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Resident recommends park be built atop City Center garage planned by Louis Cappelli
My name is Leonard Nadel and I am a seventy year old lifelong Westchester County resident, these past thirty-five years as a homeowner in White Plains. On Monday evening July 2 I made a presentation to the White Plains City Council which I believe is truly newsworthy. It is a unique proposal which would greatly enhance the entire downtown White Plains area through its coordination with the proposed "City Place" apartment/movie/retail project under consideration. The proposal, if adopted, will make City Place and White Plains unique in the nation.
The text of my remarks are attached to this email, but the full fifteen minute presentation may be viewed on reruns of the Council meeting on Cable Channel 72 evenings at approximately 8 P.M. The suggestion has garnered much interest, and I plan to again discuss it on July 10 at 8 PM at Education House at the scheduled meeting of the White Plains Council of Neighborhood Association officers when they meet with Louis Cappelli, the proposed "City Place" Developer.
Development of the former Macy's site in downtown White Plains is sorely needed, and I wholeheartedly support it. Nonetheless, allow me to make a creative and vital constructive suggestion.
At last month's open City Council meeting concerns were expressed about a $23,000,000 parking lot giveaway by the city for which we were getting nothing in return. The suggestion I will outline shortly will get us something very significant in return. Similarly, Mr. Cappelli, the developer of City Place discussed the need for height and the resulting enhanced view in order to make the complex more enticing to prospective tenants, and therefore more economically profitable to his organization. The suggestion I will outline shortly will provide that attractive view, regardless of building height, and enable him to offer a truly unique mixed use complex. Finally, last month's hearings brought questions from citizens of our city about what this complex would do to enhance White Plains as a city of people, not just commercial enterprises. My suggestion addresses this question as well. Please, hear my proposal and the many things it will bring us.
Who are the people who are going to move into the proposed City Place twin towers? I am no demographer, but I assume that the target markets are 1) Young up and coming business and professional people 2) Commuters of all age groups 3) Young families not yet ready or able to purchase a home 4) retirees, and empty nesters like my wife and me. Four distinct and different potential residents, yet they all have certain interests in common. What do they want? a) Quality b) Value c) Convenience d) Safety e) Services f) Facilities g) Community.
On another note, who are the parties to this entire proposal. (a) The developer, who understandably wants many of the same features outlined above in order to provide him with an opportunity for a reasonable return on his investment. (b) Existing and potential business entities, who's aims, too, are as outlined above. (c) We citizens of White Plains and our representatives in city government, all of whom also have the same objectives. Is there something which can meet these common objectives of all parties. Which can make this proposed development truly unique, and once again make the heart of White Plains the vibrant city center it once was. Yes. Indeed there is.
What is needed with this new City Place is a magnet. A drawing card. Something which will gentrify our downtown area. We need people. GENTRIFICATION. We do NOT need, to coin a phrase, MALLification. We need people. GENTRIFICATION. We do not need, to coin a phrase, CINEMAfication. People. Gentrification. NOT, to coin another phrase, enhanced STOREification. Some concerns have been expressed about the height of the proposed White Plains "twin towers" and their shadow effect, the shadow they would cast. I submit that the longest and darkest shadow will be caused NOT by twenty four story buildings, nor thirty story buildings, nor even thirty four story buildings, but by yet another enclosed mall in our city. Still, let the new City Place complex come. BUT LET IT BRING WITH IT SOMETHING WHICH WILL RETURN OUR PEOPLE TO THE OUTDOORS AND PERHAPS AGAIN CREATE A FEELING OF MAIN STREET AS IT ONCE WAS. We sorely need something which will return our people to the outdoors; return our people to the streets.
We are not New York City. Yet we can learn from the success of Lincoln Center as a highly attractive, active and visible magnet for people. That success stems, in addition to the Opera House, New York State Theatre and other venues, from the central courtyard, fountains, and gathering place. It draws people, and not just attendees at performance time. It is an attractive architectural centerpiece which offers residents and visitors alike multiple opportunities to enjoy the complex. We are not Palm Beach, Florida which has its own thriving mixed use center of shopping and residential, coincidentally called "City Place." We are not Palm Beach, yet we can learn from that facility as well. We may not have its Kravitz Center for The Performing Arts, but that development welcomes and attracts residents and visitors because of its central courtyard, fountains and gentrified plaza.Would that White Plains had an opera house or performing arts center.. We don't, although we will have a community theatre. We already have an Arts Center. Those differences do not mean we cannot attract people to the new heart of our city. We have the potential to make the City Place neighborhood truly the vibrant core of White Plains. Mamaroneck Avenue and Main Street are the heart of White Plains. Location is the key to any real estate transaction, and that location is probably the most valuable piece of property in our town. Why not make full use of it? Why waste it?
Much has been written about the need for open spaces. Even Mayor Delfino in his Environmental Initiative Proposal has made "a commitment to the acquisition and preservation of additional open spaces." Let us create a meaningful open space in the heart of White Plains, right at City Place. How?
I am willing to wager that most Westcheterites who drive to New York City by way of the Henry Hudson West Side Highway go right by the 157th exit without a backward glance. Furthermore, I submit that very few exit the Parkway, drive to 145th Street and Riverside Drive, park their car and walk down the ramp into one of New York City and New York State's wonders. Riverbank State Park. It is the only park of its kind in The Western Hemisphere. Please. Go see it. I even volunteer to drive our Mayor, our entire City Council, and Mr. Cappelli to that engineering marvel, certain that they will all be amazed at what has been done. I propose that we replicate it, albeit on a smaller scale, here in downtown White Plains.
That park on the banks of the Hudson River is a 28 acre marvel. Its design has drawn the attention of park planners across the planet! It is the only park of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. In 1965 New York City was ordered by the federal court to build a new sewage treatment facility somewhere along the Hudson River in Manhattan. Riverbank Park is built atop that sewage treatment facility and the only visible reminder of what is under the park is a cluster of vent stacks. That twenty eight acre park includes playing fields, playgrounds, swimming pools, picnic areas, an amphitheater, riding and jogging trails, and so much more. All of these gentrifying facilities for city residents in what might otherwise have been a totally wasted area for human use. It attracts people. Many people.
The proposed City Place Complex anticipates the demolition of the existing parking facility and its replacement with a new, partially underground, parking center. The top level of that parking facility is our Riverbank State Park. We do not have twenty eight acres available; however, an awful lot can be done with the couple of acres we do have. At what I would think would be minimal cost compared to the cost of this entire project, we too could have a functioning park in the heart of White Plains. A tree lined park, complete with grassy fields, picnic benches, walking and jogging paths, playgrounds, softball fields, gazebo. All it needs is sod rather than concrete atop the parking facility. Sod brings people!
Residents of City Place would have their own central park. White Plains residents would have additional reason to come back into the Downtown area. While existing facilities such as Tibbetts Park are available, this supplementary downtown asset at the heart of the downtown shopping and entertainment center would markedly enhance the proposed City Place complex for everyone. Mr. Cappelli would get the view he wants for tenants. White Plains would get value for its $23 million dollar concession. White Plains would gain immeasurably.
I have taken the liberty of copying a New York City Office of Parks reproduction of a New York Times article about the park. I have a limited number of copies with me for the Mayor, Council members, Mr. Cappelli and others who might be interested. I urge you to review these pages and then take me up on my offer to chauffeur you to that park.
The New York Times of Sunday, June 10, 2001 featured a major article in its Westchester section regarding the critical shortage of ball playing fields in the County. An unsolved dilemma. Open spaces and a city central park. Reflect on the still continuing discussions regarding the need and desire for a Central Park in White Plains. A still unsolved dilemma. Look to the Journal News article of last Friday, June 29, reporting on the enthusiastic reception in our neighboring community, Irvington, on the opening of their new Scenic Hudson River Park which is being "hailed by conservationists and government leaders as a textbook case on how to convert industrial landscape into a place that brings people to the waterfront." LET US WRITE OUR OWN TEXTBOOK. HERE. IN WHITE PLAINS. HERE. AT CITY PLACE.
One final thought. In the seventy years I have been a Westchester resident, in the thirty six years I have been a White Plains resident, I have seen many changes. Some good, some not so good. I want our city to again truly be THE COUNTY SEAT. Three years ago my wife and I, classic empty nesters, sold our luxurious old house in White Plains. We elected to stay in town. We now live one block from the site of City Place. We live in Cameo House which, I believe, offers the premier apartments in White Plains. I invite you, Mr. Mayor, all Council members, and Mr. Cappelli up to my seventh floor terrace. Come and look at the view of a parking lot roof. Then, while there, look the other way at the beauty of Tibbetts Park on North Broadway. Visualize that park atop the parking facility. A quiet tree lined park for the benefit of all White Plains residents, including our neighbors to be who move into City Place.
Yes, we can get something for our $23,000,000. City Place can have an enhanced view. Mr. Cappelli can offer his prospective tenants something not available in any comparable downtown facility. Parents can push their children on swings. Seniors can take a leisurely stroll. Mercy College students can study. Shoppers in City Place can have an attractive venue to rest and relax. Restaurant goers can have a place to walk off those extra calories. Community theatre and movie goers can await curtain time on a comfortable park bench.
As the council refers the City Place proposal to Urban Planners, I strongly urge that this option be included, and that they recall the line from the movie, "Field of Dreams". "BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME." Please. Let us not waste this valuable piece of property.
Earlier I said that I believed prospective residents of City Place wanted six things: a) Quality b) Value c) Convenience d) Safety e) Services f) Facilities g) Community. Here is one means of giving them all that they seek. Thank you for your time. My car is ready when you are.
July 2, 2001
White Plains CitizeNetReporter