Letter to the Editor:
Readers of the Croton Gazette will recognize my name as the person who has been soliciting volunteers to tend the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, especially on the first Saturday in May on I Love My Park Day. This is not one of those letters. I am writing to enthusiastically support Dana Levenberg for the New York State Assembly. Living right on the Aqueduct, a NY State Park, which borders the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)-owned Croton Gorge Unique Area (The Unique Area), I have become a fierce activist for both of these neighborhood treasures. Dana has lent her expertise and leadership in working with me and the community-at-large to address the complex issues involved in our efforts to develop solutions and advocate for needed change.
The Unique Area is not a park, but a DEC-owned property that is open to the public, with little DEC presence to manage the Area. With access to the beautiful river banks of the Croton River, it developed into a magnet for those looking to enjoy a piece of nature and to cool off during the summer months. This has led to noise complaints, parking issues, and health and safety concerns. Dana has been a catalyst for change on this issue since her time as Sandy Galef’s Chief of Staff and now as Town Supervisor, bringing a solutions-oriented approach that centers around equity.
Dana is actively involved in a planning group which includes municipal, county, state, police and community representatives to address the issues at the Unique Area. She participated in the successful advocacy with the DEC for new rules to prohibit fire building, use of alcohol, overnight camping, and audible music. After the new rules were put in place, she arranged for the Town of Ossining to provide funding for a trail steward program designed to use an educational approach rather than relying solely on traditional policing to encourage respectful and appropriate use of the Area by the visitors. The funding by the Town served as a catalyst to encourage other municipalities and eventually the DEC to fully fund the Stewardship Program. The result has been that the visitors to the Area have been extremely responsive to the stewards who are collaborating with Westchester County Police presence on the weekends, resulting in a safer and more peaceful environment. Dana has also worked to develop parking options that allow visitors to enjoy the park while not creating hazardous road conditions for our neighbors.
Dana has joined us every year on I Love My Park Day to improve the Old Croton Aqueduct and the Unique Area. She joined right in with the volunteers, gloves on, to remove trash and manage invasive plants. She inspired the volunteers with her enthusiasm and hard work.
In short, Dana has worked to bring together stakeholders to address the issues surrounding the Unique Area, aiming to balance local concerns with access to public spaces. The Unique Area is still a work in progress, but one that can serve as an example for other popular public spaces in New York. We can thank Dana for that. She invested the time to understand the Area and work productively to build consensus. In my work with Dana, I have found her to be an excellent listener, accessible, interested in dialogue as a way of developing solutions, all of which are essential for a public servant. I will proudly cast my vote to elect her to the State Assembly on primary day June 28 or during early voting June 18-26.
Diane Alden, Cortlandt