by Dave Zornow
Upper Nyack, Dec 11 — Upper Nyack is the rare community that prefers a grandfathered, industrial site to higher rateable residential homes. The majority of the 150 residents who packed the Upper Nyack Elementary School last night made it clear they were against any development that would threaten the status of the 200 year old Petersen’s Boatyard.
Village officials voted against a proposed “zone text amendment” which would allow residential use by special permit at three locations in the village including the marine business district on the Hudson. An environmental impact analysis, required by the change, would have cost the village $150,000 to complete. The current owners of the boatyard want to sell the property to a developer who would maintain the boat basin and build 8-10 homes on the site.
Five years ago the Beneville family, which owns the facility, negotiated a plan for Clarkstown to buy the boatyard and keep Petersen’s as a working museum. But that plan washed out to sea when town residents defeated a $5 million bond to finance that purchase in November 2005.
Residents cited history and tradition and reasons to maintain the status quo. “It’s a living representation of our connection between our community and the river,” said Elyse Knight of the Tappan Zee Preservation Coalition. “The legacy of rebels…fisherman…native Americans should be protected.”
The three acre facility has a long history. During the World War II, Julius Petersen build sub chasers and air-sea rescue boats, employing over 300 people. According to the environmental group Scenic Hudson, the property has been continuously operated as a boatyard for 200 years.
“I fear and despair over granting residential housing,” said Upper Nyack resident Fran Martin. “It sets a precedent for medium high density development on the whole waterfront.”
“This is a question of right and wrong,” said Riverkeeper’s John Lipscomb. “The boatyard has survived multiple owners, depressions and world wars.” Lipscomb told the Nyack trustees “not to be the men and women who end that chapter [of history].”
“This is not about historical preservation — but about hysterical preservation,” says Dennis Lynch, the attorney representing the boatyard. “If people care, they can work on getting grants and make a fair market offer for the property. Lynch echoed Lipscomb’s comments about the sale being about right and wrong, but countered that it was wrong to deny a property owner the right to sell. “Nothing that is said here tonight will change the sale of the property, but what the board does will affect the options,” he said. “The Beneville family believes the best use of the property is residential with a marine basin.
Nyack architect Jan Degenshein, who has been working with the Benevilles, says the adjoining Van Houten’s Landing Neighborhood Association isn’t acting in good faith over the fate of the boatyard. “A year ago, when I approached a Van Houten’s Landing Neighborhood Association spokesperson to discuss his concerns about the property, he declined to engage in conversation,” writes Degenshein in the Journal News. “Instead, VHLNA has embarked upon salvos of destructive misinformation, obfuscations and inveiglements, serving only to escalate fear.” Degenshein says eight of the boatyard’s 225 customers live in Upper Nyack. A majority of Upper Nyack residents voted against the purchase of the boatyard in the 2005 referendum.