Area Residents Pepper Officials With Questions About Tappan Zee

Residents of the quiet neighborhood south of the toll plaza were concerned about how the project would impact them. Responding to queries were Larry Schwartz, secretary to Governor Andrew Cuomo; Thruway Executive Director Thomas J. Madison; Mark Roche, principal at ARUP engineering; and Robert Conway, Senior Vice President, AKRF Environmental, Planning and Engineering Consultants.

door“We have a lot of questions including sound barriers, security… Most of those questions are predicated on construction traffic that will potentially run through and around our streets. Will you be putting up barriers to protect us?” Irving Neighborhood Preservation Association president Tori Weisel asked, when referencing a list of Irving Neighborhood’s concerns and requests — ideas compiled from emails sent to her by neighbors — that she sent to the project team.

A major concern is the access roads workers will use to access the construction site in their neighborhood of kids and school buses, and with the nearby JCC.

George Gasperini, a seven-decade resident of Irving Neighborhood, stood up and asked about parking for project workers.

“Near the quarry at Interchange Exit 12 in Rockland County,” Conway replied. “We’re looking at that site, among others,” which include the New York State Police barracks in Tarrytown.

Decisions like workers’ parking hinged on the chosen design-build team, and secured a promise from Schwartz for a neighborhood walk-through. Schwartz said they will not be allowed to park on local roads in Tarrytown, Nyack or Piermont. “We’re finding locations (to) lease space, where they can be bussed,” he said. The daily — and currently unknown number of — workers “will be bussed in and picked up at the end of the day, (and taken to) where we find suitable parking.”

No concrete parking plans currently exist, leaving that dilemma to the design-build team’s discretion — within limits. “I am not going to allow the contractor to make decisions that would negatively impact the community,” Schwarz said, responding to a query about when the state would weigh in on the contractor’s chosen parking locations.

“The reason I brought up the parking was because Tori and another lady were concerned about traffic and safety of the children,” Gasperini said later. “No parking on the street is appreciated, yet what if the workers find no place to park and decide it’s okay to park near the toll gates?”

Citing his neighborhood’s battle for a barrier along Van Wart Avenue, he said it would be “nice for the Thruway to put some flowers and trees (there) and clean up the area. It’s the Thruway’s backyard and our front yard.”

JCC on the Hudson Executive Director Frank Hassid suggested allowing left turns onto Broadway to avoid the line of cars that block the northbound Broadway.

“When you make the right turn out of the JCC, there’s a light with a left-turn lane to I-287,” Hassid said. “I proposed making the left lane into both a turning lane and a straight lane to avoid traffic buildup.”

Hassid agreed the situation will be challenging “yet based on the information shared last night at meeting, we’re somewhat encouraged. They seemed to pay attention to the local community and seem to want to do as much as possible to mitigate.”

While federal procurement laws prohibit now, hopefully there will be a future public presentation of the new bridge, special project advisor Brian Conybeare said during his brief (by request) synopsis.

One irate resident asked why the state couldn’t build a straight bridge between Rockland and Westchester counties, his query reminiscent of a maxim describing the shortest distance between two points. “It has to do with boundaries,” Conway replied.

“Please speak to mitigations and rodent control,” Janice Hart said. “My house is by the access road, and we could hear the vibrations (from pile driving). Check the home fragility.”

Many of Irving’s 40 homes were built in the 1800s, and some date back to the Underground Railroad.

Open Dialogue

Hassid suggested officials walk through the neighborhood before construction starts, and again afterward. Schwartz promised to visit and pre-inspect every home. “We will work with you, (and) I personally will walk (through) it,” he told her.

Mitigation plans include cameras, noise monitors and air-quality monitors. For example, Conybeare explained, if residents hear sounds of pile-driving, they can visit the website to find out what is going on and see the noise limit for that work, according to Conybeare.

“There will be a phone number to call, and if the sound is too high, and the contractor will have one hour to correct what’s causing the noise level if it’s over the limit,” he said.

“Who will be monitoring that website?” Stacy Shatkin-Cusick asked. “Will I have to go online to find out if the air quality is safe enough for my children to go outside?”

Conybeare said residents will be informed via email alerts, and that he answers every phone call and email sent to the website within 24 to 48 hours. “I’m the one you hear from,” he smiled.

The contractor is mandated to maintain community relations, a component in the contract, and to keep residents informed, Madison added. “It’s in the best interest to make sure this runs smoothly,” he said. Among the numerous contractual constraints is cost — additional charges above the estimate will be paid by the design–build team, not the state.

Project officials are talking about macro issues, when residents are concerned with micro issues, said State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (92nd AD), whose district includes Tarrytown, agreeing it’s a good idea for officials to walk through the neighborhood.

Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell asked if there will be hard standards against which those levels will be measured. If they’re exceeded, will an alarm sound in the Thruway Authority’s office, instead of asking residents to notify authorities.

“We haven’t set a level yet,” Roche replied, “maybe 80 decibels.”

Normal conversation is 60 decibels; school children in a noisy cafeteria are 80 decibels; and a forklift is 93 decibels, per the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The selection committee is currently reviewing bids from the three design-build teams, and will make a recommendation to the Thruway Authority; construction is anticipated to begin in early 2013.

“We’re trying to be a good neighbor and answer people’s questions,” Madison said later.

My article originally appeared in The Hudson Independent November 2012.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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