Orangetown Commits to Long-Awaited Project
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Orangetown’s Town Board and Palisades residents came to an agreement Tuesday evening to spend about $75,000 of taxpayer funds to construct a new quarter-mile-long sidewalk along Oak Tree Road in that community’s quaint rural hamlet center. The proposal was one of five submitted for consideration by the town’s Highway Department, which will oversee the construction program expected to get under way this spring, and be completed by fall.
The project was enthusiastically endorsed at a board workshop meeting Tuesday evening at Town Hall by Carol Baxter, a Palisades resident who has been spearheading the effort for several years and who chaired a citizens advisory committee to work with town officials on bringing the long-discussed sidewalk from discussion to reality.
The item will be placed on the agenda of next Tuesday’s business meeting, where it is expected to be unanimously adopted. The proposal appeared to win the support of all five council members Tuesday, as well as a contingent of nearly a dozen Palisades residents who accompanied Ms. Baxter to the discussion.
In comments after Tuesday’s meeting, Stewart noted that; “I have walked this road with Carol Baxter and the sidewalk is much needed, not only to make Oak Tree Road safer but to shorten the dangerous crossing of Rt.9W and slow down cars and buses turning onto Oak Tree road.
“I look forward to reviewing our design with NYS DOT, and advocating that DOT further improve the safety of the pedestrian crossing at 9W by moving the crosswalk signals to the south side of the intersection to connect with the new sidewalk we are building,” Stewart added. The current traffic light is too short for pedestrians to safely cross, he noted, “posing an obvious hazard to walkers, especially as cars use the bus stop lane to pass on the right.”
In her presentation to the Town Board, Baxter noted that formal discussions between Palisades residents and town officials began in 2008. Several meetings have taken place in the intervening five years with Police Chief Kevin Nulty and traffic experts in his department, Highway Superintendent James Dean and his staff, and with Supervisors Thom Kleiner, Paul Whalen and, since last year, Stewart.
The biggest stumbling block to creation of the sidewalk has apparently been funding, Ms. Baxter and town officials agreed.
She congratulated the town and residents of nearby Tappan and Pearl River for getting similar sidewalks in their hamlets, costing several hundred thousand dollars in total. Stewart noted that these were all built through various state and federal grants, at little to no cost to local taxpayers. Those grants are no longer available, the supervisor noted, and thus any future projects will have to come from the town budget, raised by local real property taxation.
Dean had prepared estimates of the cost of a 1,100-foot-long sidewalk on the south side of Oak Tree Road, based on five types of construction, and left it up to the Town Board and Palisades residents to pick their desired style and cost. Both agreed Tuesday that the median project, slated to cost $75,000, would be the most suitable and the most affordable for the community and the town, and will give Dean the formal go-ahead next week.
In his absence this week, deputy superintendent Mike Yannazzone presented the five options to the Town Board, starting with the platinum version that calls for granite curbing and a five-foot-wide brick sidewalk. The cost of the project, running from the Palisades Community Center east a quarter-mile to Route 9W, would cost an estimated $159,000.
The cheapest option, at $50,000, would be to install an asphalt curb with a rounded top and an asphalt sidewalk. Between those two extremes, Yannazzone said the town could use granite curbing with a concrete sidewalk stamped and painted to look like brick for $101,000; a Belgium block curb with the stamped and painted concrete sidewalk for $75,000 and a Belgian block curb with an asphalt sidewalk for $60,000.
While Baxter said residents originally wanted the Cadillac version with granite curbs and a real brick sidewalk, they soon realized the money just wasn’t available, and as a result, the sidewalk would never get built. At the same time, she said they also realized they would not be able to achieve a second of their goals; to replace an existing sidewalk that continues westward from the community center to Route 340 in Sparkill.
Orangetown constructed that sidewalk about 30 years ago, she said, and consisted of an asphalt curb and asphalt paving. It has seriously deteriorated over the past three decades, she said, with the curb being torn up by snowplows each winter and the sidewalk appearing to look like a widened highway, causing motorists to speed up instead of slowing down.
Initially, residents were going to ask Orangetown for a new granite curb and brick sidewalk all the way from Route 340 to Route 9W, she added.
One aspect of the new curb and sidewalk project will require approval by New York State’s Department of Transportation, Yannazzone and Mrs. Baxter agreed. That is any work being done at the intersection of Oak Tree Road and Route 9W, a state highway. Mrs. Baxter said residents would like to see several improvements made at what she called an extremely dangerous intersection that has been the scene of many accidents.
Among those improvements are the following requests, each of which would require separate DOP approval:
– Install larger and more visible “No Turn on Red” signs in all four directions.
– Lower the speed limit on 9W from the present 45 to 35 at the most. She said the bi-state highway is currently 35 in Fort Lee, 40 in Englewood Cliffs, 35 in Alpine, 45 in Palisades, 40 in Sparkill and Piermont and 30 in the Nyacks. The reduction should be from the Palisades Swim Club north to the IBM entrance at a minimum.
– The current traffic light turns green for only seven seconds coming from Sneden’s Landing west across the highway into Palisades, far less time than it takes motorists and pedestrians to make it safely across the four lanes of traffic. In addition to lengthening that time span, residents also want pedestrian push buttons on light poles on the south-east and south-west corners of the intersection, adjacent to the two bus stops, so pedestrians can safety access them. A countdown clock should also be installed for pedestrians crossing east to west, so they know how much time they have to get safely across 9W.
– The northwest and southwest shoulders along 9W should be narrowed so motorists don’t try to use them as illegal passing lanes on the state highway. It is currently dangerous to turn east or west off Route 9W onto Oak Tree Road. The traffic light should be re-programmed to create a delayed green for southbound traffic, allowing the backup of northbound vehicles to turn left first.
– The bus stop at the southeast corner of the intersection needs to be re-configured, because it is currently used as an illegal passing lane on the right, causing potential danger for pedestrians and motorists alike.
Yannazzone said these projects, and their costs, would have to be discussed with the DOT, and get their approval, before any work could be done. Who would do the work, and what the cost would be and who would pay for it are all items that need to be investigated, he told the board.
To the residents’ delight, however, he concluded by saying that if the Town Board gives its official blessing to the sidewalk and curb project next week, actual work could begin as early as this spring, and be completed by the fall.
Engineering work has already been done, he explained, and the project could be advertised to solicit bids from private construction firms by March.
Mrs. Baxter and her squad of supporters thanked the board for their informal approval of the project, and indicated they would return next Tuesday to witness the actual vote.
She noted that she has lived in Palisades for 17 years and loves every aspect of the community, including both the hamlet and the town. The biggest issue of concern that she has observed during that time has been the recurring theme of traffic and safety, she added, so that finally getting her coveted sidewalk and curb will be the crowning jewel of her involvement in hamlet affairs.
In Other Business
Also at next week’s business meeting of the Town Board the council is expected to:
Authorize Police Chief Kevin Nulty to designate one of his experienced officers to full-time duty with the federal narcotics task force run by the Drug Enforcement Administration. In return, the DEA will authorize Orangetown to receive about $200,000 from a special property seizure fund, comprised of money, drugs, vehicles and homes seized during drug raids. Nulty thanked the council for the unexpected authorization, but warned them there would be cost consequences to the town, including the officer’s salary and benefits and the cost of overtime for other officers to assume his normal duties. In an even more unexpected move, the council indicated it might even give him permission to hire an additional officer for the town’s short-staffed department, to prevent overtime from rising even more.
Designate the month of March as Irish Cultural Heritage Month in Orangetown. Stewart said the proclamation would be “great, noting Irish contributions to art, government and other fields, with references to local achievements.” He said it would also involve a bagpiper, Senator David Carlucci, and local Hibernians Mary O’Sullivan and Carmel Reilly, among others. “It’s been fun working with Mrs. O’Sullivan and Mrs. Reilly to put together this proclamation, apparently a first for the Town Board in Orangetown,” Stewart added. “I’m looking forward to marching in the parade, in memory of my grandmother, who loved St. Patrick’s day so much.”
Re-appoint and name a few new members to several advisory committees, including the Blue Hill Golf Course and Broadacres Golf Course, Volunteer Health Advisory Board, Community Development Block Grant Committee, Parks Development Committee, Substance Abuse Committee, Traffic Advisory Board, Bureau of Fire Prevention, Shade Tree Commission, Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, Project Review Committee, Youth Recreation Assessment Advisory Committee, Environmental Committee and the Office of Emergency Management.
Approve a request to use the town’s showmobile by St. Thomas Aquinas College for its April 16 Springfest.
Grant work registration certificates to five construction firms to perform sewer work in the township. Authorize Highway Superintendent Dean to attend the Grassroots Advocacy Campaign’s local roads and bridges conference in Albany March 5 and 6. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the board meeting room of the Town Hall at 26 Orangeburg Road in Orangeburg. The public is permitted to speak on any item on the agenda for three minutes each at the start of the meeting. Agendas are distributed at least an hour before the meeting, and are normally posted on the town’s web site at least the day before.