Letter: Exiting The Twilight Zone

June 27, 2019 at 7:58 a.m.

It was over a decade ago when the redevelopment of United Hospital was supposed to revitalize Port Chester. A bold plan in bolder times called for a development featuring a satellite campus for the Culinary Institute, a minimal number of new residences, offices and a W hotel and/or Canyon Ranch. The property was acquired by one of the biggest institutional investors and riding one of the greatest economic tailwinds in recent history. This was Port Chester’s moment to shine.

As I drive by the United Hospital site every day, its dilapidated state is painful and shocking, a reminder of missed opportunities. The ominous tan buildings look like they belong in Chernobyl, not the gateway to Port Chester. The plywood boarding the windows is splintering at the edges, warped from years in the sun, covered with streaks of black soot. It has been so many years since the developer abandoned ship that the redevelopment proposal feels like it’s from The Twilight Zone.

How did we get here? Did the project die because an inattentive developer without the means or intention to proceed with their plans delegated responsibility for the development to internal bean counters and not visionaries? Or did the proposal get picked apart over time – with special interests slowly looting the plans, in the name of public welfare, until there was nothing left? Was the final blow the delays that led to the Great Recession, nailing shut the hopes and dreams of all those who poured their heart and soul into the redevelopment vision?

Port Chester is quickly approaching the same crossroads. Today, new development proposals and the rezoning plan have replaced United Hospital. The painful memories of the Great Recession are all but gone. The general economy is supported by a generous tailwind and Port Chester has received a temporary gift of tracts included in Opportunity Zones, which has refueled investor appetite and risk taking (for the short-term). Port Chester is back on the grand stage.

At this propitious moment, the board has no greater duty than to decide whether they are willing to stand for what they believe in – to push past the negativity, misinformation, and baseless attacks – and allow for progress and change to occur. Only time and history will tell whether they were right.

Aldo V. Vitagliano

27 Elizabeth St., Port Chester


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