STORY AND PHOTO BY JANIE ROSMAN
While South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian’s first year in office — punctuated with her constituents’ rage and surprise — was no honeymoon, her second year has been fraught with more challenges.
Last week’s announcement that the new bridge’s shared use bike and walk path would end in a residential neighborhood confirmed what some felt was a fait accompli early in 2014, when Christian and the South Nyack Task Force updated village trustees during a specially-called January 9 meeting.
After nixing the state’s plan to end the path at Smith Avenue, the mayor decided — and the task force agreed — Cornelison Avenue and South Broadway was a better choice. “They (trustees) thought the idea — keeping cars off village streets while maintaining the character and integrity of the historic village — was plausible.”
So why was her announcement last week seen by some as a fait accompli?
“This is bigger than the village, and I feel the Rockland County Planning Board should be involved,” Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan said. “Perhaps there’s another egress, like Franklin Street. This is a county issue, too, so let’s also involve town supervisors and village mayors.”
What really happened?
For starters, the task force reports to the village trustees and records no minutes, one member said, because it’s not a government body. Residents have been asking for minutes to be kept and for more transparency so they know what’s being discussed on their behalf. Summations weren’t enough, they said.
By early November, even task force member Connie Coker was surprised no date had been set and agreed residents could have been better informed. “We should have been more vigilant so residents know they’re being benefitted, and that we’re not operating behind closed doors.”
Second, of the task force’s seven meetings, two were discussions about noise levels, “so only five meetings were dedicated to the terminus,” Christian said.
Third, only Christian, the task force, village trustees and project officials were privy to her idea. “We were thinking we could get something back for the village, and get something nice done,” she said of the plans to relocate Village Hall and make the location into a parking lot. “Maybe that could be one of the concepts.”
On March 20, the public weighed in. “About 20 people spoke and said they hated it,” Christian recalled of the meeting at Nyack College. “We hadn’t done anything yet, it was just a concept, and we said we need to do something with Interchange 10.”
Unbeknown to the village, she said, one-third (7,000 square feet) of Robert Wisner’s property at 21 Cornelison Avenue was now state property through eminent domain proceedings. “That made it look like it was a done deal.”
Village officials asked the task force, which later added two more members, to devise new ideas. Project engineers, using 10 comparative locations, crafted intensive questionnaires and collected data for a parking demand study, while village officials were looking forward to seeing ideas for Interchange 10.
The summer and fall came and went.
“There’s got to be some that just aren’t going to work, and to use that as excuse that we have to go through every one of the 14 in front of us is absolutely ridiculous,” John Cameron said at the village board’s October 14 meeting.
“I’m sure, John, that when it comes down to it, there’s probably three or four that they’re really looking at,” Christian replied. “I’m with you folks, but I can’t say that because they said they’re working on all 14.”
Residents blame the mayor and village officials for making a decision without their input, and the mayor points to project officials. “They kept telling me they need more time to study the concepts,” Christian said. “Now the state made a decision? That was appalling and outrageous.”
Given South Nyack’s historic district, and the difficult and dangerous intersection that leads to the Thruway entrance, Christian said, “so many things need to be looked at that wouldn’t come to fruition. We hope the state works with us.”
Special project advisor Brian Conybeare maintained that the project team has “been working collaboratively with South Nyack, its task force and other stakeholders for months on this issue” and moved the shared use path once from Smith Avenue, a tiny dead-end street off Piermont Avenue, spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The state sees no reason to opt for a plan that would cost taxpayers highly, only to find that it may have to be redone in the future once the village decides its plans for the Interchange, he reasoned. “While we will continue to work with the village on reasonable solutions, we also have a responsibility to protect taxpayers and tollpayers,” he said.