Flashback Friday: Bridge Path Survey yields Different Views, Concerns for South Nyack

The walking and bicycle path is set to open within months (no date has been confirmed). Two and one-half years ago the project asked for input on the new bridge’s path; one sticky point was will it remain open 24/7, be open from dusk to dawn (that will change with the seasons) or have set hours? The debate continues as bicycling groups push for round-the-clock access to a path that will be monitored how? What about safety issues? Noise? Its side path opens into a quiet South Nyack neighborhood.

Catty-corner to the house Jessica Hans-Smolin shares with her husband, Pete Smolin, and their one-year-old, is where the Raymond G. Esposito Trail crosses Clinton Avenue. It’s also where the spur path and trail entrance for the new bridge’s path will be built.

“It’s not just about my backyard, nor many people’s yards,” Hans-Smolin said, speaking for the group Preserve South Nyack. “It’s about having a comprehensive plan with foresight to ensure safety, maintain the integrity of our residential community and respect South Nyack’s rich history.”

Citing a misconception that local residents aren’t in favor of the new bridge’s path, she clarified, “The controversy is where it ends, where it outputs, where it impacts on a trail in a community (and) mixed feelings about the additional spur path.”

Concept F—one of four plans presented to South Nyack by its Tappan Zee Bridge Task Force in December 2015—indicated a paved side path would be an advantage. Rockland County Times reported in February that PSN members voiced concern about the path throughout 2015 and 2016 and were told they’d be consulted as the timeline pertaining to the trail got closer.

The Task Force meets as needed with project officials, bringing recommendations to the board for consideration and “has a good relationship with the state and the Thruway Authority,” Mayor Bonnie Christian said. “We’re trying to do what’s best for our community while keeping the character and integrity of our village intact.”

Thanking the 2,200-plus people who participated in the project team’s recent 10-question survey, spokesman Khurram Saeed said in a statement, “Their input is enormously useful to help the team better understand how people plan to use the path as we continue to work on operational details, including way finding, hours and amenities.”

Encouraged that South Nyack resident was one of the survey’s responder options, Christian emphasized it’s a way to let the project team know a villager answered and doesn’t want the path open 24/7.

Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell agrees with her about curtailing path hours albeit for a different reason: he has yet to see that benefits outweigh potential negatives, while she stressed it would be unfair to — and potentially dangerous for — residents.

Trail head of walking/bicycle path and Esposito Trail/K. Wolf

“Though there may be some ‘good’ uses for it at 2 a.m., I can’t imagine the legitimate demand for it would justify the risks and potential costs,” Fixell said. “Perhaps we’ll find that there really is a lot of demand for crossing in the wee hours, but I don’t believe that keeping it open all night makes sense in advance of the demand being demonstrated.”

Metro North’s first Manhattan-bound train leaves Tarrytown at 4:45 a.m., and the last train arrives in Tarrytown from Grand Central Station at 2:43 a.m., begging the question: Will the path be available to late evening and early morning commuters?

“The idea of keeping it open only dawn to dusk (when the Esposito Trail is open) makes it unusable for anything but recreation,” Rockland Bicycling Club board member Mike Benowitz said. “The bridge is almost three miles across. Someone looking to cause trouble is not going to cross three miles.”

The New City resident takes the ferry from Haverstraw to Ossining, and, from there, bicycles to his job in White Plains. He feels closing the spur path from dusk to dawn would be better than closing the entire path overnight.

South Nyack neighbors worry about safety when the Lower Hudson Transit Link replaces the Tappan ZEExpress in fall 2018. Stops include the South Franklin Extension (within Interchange 10)—the bridge interchange—and at Artopee Way in Nyack.

“This is way too much traffic at one intersection in an exclusively residential community. We have a lot of young children here,” Hans-Smolin said, citing a recent block party where kids played freely.

Most recreational cyclists aren’t riding after dark, Benowitz said, and clubs that organize special rides will use a road and not the trail. “Large bicycle groups will avoid shared use areas,” Benowitz said. “You’re riding 15 miles an hour, and someone walking a dog turns around,” which might lead to a potential accident.

Christian and Police Chief Brent Newbury met recently with state officials to discuss the path’s safety and patrolling, Christian wrote in a July 7 update. Governor Cuomo’s office will work with Newbury and state troopers to ensure village safety concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

“It’s important to be a concerned citizen and be active as much as you possibly can,” Hans-Smolin reiterated. PSN feels if the (area around the) trail has to be developed despite its continuing efforts to save the green space, then it would like the spur path to close from dusk to dawn, and have path users be directed to exit at the Interchange 10 parking lot.

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times July 13, 2017.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2019

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