Irish center reps upbeat about project’s future
The city Planning Board is continuing its review of the proposed Irish Cultural Center while developers await a decision as to whether a zoning determination for the property at 32 Abeel St. is correct.
During a meeting Monday, representatives of the Irish Cultural Center outlined to the Planning Board the most recent set of changes made to the project’s environmental assessment form, which is a document required under the state Environmental Quality Review Act. Many of those changes were the result of the size of the proposed Irish Cultural Center building being reduced from 16,889 square feet to 16,213 square feet.
The center would be a three-story building that includes a theater on the ground floor accessed from West Strand and Company Hill Path. The first floor would have performance space and a “tea room,” as well as a kitchen and gallery space, while the second floor would include a large classroom area, offices, a recording studio and storage space. The roof of the building would have a garden.
Project attorney Ronald Pordy said Monday’s meeting finalized the first step of the environmental review for the project. He said the Planning Board, during its Dec. 12 meeting, will take the information provided by the center’s developers and determine the environmental significance of the project. Pordy said the board will use specific criteria set forth by the state environmental review process to make that determination.
Should the board, based on that information, issue a “positive declaration” for the project, it would trigger the requirement that a draft environmental impact statement be created. The environmental impact statement would further analyze the proposed project, including looking at all the environmental impacts and possible ways to reduce or avoid any harmful impacts.
“We are confident we are well under the thresholds for a ‘pos dec,’” Pordy said after Monday’s meeting. He added, though, it would be up to the Planning Board to make that determination.
Several neighbors and interested individuals have urged the Planning Board to issue a positive declaration for the project, citing concerns about parking in the area and the size of the proposed building, among other issues.
Pordy said that, while the Planning Board is continuing its review, developers are awaiting a decision from the city Zoning Board of Appeals regarding whether the project is an allowed use in that area of the Rondout.
The Zoning Board of Appeals was to meet Tuesday evening, too late for its action to be included in this report.
“Hopefully we’ll prevail on that and be able to move forward,” Pordy said. He noted, though, that there could still be appeals to the zoning decision, which would start an Article 78 procedure in state Supreme Court.