BY JANIE ROSMAN
Drivers honked and waved as they passed South Franklin Street and Clinton Avenue, where members of Preserve South Nyack gathered the Raymond G. Esposito Memorial Trail.
The group is concerned about a spur connecting the trail to the new bridge’s shared use path and its implementation. “They talked about putting a paved side path here, and from the beginning people said, ‘Don’t do that,’” PSN member Kristy Leader said.
In a letter to Village Attorney Keith Cornell dated January 13, 2017, PSN’s pro bono attorney, James K Riley of O’Connell & Riley in Pearl, said the village’s April 12, 2016, finding — the side path would have no adverse effect on the trail — failed to comply with applicable and required federal and state environmental review procedures.
His letter demanded the village and Thruway Authority discontinue plans for the spur or its connection between the SUP and trail. If PSN’s concerns and issues can’t be resolved to satisfaction, (then) “legal proceedings will be instituted.”
Riley gave this reporter his cell phone number and did not return subsequent calls.
“The village is not permitted to comment at present time,” Mayor Bonnie Christian told the Rockland County Times.
Residents anticipated discussing the SUP at the January 24 trustees meeting. Instead, Christian said, the board was advised by Feerick Lynch MacCartney & Nugent of South Nyack to listen only and take notes to later review with counsel.
Dennis E.A. Lynch, representing South Nyack, said via email the mayor advised the state of PSN’s concerns after that meeting, of which the state was given a video copy. “So, New York State has heard what the current issues are regarding the SUP. It is now for New York State to act.”
While the trustees want the state to hear and respond to all PSN’s requests relating to revisiting the SUP, Lynch said, “that is not a board decision.”
The trail will remain cinder and will be separated from an approximately 1,000-foot long paved path — built on Thruway property between South Franklin and Clinton — by an 18″ domed granite median save for one area with a planting buffer.
Fences will separate the trail from homeowners’ backyards and separate the side path from village property. The parking lot, SUP and path will be maintained by the agency, and state police will provide security for the SUP and its facilities.
Thruway Authority spokesman Khurram Saeed said via email the agency and the village collaborated every step of the way on plans for the path, which village, county and state officials supported.
Alternative F “has been evaluated, discussed in detail, endorsed by the South Nyack Tappan Zee Bridge Task Force and Village Board, vetted by the public (and) agreed to by the vast majority of village residents who participated in the federally established public process,” Saeed said.
When residents first heard about the plans, PSN member Jeff Hirsch said, many members voiced concern during 2015 and 2016 and were told they’d be consulted “as we got closer to the timeline in which they were focusing on the Esposito Trail portion.” Instead, they saw the plans at a November 2016 meeting and were told it was a “done deal.”
This is not the first time South Nyack resisted bridge-related changes.
In 2014, it demanded the SUP terminus be moved from a quiet neighborhood to Thruway Authority property near Interchange 10. The state obliged in spring 2015, and Thruway engineers designing plans that minimized SUP impacts.
The village’s TZ Bridge Task Force presented four plans — including Concept F, which cited a paved side path as an advantage and no trail connection as a disadvantage — in December 2015. South Nyack supported Alternative F at a March 2016 public hearing, and the state approved it.
“We feel there are other feasible options that the Thruway Authority has neglected to explore that do not take parkland and believe there is environmental harm,” Hirsch said.
One suggestion by Trustee Andrew Goodwillie is “Concept F – Refined” moves SUP access near the Exit 10 on-ramp, recreating many conditions residents protested in 2014.
When Pete Smolin objected to a Lower Hudson Transit Link bus shelter “complete with lighting, free Wi-Fi, bike racks, and ticketing machines” next to his property, Christian was instrumental in getting two bus stops moved. The state DOT confirmed the stops will be at Artopee Way in Nyack and within Interchange 10 (South Franklin Extension) in South Nyack.
“We remain sensitive to the concerns that a few people have raised and we will continue to work with them to address those issues,” Saeed said. Most recently, when residents took issue with the trailhead at Clinton Avenue and South Franklin Street, the state scaled it back.
“But,” he said, “it would be irresponsible to expend additional public funds or delay the opening of the shared use path, so we are moving forward with the approved plan.”