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Consolidation = Superblock

by JC Brotherhood

Regarding the issues raised so far by this publication in this campaign, two stand out in my mind as being closely related: Superblock Redevelopment and Consolidation.

Let’s start with the second one first. Consolidation is not exactly the same thing as ‘€œshared services’€ though some people would like you to think so. While shared services may well be a subset of consolidation, the latter is a much broader topic and not so easily accomplished. Let me explain why.

First of all, Nyack itself and the Nyack’s combined straddle two separate and distinct townships in the County of Rockland, New York State; Orangetown and Clarkstown. Any real ‘€œconsolidation’€ of these villages, that is to say combining the various elected and land use boards as well as combining their respective tax bases would require not only an act of legislation from Albany but also must first pass referendums in two separate townships.

Why would anyone in either Pearl River or New City vote to support this idea at their own expense and why would anyone in Upper or South Nyack for that matter vote to cede authority on its planning or zoning boards to someone in say Nyack or Grandview? It makes absolutely no sense considering the fact that these areas by virtue of their proximity to the river contain some of the most valuable real estate and therefore revenue sources in this, the smallest county in the state.

Combined services has been something Upper Nyack, Nyack and South Nyack have been doing for quite some time. The DPW’s have combined for years now on re-paving projects in all three Villages and the Joint Nyack Fire district was formed in order to address exactly this very issue of shared services, with varying results, depending upon who you might speak to and everyone pays for the Public Library through the school district budget. So exactly what other ‘€œshared services’€ are left?

If we are talking about consolidation specifically to address ‘€œshared services’€ in some significant way we should be talking about an New Township of the River Villages as Cliff suggests or consolidate on the county level, Integrate and consolidate all fire protection services under 44 control in Pomona (this is the overall incident command for the county) and consolidate the various police departments under one roof in say the Sheriffs department and consolidate all the various DPWs under the Rockland County Highway department.

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In writing this I am in no way suggesting this would be possible or in some cases even desirable but only to point to the obvious fact that one, it doesn’t make much sense to attempt anything like this piece-meal and two to illustrate the political foolishness of even wasting time and money discussing it.  (WOFTAM)

No, the issue of consolidation of ‘€œThe Nyacks’€ only makes sense from a revenue enhancing standpoint not a revenue reducing one and this brings me to the first item; Superblock development and the exclusive club that is the Main Street Partnership.

Here I should say I don’t agree with either mayoral candidate’s “Vision” for the downtown, they both miss the point of what constitutes a sustainable plan for our community.

Nyack itself has a limited tax base and contrary to what many believe is based only in a small part upon the downtown real estate and largely on the residential real estate. There are roughly 6800 souls residing in the one square mile that is Nyack, hold that thought and consider the following.

After a nationwide search the Main Street  Partnership, Consisting of the Goldbergs of South Nyack, Millbrook Associates of Long Island, M&T Bank of Buffalo (I think) and Mrs. White and Mr. Foster Trustees of the Village of Nyack, received exactly two proposals to it’s published RFEI (something that falls far short of a more recognizable RFP) and exactly fifty percent of the respondents says clearly the project is not feasible under these economic conditions.

A clue to this may be in the other fifty percent of the respondents which claims that it is feasible; with a $70 million dollar price tag; Back to that magic number of 6800 souls.

How long will it take to amortize $70 million dollars on a tax base of this size? A tax base that in Nyack includes along with commercial property and residential owners many renters and sublets who pay their share but only a small portion or the overall tax burden. Now take into account that nearly 40% of all property within the Village is off the tax roles completely, churches, temples, parks, hospital, not for profits like the library and federal property like the Post office etc and the pie gets even more precious. It should be evident to anyone that Nyack itself cannot support a project of this magnificence.

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Referring to Mr. Schutz’s excellent article on the history of Upper Nyack and Nyack it would seem clear that there is indeed nothing new under the sun. Consolidation is being proposed not as a money saver, but as a cash cow in fact. There is no way the project in itself will generate the kind of revenue needed to support itself, let alone the vaguely defined “arts center”.  Only by significantly broadening it’s revenue base can Nyack hope to afford something like this, and even then I question the wisdom that says the solution to the empty commercial real estate in the downtown is to build 30K sq ft more of it! Millbrook has known it has a stinker of a property on its hands so they found a Partner in the Goldbergs, the Goldbergs found a Partner in an overly compliant and uncritical Village Board and now Nyack seeks more “partners” in this scheme. Its a pyramid scheme plain and simple.

Understand that the $70 Million dollar number is not yet carved in stone (or poured in concrete) and does not include the major infrastructure improvements that would be needed to mitigate the environmental realities that must be addressed before anything can or should be built on the ‘€œSuperblock’€.

What it does include however is $8 million dollars in financing and another $8 million in ‘€œdevelopers fees’€ both of these numbers will only go up along with the cost of the infrastructure improvements. Considering the essentially ‘€œclosed door negotiations’€ which exclude even our Mayor ‘€œRiverspace’€ is exactly what many of us recognized it as  5 years ago. Yet another real estate boondoggle which is not so much pro-Nyack as it is pro- developer and you need look not further than the history of the Helen Hayes theatre turned Riverspace to understand that P.T. Barnum was right.

If and only If the village finds the money to upgrade the storm-water issue and forks over our real property at bargain basement prices will this project ever be feasible and the ones who will assume all the risk will be the taxpayers, not the developers.

It’s like a game of reverse musical chairs; in this game you definitely do not want to own that seat when the music stops.

 

 

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Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.


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