Orangetown Proceeds Cautiously on New Town Hall

BY ROBERT KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

Orangetown is slowly but surely edging toward construction of a new town hall to replace the 57-year-old crumbling structure now in use in Orangeburg, but details on the replacement structure remain few and far between.

At its last meeting, the Town Board voted unanimously to hire a consulting firm to design the new structure, based on existing and future space needs and the deteriorated condition of present building.

On a 4-0 vote (with Councilman Denis Troy absent) the board agreed to hire Musial Group for a fee of $62,960 to begin the preliminary space planning assessment and architectural plans for a new two-story structure to replace the existing 1960 municipal center at 26 Orangeburg Road, at the corner of Dutch Hill Road.

Musial was one of more than 20 firms which initially expressed an interest in winning the job, and one of five finalists who made two or more appearances before the council outlining what services they could provide, at what estimated cost, and with what timetable.

The firm’s preliminary plans called for demolishing the existing two-story office building, facing Orangeburg, while retaining the new police department and court facility behind it.

They proposed first building a new two-story office building connected to the existing one at its far end. Once completed, offices in the existing building would be moved into it, and the old building would be demolished. In the final stage, an identical new structure would be constructed on the footprint of the old building, creating a new town hall nearly double the size of the current one.

In addition to all of the offices currently located at the Town Hall, the new structure would also include the town’s building department and fire and code enforcement officers, all of which are currently housed at the former Greenbush School about two blocks away.

The only town offices that would not be co-located at the new Town Hall would be the highway, sewer and parks departments. Highway and sewer are currently off Route 303 at the former Nike site and drive-in theater, while parks and recreation is located in an old Dutch sandstone house in Veterans Memorial Park in Orangeburg.

Total cost estimates for the new town hall have not yet been divulged, but town officials have indicated they would probably float a bond issue to pay for the project. Such a bond would also probably be subject to a permissive referendum if enough residents object and gather signatures on a petition calling for the public vote.

Other Action

In other action at the same Town Board meeting, the council agreed to:

  • Schedule a public hearing for Tuesday, March 14 at 8 p.m., on a zone change proposal to convert 61 acres of land the town owns at the former Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg from the current R-40 to RPC-OP. The land, which contains more than 40 abandoned 1930’s-era hospital buildings, is currently zoned single-family residential with house lots of 40,000 square feet (one acre) or more. Under the proposed change, it would be re-zoned to office-park use, in preparation for a bid by JP Morgan Chase bank to purchase the lot, level the buildings and construct their new metropolitan area data center on the cleared site. Chase and the town are currently negotiating a sales price for the lot as well as taxes the bank would pay to local governments including the town, Rockland County, and the Pearl River School District. The Town Board has declared itself the lead agency on the project for environmental review purposes, and has agreed to hire an appraiser to gauge the value of the land, at a cost to the town of $5,500.

  • Re-appoint Planning Board Chairman Kevin Garvey for another one–year term of office, on a 3-1 vote with Supervisor Andrew Stewart opposed. Garvey has led by the board for the past three years, and Stewart said he felt it was time for a change. He supported the board’s vice chairman, Michael Mandel, but could find no seconder for such a resolution. Fellow Democrat on the 3-2 GOP council Jerry Bottari said there were to many important things happening in Orangetown this year to suddenly change Planning Board leadership, but added that he would vote for Mandel next year.

  • Investigate complaints by residents in western Pearl River who besieged town hall with reports of illegal activities taking place at a single-family home at 100 Buchanan Street in the “President’s subdivision.” The neighbors said the home and yard are severely cluttered and deteriorated, there are at least 15 adults and five children living inside the structure on mattresses on the floors of every room and hallway and that at last 10 disabled cars are parked all over the lawn. Some of the occupants are apparently repairing the cars and selling them, the neighbors said. Stewart said the town was already aware of the complaints, had brought the owner to court, and was investigating further. Building Inspector John Giardiello, who is heading the investigation, was not present at the meeting to give an update.

  • Re-appoint several other land use board members including Blythe Yost, Brian Terry, Andrew Andrews and Deborah Stuhlweissenberg to the Architecture and Community Board of Review (ACABOR); Rev. Louis Sanders, Dr. Margaret Mary Fitzpatrick, Thomas Hyland and Michael Mandel to the Board of Ethics, Thano Schoeppel and Carol Schelin to the Historic Areas Board of Review, Stephen Sweeney to the Planning Board, Joan Salomon and Leonard Feroldi to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Charles “Skip” Vezzetti to the Sanitation Commission and as chairman and Daniel Sullivan as a member and chairman of the ZBA.

  • Approve a tax certiorari lawsuit brought against the town by the Gisondi Family Limited Partnership for property they own on Main Street in downtown Nyack. The settlement via tax refunds will cost Orangetown $7,176, the Nyack School District $37,202 and Rockland County $3,162.

  • Schedule a public hearing for Tuesday, March 7 at 8 p.m. on a request to set weight limits on vehicular use of Oak Tree Road in Tappan. If adopted, the law would restrict use of this narrow but busy street in the hamlet center to passenger cars and small trucks with only two axels. Larger trucks and buses would be banned, mostly because they have difficulty negotiating the corner at Oak Tree and Main Street, in front of the Tappan Library.

  • Accept a donation of $145,000 from the NY Bridge Community Benefit Fund, which will be used to buy a new portable “showmobile” for the town’s Parks and Recreation Department. The fund was created by New York State as part of the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, with the builders required to donate money to adjacent communities as partial reimbursement for their discomfort during the three-year construction project. Orangetown’s current showmobile is about 20 years old, and is heavily used each year.

  • Permit two non-profit agencies to lease the current showmobile for upcoming events, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians for the Pearl River St. Patrick’s Day parade March 19 and the Penguin Plunge, Inc. for its March 5 dunk in the Hudson River. Each group must pay the town $400 for the single-day uses and provide proof of insurance.

  • Affirm the town’s ownership of Greenbush Road in Orangeburg, for a .19-mile stretch between Route 303 and Highview Avenue and a .18-mile stretch between Highview Avenue and Stevens Way, totaling .37 miles, and is also responsible for its maintenance.

  • Award a bid for plumbing and repair services at town parks to Hauser Brothers. Inc. of Orangeburg, the lowest of several bidders.

  • Award a contract for tree pruning and removal within town parks to Kevin Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne, N.J., the lowest qualified bidder.

  • Accept “with gratitude” the donation of two traditional recycled plastic memorial benches from Ms. Ruth Craft and family, to be placed along Phase 2 of the Joseph B. Clark rail-Trail. The benches are engraved “in memory of Joseph Shapiro, Parks Department.”

  • Appoint Peter Stallone as a sewer inspector in the Sewer Department, effective Feb. 27 at a starting salary of $42,530; Gregory Michel as a laborer in the same department, starting at $63,977 and Christopher Feroldi as a groundsworker in the Parks Department, starting at $80,060 all effective this month

  • Acting as the board of fire commissioners of the Blauvelt Fire District, appoint Brian T. Bermingham as a Blauvelt volunteer firefighter.

  • Approve a list of 20 contractors recommended by the town sewer director to perform sewer work within the township.