State pursues SUP plans near Esposito Trail as residents push back

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BY JANIE ROSMAN 

South Nyack residents are resisting the state’s plans for a path along part of the Raymond G. Esposito Trail, a spur access to the new bridge’s shared use path and implementation, concerned these will change the tranquil area.

“They talked about putting a paved side path here, and from the beginning people said, ‘Don’t do that,’” Kristy Leader, a member of Preserve South Nyack, said. The design is part of Alternative F, the village- and state-approved choice for the Rockland terminus.

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.”

While the SUP was listed on the trustees’ January 24 agenda, the board — advised by Feerick Lynch MacCartney & Nugent of South Nyack, and to residents’ disappointment — listened without comment and took notes.

“The village is not permitted to comment at present time,” Mayor Bonnie Christian told the Rockland County Times. Riley gave this reporter his cell phone number and did not return subsequent calls.

Dennis E.A. Lynch, representing South Nyack, said via email the mayor advised the state of PSN’s concerns after that meeting. As the state is aware of issues 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 by an 18″ domed granite median save for one area with a planting buffer.

Lynch said via email Tuesday the village hasn’t signed over any property to the state for the bridge project. “The state is proceeding with an eminent domain process that is not fully completed, (and) South Nyack will insist on being fully compensated for any village property taken by eminent domain.”

Fences will separate the trail from homeowners’ backyards and separate the side path from Thruway 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.

Currently the trail is open from dawn to dusk and doesn’t have to be maintained, Leader said, concerned about future chemicals that may be used for said purpose. “It’s a very safe area. We can stand at the end and let our kids play and not worry because there are no cross streets.”

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.”

“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,” which moves SUP access near the Exit 10 on-ramp, recreating many conditions residents protested in 2014 that led to the Thruway engineers developing Alternative F.

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, residents contacted local and state officials, after which Christian was instrumental in getting them relocated to Artopee Way in Nyack and the South Franklin Extension in South Nyack.

“We remain sensitive to the concerns that a few people 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.”

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