Buy, Sell or Hold… Tarrytown’s Parking Dilemna

As of Wednesday, May 13, this story was to read:

After some initial signs of progress concerning the creation of additional parking for visitors, the Village of Tarrytown has hit a snag, so to speak.

That stalemate has been between the Village and the Free Accepted Masons who own the building at 54 Main Street and a substantial parking lot behind it on Washington Street.

The need for additional parking in the Village has never been questioned. Small successes have come in the form of public parking availability adjacent to the former Wachovia Bank on Neperan Road. In addition, a parking lot was created on the west side of Broadway less than a block from Main Street. Both projects were spearheaded by former Mayor Paul Janos whose administration actively sought to better the business climate on Broadway and Main Street. Janos himself owned the Main Street Café at the time.

For the past two years, a group of merchants who are Chamber of Commerce members have met with Drew Fixell, Tarrytown’s Mayor, and other elected officials in an effort to have the Village lease or acquire from the Masons a section of their parking lot which could add 31 additional parking spaces. Those spaces would be directly across the street from the municipal parking on Washington Street and adjacent to the YMCA’s lot.

At the time of this writing little or no progress has been made between the Masons and the Village. Neither party would verify whether or not behind-the-scenes negotiations were underway for the straight sale of the property and the asking price.

According to Michael Blau, Tarrytown’s Administrator, the Village has the need to get closure on the issue and as a result scheduled its first public hearing on Monday, May 18, for enacting “Eminent Domain.” Pure and simple, eminent domain is the action of a principality to acquire property for public purposes, in this case additional parking. The Masons’ lot has been appraised by the Village which would not disclose its worth. Under the law Tarrytown would have to pay the fair market value for the property in an eminent domain proceeding. According to Blau, the Masons have not wanted to sell the property, but rather, lease it and get a tax exempt status as well. That tax exempt status is not something the Village will entertain.

Should eminent domain proceedings begin in earnest, a SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) process will begin to determine if any adverse environmental impacts would result from the lot being turned into 31 parking spaces.

Stacy Belkind owns the building at 21 Main Street where she has an antique business. She is confused and dismayed by the Village’s lack of direction on creating more parking for downtown merchants. She has actually received phone calls from people saying that they left Tarrytown after being unable to find parking. Rocco Salvatico from Isabella Italian Bistro reported similarly, and has lost business because of people unable to find parking in the Village. Jean-Claude Canfin from Gallery du Soleil said that the parking shortage has reached a critical point in the Village. With the acquisition of the Masons’ lot nothing would have to be built nor would there be any disruption due to additional construction. Overall, the situation would be a win-win situation for both the residents and merchants, according to Canfin.

All indicators point to the Village of Tarrytown needing to do something concerning additional parking and needing to do it quickly. Quickly may not be synonymous with local government, yet, the ability to procure additional parking for downtown merchants is synonymous with a vibrant business community.

As of Thursday, May 14, this story now reads:

The Village of Tarrytown has cancelled its May 18 public hearing on eminent domain proceedings. According to Village Administrator Michael Blau the Village Attorney and the Mayor of Tarrytown have entered into “active discussions” with Carter Dorsbacher, a spokesman for the Free Masons, and his attorney, Whitney Singleton of Mount Kisco. All options for either the sale of the property or its lease are being entertained, and within three months the Village should have an answer as how to proceed, according to Blau. For those prone to rolling their eyes and sighing, this new development may be one more reason to do so. For those who are eternally optimistic, patience has always been a virtue.

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About the Author: Robert Bonvento