Community updated at April 30 event
BY JANIE ROSMAN
A recent New NY Bridge presentation was well received at Dominican College.
“From the start of planning (the project) to the very moment, it was comprehensive and very detailed, done in such a way that was understandable to the audience,” Dominican College Chancellor Sr. Kathleen Sullivan said after special project advisor Brian Conybeare’s April 30 talk at Palisades Institute at the college.
Her takeaway was new understanding about the bonding process, which makes the bridge a given, and the future possibility of light rail.
Last week’s discussion about neighborhood impacts, short-term challenges, and long-term benefits are part of official efforts by Conybeare, and Public Outreach Administrators Andy O’Rourke and Dan Marcy, to keep the public informed. “Our goal is to get as many local companies involved in the project as possible,” Conybeare said. “Speaking to groups like the Palisades Institute in Rockland is just one way we are reaching out to the business community here in the Hudson Valley to let them know the door of opportunity is open.”
All Bright Electric Co. President Howard Hellman now knows about the shared used path with seating, safety barriers, and views. “I’ve heard Brian speak several times and always look forward to it,” he said. “He always has an up-to-date message with visuals that’s informative, entertaining and accurate, and I always learn something new.”
So taken was the audience with Conybeare’s presentation that “for a couple of moments after he finished, the audience was silent,” Vincent H. Frankel, who serves as Palisades Institute’s Executive Director, said.
Frankel felt the project may positively influence students’ education and careers. “Recognizing construction companies were represented (that day), we had an interesting conversation about how to interest students in science, math, and engineering,” he said.
That the project is igniting interest in the discipline is an understatement.
“It will do a lot for our county,” Frankel, who is Director, Ethics & Business Standards, Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc., surmised. “As a Rockland resident who worked at Con Ed (parent company of ORU) in New York City for 25 years, I can tell you that getting from Rockland to the city is a difficult exercise.”
Bridge discussions beg talk of toll fares, including the governor’s commitment to give Westchester and Rockland residents a discount aside from E-ZPass® tags. “Talking about the entire solution, in order to get rail on the bridge, you need to run a train on the Thruway, and that means reconstruction,” he said.
The $20 million designated in the 2014-2015 State Budget will support bus rapid transit (BRT) recommendations and improvements between Westchester and Rockland counties. Still undecided is which agency will oversee the new system or its final cost. “Conybeare explained that those new buses will be able to control the traffic lights along Route 59, and make them turn green if they’re red,” Frankel said, amazed. “That will be a big help.”
The state’s application for a $26.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) matching grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation will support BRT and other transit recommendations.
Frankel applauded the governor’s decision to separate the bridge, and its future rail component, from the corridor. “We talked about the task force’s recommendations, which included $250,000 seed money to South Nyack” from the project’s Community Benefits Program, a $20 million fund established by the state and Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) to aid communities close to the construction zone.
Sullivan said her experience on the Environmental Stakeholders’ Advisory Working Group heightened her awareness to the project’s sensitivity on local impact. “They’re mitigating sounds in the river using bubble curtains, and keeping in close contact with the communities, and are willing to address issues and keep open communication,” Sullivan noted.
The 10-member Palisades Institute runs informational forums for the Rockland, Bergen, and Orange County communities, focusing on small business. Ninety-two percent of businesses in Rockland have fewer than 20 employees, according to RBA President/CEO Al Samuels.