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YONKERS-In a key 5-to-2 vote, the Yonkers City Council approved a critical zone change for Forest City Ratner Cos.’ Ridge Hill Village project here. A spokesman for the company says the developer hopes to break ground on the $600-million project before year’s end.

“We are pleased that we were able to reach a deal that is favorable to all sides,” says Forest City Ratner Cos. executive vice president Bruce Bender. “Now is the time to move forward and make this a project everyone can be proud of. Ridge Hill Village will bring a tremendous amount of economic growth to Yonkers. We intend to be involved in Yonkers as a good neighbor in our new community.”

The project to be built on an 81-acre parcel off the New York State Thruway will consist of 1.3 million sf of retail space, 1,000 units of housing (200 of which will be age-restricted), a 175-room hotel and a 20,000 sf conference center and 160,000 sf of existing office and research space that will be renovated.

In addition to the zone change approval, the council also passed agreements that have Forest City Ratner contributing approximately $10.9 million in taxes over the first three years of the project as well as funding the construction of a new $3-million firehouse for the city.

About a month ago, the developer had contemplated walking away from the venture if the city failed to approve the zone change measure.

Mayor Philip Amicone in a statement praised the council for granting the final approval for what he termed “one of the most important projects in the history of Yonkers.”

“From the very beginning of this process more than three years ago, Ridge Hill carried a great hope for the future of Yonkers, promising thousands of jobs to our residents and millions in tax revenues for our city and our schools,” the mayor says. “Those who had the courage to pursue the vision, even as the enemies of progress sought to permanently derail it, deserve the credit for their perseverance on behalf of the people of Yonkers.”

The 5-to-2 vote in favor of the development was critical for the project to proceed. On May 2, New York State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella issued a ruling that voided the city council’s 4-to-3 vote last December in favor of the zone change of the Ridge Hill Property. The judge ruled that the council violated city and state regulations that required a five-vote supermajority to approve the zone change. The 5-to-2 vote on Tuesday night more than likely mitigates the complaints lodged in the lawsuit.

City Council President Chuck Lesnick, who voted in favor of the zone change, continues to work on traffic issues surrounding the project. A possible impediment to the project that still remains is a lawsuit filed by the Town of Greenburgh. Lesnick tells globest.com that he expects to set up a meeting later this month between Forest City Ratner, the City of Yonkers and Greenburgh in an attempt to settle the dispute.

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