March 7, 2014
by Christine Yeres
Last November, the previous Town Board had it in mind to have comprehensive infrastructure and “streetscape” work done in 2015, but there is some question of whether the ancient water mains need attention sooner. In last Tuesday’s work session, Town Board members heard a repeat presentation by one of the firms, WSP, that pitched its services in November for the $6.5 million project. NCNOW submitted questions to all five Town Board members following the meeting; Supervisor Rob Greenstein responded to them.
NCNOW: The Town Board heard WSP’s presentation for the second time last night, describing its services – including infrastructure work – as well as its vision for “streetscape” improvements to downtown Chappaqua.
[For an account of the first presentations, see “Town Board hears two proposals for underground and “streetscape” improvements to hamlet. Designs for Chappaqua hamlet in 2014; work to begin 2015,” NCNOW.org, 11/8/13]
Simulated “flyover” of WSF’s proposed improvements to the hamlet:
Hamlet of Chappaqua Improvement Project from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.
A video of the entire work session is embedded below.
NCNOW: Did VHB withdraw from consideration or has the town chosen WSP? And is there a contract in the works?
GREENSTEIN: No contract yet. The prior Town Board was more impressed with WSP than the other firm. On its own initiative, WSP took a look at the town’s prior studies [Vollmer, PPS]. WSP’s price was higher than the other firm’s, but WSP subsequently lowered their price.
NCNOW: No mention was made of cost on Tuesday. Is the town’s budget for this work still around $6.5 million? At what point will costs be discussed more specifically? Even though WSP is a “soup-to-nuts” provider of all the many services such a project will entail, surely the TB doesn’t just fork over $6.5 million to a firm.
GREENSTEIN: That job has been figured out or divided up into several stages, which total $6.5 million. And funding will be a problem. We have money in the water department reserves for infrastructure related directly to water service, but the $6.5 million the previous Town Board mentioned last November is not actually money we’ve already bonded. The figure is mentioned in the budget approved last year on a sort of “wish list” page, estimating that the downtown infrastructure and streetscape improvements could cost around that amount, for the various stages of the work. It will be tricky to bond the money, since debt service—principal and interest—are counted towards the 2% cap limit.
NCNOW: During the meeting, Adam Brodsky asked WSP representatives about the cost and feasibility of burying some of the hamlet’s power lines. WSP responded that it will help the town to estimate both, but added that it is, however, costly. Is the TB interested in considering burying the lines?
GREENSTEIN: We’ll start with the engineering work—that money we have—then take it from there. It’s conceivable that if the community decides to go ahead with moving town hall to the cupola building at Chappaqua Crossing and sell some town hall land, then we might not just develop the town hall location, but be able to afford the streetscape improvements – including the big expense of burying some of the power lines.
NCNOW: What timing does the TB have in mind for this work? Last November, the Board was thinking to start in 2015. Since then, it seems, the infrastructure situation – water mains under South Greeley and elsewhere – has become more urgent. Did I understand that you would like to do the work this summer, at least the below-the-street work?
GREENSTEIN: Again, the money isn’t sitting in town hall, already bonded. And if the Board believes fixing the infrastructure is critical, we might be able to use Water Department reserves we have, and also bond some.
NCNOW: Will this interfere at all with the spring repaving of 117?
GREENSTEIN: No, that’s going ahead as planned—and promised—by DOT.
NCNOW: Do the following two assumptions taken from WSP’s and VHB’s presentations to the Town Board last November still hold:
In their responses to the RFP, both firms operated under the assumptions—provided by the town—that
1. there were to be no traffic lights in the hamlet, and
2. the Y intersection leading to the Quaker Road bridge is not changeable
GREENSTEIN: No. We asked them to revise one of them. We explicitly asked them to discuss a traffic light. We wanted that on the table. This is a decision that should be discussed with the community in the outreach on the Master Plan. There’s no reason the Town Board should make a decision on its own that there can be no traffic lights.
NCNOW: Is the Y-intersection still off the table as far as changes to it?
GREENSTEIN: Yes. The Y would be much too expensive to change at this point. But WSP is suggesting lots of streetscape improvements to the triangle—and surrounding it.
NCNOW: The TB is considering experimenting – for a period of around six months—with 3-hour parking limits where there are now 2-hour limits. You said in Tuesday’s work session that if this results in more difficulty parking, we will need to create more parking. Where?
GREENSTEIN: Look, if we find because of the 3-hour limits that there’s more demand for parking, that’s a good thing. It means we need to make more supply. That would be discussed in the Master Plan process.
NCNOW: Finally, the Master Plan Steering Committee has set to work going over the 1989 Town Development Plan with volunteers who will give input to the five committee members. As the TB left things at its last regular meeting, board members had not “finalized” the membership of MP Steering Committee.
The Master Plan Steering Committee met just before your work session last week to discuss the roll-out of the Master Plan review. Bob Kirkwood, Richard Brownell, Hala Makowska, Maud Bailey and you were present in the meeting. You announced that you were replacing Adam Brodsky on the committee. Is this a permanent change?
GREENSTEIN: Look, we’re trying to come up with the best way to handle a lot of really pressing issues. To avoid controversy and keep the focus on moving this forward I’m going to be on the Master Plan Steering Committee and Adam will serve on the Hamlet Business Development Advisory Committee.
NCNOW: When will that list of advisory committee members’ names be disclosed?
GREENSTEIN: It’ll be coming very soon. We just want to get it organized and make sure everyone knows that it’s a commitment and what kind of time we need from them.
NCNOW: When will the discussion of the resolution – “establishing [the committee] and appointing members”—take place? The draft resolution you released last week sounded pretty resolved to “relocate our town hall.”
GREENSTEIN: It was a draft. We need to revise it. I was worded too strongly and, actually, I shouldn’t have released it until we’d worked on it more.
NCNOW: How will this committee’s work feed into the Master Plan process that has just gotten underway? [See: Steering Committe goes to town on Master Plan review, reactivates volunteer groups, NCNOW.org, 3/7/14.]
GREENSTEIN: The goal of the Hamlet Business Development Advisory Committee is to provide a lot of input on the economic issues, the cost-benefit of it, if, for example, the community should decide to purchase the cupola building. These are issues of feasibility that we want these people to help us with. Some are developers, some are merchants and property owners. We even have a former Town Board member on the committee.
NCNOW: Do these members need officially to be appointed—that is, voted on—by the TB?
GREENSTEIN: As advisory people yes, they need to be.
NCNOW: Adam Brodsky last reported in a TB meeting several weeks ago that he was in discussions with Carla Gambescia of Via Vanti, who currently runs the commuter coffee service at the train station, about a contract with the town to run a restaurant in the train station. He reported that “things were proceeding” with her.
Since then, however, the town has decided to entertain other proposals for the space—including one from Gambescia, whom you have invited to again present her proposal along with all the others. The TB will hear these several candidates for the lease at its next meeting, on March 11.
Who are the other candidates? Did the town issue an RFP for the lease of the train station, to which the March 11 candidates have responded?
GREENSTEIN: There is no meeting scheduled to hear proposals for the train station space. We have not issued the RFP yet. We have a few people who are interested in the space. As far as Carla Gambescia from Via Vanti, she had reneged on the public’s access to the bathroom. The prior town board, as well as the current town board, made it very clear that the bathrooms must be open to the public for commuters and taxi drivers. These are the only bathrooms at the train station. Carla thought that point was negotiable. It was not – it never was. Regardless of who is the ultimate tenant, the bathrooms must be open to the public during regular business hours. Although Carla is now willing to accept that lease term, we opened the process up to the others while she was refusing to accept that requirement. Carla may still be the ultimate tenant. But we will now be in a better position to see the true market value of the space. Plus, we might be able to find someone who is willing to make the capital expenditure necessary to bring gas to the building, and make it a fully functional restaurant.
Video of the Town Board’s March 4 Work Session:
Town Board of New Castle Work Session 3/4/14 from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.
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