New senior housing proposal stirs both angst and hope at Monroe planning board meeting

Monroe. Despite inclement weather, residents filled Monroe Town Hall to hear developers’ plans and respond to them.

| 20 Nov 2022 | 10:15

Dozens of Monroe residents gathered at the Nov. 15 planning board meeting to hear about and discuss the latest development proposed for the area: the Pallotti Village project.

The developer is Sisters of Charity Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization based in Staten Island that provides affordable housing for seniors, the homeless, people with disabilities and low-income families in New York. For this project, SCHDC is also collaborating with Rockabill, Parish Property Management, and Affordable Housing Concepts.

“We want our seniors to be able to live in a clean, affordable development...we are looking to house frail elderly people who really need some support,” said William O’Connor, president of Parish Property Management. “You all see the commercials about a place for mom; we want a place for mom, dad, grandma, grandpa.”

Pallotti Village is proposed to be constructed along the north and south sides of 98 Harriman Heights Road, near the Mansion Ridge Golf Course and Sapphire Elementary School. It comprises 178 total units, including 100 senior units, 60 multi-family units, 18 townhomes, a soccer field and a clubhouse. The development would also utilize two existing wastewater treatment plants and newly drilled public supply wells.

“A majority of the site will remain in its current nature. You will see nice new buildings in the background when you drive by, but they will blend in with the existing landscape,” said Micheal Morgante, the project’s lead engineer.

Traffic fears

Over two dozen residents spoke during public comment, with various concerns, questions and suggestions. One of the biggest concerns brought up was traffic, and many residents said that the town, especially Harriman Heights Road, has already been dealing with increasingly dangerous traffic over the last few years.

“In the 35 years we’ve been here, it went from being lightly traveled to massively traveled. I wake up in the morning to the sound of cars whizzing past my house. If you go out to cut the lawn, you have to dodge out of the way of cars that are going up Harriman Heights Road and pray they don’t run you over,” said Jeanne Colonna, a local resident who lives near the road. “People drive 50, 60 miles an hour on that road. It’s supposed to be 30, but they don’t do it.”

“I just cannot see the traffic getting any better than what it is right now. As it is, living on Orange Turnpike...there are severe accidents on that road,” said Matthew Ladka, referring to traffic issues in another part of town.

Water supply, water treatment and watershed concerns

Another major concern was water usage and treatment. Residents questioned whether the area’s resources can handle an addition like Pallotti Village.

“There have always been water issues in our area. We’re not economically deprived but there are some resources that we have to be very careful about,” said Joy Hyman, another resident. “I don’t know how old those water treatment plants are, but I hope someone is making sure they’re up to code...and we’re still very concerned with the fact that they’re dumping into Blythea Lake. Maybe no soccer field, dig a lake, and let it dump there.”

Matthew Connolly, resident and treasurer of the Pine Tree Homeowners Association, described how previous developments have damaged the watershed of Pine Tree Lake.

“We have past history with projects that have been developed above our watershed. For instance, we had to sue the Mansion Ridge Golf Course developer, Great Expectations, for damage caused to our watershed. And fortunately, we had a favorable outcome from the lawsuit. However, this required that we had to suspend swimming and other activities at the lake so we could dredge a large amount of silt and runoff that was not properly controlled by the developer...I would say that our watershed hasn’t even fully recovered to how it was before.

“I talked to former residents of the community who always bragged about how they could swim in the lake and the water quality was pristine. Now we have to treat the lake three times a year just to eliminate the weed growth that emanated from the sediment deposit,” he said.

Overpopulation apprehension

A few residents said that the project’s scope is not suitable for Monroe and that it would contribute to overpopulation, pollution, and destruction of the environment.

“To the people responsible for building this or financially benefitting from this: have you spoken to anyone outside of your circles that actually wants this? Because from what I’m hearing, this isn’t something you’re doing for this community. This is something you’re doing to the community,” said Jamell Evans, a local resident.

“I commute four hours a day to the city, the last thing I want is more traffic and more high-density housing when I come home to Monroe. We did this because of the kids, we moved here for space, we moved here for quiet. And what’s the price of that? Quite high taxes,” said Rebecca Black, another resident. “So now, we’re not only paying taxes to live here, which we’re fine with because it’s beautiful, but the taxpayers are going to be subsidizing to destroy the reason we moved here.”

Aging residents want suitable senior housing

Some residents, however, argued that this development would be crucial for Monroe’s senior citizens and emphasized that the town lacks affordable and accessible housing for them.

“I am here to talk for the senior citizens of Monroe. When I lost my husband a year and a half ago, I wanted an in a 10-room house, that I could not handle, and there was no place in Monroe that I could find an apartment on the first floor,” said Antoinette Kerins, a senior resident who has been a homeowner in Monroe for 56 years.

“It’s impossible for senior citizens in Monroe to stay in Monroe. I had to buy a condo, which ends up taking a lot of my funds for the future...whatever these people are saying, I understand, I was a homeowner, and for 56 years we fought every new development that wanted to come in because we wanted it to stay the way it was when we got here. But I just want the board to consider the fact that there is no place for seniors to go. It is a desperate situation.”

Anne Marie Morris, resident and director of the town’s senior center, noted how excited the seniors were about the Pallotti Village.

“The senior housing portion of this? The seniors talk about it constantly, and they would like to know that a developer is thinking about senior housing for them. The Town of Monroe is remiss in having enough senior housing,” Morris said, adding that senior housing does not contribute to traffic. “We have a dial-a- bus system that would support getting them around.”

Morgante and other project members assured residents that both the developer and planning board are taking every facet into account for this project, such as traffic reports and water pump tests. Morgante also said that SCHDC owns Seton Village in Nanuet, a development similar to Pallotti Village that residents could visit and tour.

“The town has reviewed this project very thoroughly from many aspects, including traffic, water, wastewater, storm water, and visual impacts,” Morgante said.

The senior housing portion of this? The seniors talk about it constantly, and they would like to know that a developer is thinking about senior housing for them.-Anne Marie Morris, resident and director of Monroe Senior Center