Regarding Ossining’s Roundabout…Q & A with Mayor Gearity

This article is Part II concerning Ossining’s proposed “Roundabout.” Last month River Journal (RJ) discussed the local opposition to Mayor Victoria Gearity’s proposal for a roundabout in the historic business district. Recently, RJ sent a number of questions to the Mayor, and listed below are her responses.

RJ: What problem or problems does a roundabout correct in the downtown business district?

VG: The roundabout in the heart of downtown Ossining will save money long-term, be safer for pedestrians, calm traffic while improving flow, be environmentally friendly, and expand sidewalks, inviting greater seating, greenery and public gathering spaces.

RJ: What consideration is being given to State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) guidelines for a roundabout development?

VG: The Village Board passed a resolution to fund the roundabout, and construction is planned to take place this summer. At the February 22 Work Session, Interim Village Manager and Village Engineer Paul Fraioli will provide us with information about logistics for the construction phase. Meanwhile, we have created a page on the Village website with information and links addressing some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the roundabout:  That page will continue to be updated so that it may be a go-to resource for the community.

RJ: What is the total dollar amount estimated for the work on such a roundabout and how will the Village fund it? Be precise if more than one revenue stream will be considered.

VG: Approximately 2 years ago we were asked by our Village staff, those folks who have the day-to-day responsibility to maintain our roads and sidewalks, to fund the much needed and long overdue improvement to our aging infrastructure of the five-way intersection in the heart of our Village. We started looking at what was needed to make all the improvements to the lights, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, ADA upgrades, parking spaces in the sector, and traffic flow for cars, trucks and first-responder vehicles.

In November, the Board voted 3-2 in favor of moving forward with the roundabout option, and on February 1 it voted 4-1 to approve the $500K bond needed to fund the project. (The Board would have needed to approve a similar bond regardless of whether it chose a roundabout or a conventional signal.)

RJ: How do you and the two Trustees who voted in favor of this proposed project see it benefiting the Village of Ossining? In what concrete ways will a roundabout improve the downtown business district? In what concrete ways will a roundabout make the Village more pedestrian friendly?

VG: As is our fiduciary responsibility, we wanted to look at various options and funding needed in the short and long-term. The concept of a roundabout that is right-sized for our downtown became a viable alternative to a conventional signal intersection. Roundabouts solve the need to eliminate long-term expenses related to constant upgrades in traffic light technologies, provide better and safer traffic flow for cars, safer pedestrian crosswalks (which include ADA enhancements), and a system that allows us to expand seating and open space opportunities to further the community’s place-making goals. Long-term, roundabouts require less maintenance, and are better for the environment as cars do not idle unnecessarily at red lights.

RJ: From what can be gathered in consultant renderings, both sidewalk space and parking spaces will be lost with the roundabout. If this is so, what does the Village intend to do regarding potential loss of pedestrian walkways and vehicular parking for shoppers?

VG: This particular design alters the parking spots a bit, but in fact there will be a net increase in spots.

RJ: In response to the claim that a roundabout will only serve to move traffic to and from the train station more quickly, and will not aid the historical business district, what do you and the Trustees say to counter that?

VG: Roundabouts in the US are a common practice in improving the walkability of a community. They provide “traffic calming” which slows down, but does not impede, traffic. It allows pedestrians and cyclists a safer way to pass through traffic by use of pedestrian islands. Roundabouts, based on research and site visits, have proven to improve the aesthetics of a downtown and increase the interests in available properties which lead to a more vital downtown.

RJ: What has your government done to meet with various groups who are opposed to this roundabout project?  Be specific regarding groups met, time spent and outcomes of meetings.

VG: In the past year and a half since consideration of a roundabout was introduced, Village staff and elected officials have met with various stakeholders in the community, including business owners, residents, engineers, and Ossining’s Office of Emergency Management team which includes representatives from OFD, OPD, OVAC and relevant department heads. During this time, there have been no less than ten public meetings where the intersection design has been on the formal agenda. More often than not, these meetings invited public input from community members including representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, and local business owners. Additionally, the Trustees have spent numerous hours in their roles as liaisons, and individually, meeting with the public they represent both in person and by email. In my case, I also hold Open Office hours every Tuesday from 10am-12noon. Both the Interim Village Manager and the Board are happy to continue to do so as needed.

RJ: What does the Village of Ossining intend to do regarding a specific (month-by-month) timetable of events for the proposed roundabout? From a recent letter published by you it would appear that the roundabout is a “fait accompli.” Are our readers to believe that?

VG: Regardless of which option we chose, we understand that any infrastructure upgrade means there will be an inconvenience to traffic downtown for pedestrians, cars, commuters, and businesses. The project is scheduled to take place in the summer because that was suggested to us as the time with the least amount of disruption caused by weather, and the lightest road usage from school buses and commuter traffic. To mitigate the impact of construction, the Interim Village Manager stated very clearly in our February 1 meeting, that he will be meeting with various stakeholders, and communicating timetables of project milestones to the public. In our continued effort to improve our communications, we recently added a link titled Roundabout: on our home page to answer the questions which the public might have.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento