landmark status of Richard Haas murals, lost their fight with the City of Yonkers. Prior to that day, the corner, renamed Sid Caesar Way, and the entrance to the downtown Yonkers dining area, hosted three iconic murals painted by international artist. Richard Haas.
Richard Haas painted a three panel "Gateway to the Waterfront" Mural on three buildings in Yonkers in 1997. The panel murals depicted the history of the city. The center panel was destroyed in that demolition by the local developer who owned the buildings at that time despite the fact that the murals were land marked. The City of Yonkers vowed to replace the mural elsewhere but to date has not. https://news.hamlethub.com/swyonkers/life/1907-yonkers-haas-mural-demolished
In the process of that demolition, the toxic waste that MacQuesten plans to clean up was dispersed into the air during the demolition in 2016. It is unknown if any air monitoring was employed in that operation.
Although restaurant Havana customers have been dining on the brownfield for years. there are caveats. Brownfields can impact public and environmental health due to contamination that can pollute soil, air, and water resources on and off-site. People might be exposed to these hazards by walking on the site, by wind carrying contamination off of the site, or by drinking groundwater affected by the site. This can occur before, during, or after redevelopment.
Councilwoman Williams and the present candidates for her office have repeated the mantra of more affordable housing needed, yet none have spoken about the health hazards of brownfield clean up and the impact on their constituents.
What is also unknown is what MacQuesten plans to do with the remaining Haas mural. Will it meet a similar fate as the previous landmark?
In the midst of the proposed hi rise sits a small brick building joined to the boundary of 38 Main Street. A sign reads, Tequilero. a.k.a. 38 1/2 Main Street. It has remained unoccupied and unopened for several months. Their liquor license is pending. Recently, a notice from the State Liquor Authority was emailed to the owners. In the end, will their efforts be worth it, or will they too be swallowed up in the name of progress?