Time in this next month to “talk turkey” about the town’s future

Monday, November 25, 2013

Editor’s Note: This week’s nationwide gathering around the table with family and friends is a primo opportunity to hear from your feast mates (including the kids) what they think about the futures and fortunes of Chappaqua and Millwood.  Imagine that the recent elections and snappishness on the hot-button issues of Conifer and Chappaqua Crossing have been our traditional Thanksgiving dinner argument, and that we really do intend—duh—to remain family, and friendly.  And to undertake a Master Plan review in the New Year.

In the nearly ten years since a developer purchased the Reader’s Digest property, the U.S. and the world have fundamentally changed.  The recent and continuing recession (“How much of our improvement is the stock market and/or the housing market—and how much of it is the Fed?”) has forced us to think in ways that have prepared the ground for A Big Think about almost everything. That Think is scheduled to take place in the New Year, with a Master Plan review.

While it might feel to us like we’ve been fighting, we’ve really been learning a great deal about our town’s problems and possibilities. Let’s say we’ve just had the arguing part of the Thanksgiving get-together and now we’re headed to the our-future-together part. 

The town’s review and update of the Master Plan is still forming up, and there’ll be many ways to participate—but if you choose to participate you’ll have increased your value by having talked about our problems with others.  Remember: strangers can see things we natives don’t, so learn what you can over the holidays from your out-of-towners. 

Over the next month try asking each other what we think of the town as-is (not just the imperfect stuff) and how could or should the town be different?  Then meet on the other side of the holidays to think “Master Plan.”

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

In the 10 years since the Reader’s Digest property was purchased, climate change has been increasing on an exponential level. How many of you remember the freak April 1st snow storm in 1997, Hurricane Floyd, Superstorm Sandy? Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. Our community has to face the fact that future planning must include climate chaos as a priority, not an afterthought. Vacant lots need to be transformed into locations for food production, citizens need to learn how to deal with extended power outages, we need to learn how to take care of one another on a hyper local level in times of emergency. The Reader’s Digest property would best serve our community not as a shopping mecca or more housing, but as a Red Cross/FEMA relief center for the years ahead. Let’s get real about surviving the future.
Susan Rubin
Environmental educator,
member of Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

By climate reality check on 11/25/2013 at 12:01 pm

The only climate that needs to change in this town is the anti-business attitude from town hall.

By Town reality check on 11/25/2013 at 12:27 pm

Let’s not talk or study anything, anymore, until we satisfy performing on the sewer issue. Ushiva, Random Farms, River Woods, and a couple of other areas are all waiting for multiple levels of Government to stop playing games with the expected sewer line. Let’s not spend another dollar on anything until we see what has already been studied and completed.  Let’s start the real conversation when New Castle finally moves in lock step to take care of the Municipality by addressing the expansion of the Water Supply Line, and installing new sewered areas of the Municipality. Let’s talk about seeing the Utility Poles buried to protect us against future Sandy type storms.

By Jackie A. on 11/25/2013 at 12:44 pm

To Susan Rubin- you end your comment with “lets get real”. Perhaps you should take your own advice.  Do you expect the owner of this property or any owner of property to simply hand it or part of it over for a relief center? Maybe you should write them a letter and politely ask if they would mind giving us 50 acres- you think that will be big enough for a FEMA / Red Cross center?Your comments on this website, from anti flouride, to anti turf field and now relief centers are not based in reality.
It is important we recognize climate change and other perils -but your suggestion is silly.
Maybe you would start by donating your house as a fallout shelter.

By Reality 2 on 11/25/2013 at 3:21 pm

Reality 2,
If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money.

By Susan Rubin on 11/25/2013 at 6:35 pm

To Susan Rubin- we are all concerned about the environment - or should be - but you solve no problems making silly outrageous and unrealistic suggestions as you did above.  If you want to be heard and taken seriously then you need credible and reasonable ideas. No developer no landowner no homeowner will simply hand over property for a community FEMA / Red Cross facility. Perhaps some wealthy individual when he or she passes might leave it in a will but other than that your idea is absurd.
In your comment above you label yourself ” environmental educator” and member of climate reality leadership corps ( whatever that is). In other comments to other articles in particular you label yourself Dr or DMD. What next? Will you warn us about asteroids and sign it Susan Rubin - Commander of Star Ship Enterprise?

By George on 11/26/2013 at 6:42 am

As online education becomes more and more common, the town part of our town-school formula will become increasingly important.  That is, as suburban schools become as good as one another, people will factor into their decision to move—here or somewhere else—the overall picture and ask: What’s the town like? 

This probably makes it important to stop believing that our town is “charming” or “quaint” when it’s just ho-hum.

By Why fixing the town matters on 11/26/2013 at 6:52 am

I agree. We can’t keep treating the town as an appendage of the real business of New Castle, which is CCSD. A leveling (even if at high-performance levels) is taking place and young families want a town that’s a town also, where people are drawn by interesting offerings (restaurants, shops, and other people) that don’t all shut down at 5 or 6 o’clock. Our model, grown ups, of house-school-driving is an old one. For Chappaqua to keep its drawing power it has to have not just great schools (others are catching up in that department) but a great town too.

By Right! Schools alone won't do it. on 11/26/2013 at 8:22 am

If we had to have two middle schools (and I’m sorry we do), they should have been divided into a 5-6 and a 7-8, with the 7-8 downtown at Bell. These jr. high kids would been better consumers or users of the downtown (library too) than the little kids.

By A 7-8 at Bell would have been better on 11/26/2013 at 8:23 am

We did not and do not need 2 middle schools.  Bell should be repurposed.  It would be great to have a teen center in the downtown.

By only one middle school needed on 11/26/2013 at 9:24 am

Bell should be sold, developed, and added to the tax rolls in order to aid in the revitalization of downtown.

By tax relief on 11/26/2013 at 12:39 pm

Have you ever looked up at the ceiling in the gym? If this was privately owned, the Town of New Castle would shut it down. Why? What kind of material is flaking off of that ceiling hmmmm? Bell School is old and out of shape. The wiring and plumbing is way past its useful life. When was the last time the Water Supply lines were checked for sludge build up? How much Energy does this building use per square foot as compared to Seven Bridges? Out of all the Schools, which School is the most Energy efficient? How many tax dollars are being wasted on Energy cost? Would the taxpayer be ahead of the came if we blew the water out of the pipes and winterized the entire School, shutdown the heating system, and just moth-balled the School? If the Community was to shutdown Bell School how would it hurt, and how would it help keep the SCHOOL TAX BASE in check? If the School population is so low, is now the time to vacate it, and totally bring it up to todays building standards with grant money? Is there any GRANT MONEY around?

By Look at Bell School on 12/03/2013 at 7:22 pm

Bell School, a WPA project, was built to last many lifetimes and functions very well as an educational facility. Adapting the layout for apartment living, office or selling functions will be difficult much like the readers digest building is displaying;  solidly constructed for a particular set of needs, resistant to alteration.

We should look for incremental revenue by satisfying the needs of educational users by offering varied learning experiences, experiential educational or alternate educational programs; the business of education in an educational facility and a contribution to the vitality of the community too.


By can on 12/04/2013 at 11:15 am


Sell Bell. Lower school taxes. The developer will tear it down and build retail there.

By tax relief on 12/05/2013 at 12:51 pm

Dunno if you’re looking for this kind of thing, but I’d like to point out that the strip of shops along S. Greeley that includes Gail Patrick’s, the the hardware store—down to Bank of America—is unlucky in two ways:

1. No shops across the street from them (big huge triangle to bridge sits there)

2. Not a tree in sight (too narrow a sidewalk for trees)

The triangle may not be able to be altered (too bad!) but at least do this:

Erase the yellow lines preventing parking along the triangle—maybe 3 feet.  OK, now extend the sidewalk along those shops by the same three feet (move the center double-yellow line dividing traffic over by the same three feet). 

Now make places for trees to stud the strip of sidewalk.

By Is this too specific? on 12/08/2013 at 7:19 pm

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