Letter to the Editor: Town use of Reader’s Digest property

June 27, 2008
Lester Nils Himel

The town of New Castle has a series of needs and, in addressing these, I would like to make some suggestions. 

We need to create a greater core commercial area.  I am not suggesting a higher degree of commercialism/commercialization, nor am I suggesting larger institutions (i.e. Nordstrom’s). I am interested in pursuing a more holistic approach.

It has come to my attention that a project creating a greater number of stores and the requisite building construction has been suggested to the town planning board to create a “critical mass.”  I don’t believe it’s in the town’s best interest to create a shopping mall; that would not be in keeping with the “feel” of the town.  I am sure we all realize the desire for merchants to experience more foot traffic and, presumably, sales.  Let’s try to address that in line with a family orientation.
Let’s look at the current situation.  The downtown commercial area has retail and professional establishments, from the intersection of Route 117 and King Street to the intersection of South Greeley Avenue and Woodburn Road.  The Town Hall, Police Dept. and Library are at the south end of the district.
The Reader’s Digest property (RDP) is a major concern of the townspeople.  It is not that adding to the population through real estate development would be evil but the property has so much already in place, with room for more! 
        Land, suitable for park and athletic fields
Contrast the RDP with the town library…  Expansion in both building and parking facilities is strongly desired, yet there are limitations on what can be accomplished with the current site due to both physical and legal constraints.
The town hall, likewise, could make use of additional space as the town has grown since its construction.
Our town is very family oriented, with a great emphasis placed on schools and extracurricular facilities.  The various athletic teams need additional fields; the performing arts groups need recital facilities.
I have a proposal.  (If someone has preceded me in this, I will simply join the cry.)
The town should purchase the RDP.  Let’s approach the situation we have as if we were able to plan a town from scratch.  We have an opportunity to expand and coordinate the town with limited construction or rezoning costs.  Think of it – we wouldn’t even have to move families or homes.
To stress, the RDP would be the location for:
        Town Hall
        Police Dept.
        Performance Center
        Athletic Fields
        Perhaps a swimming pool for the school system?
The result?  A planned Municipal Center for the community. 
But that’s not all!
The opportunity to expand the downtown business area into the municipal buildings left behind would be beneficial for retail, medical, professional offices.  Here we will see some growth in space and should help draw shoppers into the area.
Turning to the commercial district’s needs, the merchants need to create a “draw” marketing plan.  The Chamber of Commerce will address that, I’m sure.
I would encourage and welcome debate.
Lester Nils Himel
Chappaqua, NY