by Dave Zornow
South Nyack, March 17 — 8:30p Update: To hear some critics on Facebook talk about Tuesday’s Village Board election, it would be easy to confuse South Nyack and South Ukraine. In both places there are accusations of democracy being hijacked and voters being denied information by their leaders in the run up to an important local election. Of course, there are no foreign troops on the west bank of the Hudson and if South Nyack feels like it’s under siege, that’s because of nearby Tappan Zee Bridge construction.
South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian has quietly floated a plan to demolish the current South Nyack Village Hall on South Broadway and replace it with a 35 space parking lot to accommodate future users of a pedestrian/cyclist path on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Village officials plan to relocate village hall to The Olsen Center, a Hudson River front property on Piermont Ave.
As this is the biggest news to hit South Nyack since the last Tappan Zee Bridge eviscerated South Nyack’s downtown in 1954, you would expect elected officials to be talking about it. Especially considering that Tuesday March 17 is an election day for two trustee positions on the South Nyack Village Board. However, the mayor won’t publicly discuss the plan until after the election is held.
“The Village of South Nyack is paying $4500 to get the Village Hall property assessed,” says Annie Hekker Weiss, a candidate for South Nyack’s Village Board in the Tuesday election. She and fellow candidate Erik Simon are opposed to Christian’s plan because they say it would remove a potential new rateable from the tax rolls. They are also concerned because they believe the mayor is leaving most residents out of the decision making process. “We are very much opposed to this idea as South Nyack can’t maintain the parks we currently have.”
The Mayor of South Nyack says that most of the conversation in social media are premature and that the village hasn’t committed to any plan yet. “What we are going to explain to the residents of South Nyack [on Thursday] is a concept of how to keep the cars off the village streets and stay within the characteristic and integrity of our village,” says South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian. “There is no intention of having a parking lot of 35 cars,” she said. When asked how South Nyack would finance a new Village Hall, Christian stressed that there would be no additional burden to the tax payers. “We are rolling out a concept, not a plan. As far as where the new Village Hall would be located it’s really too premature to say. We would have to look at all options available.”
Although Annie Hekker Weiss was the top vote getter at a South Nyack Democratic caucus, her candidacy was invalidated by the Rockland County Board of Elections in response to a complaint that caucus organizers failed to give proper notice of the meeting, posting signs in only four locations instead of the required six. Although the caucus organizers disputed the decision, Hekker Weiss and Erik Simon, another candidate for trustee, needed to quickly form a new party called the South Nyack Community Party to get on the ballot. They are running against incumbent Alain Leinbach and political newcomer Andrew Goodwillie.
Critics of the plan to relocate Village Hall and replace it with a parking lot say it denies the village of new tax revenue it desperately needs (the Olsen Center is now tax-exempt, but if sold to a commercial developer it would be taxable). Additionally, there are worries that adding 35 parking spots isn’t a viable solution: The Walkway Over The Hudson, a recreational path similar to what’s proposed for the new TZB, gets about 100,000 visitors a year — and requires far more than 35 spots to support that traffic. Property owners on streets near the South Nyack Village have complained that their requests for information and inclusion in the process are being ignored. Residents have also complained that the mayor’s plan doesn’t address concerns about congestion, pollution, and safety.
The South Nyack Village Elections will be held on Tues March 18 from 12n-9p at the South Nyack Village Hall. A Community Meeting to discuss the plan to relocate Village Hall and replace it with a parking lot will be held on Thurs March 20 at 7:30 pm in Pardington Hall on the campus of Nyack College at 45 South Boulevard.
- Mar 20 2014 South Nyack Community Meeting announcement
- Tappan Zee Bridge main issue in South Nyack race, Journal News 3/12/2014
- Village People’s Party of South Nyack
- South Nyack Community Party
- Tappan Zee construction, shared path focus of meetings, Journal News 3/17/2014
- Popular Clarke Rail Trail to Add Miles, But Not Tappan Zee, 7/28/2013