The Sidewalks of White Plains


Work Session Report:

Bank Street Commons "is ready and raring to go," fully financed. July groundbreaking predicted.

JPI reports it is "in," after doing the numbers with City Tax Assessor. Their costs are down, assessment lower, reducing tax burden, removing need for excessive PILOT payments.

Council agrees to grant reduced payments to JPI for first three years and will tax JPI at the going assessed rate after the fourth year.

News Leak: Council, held spellbound by Commissioner Gismondi, agrees to permit Flexible Mechanical Joint for Hub-less Pipe, saving developers and plumbers millions in running waste and storm water lines. Saves Bank Street Commons $1.5 million. Measure amending Plumbing Code to go before body Monday.

Nicoletti reports street light supplier for the new look downtown does not carry selected lampposts in "silver," Streetscape designer was working with outdated color swatch new street design for the downtown was created.

By John F. Bailey


CityLine: May 31, 2001 -- Education House

Thursday's public work session was filled with good news and momentous change for the city.

The council received good news from Patrick Gilpatrick developer of Bank Street Commons that the project was "rounding the far turn and going into the home stretch." Gilpatric reported that he had found and received a nonbinding letter of intent from a single source of financing for the two 250 unit apartment towers that anchor the project, and that he had a "handshake" deal with a hotel chain, which would finance its hotel segment of the project.

Gilpatric reported plans for the first building on Main Street went in to the Building Department in April, the second set for the other apartment tower in May.

He said that presently legal matters were being taken care of and that he expected to solidify construction costs to enable them to enter into a binding contract. He expected to break ground in late July. He said that York Hunter, the contractor, had reorganized themselves, enabling them to underwrite the total cost of construction.

He reported that he was working with the Westchester Industrial Development Agency to secure commitment of savings on public improvements in early July. His final words on the project were "We're ready and raring to go."

JPI returns. Tax Assessor guides them to a kinder, gentler assessment.

More good news was received from a slightly sheepish-looking Jack Englert, Managing Partner of JPI, Dallas, who appeared to say that after closely reexamining his costs, and working the numbers with the City Tax Assessor, Eyde McCarthy, he now felt JPI could afford the 300 Mamaroneck Avenue project, Jefferson at White Plains, and that JPI was "100% in."

Englert said that originally when he had asked the Common Council for a more than 50% cut in taxes over 15 years two weeks ago, (which the Council rejected), that he had underestimated his costs and overestimated his assessment. Actually, JPI had projected the amounts for their PILOT without consulting with Eyde McCarthy, City Tax Assessor at all prior to his proposal of May 17.

First, Englert said he had satisfied the demands of the owner of the property, then reexamined his costs, shared them with Ms. McCarthy, arriving at a total tax payment per unit of $2,900 instead of the $3,800 his firm had originally estimated. Englert said he felt JPI could live with this, if they were given tax relief over the first three years of the project and Westchester County IDA relief from the state sales tax and the County Mortgage Tax.

In the new proposal, JPI asks the council to agree to a drastically reduced PILOT, (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) allowing them to request state sales tax relief from the County IDA.

The new PILOT consists of tax abatement for the first three years as follows: a tax payment of $120,000 the first year of the project, (when no income is anticipated), $150,000, the second year, and $180,000 in the third year (when the townhouses on Greenridge will start to rent). Beginning in the fourth year, JPI will pay the city approximately $800,000 a year in taxes based on a tax bill of $2,900 per unit (the new figure arrived at by comparing costs with typical city apartment assessments in discussions with Ms. McCarthy).

After the fourth year, Ms. McCarthy advised the Council, JPI would pay taxes based on the current assessed value with the city possibly losing revenue if assessed value went down, and gaining revenue if the assessed value went up.

The Councilmembers were in agreement this was an acceptable proposal from JPI that would keep the project in White Plains without setting a precedent for granting generous PILOTs to developers of luxury housing. The Council was asked to do this in order for JPI to approach the City School District which also has to approve the PILOT agreement.

Englert said the JPI Board of Directors had approved his revised project numbers this week and that JPI definitely wants to build this project. He said he expected to close on the property at 300 Mamaroneck on August 8.

In the trifecta of the evening, the Common Council listened to Commissioner of Building, Mike Gismondi, report on the advantages to White Plains of allowing a one-line revision of the city plumbing code, permitting a widely used plumbing technique that only White Plains (of all of New York State) prohibits.

The revision contemplated and scheduled to be voted on Monday by the Common Council is to allow developers to use "Flexible Mechanical Joint" construction for "Hub-less Pipe." This simple change is reported by Gismondi and later by Mayor Joseph Delfino himself as the single most costly requirement that is inhibiting developers from building in White Plains because it sharply increases their costs and limits their choice of plumbing contractors.

Currently, Gismondi said, White Plains requires all plumbing fittings to be welded.

The change, according to Deputy Building Commissioner, Damon Amadio, interviewed after the meeting, would apply only to sewage and drain storm lines, and would not be used on potable water supply lines.

Gismondi assured the Council this single rewriting of the plumbing code could possibly save developers a lot of money, though he would not give a figure, and make White Plains substantially more attractive to developers.

Before Gismondi spoke, Mr. Gilpatric, developer of the Bank Street Commons project said his project would save 1.5 million dollars if the Council legalized the plumbing technique. JPI's Englert also put in a good word because it would save his project money.

Gismondi said approval of the new connection device which is allowed throughout New York State, but not in White Plains, would "level the playing field" for White Plains in competition with other cities. He strongly urged passing the one-line change in the city plumbing code.

In the one sour note of the evening, Joseph Nicoletti, Commissioner of Public Works, reported that when he was ordering the new lampposts for the new city streetscape the Council has approved that the lamposts are no longer available in silver.

Instead, they made the demonstration lamppost in gray, the closest color to silver. A full-scale model of the gray lamppost is on the traffic island in the Middle of the Mamaroneck and Main intersection. Nicoletti told the Council that the designer, Imbiano-Quigley of Bedford Hills, had been working with an out-of-date color swatch sample book from the lamppost manufacturer when they had selected the original color scheme.

Nicoletti told WPCNR that he was ordering the lamposts in black at this time, and that the street bench color had not been selected yet.

An executive session regarding an employee matter involving the Public Safety Department was held prior to the meeting, but no details were released.

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