STORY AND PHOTO BY JANIE ROSMAN
“We face a tremendous challenge with the installation of a shared use pedestrian bike path, and we need your help, your views and your voices in our fight to protect South Nyack,” Major Bonnie Christian told more than 250 residents and elected officials Tuesday night at Living Christ Church. “The future of our village is at stake.”
Christian called the meeting to hear residents’ feedback and brainstorm ideas for their village in light of the state’s plans.
“How can the quiet, residential community of 3,500 people protect itself from the impacts of the new path and at the same time leverage the shared use path to capitalize on the new visitors it’s sure to attract?” she asked.
Detailing the events leading to last year’s presentation, Christian said, “The residents of South Nyack resoundly rejected that plan, and I say resoundly. We heard you loud and clear,” she said. “Some of you suggested some other possibilities, and we asked the state to help us explore them. Well, it’ll be a year March 20 since this concept was rejected by you.”
Instead of holding the meeting it promised residents last spring, summer and fall, she said, “It (state) cut off negotiations, pushing ahead with incomplete and ill-conceived plans.”
Tarrytown will have a centralized location on Thruway Authority property for the path’s entrance, parking and restrooms. “They are not disrupting one single residential neighborhood,” she said.
Last week the village received bids for conducting the feasibility study to explore ways to connect the shared use path to a comprehensive redevelopment of Exit 10. “The state has told us they can’t wait for a study because the federal funding for the new bridge requires that the path opens when the bridge opens,” Christian said.
“Therefore, we have submitted a formal request on our behalf to the federal government for a temporary waiver of that requirement to give us time to complete our study,” she said. Plans must “provide sensible solutions that work for South Nyack and are accepted by its residents,” she said.
Christian assured that she would answer questions if time permitted at the end of the meeting, and if not, then she’d respond in her Mayor’s Update.
Before opening the floor to speakers, moderator Denise McCue read the letter sent by Frank LoBuono to Special Project Advisor Brian Conybeare, which said in part, “I support the SUP. In fact, I think it’s a great idea and I will use it frequently. However, it should be done right. It must be done right – for ALL to enjoy – especially the people it will affect the most – my neighbors in South Nyack.”
Residents spoke individually in unison about how the state isn’t listening to their requests to move the path’s terminus to Exit 10 and give back the land that was taken when the bridge dissected the village more than 60 years ago, and that their community needs to stand firm in its resolve not to have traffic overflow, cars, and congestion clog the streets.
Michael Hogan, husband of Rockland County Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan, said she was unable to attend. He read her remarks to the state, which said in part, “I do not support, and will actively oppose, any plan that is not consistent with — or that will be disruptive to — the residential neighborhood of South Nyack.”
Remembering how the Palisades Parkway changed the area back then, “It is incredible to imagine we are dealing with another issue threatening our village 60 years after the Thruway ripped through South Nyack, changing its character forever,” Hogan said.
Broadcaster and 37-year resident Bob Wolff spoke of the village’s peace and tranquility. “They don’t live here. They want to do it their way from where they live,” he said, referring to project officials. “All I say is, before we proceed in any way, ask the questions: “What will it do to our kids who live here, our families who live here, and our way of life? And I say the way we’re going now is the wrong direction.”
Third-generation resident Annie Hekker Weiss contradicted Christian’s story.
“I’ve had a meeting with Bonnie last January, one year ago January, where you had laid out the plans for the SUP being at Broadway and Cornelison,” Hekker Weiss said, turning around to Christian. “At that time I know that Exit 10 was the place to go.”
Citing the meeting last March, she said, “The state really was responding to the task force and the village board. And again, it was a plan that didn’t work and made no sense, so we went back to the drawing board.”
Christian said the village has been inviting Conybeare and Empire State Development Corp. Mid-Hudson Regional Director Aimee Vargas to meet with village officials and the task force, and they refused invitations. “We’ve invited them more than once, and we’ve asked them to please meet with the task force, we’re going above their heads now. We need to take care of South Nyack.”
Faith Elliott contacted John McDade of the federal highway administration.
“The game is over,” Elliott said of her hour-long conversation with McDade.. “I detailed the abuses, the lies and the misrepresentations as well as the engineering and architectural malpractice that are being foisted upon South Nyack.”
“We welcome more community engagement on the shared-use bike/pedestrian path parking concepts that are currently being studied,” Conybeare said via email. “We have already received more than 300 comments through our website and the New NY Bridge team is planning public meetings next month to get more input and there will be another formal public comment period as part of the federal environmental assessment process.”
The New NY Bridge Project team has had at least 50 meetings with S. Nyack village officials, its Tappan Zee Task Force, residents, and other local stakeholders as well as hundreds of phone calls, emails and other informal meetings.