Letter to the Editor: Town Board needs a different approach to businesses in both our hamlets

Tuesday, September 6, 2011
by Rob Greenstein

The D’Agostino situation is frustrating for many residents.  We have the feeling that we’re watching the loss of Chappaqua’s only sizeable grocery store from the sidelines.  And we’re watching from the sidelines as a store moves in that doesn’t meet the needs of our community.

Judging from your article last week, “Town tries to keep D’Agostino space as grocery store,” September 2, 2011, it looks as though we may soon be stuck with a type of store our community doesn’t need (another pharmacy) rather than keep or gain one it does need (a grocery store).  And there is nothing we can legally do to stop it.  While it is beyond ridiculous that this landlord took weeks to return the calls of a town board member, it does show that there’s a real disconnect between government and landlords or merchants.

We need a different approach. We need to work together to make our two downtown hamlets better for all—landlords, merchants and residents. We need to start building relationships and trust so that we can avoid situations like this in the future.  Our Town Board must be proactive, not reactive.  Rumors from clerks have been floating for months, but a relationship with D’Agostino’s landlord should have been in existence well before.

We need an effective mechanism through which government can work with the landlords and shopkeepers. Town government should work to form a strong chamber of commerce for both hamlets, cultivate relationships and build trust between landlords and the town board. 

We also need a real downtown policy.  I would like to see a Downtown Business Development Committee formed for each of the hamlets, and a relationship between the two.  This would be very different than the existing Downtown Steering Committee (Chappaqua) or the Millwood Task Force (Millwood), both of which have addressed, it seems to me, mainly aesthetic matters.  The Downtown Steering Committee meets infrequently in a closed environment, which, I think, is counterproductive and silly.  Such committee meetings should be open to all interested parties and the committee itself should include strong merchant – and resident—representation.  Hearing from residents can help our businesses learn how to meet our needs. 

The Millwood Task Force is more open to attendance at its meetings by residents, but it, too, needs town government to more proactively forge relationships with businesses.  In a Chamber of Commerce, Chappaqua and Millwood can learn valuable lessons from one another.

The Downtown Business Development Committees I envision would be comprised of landlords, merchants, residents and government officials.  EVERYONE coming to the table with their ideas.  It is my hope that these committees would make recommendations to attract and retain businesses—two very different but equally important functions.

We must all work together to make our two hamlets more vibrant.  This will lead to an increased sense of community and increased commercial revenues.  But our Town Board must take the lead.
From NCNOW’s archives: “Town tries to keep D’Agostino space as grocery store,” September 2, 2011, with 21 comments since publication.

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