The inaugural Aquadraat Sports IRONMAN U.S. Championship begins with a time-trial 2.4-mile point-to-point swim in the Hudson River. The 112-mile bike course spans the cliffs of Palisades Parkway followed by a 26.2-mile run course over the George Washington Bridge, finishing at 81st St in the heart of the city.
Why do you need to know this? Well, if you are among the majority of folks who missed a story or two in the newspap
ers or the couple of signs on the Palisades Parkway, you need to know that the southbound Palisades Parkway will be closed from the Bear Mountain circle to the G.W. Bridge for 18 hours – from 2:00 AM to 8:00 PM – this Saturday, August 11th.
This event, put together with the sponsors the World Triathlon Corporation and NYC Triathlon in conjunction with the State of New Jersey and the City of New York, will, in the words of NJ Governor Christie and NYC Mayor Bloomberg, bring nearly $50 million to the region, while showcasing northern NJ and NYC. However, the potential of Rockland truly being a showcased part of this worldwide event and enjoying some of these benefits do not appear to be in the offing. Our County Highway department was recently notified well after the fact, as was our New York State Police. None believe this to be a well thought out plan, but input on the decision was neither requested nor sought. Essentially, we here in Rockland are left to manage it.
Unfortunately it appears that no one was looking out for Rockland County, because what we get out of the “deal” is pretty one sided … a full road closure of the southbound portion of the one major north-south highway we have – the Palisades Parkway. And according to the County Executive’s press person who opted to call into our local radio station WRCR 1300AM in response to my briefing the public over the airways, stated that their office was notified in May, they “passed it along to the Towns” for their information, and this entire matter “is not a County issue”, an assessment that both I and probably 99% of the public would strongly disagree. Most feel that if this does not qualify “as a County issue”, what with the one major parkway we have shutdown in one direction, one has to wonder what does! That attitude may have contributed to the fact that since our involvement essentially is to provide the route for two loops of the bike race part of the event, Rockland’s end is heavy on the expense end, and real light on the revenue end. It appears that the lion share of the benefit of this event, such as hotel bookings, restaurants, and even sponsorships for our local not for profits is focused in NYC and New Jersey. Once again, we become the proverbial spoke on the wheel.
Most important … with the normal Friday night and Saturday traffic; our park day trip travelers from NYC; and the Maccabi games; getting around potentially heavily traveled alternate roadways will be challenging. Add to that visitors not familiar with our roads driving with less focus than desired, and it can get a bit crazy out there.
What I can convey is that I have spoken with the NY State Police operations people and a number of our local law enforcement and emergency response agencies, all who are assuring the public that, as ill-advised as this approach may be, they are prepared for all emergencies, even to a point where there will be Medivacs on standby.
This is where it is. I would encourage all to be cognizant of this closure and plan around both that and the predictable overflow on to the obvious alternate routes. If driving, be particularly attentive to other drivers who may not be familiar with the roads. It may be a tough day, but most importantly know that our professionals in the law enforcement community are experienced in making the toughest of situations work out.