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More ? for City Island living facility

Bronx Times

It looks like it’s back to the drawing board again for a group that wants to build a controversial assisted living facility on City Island.

The Italian Hospital Society’s attorney and representatives have been fighting it out with a lawyer hired by the City Island Civic Association before the city Board of Standards and Appeals for months.

The Society is seeking a variance to skirt local zoning, on land at 222/32 City Island Avenue, currently an M-1 manufacturing zone.

As both sides had another go round at the BSA on Monday, Oct. 28 and Tuesday, Oct. 29, the BSA asked the Society for more information after IHS reduced the size of the project from 212-beds to 150-beds. The BSA then gave the IHS until Jan. 7, 2014 for more information. The City Island civic group still opposed the re-design, arguing the plan is out of character with of the mostly low-rise, low-density island.

CICA board member Barbara Dolensek said the IHS attorney at the Oct. 29 meeting “pleaded” for some more time to provide additional information.

She said that the Society, whose president is obstetrician Dr. Domenico Mignone, had witnesses there saying that Italian-Americans need such a facility, but without making arguments about the site.

“City Island would welcome elderly Italian-Americans; in fact, many already live here,” she said. “Our problem is simply with the scale of the project.”

She pointed out that City Island is vulnerable during major storms, and that the facility would put seniors at risk during mandated evacuations, such as one during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Community Board 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns, also at the hearings, said “As far as Bronx Community Board 10 is concerned, we have been completely supportive of City Island’s Civic Association’s position on the subject and we will continue to do so.”

Still unanswered, according to the Society’s filings with the BSA and obtained by the Bronx Times Reporter, was a question about a statement from a real estate planning firm that “the project is still not viable due solely to the sub-surface conditions, and the constructions premiums devoted to solving them.” This presumingly refers to the soil requiring environmental remediation. The location was home to a former boat builder.

No clear answers have been given to questions about two tests in 2009 and 2011 that found groundwater at the site 7 to 8 feet below the surface either.

Also unanswered was the Floor Area Ratio (essentially the density) of the 150-bed building having a FAR of 1.35, more than two and half times the typical area of residential buildings.

Another question was how supporters of the plan have referred to the City Island community as economically distressed both in an early interview and online. In the one full interview Dr. Mignone gave to this newspaper before the litigation, he cited vacant storefronts and said the project would bring construction jobs and more foot traffic for local stores.

E-mails requesting comment on documents from BSA filings reviewed by the newspaper were not answered, nor was a message left at Dr. Mignone’s medical practice.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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