We are writing this letter to outline an idea we have for the development of the GM site in Sleepy Hollow.
It’s a bold idea which entails thinking outside of the box and taking a longer term approach for what is best for our town. So far, most of the ideas for the site have revolved around real estate development. We want to offer an alternative that is based on high-quality tourism, capitalizing on our Village’s enormous competitive advantages which are its unique location and rich historical heritage.
We think that the Village should acquire the current site from GM and give it to a newly formed, independent not-for-profit educational institution to be called River Port. River Port would develop and manage a 1700’s Dutch-American Village on the Hudson River. The Village port would have tall ships, a marina, a maritime museum, a children’s museum, restaurants, shops, Dutch windmills and could even have a covered bridge fashioned after Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” River Port would become a must-see world class destination for anyone visiting New York City and the greater Hudson Valley area. Sleepy Hollow would instantly become a premier boating destination along the Hudson. Seasonal events such as a regatta could be organized and launched from the port. Our Village, River Port, Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Kingsland Point Park would all be accessible to each other on foot, making it an unparalleled, high-quality destination for visitors.
How would we pay for it and what return would we get on our investment? Once the project was clearly defined and the non-profit organization’s mission clear, the Village could partner with local companies and institutions to acquire the site from GM. Local firms would jump at the opportunity to help finance a project that would have such a positive impact for the community. GM might also feel compelled to sell at a reasonable price, and why not give the land away for a greater cause? Any additional funds that were needed could be sourced by the Village floating a bond to the public; the land could be used as the collateral for the bond issue. The development could also be done in phases. River Port would be economically self-sustaining by generating revenues from admissions, corporate events and other sources such as rental income from any shops and restaurants on the site. River Port would use part of this revenue stream to pay back the town over time. The value proposition for the Village and its residents would be not simply to get paid back for its investment; high-end tourism would produce a virtual cycle, driving demand for high quality shops, restaurants, and lodging, increasing property values. Residents of all ages would have a place to go to meet friends, participate in after-school programs and would also have volunteering opportunities that we currently don’t have. River Port could also include a badly needed community center for residents to enjoy.
Naysayers will say it can’t be done. Other towns have already done similar things and thrived. Mystic, Connecticut has a world class seaport (built during the Great Depression!) with over 300,000 visitors a year. We have the advantage of excellent local non-profit institutions like Historic Hudson Valley and Stone Barns with whom we can partner to establish and manage the River Port.
We hope that this idea can spur excitement within our Village and show that there are options to be explored.
Jean-Pierre Latrille & Yolanda Willmore