Architect Urges Village of South Nyack To Tempt Developer With Tax And Zoning Incentives
By Tina Traster
In what seemed to be a surprise turn, a New Jersey-based architect presented a detailed vision for the redevelopment of Nyack College at the Village of South Nyack’s Zoom board meeting Tuesday night that included a new Village hall, library, senior and youth center, performing arts center, playground, and a plethora of housing options.
While the presentation, which had not appeared on the meeting agenda, seemed to come from left field, ENV New Jersey, a national architectural and interior design firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Virginia, and Los Angeles, was retained by Procida Funding & Advisors LLC of Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Nyack College’s financial lender, nearly three years to evaluate the campus for its infrastructure and the state of its buildings before Procida lent Nyack College $38.5 million.
Now, ENV principal architect Hans P. Erdenberger is suggesting the Village of South Nyack has a “once in a lifetime opportunity to shape your community.” The architect floated the idea that the Village should engage in a horse trade with the presumed developer, Berel Karniol, by floating a development plan that can be sweetened with tax and zoning change incentives. The architect did not offer a specific package for either.
“The Village should consider trading a tax PILOT and zoning concessions for a village square,” Erdenberger said.
Under PILOT programs, municipalities are typically authorized to grant developers exemptions from traditional property taxes for a set period of time to encourage them to make improvements to property. The implication is that the developer would donate land to create the municipal cluster of buildings.
Walking through a rendering citing proposed concepts, the architect proposed a new village hall, senior/youth center, sports facility, library, a performing arts center, and playground on the north side of the campus. The proposal also included an ambulance corps and DPW building in the “municipal” cluster. Two four-story apartment buildings would be situated in close proximity, and 40 townhouse units would be sited along adjoining green space.
The plan also calls for stone cottages in and around Sky Island Lodge, potentially eight to ten condos in a redeveloped Shuman Hall, and “chic industrial-style lofts” in the Boon Campus Center.
More housing would be proposed in the vicinity of the gazebo – “We envision bringing back the front porch with single family houses,” he said.
Dormitories Christie Hall and Simpson Hall would be expanded and converted to “modern” condo buildings.
Finally, a proposed trolley route would snake through the development, ferrying people back and forth from the campus to Nyack.
Erdenberger told the board of trustees and residents his firm “felt compelled to come forward with this plan” and that it is a “love of the craft.” While that may be the case, ENV previously worked for Prodica Funding, and Billy Procida, a Piermont resident, has publicly expressed an interest during village board meetings in seeing the campus redeveloped for residential and commercial use to boost South Nyack’s tax base.
Nyack College is reportedly being purchased for about $45 million by a developer thought to be Berel Karniol, a residential builder. A developer would need zoning variances for certain residential housing.
Sources say Karniol is working with Gabe Alexander, who was thought to be the original “for-profit” developer who intended to buy the campus but was not identified in Nyack College’s application to the Village of South Nyack to amend the existing special permit allowing educational and dormitory use on the campus. Karniol and Alexander, who built the Pavion in Nyack, have worked together on residential projects in Hackensack, NJ. Sources say Alexander is still in the mix but Karniol is the out-front purchaser.
The Village of South Nyack in May rejected Nyack College’s application for an amendment to the college’s current special permit for its use of campus buildings for educational purposes and residential dormitories.
Residents on Tuesday’s Zoom meeting said they were “whiplashed” and “confused” by the presentation, and by the lack of transparency overall.
“Is this something that is wishful thinking or is this something that is still possible?” asked Frank DeVita. “Are these actual plans or is this presentation after the fact? There is no context to this.”
Village of South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian said only that the architects asked on Monday night to present their plan at the meeting and the village board obliged. The mayor offered no further context on the viability of the plan, its context to the developer, or whether the village trustees had any seat at the negotiating table.
In response to residents’ confusion, Erdenberger said a developer wants breaks, incentives.
“Start the conversation,” he told the mayor, the board and residents. “If it’s too far down the road, then tell me. But I believe there are possibilities and ways to get there.”