BY JANIE ROSMAN
Residents of the Nyacks who woould like a bike and pedestrian-friendly environment are one step closer to their goal as environmental consulting firm Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc. (FHI) has been hired to design a master bike and walk plan for the area.
The Village of Nyack is lead agency for the study, which encompasses the villages of Upper Nyack and South Nyack, parts of the hamlet of Valley Cottage as well as the Nyack School District. The aim is to create safe, accessible connections between the river villages and destinations including downtown Nyack, Nyack Beach State Park and the Palisades Center, as well as improve access to public transportation and local schools.
Hartford-based FHI—one of seven nationally-recognized firms that presented ideas to The Greater Nyack Bike/Walk Master Plan committee last month—is partnering with Street Plans, a planning and design practice based in New York and Miami with experience in bicycle/pedestrian planning and “quick build” project implementation.
“We place an enormous emphasis on public involvement,” said Chris Henry, AICP, Mobility Service Line Leader at FHI. “We work hard to reach out and let people know what’s happening and get input early and often.”
The firm is part of the public outreach for the state Department of Transportation’s Lower Hudson Transit Link service that will replace Rockland County’s Tappan Zee Express buses in November 2018. In other communities—like Simsbury, Connecticut, for which FHI is working on a master plan similar to Nyack’s—FHI’s work looks at local assets and opportunities, the network for bicycles and walking, and where gaps in those networks may exist.
“We try to engage a wide range of user groups and a focus on safety as a guiding principle,” Henry said. “Schools may be in a good location with lots of sidewalks, yet on the way is a dangerous intersection…We make spot improvements and consider alternatives to driving, see if the situation requires physical or policy changes and what the trouble spots are.”
Acknowledging its reputation as a walkable village and a popular cycling destination, Nyack Mayor Jen White said the goal of a $120,000 grant from the bridge project’s Community Benefits Program “is to have pedestrian traffic and bicyclist co-exist and to get kids to and from school safely, and to make the infrastructure better so people are enthusiastic about walking and bicycling to and from Nyack.”
Although White said the plan has nothing to do with the shared use path, she noted the new artery is expected to create a significant number of tourists. White looked to the grand Walkway Over the Hudson walking bridge connecting Highland and Poughkeepsie, NY as an example of what a bike and walk plan can achieve.
The Walkway claims 500,000 annual visitors. There is no data predicting the number of visitors the Nyack plan might attract to nearby Rockland villages.
South Nyack officials said the path will cut off before it reaches the heart of their village, as they do not have a commercial district and thus would not benefit from increased traffic. “Our village will be ending the shared use path at Clinton Avenue and Franklin Street and have our bicyclists, and any bicyclists, use Franklin street to access Nyack as we have no commercial district,” Village Mayor Bonnie Christian said. “We will be working very closely with the Village of Nyack and its consultants on the plan to ensure that our village will not be negatively impacted.”
Look for its representatives at a local farmers’ market or other event in the community once the project gets underway. “We come to residents in the community when they can’t come to us as not everyone has time to attend a 7 p.m. workshop on a weeknight,” he said.