BY KATHY KAHN
Leg. Aaron Weider and Town of Ramapo Councilwoman Brenda Logan-Charles were among the 20 people gathered at Finkelstein Memorial Library in Spring Valley January 29 to learn about Improve Route 59. (www.improve59.com) Attorney Ryan Karben, spokesman for the new coalition, said the “funnel” that filters down from the multi-lane state road into the two-lane highway in Spring Valley is unsafe, crumbling and in dire need of immediate improvement.
“The state has allocated $750,000 over the next four years towards putting in some sidewalks,” said Karben. “That amount does not address the major issues with this Spring Valley section of the roadway—it’s narrow, crumbling, with few sidewalks for pedestrians or bikers. The lights are not coordinated and traffic is often at a standstill.” Karben said that section of Rt. 59 handles between 16,000-18,000 cars, buses and trucks every day. “When the school buses are out, it can be chaotic.”
In addition to making the Spring Valley 59 corridor a four-lane highway with a buffer zone in the middle to discourage jaywalking, Improve 59 is also advocating a bypass road from Rt. 59 to Saddle River Road. To increase pedestrian safety, it also proposes to develop a biking/walking trail with a safe recreation area extending from the existing park at Old Nyack Turnpike to Monsey Glen Park.
Joseph Brachfeld, principal owner of the long-dormant Rockland Drive-In, said his support for Improve59 has nothing to do with his own plans to develop the drive-in property, now zoned for commercial use. However, he and his investors, who remain nnamed, are working with the Town of Ramapo Zoning Board to have it designated for residential/mixed use.
“I invested $30 million to renovate and enhance the 140,000 square-foot shopping center that is home to Evergreen Kosher Supermarket, one of the best loved supermarkets in the country,” continued Brachfeld. The property where the drive-in is located is perfect for a ‘walkable and transit-friendly’ community, he added. “But Improve59 isn’t about helping to develop my property,” reiterated Brachfeld, who is donating 1,300 linear square feet to the sidewalk project, should it come to pass. “This is about enhancing a major corridor in the town and county. The two projects do not depend on one another.”
In looking at the layout of Route 59 and the proposed housing development, a zoning change from commercial to residential could bring a potential 600 new dwellings of various types to the 23-acre site. Making Route 59 more pedestrian friendly would certainly not hurt Brachfeld’s plans to build a new community on the drive-in parcel.
“I support this effort 100 percent,” said Logan-Charles. “Route 59 is in need of a complete upgrade. We want to increase productivity and create a safe and green community.” Part of the Improve59’s initiative is to have a 3-foot buffer in the center of the expanded Route 59, which would have two lanes in both directions. “This would keep people from crossing haphazardly across and dodging traffic,” added Brachfeld, “which is a common sight along this stretch of a major state road.”
Still to be determined: The cost of the improvements Improve59 members are going to lobby for.
CORRECTION- The original version of this article stated up to 2,000 dwellings could be built on the 23-acre site of the former Rockland Drive-In in Monsey. The developer’s representatives phoned the Rockland County Times to state that only 600 units would be built on the site.