Town of Clarkstown Logo

Letters and E-mails

Date
Letters and E-mailed Comments
11/2/07
With so many airlines, the old idea of a sound wall along the Thruway may need to happen. No new building permits for flood plains. Speed bumps going down hills near our children's school similar to those at Depew Ave. in Nyack would be most effective and on West Nyack Rd. by West Nyack Elem. School. A Comprehensive video system real time on our active routes throughout the Town for better response times. A private fund for all historic artifacts buildings monies raised by the business community or private donations. Bikes & walking paths in our parks, allow dogs too. No smoking in public parks where young kids gather. A cleaner, safer Town will bring economic development. Heavier fines for littering in the Town. The litter inside and out of the Palisades Center is gross. We should have a police force that has nametags not just shield I.D's. It makes one very uncomfortable to approach an officer for help, it is easier to recall a name and build a relationship. They already have the respect of the community, why hide their names? Increase random DWI DUI checkpoints.
11/5/07
Build a facility on Town property that could handle entertainment similar to what was done when the Theatre Go Round was in Nanuet and became a church for everyone in the community.
11/30/07
There are ruts, holes and man-hole covers that are too low. Cars bounce along, some swerve to avoid them and have come to near-misses with other cars. These accidents waiting to happen are located on Route 59 heading west, (Central Nyack/West Nyack areas) between McDonald's & Broome Blvd, Central Nyack.
12/9/07
As Clarkstown becomes more urbanized and more crowded, quality of life issues need to be addressed. The Town needs to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. In areas where sidewalks are available, they aren't shoveled, low-hanging tree branches aren't trimmed, and leaves are piled up forcing pedestrians into the street. Existing codes seem to be universally ignored and unenforced.
12/9/07
Create paths and footbridges (or replace the ones that have fallen down) through open space areas to make it easier for people to walk throughout the community. Commercial areas are, for the most part, ugly. Some of my family lives in Thousand Oaks, CA, a city with a similar population number, density and demographic mix to Clarkstown. The city is spotless, with attractive landscaping and little if any litter or graffiti. This is accomplished for about one third of the property taxes we pay. Revive commercial areas and provide more affordable housing by allowing apartments above strip mall stores. The parking is already there and not used at night and open space can be preserved. Update Nanuet Mall with movie theaters and new stores. It's parking lot would make a great place for a farm market.
12/29/07
Recycling program for the community's Christmas trees. I just read on lohud.com that Clarkstown is the only town in the County that does not participate in a Christmas tree recycling program. Would like to make a recommendation that a traffic light or a four way stop sign be placed at the intersection of Route 23 and Route 80. I cross the intersection often driving on Route 23 and it is extremely dangerous because the cars on 80 are going very fast.
1/20/08
My suggestion is to build a community park in Valley Cottage. In most of the other hamlets the Town has built wonderful parks, and in some there have been talk about refurbishing an existing park i.e. Lake Nanuet and a report back in the fall that the Town was considering redoing Germonds Park pool. You have a new community center in Nanuet, a center in Central Nyack, Zukor Park, Gilchrest Park in Congers. The Town has neglected the children of Valley Cottage. My kids will NEVER have the chance to utilize a park in Valley Cottage, but hopefully Valley Cottage will not be neglected as the Town moves forward. Before the Town considers sinking more money in parks that already exist, the Town should consider building a park/community center in Valley Cottage.
1/22/08
Nanuet continues to be pedestrian-unfriendly due to a lack of sidewalks. Several heavily traveled roads would benefit greatly from sidewalk installation, including: *Convent Road, from Fairview Ave. west to Green Hill Court (a distance of 285 meters) and from Caravella Lane west to the Venture Center (a distance of 145 meters). *South Middletown Road, from Church Street south to the Triangle. *The length of Smith Road. *Pascack Road, from the Pascack Tunnel south to Convent Road. *Ludvigh Road, from North Middletown Road northeast to Poplar Street. *West Clarkstown Road, from North Middletown Road west to the New City border. All of these roads pose major safety risks to pedestrians. As a runner and lifelong Nanuet resident, I have jogged these roads countless times and encountered many a close call with inattentive drivers. Aside from safety, sidewalks also encourage exercise, reduce exhaust-fume pollution (more sidewalk users means fewer drivers), and foster a sense of community by connecting neighborhoods within the hamlet. 
1/22/08
In addition, the following roads in New City, West Nyack and Valley Cottage would become infinitely safer to pedestrians if sidewalks were in place: *Little Tor Road, from Germonds Road north to Old Middletown Road, and New Hempstead Road north to Saw Mill Road. *Strawtown Road, from Germonds Road north to McCarthy Way, and from St. John Episcopal Church north to Congers Road. *North Main Street, New City from the Post Office north to Dellwood Country Club. *The length of Old Route 304. *Old Mill Road, from Germonds Road to Kings Highway. If any of these are County roads, the County may apply for state and federal grants to pay for those sidewalks and the Town can build and maintain them. Former St. Agatha property in Nanuet, at which the Nanuet School District is developing athletic fields, my suggestion is to build an unpaved, cinder walking/exercise path around the perimeter of the property.
1/30/08
I believe you recently requested some input on plans for newly purchased open spaces throughout the Town. My suggestion…do little or nothing. We don't need a structure or formal park. Old fields and wooded lots are fine for the eye as they provide a sense of depth, contrast to surroundings and a change of pace to what we typically see on a daily basis. For example, why do we need to "suburbanize" the old Cropsey Farm? The beauty of this is in its rural characteristics - a farmhouse, an open pasture, an old orchard. Perhaps we should plant more trees and expand the orchard, or plant wildflowers so that the pasture remains visibly attractive. I don't see a need to augment this with paths, edifices, exercise stations, etc.
2/6/08
I would like to add another suggestion for the Comprehensive Plan. This is also under the Health, Safety and Welfare category, and also involves sidewalk installation. A sidewalk is needed on the north side of Germonds Road in New City from North Middletown Road to Broward Road. This short span encompasses two traffic lights: one at the intersection of Germonds and North Middletown, and the other at the PIP Exit 10 northbound ramps. It is hazardous trying to negotiate this stretch on foot with a large volume of traffic from three major thoroughfares (Germonds, N. Middletown, PIP) and a lack of shoulder space. The remainder of Germonds Rd. west of Route 304 already has sidewalks and is safer because of it.
2/21/2008
1) Focus on preservation of contiguous open space, since this helps to ensure biodiversity and survival of flora and fauna. 2) Town should be able to contact known sellers of undeveloped land, especially if land is neighboring existing protected lands/open space - to help facilitate preservation of existing (and dwindling) contiguous open space. 3) Town could highlight productive use of open space use by providing links on the website and in newspapers to local environmental chapters and/or outdoor groups such as Hudson Valley orienteering, Appalachian Mountain Club events, geocaching in the area etc. 4) If Town is supporting local arts/cultural non-profits, these non-profits could give back by contributing to the enhancement of the Town's comprehensive plans. Many of these organizations have the inherent ability to enrich the environmental beauty of our county. For example, maintaining/building a nature park adjacent to the organization's property or within one of the existing parks nearby.
2/21/2008
5) Provision of town recreational/athletic opportunities to families on a sliding scale, that includes scholarships/fee waivers for families in need. Many families cannot afford current recreational programs. 6) Affordable hockey and figure skating opportunities at the Palisades Ice Rink for town youth (this was part of mall agreement - not just public skating) - free clinic days, local in-house leagues for kids. 7) More prominent, advanced AND immediate (day of) notice of public activities/meetings in local paper - including follow-up review of meetings for those who could not attend.
2/21/2008
I know the lake is governed by State park police but don't know if we have any input into how it is policed, since it is part of our county/town. As a frequent walker, runner, blader in the park, I would feel safer if police protection was primarily conducted using officers on bikes vs. cars for both health and safety reasons. I sometimes see officers on bikes, but more often in patrol cars.
2/21/2008
I was at the meeting tonight and had to leave early. I want to know as it relates to health, safety and welfare, what the Town is doing to protect the health, safety and welfare of it's residents on Klein Avenue and the surrounding areas as it relates to flooding. It doesn't take much rain for us to wind up having 5+ feet of water in our house and lose everything we have worked so hard for. We also then have to come home to mold infested homes and raw sewage in the area. This is not good for my family (as we have young children). It's also not exactly safe to be evacuated by boats in middle of the night and being taken to a mall that is located in the flood zone as some of our neighbors had to do. I hope this gets added to the topics discussed at tonight's meeting and to think before any work is done to stop the flooding around the Palisades Mall and Route 59 that can only make it worse for the residents in our neighborhood if there was a heavy rain again, we would get even more water than we did in the April 2007 storm.
2/21/2008
My thoughts are about water. Drinking water - who do I call when the water from my sink gets cloudy. Is there a system for reporting water issues? Stream water - I live on Demarest Mill Stream, West Nyack. I want to know the water toxicity levels and standards.
3/13/2008
Requesting a sidewalk be installed on Lake Road so that it would be possible to walk to Rockland Lake State Park.
3/17/08
I would love to see an off-leash dog area in Congers like the one at Kennedy Dells Park in New City. There seems to be plenty of space at both Kings Park and Congers Lake Memorial Park.
4/24/08
I suggest pedestrian-controlled crosswalks like Nyack has on their Main St. In front of the Post Office and the Clarkstown Mall for sure, but at intervals all along the commercial section of Main Street as well.
5/10/08
Comments on comprehensive plan: energy, green building codes, water & trees. In the workshops I've attended, I heard discussion about a lot of issues, among them: over-development and storm water management, preservation of natural environment, but there were two other issues that came up but were less discussed. First was, a safe, sustainable water supply and second was global warming & energy issues. Over-development and drainage issues feel immediate to us all, in our backyards and in our basements. Yet it is these last two issues, and in particular, global warming, which may affect us all most profoundly. While these issues are the least immediate, the least visible, it seems to me that any plan that does not prepare for these factors is ill-prepared for the future.

Climate change is likely to produce intense storms-and we can also expect more severe droughts. Planning for the impacts of climate change-more intense storms, with more severe flooding-as well as more severe droughts-this is one of the things we should be doing now, in this plan. It seems to me that there are many good reasons for avoiding desalinization, including health effects and expense. Desalinization is also extremely energy intensive, at a time when we should be cutting back dramatically on energy use. If we want to avoid desalinization, we have no choice but to reduce demand. Perhaps we'll need some kind of regional limits to development, in order not to exceed our resources. It is really an issue that needs to be addressed through a comprehensive regional water plan, but I believe there are things that could be done in this plan to address it.

Our local plan could mandate water conservation in our new codes and require similar measures whenever homes change owners: *low flow or high efficiency fixtures *less turf and plantings that require less water *grey water reuse for non-potable uses *rainwater capture for outdoor use or non-potable uses. And of course, we also need to be doing whatever we can to minimize our own impact on global warming, to reduce our carbon footprint. We know by now that this is a problem that will not be resolved with many small steps. There are innovative models to work from; cities and towns that are already using solutions that would have sounded very far out just a few years ago. Could we require solar hot water systems, as some places have, in all new construction and major refurbishment-or that 10% of energy in newly constructed structures will be from renewable energy produced on site, as townships around England are doing already? I'm also wondering whether we couldn't build a mechanism into the plan to make it open-ended, so that the plan can evolve in a period in which things will be changing dramatically.

I'd like to suggest the USGBC LEED standards as the best mechanism to use, as a guideline which can be adjusted with time according to our needs. LEED standards are among the most widely accepted gold standard in the U.S. for sustainable planning. For example, we could have codes that stipulate Energy Star for all new construction within the shorter term, phase in minimum LEED standards more gradually, and then raise the requirements over time. This is basically the process that the Westchester task force seems to be recommending. As I understand it, LEED certification is expensive, but many towns are using the standards as checklists without requiring the actual certification process. LEED standards now cover not only new home and commercial construction, healthcare facilities schools, but also criteria for sustainable neighborhoods and standards to retrofit older structures.

LEED guidelines can be altered according to our local needs, assigning points, inserting or omitting criteria according to our local environment. But perhaps what strikes me as most important about LEED is that they use an integrated approach that addresses all of our most pressing issues: Water conservation - Preservation of open spaces and natural environment - Stormwater management - And most effectively, encouraging energy efficiency and use of renewable energy.

LEED includes but goes way beyond Energy star to encourage energy saving criteria like the following: smaller home size - proximity to public transportation and service - ultra efficient lighting, windows and building materials - onsite renewable energy - and in commercial spaces, preferential parking for hybrids and alternative fueld vehicles. And on water conservation, it gives points for: *low flow or high efficiency fixtures *less turf and plantings that require less water * grey water reuse for non-potable uses. 

Finally, LEED's vision is not only to save energy or conserve water but to create communities that are more livable, better places to live and work. Walkable, healthier, communities, with a stronger sense of community. LEED for neighborhoods, for example, awards points for compact development with conservation of natural habitat and mixed use communities, which include affordable housing and in which services and stores are within walking distance or a very short drive. I would think the town would need a person on staff who can act as a clearinghouse for information, as well as reviewing plans and assisting homeowners, businesses and school districts in finding the information and the financial resources that are available. Perhaps there's someone already on staff, who could do this with more training It might be a good idea for a few people on staff to go through not only ICLEI training, but also LEED training.

Finally, on a different topic: trees. Existing tree cutting ordinances appear to stipulate preserving OR replacing trees. Would like to see something in place that recognizes the difference between PRESERVING existing mature trees (and some new growth), habitat protection, and landscaping new grass and trees. There are so many solutions out there now. It's actually a very exciting time to be rethinking the Town's plan. I want to thank the Town for looking forward with this plan and for opening it up to the public.
5/12/08
I would like to see stricter laws on tree removal, which would include young trees under 12" diameter. I would like to see the town continue to put pressure on Orange and Rockland Utilities to reduce its tree and vegetation removal. We need preservation of wetlands under 12.5 acres! We need to see energy saving and water conservation incorporated into building codes!!! I would like to see at least the minimum LEED standards for all new development, both commercial and residential, and certainly of civic buildings. Most importantly, we need more open space preserved. We need to preserve what remaining natural habitat we have in order to insure a healthy environment for future generations of Clarkstown.
05/13/08
We at Beckerle Lumber suggest path on north side of Congers Lake be put towards Water Edge. Maybe on a board walk as to not unnecessarily destroy trees on embankment. The plans to create a nature path seem to entail the cutting of many of the trees on embankment behind lumber yard. This would open up a view of lumberyard more than lake. Putting the path on pilings (as it is on northeast section) all the way across would make for a beautiful nature walk with less unnecessary leveling of trees and having to re-plant and grade embankment. There are large elm trees, bird habitat and a much narrower strip of land than where the east lake side path was created along Congers Lake.

We have expressed our concerns about this to the creators of the path design and they have repeatedly said that making the entire path of pilings as they will be in northeast section of path would be cost-prohibitive. This does not make sense to us. The point of the path is to highlight the nature of the lake for the public use. Not to devastate the tree line that the lake already has just to re-plant and re-grade a thin strip of woods opening up the entire lake view to our warehouses. Please re-visit design and path location before any clearing of tree line is done. We are aware project is not finalized. However, it seems design is somewhat set. Please re-visit and reconsider if project moves forward. Putting path on berm is not a good idea for creation of a nature path. A large fence would have to be built. Many trees would have to be planted. The view of the lake from Congers Memorial Park would become unsightly.
05/13/08
Make it easier/safer for residents to bike/walk around town. Designate spaces where neighbors can come together to start community gardens. Institute composting programs so that residents can bring their organic/compostable materials instead of having to toss them in the trash. Require green building codes (i.e. LEED standards). Hold green events in town to spread awareness, support and recognition for those who contribute to the greening of Rockland. Provide incentives/support to help make green choices more affordable. Organize local clean-ups more often.
05/12/08
I am writing to urge you to please pass the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement tomorrow. This is an excellent step toward promoting a healthier environment for all. Please join other municipalities throughout the county and and indeed throughout the country in taking positive action for our environment and for future generations.
4/4/2008
Sidewalks along Lake Road in Congers so that it would be possible to walk to Rockland Lake Park.
5/15/2008
A hamlet vibrancy - re wider sidewalk. Putting in wider, concrete sidewalks at the same time the area is beautified by incorporating trees, flowering bushes etc. Residents must keep their properties neat and clean while the Town would be responsible for public areas. You might go to Ridgewood, NJ or Scardale, NY to see how they maintain a manicured community. Also regarding the building or replacing of sidewalks, the work will have to be prioritized. Walkways to school should be the first priority. Regarding homeowners keeping their properties tidy, there should be definite guidelines as to their respnsibilities. For example, their property 3 feet from the edge of the sidewalk should be kept clear of weeds, poisonous plants and clean from garbage, litter and snow. Might employ neighborhood leaders (responsible for about a mile radius) who would report to Joel Espstein.
5/16/2008
Regarding the issue of traffic congestion on Congers Road in the mornings at the entrance to North H.S. (and afternoon?), that necessitates some vehicles to make u-turns in the Ambulance Corps driveway, could a Clarkstown police officer be stationed to direct traffic for a time-limited period each day to facilitate traffic control in and out of the school (as is done by the sheriff's department for the courthouse and county workers on New Hempstead Rd. at 5 pm.
5/21/2008
Economic Development - Wider sidewalks - at the intersection of Middletown Road and First Street in Nanuet, new lighting was installed. The new lamp posts actually make the sidewalk narrower, making it difficult for 2 people to walk side-by-side. Please consider this before making changes in New City. Perhaps a tax incentive to new businesses would attract new stores or businesses to move into New City.
5/21/2008
Economic Development - I have heard that a fountain is planned for Landau Park. It is already a lovely park area. The expense of a fountain is unnecessary. It would be a good idea to remove the "graffiti art" directly across the street from the park.
5/21/2008
Economic Development - Someone at the meeting mentioned that garage sale signs are no longer permitted in town. Garage sales are part of our suburban culture. Perhaps signs could be permitted if they are displayed for no more than 48 hours, removed within 4 hours of end of sale, and attached to public posts with string so there is no damage to property. A stiff fine would encorage compliance.
5/21/2008
Historic & Cultural Resources - I don't think the taxpayers should be burdened with a 1% being set aside for the arts.
5/21/2008
Housing - We need senior housing for longtime residents who would like to downsize but stay in their familiar surroundings. Perhaps seniors who are long time tax-paying residents could be given a tax break to make housing more affordable. Housing that is within-walking distance to town would be great. Perhaps the property on Shreiver Lane could be considered. Perhaps something similar to "The Views" on Route 45 in Pomona could be encouraged. I am opposed to "affordable" housing because most longtime residents are selling their homes at a good profit. They would not qualify for "affordable" housing. 
5/21/2008
Grandparents classes, teen programs, scrap booking, computer classes, chess clubs, trips for adults etc. All these sound like good ideas, but they should be self supporting. We don't need to duplicate programs run by chruches, schools, libraries, and senior centers. Raising taxes is never good for the community.
5/21/2008
The ideas for bike routes and paths and bicycle racks sound good, but I wonder if our culture can be changed as dramatically as required to encourage people to bike to school, work commuter lots etc. Good sidewalks on one side of the road would be great. We don't need to go overboard with sidewalks on both sides.
5/22/2008
I want to strongly urge the committee to consider more biking paths. I see that a bike path around Lake DeForest is suggested and I am all in favor of that. I would like to have you make Rt. 304 from Congers Rd. to Rt. 9W a "share the road" route. As 9W is already a State designated bike route, the only way to get to this route from New City, via bike is on Rt. 304. Congers Rd. is too narrow, especially over the reservoir. So please make this portion of Rt. 304 a "Share the Road".
6/2/2008
On Sunday I went to the grand opening of the Nanuet Fields on Convent Rd. Beautiful facilities I'm sure my kids will love to play ball there. The HUGE issue is I live 1/2 mile away and I almost got hit by a car walking over there. There are no sidewalks on Pascack Road. What is it going to take to get sidewalks to the fields and to the exit 14 park and ride? I hope a kid does not have to die before something is done.
10/6/2008
Thanks for the opportunity to provide some small service to your goal of reviewing and revising Clarkstown's Comprehensive Plan. While my role on the Historic & Cultural Resources Sub Committee was not a major one, I think the Sub Committee approached its job purposefully and, by and large, effectively. The Sub Committee Chairperson's reports at the meeting for that purpose on Sept. 17, 2008 evidenced much of the effort that went into the project. While certainly there was not, nor should there have been expected to be, unanimity as to the conclusions, suggestions and recommendations, by and large the output indicated there had been some sincere consideration put into them. 

As I thought later about the meeting and the presentations, it was clear that each Sub Committee had indeed worked within its own topic silo. The presentations of the results did identify some cross topic commonalities, but not many. This probably should have been expected given that each Sub Committee, as directed, worked independently. That independence of effort imposed upon each Sub Committee the necessity of working within a framework of how each perceived the Town today in terms of its existing modes of development and its present assets and liabilities. That is not an unreasonable basis to underlay each Sub Committee's task, but it is not a particularly helpful one, unless the underlying assumption to be made is that the Town's Comprehensive Plan should be updated to continue to shape and manage the Town's future development such that it changes little, if at all, from the manner in which its development has been and is being managed today.

Certainly, that is the most politically expedient approach, as it would dictate the least possible change. As change is always perceived as difficult, and often divisive, though inevitable it is hardly ever welcomed. To the contrary, it is most often actively resisted by those citizens most wedded to the status quo, or even the status quo of a yesteryear that no longer exists. While such groups are inevitably a small minority, they are always vocal, the stuff of newspaper headlines and the bane of elected politicians, regardless of party. 

It seems obvious to me that what is clearly missing in the effort to revise Clarkstown's Comprehensive Plan is a forecast of what changes Clarkstown should expect to occur in and around it that will affect its development over the next 10, 20 and 25 years, and a Vision of what Clarkstown should become in anticipation of those changes. That suggests that a few thoughtful, intelligent and civic minded people, with the help of some planning professionals, should closet themselves and come up with a Vision of Clarkstown in its future. This is not an easy task; predicting the future always proves very difficult to do and is almost always incorrect as to event, timing or sometimes both. But, without a Vision of what Clarkstown should become, in terms of best efforts to look ahead, any Revision of the Town's Comprehensive Plan will, by default, simply be a restatement of how to maintain it as it is, with little to no consideration of the changes, internal and external, that it will have to deal with in the years ahead. Continued below

Without a goal or objective, a Vision for the future, it is difficult to impossible to assess the correctness or appropriateness of actions to be taken today. I'm afraid this was much in evidence in many of the various Sub Committee recommendations as they many more times than not dealt with tactical changes for improvements to the Town today rather than strategic changes that would prepare the Town for its future. Let me illustrate. Continue below

All but one of the Environmental Resources Sub Committee recommendations are tactical "fix it now" suggestions. The exception is the suggestion to "Determine areas to remain undeveloped where possible." This is an example of the underlying unquestioned mantra for saving open space. That mantra served Clarkstown reasonably well throughout most of its development from a semi rural to exurban to suburban community. 

As a result, the Town now has an enviable amount of active and passive parkland in a County that is one third state parkland to start with! It seems very unlikely that mantra will continue to serve the Town in the future as inevitably population will expand and pressure will grow to increase the density of living accommodations in the "close in" areas to New York City. While Clarkstown was certainly not a "close in" community 50 years ago when the Tappan Zee Bridge opened, it is now. When the Tappan Zee Bridge is rebuilt, and subsequently gets a mass transit capability for a one seat ride into New York City, Clarkstown will become more "close in" than ever, Looking ahead, it would seem planning for the optimum development of presently undeveloped areas is what needs to be done, not necessarily maintaining them. 

The Transportation Sub Committee recommendations are also all, save one, in the nature of tactical improvements to the Town as it exists today. Several of the suggestions won't hold up to logical examination, not so much in terms of their intrinsic merit, but in terms of the specifics of Clarkstown and the people who live here. For example, a network of bicycle paths to downtown areas and malls not only lacks feasibility, in a suburban community of increasingly middle age dwellers, there is likely to be little interest in them by more than a small minority of residents. The single strategic suggestion is that to "Study land use implications of proposed transportation infrastructure development, particularly mass transit stations".

In this case the Sub Committee was prescient in anticipating the Tappan Zee Bridge Study Groups recommendations! There will be mass transit across transit across the Thruway in Rockland, across the Tappan Zee Bridge and more than likely across the Westchester Expressway. The implications for the hamlet/village/town areas around the interchanges where the mass transit stations are most likely to be located are very significant, particularly when in the years ahead a one seat ride to New York City becomes a reality. It is obvious there will not be enough space to build acres and acres of black top parking lots. The most feasible other solution will be that of high rise parking structures, with some levels underground, and that kind of change in local land use will have to be anticipated and planned for now by both Clarkstown and Ramapo.

The Housing Sub Committee suggestions are, again, most tactical, but there are two of a strategic nature, although they are in part contradictory. It is a reasonable goal for the Town to try to plan for some amount of housing that will be, and remain, affordable for seniors wishing to give up maintaining their own homes, volunteers and just starting out young people, all of whom wish to stay in the community. It is very short sighted to then suggest to "amend zoning to preclude "high-rises". Some 40 or 50 years ago, when Clarkstown was "country" or "semi rural", high rise living units may well have been inappropriate. But it isn't 40 or 50 years ago. If housing is to be made feasible for the target need groups, economics today dictate it will have to be in the form of high rises.

The Town's Comprehensive Plan needs to face up to and make provision for such housing. Similarly, with effective mass transit running through the Town in the future, there will be both a need for and a demand for such housing appropriately sited within walking distance of mass transit hubs and within hamlets and villages that will provide needed retail shopping services. This kind of more intensive housing development, while quite different from Clarkstown's single family home development history, will become increasingly appropriate to its future. The nuclear family model of five decades ago is now a fraction of the type of new households created. If Clarkstown is to remain viable, it will need to accommodate itself to the changing models of household formation. 

The Economic Development Sub Committee suggestions all deal with various tactics to make Clarkstown more attractive to businesses. Its last suggestion borders on the strategic, but doesn't develop any specifics. Taken as a whole, the suggestions continue the underlying assumption that Clarkstown needs to, and will benefit from, attracting more industry. Attracting industry, (read clean industry), to Clarkstown was a planning objective early in the Town's development. The thinking was that these kinds of industry would bring jobs, the people filling the jobs would live in the Town, and the businesses would help bear the burden of rising local taxes. And indeed, for a short while it worked that way, but the provisions of the Homestead Law upon the division of local taxes paid by homeowners and business soon modified the benefits.

In 2008 things are very different. The average price for a home in Clarkstown is now somewhere in the mid $400K area, or more. All newhome construction is for much, much higher prices. The types of industries that can now be attracted to Clarkstown do not bring with them jobs that pay sufficiently high wages and salaries to permit their employees to buy those homes and live in Clarkstown. Looking ahead, that situation is likely to intensify as land for single home development gets scarce to the point of disappearing entirely. The question must then be asked whether continuing to plan to attract more such industry makes any sense at all. Or should the land now so zoned be rezoned for uses more consistent with the future needs of the Town. Much of the now industrial zoned land is alongside public transit served major road corridors. with appropriate road widening and buffering, those sites might be ideal candidates for the higher density housing the Town will rquire in the years ahead.

The Recreation Parks/Open Space Sub committee suggestions are all valid and tactical in nature, save the first and last, and these rise to the level of strategic significance only because of the high cost to realize them. The first, the domed stadium, is certainly more a wish list dream than a reality. Cities with multi-million populations find they cannot afford to build and successfully financially operate domed, or even undomed, stadiums with major league tenants. It is more than unlikely that Clarkstown, with its limited present and future population, can afford to build and operate one, even a very small one. The ice rink suggestion is a feasible one, but on a broader basis than just Clarkstown. If the proposed study was to be conducted on a Rockland County level and included all the school districts, there will might be both the desire to build one and the capability to finance it and subsequently to operate it at a breakeven level.

The Health, Safety and Welfare Sub committee suggestions all have merit, and all are tactical in nature. All of them are worthy of inclusion even if the Town's Comprehensive Plan isn't revised at all. The Historic & Cultural Resources Sub Committee suggestions, like the others, are primarily tactical in nature, and all are appropriate for the Town's consideration. Two of them, however, while still tactical, would commit the Town to a reduction in tax income for one, and an increase in Town expenditures for the other. Providing partial real estate reductions for owners of designated historic properties as an offset to the imposition upon them of regulations governing the use, maintenance and alterations to such properties would be a new direction for the Town to take.

Such a change would require careful legal review before it was to be enacted. Helping support cultural activities is something the Town has done, on and off, for many years; but has done so ad hoc without benefit of guiding policy or definition of what it would consider a bona fide cultural organization. This also is an area that would require careful study and must pass legal muster before the Town embarks upon supporting its cultural organizations in a serious and consistent way.

There is that old saying that if you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. Without a Vision for what Clarkstown is to be in the future, almost any suggestion to deal with a currently recognized problem, or to add a current benefit of some sort, will validly stand on its own merits. The larger question must be how do we decide what can and should be done today to realize the Vision for Clarkstown's future, and that first requires having a working concept of what that future is to be. Hope the above thoughts are of some use to you as you enter the next phase of the Comprehensive Plan review.
3/27/2009
I am writing because I had some good news that has a bearing on the Clarkstown Comprehensive Plan update that is now in the works. Another north Clarkstown property is now listed on the State Register of Historic Places. See attachment. The nomination of Contempora House to the NYS Register of Historic Places was just ratified by the Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, acting in her capacity as State Historic Preservation Officer. If everything proceeds according to plan, the Keeper of the National Register will follow the state's lead with a National Register listing.

Contempora House is the only structure in North America designed by Weiner Werksatte-founder Josef Hoffmann. It was planned by modernist architect Paul Lester Weiner and was built around 1936 on South Mountain Road for Weiner's client, Alma Morgenthau (sister or President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury). Weiner married his client, by the way. Contempora House is adjacent to the western property line of Crow House, Henry Varnum Poor's self-built residence and studios, a property that was listed on the State and National Registers two years ago. 

There are at least two more Register candidates nearby. To the immediate west there is "Brocken," the Mary Mowbray-Clarke House, a house whose oldest wing dates to the early 18th century. The Mowbray-Clarke property is now Town of Ramapo parkland. The Town intends to restore the entire structure. (There are now 129 contiguous, protected acres in the part of Ramapo that begins at the Clarkstown town line, and another large parcel we're working on, that will bring the total protected area in the Clarkstown part of Ramapo to something over 200 acres.) 

To the southeast of Crow House and Contempora House lies the Town of Clarkstown's Charles B. Davenport Preserve. One of the houses in the Davenport Preserve-actually a cluster or compound of small buildings-was the home of Millia Davenport, a noted theatrical costume designer and an even more renowned historian of costume. (The Preserve is named for her father, Charles B. Davenport, a botanist, who introduced genetic studies to American science. The research institute he founded in Cold Spring Harbor thrives there to this day.) Like its neighbors, the Davenport Compound belongs on the National and State Registers. The OPRHP Historic Preservation Specialist for our part of the state agrees.

As part of your Comprehensive Plan Update, these properties and a few others should be designated as an inter-municipal Open Space and Historic Preservation District. Doing so would help to protect a special part of the town. The area's open space needs more protection. Some of its open space values are visible. Less visible are its biodiversity values, yet it has probably one of the most diverse ecosystems in the town - if it is not the most diverse. It is also the least invasive-compromised.

The new district would also benefit the neighborhood's cottage industry. More than 30 better-established arts practitioners live along South Mountain Road near the properties that would form the new inter-municipal district. They are theatrical and TV directors, an award-winning Broadway composer, a classical composer, a sound designer, singers, writers, photographers, potters, including a world-famous ceramics designer, and a noted luthier. These residents continue the work that put the neighborhood on the map. Historically, all of this proposed inter-municipal Open Space and Historic Preservation District was part of a neighborhood that became a haven for artists who created-and continue to create-a large share of mainstream American culture, from the second decade of the 20th Century to the present.

Crow House and Brocken were gathering places for such neighbors as playwright Maxwell Anderson, sculptor and furniture-maker Carroll French, cartoonists Bill Mauldin and Milton Caniff, actor-director-producer John Houseman, novelist John Masters, painter Herbert Katzman, actress Edie Adams and her husband, comedian Ernie Kovacs, poet Amy Murray, fabric designer Ruth Reeves (original Radio City Music Hall hanging), actress Lotte Lenya and her husband, composer Kurt Weill.

The now-decreased former residents of Contempora House made it a defacto art gallery. In the house, the guest house, the pool terrace and the gardens, they placed works, often commissioned, of such contemporary American artists as Jennifer Bartlett, Ronald Bladen, Richard Good now, Red Grooms, Robert Grosvenor, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Liberman, Larry Rivers, Richard Serra, Sylvia Stone, Richard Van Buran, Andy Warhol and Neil Wlliver. Please consider this suggestion in your deliberations on the Comp Plan Update. I will, of course, be glad to sit down and discuss the topic with you or any committee that's doing the work.