Revitalizing Irvington’s Main Street & Beyond, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Before leaving office, interim mayor Nikki Coddington solicited members for a new and much needed Irvington Business Improvement Committee (IBIC). Stepping up to the plate long before baseball’s opening day was an inner Village resident, Ken Bernstein.

He volunteered to be the Committee’s Chairman, and its sixteen members, along with a Board of Trustees liaison, have been hard at work ever since.

Bernstein has lived in Irvington for eleven years. He works in New York City as an attorney specializing in intellectual property law. “We (IBIC) have been meeting every other week since February and we also have a couple of sub-committees that have met in between our regularly scheduled meetings. We’ve come up with a dozen or so proposals that we’ve made to the Board of Trustees. We think they can revitalize the Main Street,” he said. A few of the recommendations are what Bernstein considers time sensitive or “low hanging fruit” which the Committee wants to make progress on rather quickly. “Over the past month we have focused on a few items to implement in the coming weeks,” he noted. One was the Quadricentennial which also had its own committee apart from the IBIC. “We supported all the efforts of the Quadricentennial Committee and viewed the entire event as something that would be helpful to Irvington by increasing its visibility and resources.” The second item that IBIC has worked to expedite is a Farmers Market at the Main Street School parking lot. “We have had ongoing meetings with the Mayor and representative members of the school district,” he said. The results have been positive, and at the time River Journal went to press, the Irvington Farmers Market had one additional hurdle to overcome before becoming a reality.

Modifications to the Village Code regarding the permitted use of the sidewalks have also been at the top of IBIC’s agenda. Revising existing laws or drafting new ones, that would allow restaurants and food establishments to set up café tables on the sidewalks and other merchants to showcase their products, is viewed as a necessity to revitalizing Main Street. “We think this addition will be very attractive to visitors and give it (Main Street) a more active feel,” Bernstein said. “This is something we are looking to get up and running in the next few weeks,” he added.

Kayaking on the Hudson and improving access to the River at both Irvington waterfront parks are currently under consideration for the IBIC. “Our goal is to make the Village more active and appealing and to put it on people’s radar screens. We feel other businesses will see that more and more people are coming to Irvington and that maybe they should open up a store here.”

The entire Committee believes that the benefits of Irvington are many. Its historical significance, its beauty as a river town and the Hudson River are all positives. “We also want to advertise the recreational aspects of the Village on the Hudson. We currently have access to the water from a ramp in Scenic Hudson Park. That ramp is not in the best condition. We’d like to improve the ramp or create another one in the Park,” he added. That task can require the approval of state agencies that monitor the usage of the Hudson. “We are looking into the ramp and bringing in a vendor who would rent kayaks on the weekend. This could attract people from other villages or from the City who would like to visit Irvington for the day. We would like to achieve something on this issue within the next month so that we could take advantage of the rest of the summer,” he said.

Making Irvington more business friendly to existing businesses and to prospective ones as well is yet another focus of the IBIC. “There is at least a perception issue that the Village is not a friendly place to do business and we’d like to change that. For any new businesses coming into Irvington there are fairly complicated code provisions. There’s no place for someone to do “one stop shopping” for their applications and permits. We have heard from people about their frustration in having applied for one permit only to learn that they need to go somewhere else and apply for another one,” Bernstein said. In short, prospective business owners don’t know what they are facing. There have been initial discussions with IBIC members and the Mayor and the Board of Trustees on this issue and according to Bernstein all parties are enthusiastic about moving forward to streamline the application process. One possible scenario would be that the Mayor himself would greet new business owners and introduce them to Village representatives for direction. In addition, a pamphlet detailing the necessary steps to opening a business is being entertained by the IBIC. “We have too many empty storefronts in our town and we want new businesses to feel welcome,” he said.

In less than six months the IBIC has identified and actively worked towards the betterment of Main Street and beyond. The ideas of the Irvington Business Improvement Committee have been heard and they appear to be welcomed. In the coming weeks and months, tangible results should be evident, giving credence to “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento