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TZ Vista: 4, 6 Or No Stories On The Hudson

by Owen Voutsinas-Klose and Dave Zornow<!– –>


Gedney Street site of former superfund manufactured gas plant where luxury TZ Vista construction has been proposed. “Say No To 6 Stories” signs are from neighbors protesting development of this site. Photo credit for aerial view: : DCAK-MSA

A project to turn a former superfund site in downtown Nyack into a luxury condominium on the Hudson River has stirred up a summer controversy involving the developer, a handful of outraged neighbors and the Village of Nyack Planning Board. Because the developer of the TZ Vista project has asked the village to amend the village’s zoning code, several residents are crying foul.

TZ Vista developer Helmer-Cronin Construction says that allowing the complex to rise to six stories will benefit the community with an almost one acre new river side park and about a million dollars in additional tax revenue. A small group of residents has placed signs near the site saying “No To Six Stories,” but it’s not clear that they support the four story structure that the developer says he is allowed to build.

TZ Vista, if approved, will be built at 55 Gedney Street next to the Clermont Condominium just north of where Main Street meets the Hudson River.


Artist’s conception of what TZ Vista would look like when seen from the Gedney Street, looking south. Source: DCAK-MSA

As part of the zoning change application to the Village Board, TZ Vista and  architectural firm Drazen Cackovic have proposed two different designs. The first consists of three four-story wood and brick buildings with surface parking and is allowable under the existing village zoning code.

How High Is Too High?

The Village of Nyack Planning Board asked the Building Department to survey the properties along Gedney to determine their average heights as measured from Gedney Street, the road that runs along the river between Main Street and 4th Ave. They found that Gedney slopes up almost 20 feet going south. According to the Building Department:

103 Gedney – 68.5 ft
101 Gedney – 60.5,/64.3/67.3 ft (3 buildings)
Clermont Phase 2 (Tower) – 117.1 ft

TZ Vista’s proposed maximum height of 65 feet is in line with 101 and 103 Gedney, according to the Building Department.

Although the proposed development would also be below the height of the Clermont, the planning board says any new development should be capped at the height of the buildings on Gedney, meaning that nothing should be taller than any existing building, regardless of how it is measured.

The second option depends on passage of a text amendment to Nyack’s waterfront zoning code to allow TZ Vista to build three six-story glass and steel buildings instead of the four story structures. Nyack officials say this approach gives the Village Board the ability to negotiate with the developer for additional amenities in addition to what the developer is currently offering.

The developer says a six story design would offer the same number of units as the four story building, but the additional revenue generated by more expensive apartments would let the builder put all of the parking underground. “By regulation now we could put all of the parking on the land – but that would be nothing but cars,” says TZ Vista’s Bill Helmer. “But I think that’s a real negative for the village – why do you want to see all of those cars? We want to have a lawn and landscaping,” he says.

Neighbors against six stories say it would block their view of the water and that the steel and glass look doesn’t fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.  The developers argue this plan would provide public access and better view corridors as well as enhancing the Village of Nyack’s long term plan for the waterfront.

“I and many residents are opposed to the further ‘Clermontization’ of our waterfront,” says John Gromada, who lives across the street from the proposed TZ Vista development.” Gromada and other long time residents are fearful that the TZ Vista will resemble the Clermont Condominiums, sited where Main Street meets the Hudson River. “Rather than six-story glass and steel towers that [the developer] has proposed, we would like to see buildings in scale and character with our historic village, and a project that has water dependent uses making the river more accessible to all.”

Helmer counters saying the view from Gromada’s house and nearby intersections would be better with the six story version of TZ Vista. “The view corridors for the four or six stories would be almost the same,” he says. “Either way, we have to build three buildings with open space between them so you can see the river. We can build a wider view corridor if we can build to six stories,” Helmer says.

The Village of Nyack Planning Board issued a comprehensive report outlining the project. In its report the planning board concluded that

…the current WF regulations were adopted after construction of Clermont II, largely as an effort by past Trustees of the village to ameliorate the perceived negative impacts of the Clermont  development, to wit, interference with view corridors, asymmetry of design elements, and the privatization of waterfront access to the Hudson River at the base of Main Street. As a result of the zoning regulations enacted after Clermont II, the current WF zone, in our view, unnecessarily limits the character and nature of what can be accomplished by this Petitioner, and others, in the WF zone.


TZ Vista developer says sight the sight lines are better at six stories than with four.

Helmer adds that at six stories — which the Nyack Building Dept says is no higher than adjacent apartment buildings — he can afford to build better public access for village residents and Nyack visitors. “We are offering to create a 25 foot wide easement for 100% of the frontage if we can build six stories with an almost one acre public park down by the water.” Helmer says at four stories, the builder needs only to provide a 12 foot wide easement along the river for 75% of the frontage. The necessity to create above ground parking for four stories will also limit the size of the path and the park.

“It’s a question of what Nyack wants to be 10, 20 and 50 years from now,” says Upper Nyack resident Daniel Wolff. “With a boutique hotel going up at one edge of the village, large-scale development proposed for the former Pavilion site in the center of town, and this six-story proposal on the waterfront, Nyack is on the verge of major change: heading away from its past and towards the Jersey City model.” Wolff wonders if TZ Vista is part of a trend that will price middle-class families out of the market and impact the composition of the village. “Will the village’s racial and cultural mix survive? What becomes of the pedestrian-friendly streets, the view corridors and access to the river? The zoning that the TZ Vista condo project is trying to bust was put in because Nyack wanted to stay a human-scale riverfront town. Has the population changed its mind?” he says.

Although some neighbors object to the development, the business community is mostly supportive. “The Nyack Chamber of Commerce supports the thoughtful development of the riverfront,” says Scott Baird, president of the Nyack Chamber. “The TZ Vista proposal represents a unique opportunity to transform an underutilized and previously contaminated portion of Nyack’s waterfront- one of our most precious resources.” Baird says that in exchange for developer revisions, the village board should hold out for meaningful commercial development and public access to the river as a part of this project.

Should the TZ Vista petition prevail, one unexpected beneficiary might be the Nyack School District.  The proposed luxury condos will add significant tax revenue to the schools but few if any students. Helmer predicts that the same number of units will yield about one million more in tax revenue if he can build more upscale apartments. “The Village of Nyack would see about $400,000 a year from the development,” says Helmer. “It’s not going to cost the village another dime. It’s a condo so we will pay for garbage and plowing.”

The TZ Vista complex would be sited on a former EPA Superfund site. The location, which covers six acres, once housed a plant which turned oil and coal into gas for heating, cooking and electricity between 1859 and 1965. The process created coal tar, a highly carcinogenic and toxic byproduct that leached into the river.  Helmer says it will cost $2-3 million to remove the soil contaminated by diesel and oil spills over the 150-200 feet of frontage once owned by the Tidewater Oil Company.

Owen Voutsinas-Klose will be a junior at Nyack High School this fall. Dave Zornow is editor of NyackNewsAndViews.

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