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Not a Field of Dreams

by JC Brotherhood

“If you build it they will come,” is no longer axiomatic and Nyack should not be in the business of building fields of dreams.

I don’t believe Ms. O’Donnell’s consultants have made a compelling case for any of the five options they presented to the village last week.

Not completely WOFTAM, (waste of Ef’ing time and money), I think the consultants offer a lot of resources from a particular focus and they did well at what they were hired to evaluate. The demographics they presented just don’t seem to really support what any of these projects would cost Nyack in either the short or the long term.

A 12 percent return may seem like a desirable ‘€œprice point’€ for any developer but I think this may speciously prove easier to anticipate and harder to achieve, in the foreseeable economic future.

The “capture rates” conflate the parking focus with simple capacity, ignore certain geographic features, and doesn’t seek to address the cost differential between more convenient and less expensive on street parking and more expensive less convenient, structured parking.

Before we can begin to address the entire issue of re development we have to seriously consider the overall question of access. All of the proposals are predicated on people getting here first. Rockland County is the poor step-child of the regional transportation plan. Face it, there really is no good way to get to Nyack if you don’t drive. We spend too much time worrying about providing adequate parking for all the drunks that litter the streets in the early morning than we do worrying about getting people here to begin with. Any conception of future development needs, as a basis, a strong transit component. Overall strategy alone dictates the plan will have to address this issue in the DEIS and EIS phases of development so we might as well start thinking about it now.

One encouraging example of diverse access to Nyack are the mobs of cyclists that venture up from the city on weekends; I hear all the complaints about spandex speed-bumps but they do bring an awareness for Nyack abroad, as well as providing a traffic calming effect on North Broadway on Sunday mornings.

The biggest problem with the current ‘€f’ugly building’€ occupying the middle of the superblock is it takes up a disproportionate area of the center of town and only provides one facade of access. The other three sides of the building are blank walls. Lacking detail, all the proposals basically replace one monolithic cinderblock with another. I think it is largely given the Arts Centric bias of the study that none of the proposals attempt to address the problem the HUD projects left behind in the seventies; A line of demarcation. It was typical of urban planning in those days to build housing with no regard to providing essential services within it’s footprint, or convenient access to the services of Main Street.

Villages are typically built of neighborhoods, distinct in character with sidewalks, corner stores, small businesses and local residents. All need to participate. All five proposals reinforce a bifurcated village, with little or no north and south bound communication or participation at the center.

Regardless of whether we choose to have a parking deck, iron fence, or a fence of trees this will continue to impede and not encourage growth.

We can induce capacity by encouraging more participation and growth in areas where the density already exists but you don’t do this by simply dropping another out of scale megalith in the center of the village. Nyack needs the community of smaller blocks, cheaper on street parking and amenities like street corners, benches and neighborhood scale shops with professional and residential suites above; The authentic ‘€œtaxpayer’€ of older neighborhoods.
We could even find space enough for the kind of performance space that is so seminal to the arts, not just another road-house for the ubiquitous ‘€œbus and truck’€ show of watered down Broadway relics but the creativity of the 3X off Broadway storefront spaces that engender the best (and sometimes worst) of human creation.

If there is a subsequent request for proposals I’d like to see the same energy devoted to revitalizing the village’s character going back to basics, reconnecting the street grid, opening up the stream where we can (which will alleviate some of the flooding issues), and seeing what the combined retail, professional, residential, parking and even arts ‘€œcapacity’€ would be added by up to another four village scale blocks in the center of town.

The socially essential concept of: ‘€œthe public square’€ is being eroded in this country; It cannot be adequately replaced by the mall or any developer or private real estate company.

Understanding the village’s history of engagement with previous outsized development projects, it should concern everyone when we consider the wholesaling of our downtown.

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