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.

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

I have heard that there is yet another Nail Salon coming to downtown where the former INDIGO shop was.

By RUMOR? on 09/06/2011 at 6:48 am

I just don’t get it—and I am a woman—how many nail salons can survive in a single small town?

By mystified on 09/10/2011 at 6:04 pm

I see two impediments to revitalization:  the limited professional backgounds of town board members and the assumed limited role of local government. 

Doesn’t it seem that most board members are attorneys? They’re familiar with legal issues, but not with running a local business or providing the good customer service needed to stay in business, or creating and hosting events that attract people to the area and improve the local economy. 

Our local government functions as a caretaker to maintain the status quo, not to challenge or inspire or seek private sector improvements, just to provide basic services and let the free market decide what will happen. 

I think that proactive towns have had more diverse boards made up of store owners, civil engineers, doctors, scientists, historians, artists, and so on; and have sought more improvements, often looking beyond property tax revenues to fund such work.  There are philanthropists among us who give back to their community when asked and when they sense that such giving will be appreciated and will have a positive impact community wide.

By Anne on 09/12/2011 at 12:36 pm

I agree 100% with Anne. BTW, while I’m an attorney, I’m also a small business owner.  As such, I know what it’s like to meet payrolls, pay for health insurance & pay rent.  I’m my firms accounts receivable, accounts payable, advertising & marketing departments!   

But, putting that aside, as I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, the Town Board (& school board) must reach out to the community for help.  We have brains in this town, and expertise in many diverse areas. 

We need to survey our residents and see what they’d like from downtown business districts.  We need to formulate a Vision Plan.  We need to develop strong chambers of commerce for both Chappaqua & Millwood.  We need to form a Downtown Business Development Committee – comprised of landlords, merchants, residents & government officials.  We need to see what other communities have done so we can can learn valuable lessons from one another.  And we need to re-do our Town Development Plan.

Bottom line, we all ALL need to work together to make our downtown business districts more vibrant, which hopefully will lead to an increased sense of community & increased commercial revenues.

By Rob Greenstein on 09/12/2011 at 3:05 pm

And to add to my prior post, while I mentioned the process to revitalize our downtown business hamlets, I’d like to offer some BIG ideas that should be considered.  As we all know, sometimes you have to spend $ to make $ (increased tax revenues).  One idea is building a parking structure @ the train station and converting the back lot to a shopping plaza with a big anchor tenant (think Whole Foods).  Our downtown is limited, and the hill on King Street doesn’t help.  We have to seriously consider whether it’s wise to use so many acres for train parking when the space can be used more efficiently. Not only would a big anchor tenant attract OUR residents to downtown but also residents from other communities. 

We also should consider a parking structure where the Bell fields are currently located and putting the Bell fields on top of that parking structure (the Yankee did this @ the park outside their new stadium).  And, lastly, I’d love to see a trolley that runs from the train station to the top of King Street (think San Francisco).

By Rob Greenstein on 09/14/2011 at 5:02 am

There’s a good haircut place across the street from the carwash under the nail place. Only good business in town lately.

By Hair cut on 09/14/2011 at 11:29 am

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