Community gives input on proposed projects
BY CHERYL SLAVIN
The Stony Point New York Rising Community Reconstruction Committee held its third public meeting on Monday, February 24. The 13-member committee, co-chaired by Gurran Kane and Steven Scurti, has been meeting regularly about every two weeks since the fall to devise a community reconstruction plan that would assist the Town in recovering from the impact of recent hurricanes while at the same time make the Town more resilient for the future. The state has offered Stony Point up to $3 million in aid upon approval of the individual projects included in the plan.
The twofold purpose of the meeting Monday was to inform the public of the progress the committee has made so far, and to invite public feedback and input on the numerous possible projects the committee has identified. Barbara Kendall of the New York State Department of State, which administers the program, gave a brief overview and explained that the funding source was a federal community development block grant allocation for disaster relief. There is an additional $3 million available, she added, for communities that submit particularly inclusive and well-thought out plans. Chris Robbins and Alice Brown, environmental planning consultants hired by the State to assist communities with planning and public engagement, described the process by which the committee has come up with the proposed projects, including public forums such as the one that evening.
Posters describing the proposed projects lined the walls and windows of the RHO meeting room. Participants received a “Projects Passport,” a booklet containing a page describing each project, with room for comments. Members of the public then spent about an hour roaming the room, reading the posters, and making comments in their passports for later collection, and on the posters. The projects were divided into two categories: those that are eligible under the guidelines of the program to receive NY Rising Community funding, and those that are not eligible, but which the committee still found to be valuable to the community economically, environmentally, historically or socially.
The seven projects in the first category included outfitting the RHO building as a short-term emergency/disaster recovery center, repairing and improving the Stony Point Center so that it can be even more effective as an emergency center, protecting the shoreline by improving Beach Road and River Road, rehabilitating and securing the Town’s waste water system against future flood damage, and developing a master plan for Grassy Point. Two additional projects were also included in this category, although their cost might be prohibitively high: repairing the Cedar Pond Brook sewer line and demolishing the abandoned and irreparable homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The 26 projects in the second category ranged from updating the Master Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan to assessing zoning code changes, organizing home and business owners, developing an emergency plan, conducting engineering studies of environmentally vulnerable sites, and even coming up with alternative low-income housing locations. The connecting theme to every proposal was that in some way it would improve the resiliency and durability of the town in the face of future disasters.
Although the committee has the information on the estimated costs of each of the first nine projects, it opted to only rate them as low (under $500,000), medium (between $500,000 and $1 million) and high (over $1 million) for public consideration. The intent was to encourage the public to really think about what would most benefit the community without having to factor in cost. Since $3 million would not in any way pay for all of the projects, the committee would also seek to leverage the State aid into finding additional funding sources.
The last portion of the meeting allowed for public discussion on some of the proposals. The greatest support appeared to be for strengthening the Stony Point Center so that it could withstand high volume usage during emergencies. There was also a call for better communication overall between the town and the residents during a time of disaster. Designating the RHO as a central command center for that purpose was seen as only part of the solution; several residents suggested that the town devise a way to communicate directly into homes during power outages through the use of local radio transmissions.
For those who were unable to attend the meeting but would like to learn more and offer input, the committee has a link on the Town website. Residents can read in greater detail about the proposed projects and submit their comments. The completed plan must be submitted to the State by March 31, but there will be a fourth public meeting of the committee sometime in May. Check the website for continuing updates.