A Ramapo developer has proposed a 600-unit housing complex spread over more than three-dozen buildings off Route 59 at the site of the old Rockland Drive-In Theatre.
Joseph Brachfeld of Wesley Hills said his Town Square Residences would be a mix of rentals, condominiums and brownstones that would be part of an integrated community including pedestrian walkways and green space. Pricing for the units has not been determined.
He called the area "the gateway to Monsey" and said his proposal would create much-needed housing and improve a site that's been unused for nearly 30 years, after the drive-in went dark in 1987.
Brachfeld's firm redeveloped the former Pathmark shopping center into the Town Square next to his proposed development, which has more than 30 stores including the Evergreen supermarket.
The 23-acre parcel he is eyeing for housing is currently zoned for commercial stores. Brachfeld wants Ramapo to create a new zoning classification — transit oriented development — for his project.
He said Town Square Residences is designed to capitalize on nearby shopping, a park-and-ride lot and a proposed bus rapid transit hub that would be completed when the new Tappan Zee Bridge fully opens in 2018.
A state Department of Transportation spokeswoman confirmed there is a proposed bus rapid transit stop near the Monsey Park and Ride lot, but said details had not been finalized.
Brachfeld's proposal for Town Square Residences includes:
One six-floor building with commercial space on the first floor topped by five floors with a total of 140 one- and two-bedroom rental units.
- Two six-floor apartment buildings with a total of 210 rental units.
- Five condominium buildings with courtyards, each one three floors with loft space, containing a total of 160 units. The condos would be three- to four-bedroom units.
- 30 four-floor brownstones that would be individually owned and could be used as a single-family homes or contain one or two rental units.
- 619 parking spaces.
The builder said the height of his buildings would be lower than some of those nearby, such as a pair of seven-story apartment buildings on Kennedy Drive and the Esther Dashew senior apartment building, which rises eight stories.
Brachfeld recently submitted a petition requesting the zone change to the Ramapo Town Board, which will refer it to the Planning Board. Input from a variety of government agencies and a public hearing would be required before the change could be approved.
'Blight on our community'
Ramapo Deputy Supervisor Pat Withers called the property "a blight on our community for decades since the theater closed."
Withers called the plan "visually stunning" and praised it for encouraging public transit and creating a more vibrant downtown Monsey, but added that it may be larger than the area can accommodate.
"While the site cries out for redevelopment, I will only support a plan that helps to alleviate Route 59 traffic, not one which aggravates it," he wrote in an email.
Brachfeld's planners claim their housing plan would have less of an impact on the congested stretch of Route 59 than if the land were developed for other commercial purposes. Adding a right-turn only lane into the shopping center and housing complex and synchronizing the traffic signals would be an improvement, they said.
Sign of the past
The Rockland Drive-In Theatre sign — now rusted and slightly tilting — still stands at the property's entrance. The former drive-in is now used as a park-and-ride lot maintained by Rockland County.
Portions of the land are overgrown with trees and weeds, and a handful of shipping containers are stored in the rear of the property.
On a recent weekday afternoon, Fritz Duterlien, 55, of Spring Valley was working as a taxi driver at the Town Square shopping complex.
“I think 600 units is going to cause more traffic but … we need housing, because the population is going up, so we need more houses,” Duterlien said. “But if it has to be some new development to come here to help people find a place to live, it’s good, but it has to be very open to the public.”
Rachel Singer, 26, of Monsey was pushing a shopping cart full of groceries. Singer said she was reflexively against any large development because she said it would add to traffic and draw more out-of-towners to an already congested area.
“Bad idea. I would vote against it,” Singer said. “The congestion here (on Route 59) is already so bad.”