Getting It Right The First Time, Lighthouse Landing

Sleepy Hollow’s Planning Board Chairman, Nicholas Robinson, is looking at every street within the Village and even those that don’t exist yet.

He’s doing so in an effort to define how traffic will enter and exit the proposed “Lighthouse Landing” waterfront development. “I think Roseland will have to look at another railroad crossing in addition to the one on Beekman Avenue. It’s possible to build a little overpass for either emergency or vehicular traffic, because you can’t have one entrance in and out, without running some severe risks. We have a chance to do this as risk-free as possible, so the Planning Board has asked to have that examined,” he said.

Vehicular traffic has been a major concern to the Village of Tarrytown contemplating its own waterfront redevelopment in the form of “Ferry Landings.” When asked about the coordination between the Villages, given two proposed developments that are less than 1/2 mile apart, Robinson was quite clear. “The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires Sleepy Hollow to look at the implications for Tarrytown as well as elsewhere. In fact we have gone as far as the Route 9 corridor at Phelps Memorial Hospital that leaves Sleepy Hollow and goes into Briarcliff Manor. It is one of the most unsafe stretches of highway in the State of New York according to the Department of Transportation (DOT). Even a few cars going into that corridor will cause more accidents. We want our Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to look to the north and to the south. We are going to have to look at traffic that comes off of River Street and Hudson Street into Tarrytown and where it goes from there. If we had a trolley or light rail system that moved people around, it could ultimately move people up to where the Tappan Zee Bridge is going to be,” he said. Robinson believes there will be a new Tappan Zee Bridge with light rail on it, although he couldn’t predict when or where the linkages to Metro North and I-287 would be. “I understand that Tarrytown’s Planning Board does not have a full complement of people on it. That puts a cramp in their style, because if you have too much work piled up on a small number of people, you don’t have time to think of the longer range type of issues,” he added. Tarrytown’s Planning Board has 3 members as compared to Sleepy Hollow’s 7-member Board. “We are prepared to work on the waterfront on an inter-municipal level,” he went on to say. When that will be however, is dependent on Tarrytown getting its Planning Board up to full-strength.

When asked what he envisioned as the best case scenario for “Lighthouse Landing,” Robinson made it clear that he was speaking personally and not as the Chairman, because the Board’s work was ongoing. “My own view is that we will have a mixed-use development with a very nice shopping street, possibly a small hotel. I think we definitely want to extend the use of Kingsland Point Park. Also, having an additional outlet for the Pocantico River allows another side of Kingsland Point to be opened up where people can actually walk down to the Hudson River,” he said. That particular kind of access to the River would allow for wading or launching kayaks due to the shallow water depth at the Kingsland beach.

Robinson went on to talk about “phasing the development” where Roseland and General Motors will take about seven years to complete “Lighthouse Landing.” In the first phase he said, “They will want to build the townhouses that open on to Kingsland Point Park.” However, he believes that the first row of townhouses will have to be moved away from the Park significantly in order to create a buffer zone. That buffer zone is reflected in the Village’s linkage plan, but Roseland’s DEIS does not show it. Once a buffer zone has been created, it’s a secondary question as to what purpose it will serve. It could be bought outright and dedicated as parkland, or money could be raised from federal and state grant programs to restore the Pocantico River running through it. “Therefore, the implementation of opening up the River does not have to hold up GM/Roseland development at all,” Robinson noted.

When asked about potential pitfalls for “Lighthouse Landing” he responded by saying, “This is not a site that is highly problematic. It will be cleaned up, and whatever contamination is found will be removed, under federal and state law. That will leave us with a site that is safe and ready to develop.” Robinson noted that the development would not be built on bedrock but rather on steel and cement slab over a landfill. That in itself will pose interesting considerations for structural engineers and he is convinced that the Village will have to hire its own engineers in addition to those hired by the developers. “We will need a second opinion to make sure the development is done competently,” he said. There are also variables to be considered with respect to flooding. Hurricane Floyd had caused significant damage to Historic Hudson Valley. “We need to develop a way to handle the flood surge that comes down the Pocantico River,” he said. The railroad tracks and GM have created what Robinson refers to as a “legacy problem.” It simply means there is nowhere for the flood water to go. Therefore more flood water will have to be retained in the Rockefeller Preserve or a way will have to be found to move it in and out of the GM site. “That has to be studied, and the answer is not in the DEIS. They tend to ignore the flood issue,” he pointed out. Another issue that he referred to as more of a policy issue is the distribution of affordable housing within “Lighthouse Landing.” It has gone from the eastside of the railroad tracks to the westside. Now there is speculation that it should be mixed throughout the development and not isolated as a subset area, as shown on Roseland’s DEIS. “One of the nice things about our Village is that you have all kinds of people living together,” he said.

According to Nick Robinson most of the issues concerning “Lighthouse Landing” can be dealt with. He is aware however that the project is a very complicated scenario. “You can make a list of everything you are going to do but then you don’t really know how you are going to do it, until you start,” he said.

That statement, in all probability, is equally true for Roseland. They now have to take into consideration all the comments given to them by the public and the numerous Village Boards. The result will hopefully be a redesign and viable alternative to what they have now. It’s expected that by the end of the summer or early autumn Roseland will resubmit it’s amended plan along with the answers to all the questions raised at the public hearings. Mayor Zegarelli, although not required by state law to do so, will have another public hearing prior to the Board of Trustees making a decision on Roseland’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and its acceptability.

“The Mayor and the Board could very well find things they want studied further and send the FEIS back to Roseland,” Robinson said. At this point it’s all conjecture but one thing is certain in Sleepy Hollow. Volunteers like Nicholas Robinson and elected officials like Philip Zegarelli, along with their colleagues, are doing everything possible to get “Lighthouse Landing” right the first time.

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