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South Nyack: The Fault Is Not Our State, But In Ourselves

NSL90_South Nyack Village Hall_Commissionby Dave Zornow

South Nyack, Dec 8 — Last week South Nyack’s multi-decade strained relationship with New York State got — weirder.

Two days before Thanksgiving, South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian called a press conference to criticize the state’s choice of Cornelison and Broadway as the entrance to a future shared use path (SUP) for pedestrians and cyclists on the new Tappan Zee bridge. Last week Christian admitted that the choice of Cornelison as the SUP start was actually the village’s idea. “The [trustees] thought the idea — keeping cars off village streets while maintaining the character and integrity of the historic village — was plausible,” Christian told Janie Rosman in a Dec 4 article in the Rockland County Times.

Brian Conybeare, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Special Advisor for the Tappan Zee Bridge, had previously disputed the mayor’s assertion that the state had made the decision to change the location of the SUP in South Nyack from Smith Street to Cornelison without getting input from the village.

The mayor was sticking to her story as recently as last Friday when she used her regular weekly emailing to South Nyack residents to once again excoriate the bridge people for the Cornelison choice. “[This is an] unacceptable decision of the Bridge Authority that the Shared Use Path will end at the corner of Cornelison and South Broadway,” Christian said on Dec 5.

A report released last week by the Village of South Nyack Tappan Zee Bridge Task Force, designed to bolster the village’s position in their fight with New York State to relocate the SUP terminus and reclaim the area inside of Thruway Exit 10 for future development, provided further support for Conybeare’s claim. The report, “South Nyack and the New NY Bridge Shared-Use Path: A Chronology of Events,” included several new revelations about discussions the mayor’s task force had prior to a raucous public meeting last March at which the mayor proposed demolishing South Nyack’s Village Hall and replacing it with a 25 spot parking lot. “We were thinking we could get something back for the village, and get something nice done,” said Christian.

Working with the New NY Bridge team, we considered a plan to bring the path out to the corner of Cornelison Avenue and South Broadway with a small parking lot where Village Hall is. We felt this compromise would get the terminus away from the middle of a residential area to at least the edge of one. Using the Village Hall site for parking would provide at least some off street parking without taking of any more residential properties.

Lastly, the state would have to find us a new location for Village Hall. The village has been interested in getting better river access for the residents. One possibility would be to use state funding to purchase the Olson Center from Living Christ Church and use it for a new Village Hall, Police Headquarters, and Community Center. — South Nyack and the New NY Bridge Shared-Use Path: A Chronology of Events

It’s estimated that acquiring the Olson Center property for a new Village Hall and police station, would cost about $7 million dollars — which works out to $280,000 per parking spot before construction costs are included. New York State offered only $400,000 to underwrite this proposed project, meaning that South Nyack taxpayers would have had to cover most of the acquisition and construction costs of the mayor’s aborted initiative.

Although the mayor claims that South Nyack was not consulted regarding the choice of the Cornelison SUP terminus, the Journal News reports that that New York State officials had 45 meetings had with the village leading up to the Shared Use Path location announcement.

Although South Nyack has been consistently critical of all of the state’s work regarding the bridge and the Shared Use Path — often appearing on Cablevision’s News 12, FiOS News 1, in the New York Times and in the Journal News  to make their points —  South Nyack has never offered a realistic plan of their own to site the SUP. The village rejected the state’s original shared use path site of Smith Street. Then they suggested Cornelison which they later disavowed.  At the Nov 25 press conference, the mayor was highly critical of the state for dismissing Exit 10 redevelopment while the new bridge is being built, dismissing the impact (delaying a $4 billion project) and the expense ($10 million) required to immediately reconfigure NYS Thruway Exit 10 saying,”I don’t think the residents of South Nyack care how much it’s going to cost.”

It’s an open secret in the community that the most obvious choice for the SUP terminus is on Thruway property right next to the bridge itself — but that the village won’t put that opion on the table because a big part of the mayor’s political constituency would object. The Salisbury Point Co-Op, home of a sizable voting bloc thsat supports the mayor and two village board members, border that possible terminus location. The president of the Salisbury Co-Op, Catherine McCue, is a South Nyack Trustee and another board member, Thomas Neff, lives in the building. Homeowners at Salisbury Point and an adjacent property, Bradford Mews, are set to receive $2.1 million from New York State to replace their windows and doors as a noise abatement measure.

Christian says she’s requested a meeting with NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo on December 10 “to discuss our concerns and review the issues related to the terminus of the Shared Use Path and the impact on South Nyack.” After 45 meetings with the bridge authorities — and lots of trash talk in the press from village officials and residents about how New York has imposed their will on South Nyack without getting any local input — it’s not clear if the Gov will be making time to meet with the Mayor to hear South Nyack’s SUP story.

See also:

South Nyack Village Hall illustration: ©2014 Bill Batson



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