Saturday, Dec 02nd

BAR Heeds Neighbors Pleas to Turn Down Development Plans on Autenreith Road

redoakA 200 year-old red oak tree on Autenreith Road. Photo Credit: Cynthia RobertsA campaign by neighbors to preserve a special street in Scarsdale Village was effective at swaying the Board of Architectural Review to deny development plans on Autenreith Road.

On Monday November 6, the BAR considered additions to two neighboring homes on the street. In both cases, applicants had filed plans to build 2 car garages in front of the homes, impinging on the sight line and uniformity of the street.

At the BAR’s October 2 meeting, the owners of 23 Autenreith Road had presented plans to build a garage in front of the house to preserve more of the backyard. The current garage is a freestanding one at the back of the property. After objections from neighbors, the BAR turned down the plan. Subsequently the owner submitted an application to the Committee for Historic Preservation to knock down the house if he was unable to build what he liked. But on Monday, he returned to the BAR meeting with plans to build the garage in line with the footprint of the home and that plan was approved.

Next door, at 21 Autenreith, an architect for a developer presented a similar plan. In this case there is an existing 2 car garage in the back of the property along with another 2-car garage underneath the house. The architect proposed to build a 2-car garage in front of the house instead, so that the space used by the driveway and existing garage in the rear could be repurposed.

His plans were met by an organized campaign by neighbors to reject them as they would have again destroyed the uniformity of the setbacks in the neighborhood, altered the façade of an historic 1910 brick Colonial, caused the removal of two trees and risked the roots of a 200 year-old oak tree who’s canopy is 72 inches in diameter.

Presenting his plans, architect Bill Witt said, “There’s a need for an attached 2-car garage as the current one is in the back. They also want a pool house so we are going to convert the existing garage to a pool house. The garage doors will be on the side so they will not be visible from the street. We will remove the gravel driveway as well as the underground garage.”

Neighbor Cynthia Roberts explained, “The existing house was built in 1910 with a freestanding garage in the back – big enough for two cars. There is another 2-car garage below. This home is the center of our neighborhood. There is a magnificent red oak in the front yard.”21AutenreithMagnoliaMagnolia in bloom on Autenreith Road, Photo Credit: Cynthia Roberts

Holding up her arms she said, “Look at the drip line for this tree. The root system will be disrupted by this garage. With the exception of the white oak tree, red oaks do more for our environment than any other tree. This plan will threaten it and cause an early demise of this tree. They take up hundreds of gallons of water. Where would you put the storm water retention basins? It’s a non-starter to build the garage in the front lawn. They also want to take down a magnolia and a weeping cherry. “

She added, “15 of the 18 homes on our street have free standing garages. Protect our trees. It is part of our neighborhood character.”

Eric Oja, from Oakwood Place said, “Scarsdale is a special place to live because of its aesthetics. I see orange tape around the magnolia tree, This is one of the largest and most beautiful magnolias in Scarsdale. Help us protect these trees with renovations that respect our trees. This would be an irreplaceable loss.”

Marcia Morton from Church Lane said, “I am appalled we are going to lose an oak tree. There is a lot of room in the back. The garage in the back could be moved. There is plenty of room for something in the back.”

Linda Eichen of 20 Autenreith Road said, “This is a beautiful house – why not just fix the drainage in the garage that is already there?”

Deborah Russel of 17 Autenreith Road said, we moved here in 1997 to a new house. The house was pushed back from the street. At the time the BAR did not allow homes close to the street.
Great care has been taken to see that the setbacks are maintained. The road is narrow. It would meaningfully alter our street. The tree is over 200 years old. Trees like these are to be valued.
The construction will have an adverse effect on the tree.”

Carolyn Mehta read a letter from neighbor Michelle Kaplan that said, “It’s a dancing tree that looks like it is about to take a twirl.”

Marty Blaustein of 20 Autenreith Road said, “Scarsdale is a tree city. It’s what attracts people here. I had to wait until a tree was dead, dead, dead before I took it down. I am concerned about the setback, the footprint and the escalation.”

Bill Roberts said he has lived on Autenreith Road for 24 years. He said, “Our street and neighborhood have some of the oldest homes in Scarsdale. In fact, during a prior discussion in 2007 of the house at 10 Autenreith Road, the BAR stated that our neighborhood is as close to an historic district as exists in Scarsdale. … Our house was built and lived in by George Harwood, a distinguished construction engineer who was one of the key designers of Grand Central Station. The Harwood Building is in the Village Center is named for him.”

About the former owner of 21 Autenreith Road he said, “Lucas Meyer was a history buff particularly about Scarsdale. The house as built in 1910 and there was substantial rancor between Republicans and Democrats. At the time, two prominent members of the community met at this very home and conceived of the Non-Partisan System.”

About the plans, he said, “The garage would extend well into the front yard, markedly altering the home’s appearance from the street and endangering a large, truly beautiful oak tree…. Beautiful, old things- like many of us- are worth preserving.

Madelaine Eppenstein of 18 Autenrieth Road said, “We are losing our tree canopy. Trees take care of runoff. Trees provide an enormous service to mitigate climate change. They must be preserved and protected.”

Anne Hintermeister said “These are very large, irreplaceable trees. Any project that would harm these trees should be rejected by the board.”

A realtor came to the podium and said, “I am speaking on behalf of realtors. Buyers today do not want a detached garage. Especially in this price point – or garages in the basement. The developer is not asking for the house to be taken down. The tree will remain. This sounds like a lot of bullying by neighbors. The house is going to be preserved.”

Marcia Morton defended the neighbors. She said, “Nobody is bullying. There is plenty of room in the side and the back. It’s not a problem and I am not a bully.”

Mr. Eichen said, “To put this plan up is a disrespect of the people who live there.”

Landscape architect Steve Lopez claimed, “The magnolia is seriously diseased and rotten. The cherry is 50 years old and is at or near its expected life. It could come down in a storm. The oak has a 15-foot radius. We will do our best to save it.” Roberts distributed color photos of the red oak and magnolia in full bloom.

BAR Chair Brad Cetron told the applicants that the plan was “visually discordant” and said, “The neighbors offer valuable feedback.” Turning to the board members he said, “I don’t think this will get approved.”

The application was held over.

2 Cooper Road2CooperRoad

Later at the meeting, the BAR reviewed plans for a 9,400 square foot house at 2 Cooper Road with a 4-car garage and a pool at 2 Cooper Road. The house will sit on a subdivided lot on what was originally the front lawn of a historic mansion that remains. There are plans to build another house on the other side of the property.

The developer already clear cut many large trees from the property. The previous developer who appears to have sold or transferred the property, received a permit to cut down 32 trees.

The application comes at a time when the Village is experiencing considerable flooding and receiving pressure from the state to build affordable housing along the Metro North corridor.


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