New housing, businesses, waking up sleepy Main Street
By Kathy Kahn
The NYS Department of Transportation held a public workshop for Sloatsburg residents on April 27, presenting two options for the repurposing of Route 17, the village’s major thoroughfare.
Its first workshop, held in January, drew over 150 residents discussing ways to make Route 17 safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. While some segments of the road have sidewalks, others do not, and the four lanes that go through the village are often a “shortcut” for those avoiding Exit 16 on I-87 to get to Woodbury Common and avoid tolls. Though the speed limit is 35 or 45 in some stretches, try telling that to cars and 24-wheelers passing each other at 50mph or more.
Final plans presented by NYSDOT’s regional director Todd Westhuis and project manager Sandra Jobson last Thursday offered two solutions to residents after reviewing their earlier input: Either leave Route 17 two lanes in both directions, with crossings clearly marked and a bike path or downsize it with a “Road Diet.”
The “Road Diet” option—which would transform the busy corridor into one lane going north, one going south and one turning lane in the middle, was the one most favored by the residents. It would allow wider lanes and for traffic to move at a slower pace—the speed limit—and give residents and visitors the option of getting into a left-turn lane so traffic won’t back up.
Both options would have clearly mark crossings with different colors and allow for a bike path. The suggestion to put parking on one side of the thoroughfare left residents a bit skeptical. “How will anyone be able to park safely?” asked one Sloatsburg homeowner. Others suggested trees along the road as well.
NYSDOT has a $4 million budget to improve Route 17 from the concrete divider separating north and south lanes that lead to I-87 to the north end of the village. It includes building sidewalks that are ADA compliant and resurfacing the existing roadway. A Transportation Alternative Grant awarded to the village will also help the changeover, and NYSDOT encouraged Mayor Carl Wright and the town of Ramapo to seek more outside funding. (With Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence currently on trial in Federal Court in White Plains, that suggestion may be a moot point.)
To date, NYSDOT has not conferred with The Related Companies, currently clearing ground for its project, Tuxedo Farms, which now calls for1,200 homes at varying prices, as well as a shopping complex that would include a YMCA open to village residents and Tuxedo Farms’ homeowners, as well as a supermarket.
One of the entrances to Tuxedo farms is located in Sloatsburg near Jessie’s Bagels, and residents did express concerns about traffic when the project is finally finished. “Will we finally get an Exit 15B to the Thruway to alleviate traffic?” asked resident Phil Kennedy. Both Sloatsburg and the Town of Tuxedo have been pushing for an exit between Exit 15A and Exit 16 (a 17-mile stretch) for years.
Michael Bruno, owner of the Tuxedo Hudson Company, has bought several properties along the corridor and has been renovating them. A craft beer restaurant/bar has also opened along the thoroughfare, as well as a sushi restaurant and other new enterprises. Clearly, Sloatsburg is in for a change but residents don’t want to be priced out of their village-they’d like to enjoy it. While most accept change as inevitable, Sloatsburgers also want to keep the small-town feel many have enjoyed for generations.
Ray and Pat Rioux live in the village and would like to see the “Road Diet” option chosen for Route 17, just as the majority did. “We are concerned with speed and over-sized trucks coming through the area. They don’t slow down. The two lanes allow cars to weave in and out to go faster than the speed limit. Turning Route 17 into three lanes and putting in a bicycle lane for our children and visitors certainly seems like the best solution for the village and its future.”
NYSDOT will return in June (no date announced yet) to show residents what the final plan will be. “We really needed your input,” said Jobson. “This is your town; you know how things work here and what things don’t work.”
Visit www.sloatsburgny.com to see the plans discussed by NYSDOT and other valuable information about the future transformation of the village, which all are hopeful will be pedestrian-bicycle friendly and slow down the speeders while rebuilding a destination that will bring rateables to the community, as well as a Main Street they can be proud of—and a pot-hole free road to boot!