Needed Changes at the Chamber of Commerce

Thirteen year Sleepy Hollow Chamber of Commerce Board member, JoAnne Murray, a principal in the Allan Block Insurance group at 24 S. Broadway in Tarrytown, will become the new President of the Chamber on January 29.

While it would be logical to assume that a Chamber so named would represent Sleepy Hollow only, Murray wanted it to be clear that the Chamber represents both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. In answer to a direct question of why she would now want the additional responsibility of assuming the executive role, she was quick to explain that as both Villages change and expand, they are also becoming key river crossing areas as well as important neighbors to the NY metropolitan complex. As a long-time business leader, Murray felt that it was time for her to help focus an increasingly active business community into a strong and influential body as each village moves into a diverse future.

She has just completed the selection of a new Board that will replicate, in function, various critical community activities, i.e., retail, banking, manufacturing, real estate, law, government, etc. Meetings will be on a regular monthly basis with delineated agendas. A second level of morning meetings involving the public will also be held at a key retail or service establishments throughout the year. It could even be that down the road, both Villages will want to divide into separate Chambers, each representing their own Village.

One of the Chamber’s current activities is the continuing search for parking solutions. One of the "tests" being conducted in Tarrytown is an examination of "valet" parking which enables a visiting car to be dropped off at the Public Parking lot on S. Washington, with valets taking the car to a Washington Irving Middle School lot and returned when the owner calls. A flat fee of five dollars is being charged for the service. Further, there is almost continuous conversation on building several parking levels behind CVS, and another idea that has surfaced is that parking levels might also be developed in the Depot Plaza area. Another concept is to develop the lot behind the Masonic Building on Main Street with its entrance on S.Washington.

However, says Murray, the problems of developing our villages do not end with parking. A recent article in a local daily recounted complaints about local landlords raising rents as the number of antique shoppers and retail customers has been increasing. Observers are quick to point out that this can be a short-lived process, particularly if the leasee moves to another location that is less expensive or to a more desirable location. Yet another issue, i.e., creating "through" traffic patterns by simply widening streets and adding lights that accelerate traffic has been found to intimidate pedestrians to the point that people have stopped using the very downtown areas planners intended to improve! Similarly, changing the original design character of a town has been found to similarly be a drawback. To that point, many rivertown "redesigns" have now gone back to a "vintage" look which Tarrytown’s Ferry Landings and Sleepy Hollow’s Lighthouse Landing have currently incorporated. In fact, there has even been a mention of an exciting possibility of bringing in several old time trolleys to ply the hill on Main Street down to the Ferry Landings area and back, connecting visitors to both areas more effectively than by car.

Murray summarized her interest in both communities by observing that many towns across the nation are similarly shifting from an industrial base to residential and retail. She feels strongly that all new planning directions require an active input from citizens, or a village can run the risk of being left behind due to a serious miscalculation. Having been in business in Tarrytown for over twenty years, JoAnne is in an excellent position to provide a balanced vision for the newly configured Chamber of Commerce. She not only has a background in what was done successfully in the past, she also knows what should not be attempted again.

Murray added that if you are interested in helping the Chamber of Commerce move forward, the best way to register your comments or offer your service, is to contact them at (914) 631-1705 or info@sleepyhollowchamber.com.

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About the Author: Arnold Thiesfeldt