By MIAWLING LAM
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale plans to construct a new 300-unit independent living senior residence complex on the 14-acre plot they purchased from the Passionist Fathers of Riverdale.
When built, the facility will be the first in New York City to offer a continuing care retirement community.
Officials from the geriatric center unveiled their preliminary design and development plans for the sprawling site at Monday night’s Community Board 8 land use committee meeting.
It is the first time the facility’s authorities have spoken publicly about their vision for the land, which they acquired from the Passionists for $16 million in November 2011.
Hebrew Home president and CEO Daniel Reingold said the 300 units will be a combination of one- and two-bedroom apartments. The residences will be divided into four mid-rise towers ranging from four to eight stories.
“The main philosophy of the concepts that we’re developing have to do with what the older adults want today, which is more independent living with supported services available as needed, rather than an institutionalized environment,” he said.
Under the plan, the Hebrew Home will add another three stories to the existing Goldfein Building, convert 150 nursing beds currently there and create 75 assisted living apartments.
A new below-grade parking structure will also be constructed to house around 340 cars underneath the new residential tower. Currently, the campus boasts 390 surface parking spaces and 88 underground spaces. The new plan states the number of surface parking spaces will be reduced to 228, with 477 spaces underground.
Reingold said the proposed revolutionary continuing care retirement community model would offer patients guaranteed, lifelong care. As a result, residents could move from independent living to assisted living and to nursing care without ever having to move from the campus.
A similar facility dubbed Kendal on Hudson, already exists further north in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
“Generally, the way a CCRC works is that people buy into the project with an upfront payment and then pay a monthly fee which allows them to be guaranteed care for the rest of their life,” Reingold said.
“At the end of their life, depending on the model that we choose, the estate would get back 50, 70 or 90 percent of the upfront payment.”
Reingold estimated that the initial upfront payment would be at least $500,000.
“This is a middle-income, upper middle-income private paying market for people who have sold their house or apartment and want to remain independent and want to know that they don’t have to worry about selling off their assets and getting on Medicaid,” he said.
The 300-unit residential facility would be supplemented with a host of common areas and amenities, including fitness and wellness centers, spiritual enrichment areas, dining areas, concierge services and cultural opportunities.
The plan is required to go through the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), which requires months of public review and community involvement.
CB8 land use committee chairman Charles Moerdler said he was impressed with the draft plan but predicted a host of issues, particularly relating to traffic, would arise as further details emerge.
“It’s a wonderful new idea for taking care of the elderly, but the question is, how can it deal with the people?” he said.
“The people who live in and around that area say to me, ‘the quality of life is already under challenge, and this is going to make it worse.’ It may be great for the city, but if it’s something that the neighbors can’t deal with, I have a problem.”
Due to the lengthy and complicated ULURP process, Moerdler predicted that the soonest construction could begin would be the end of 2015, with 2016 being a more realistic estimate.
Hebrew Home officials said they settled on the plan after perusing 20 different options. They said they engaged and interviewed architectural firms across the country before ultimately settling on Perkins Eastman.
Reingold committed to preserving as much open space as possible and maintaining accessibility to the riverfront. He also vowed to incorporate the Greenway initiative into the home’s plans.
“We’re also hoping to use this project to develop a master plan for what will now be a 32-acre campus which will create better traffic flow through the community, lowered use of cars and regular use of mass transportation.”
Although the information session yielded more details than expected, Reingold insisted there was plenty of opportunity for the community to provide input.
He said two public open house events held in the coming weeks will allow residents to have a dialogue during the design process and air their concerns and thoughts about the plan.
The first open house is scheduled to take place at the Passionist’s retreat house between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on January 28. A second meeting will be held in February.
“This is a starting point,” Reingold said. “I am very sensitive to the imposition that our neighbors have. Over the last four years, 100 fewer cars are coming onto campus every day. Our goal is to further reduce that and to look at the traffic patterns.”
CB8 chairman Robert Fanuzzi said the information session was worthwhile but wanted more detail.
“I think there’s a lot still that we need to find out about,” he said after the meeting.
“It’s hard to judge concepts. I look forward to seeing the plans. There are crucial land use and zoning issues, and of course, we’re also concerned about traffic—traffic for services and traffic for residents—and 700 people is a big increase in capacity for a riverfront area.”