Nyack – The State of the Village
As we complete our budget season with a 0% tax increase, I want to start by saying, with great pride, that the Village of Nyack is stronger, healthier and better than it has been in years. We were delighted, because of responsible fiscal management, to offer village residents two years in a row with zero percent tax increases, an excellent feat under any circumstance but particularly impressive because we not only did not reduce services, we increased them, including additional paving and sidewalk work, expanded maintenance programs and trash pickup and the addition of more recreation programming, increased funding for the Nyack Center summer camp, family friendly events and beautification projects. We further reduced our dependence on parking revenue and we continue to seek ways to make residents day to day lives easier, further reduce their taxes and improve the quality of life in Nyack. Here’s a list of what we are excited about.
Because of the hard work of Department Heads, Jim Politi, our Administrator, John Pintos, our departing Treasurer and his entire financial team, the Village Board reached its goal of a zero percent tax increase this year. In addition, we are proud to report that while a mere eight years ago the Village was $700,000 in debt, today we can report a surplus. All this without any reduction in services and programs. We have continued our trend of successfully applying for and receiving grants for our community including a recent award of a Community Development Block Grant for an additional stretch of sidewalks in the Midland Avenue area and a grant to look at further reduction in interaction between cyclists, walkers and vehicle traffic from the New NY Bridge program.
We are currently working with grant funding to bridge the inlet in Memorial Park to complete the park master plan, we are in the end stages of the Broadway redesign and the marina repair and reopening and we continue to apply for grant funding to add improvements to the Village that residents have requested but that have not been possible given our lean tax structure and the 2% tax cap. The Village has received more than 10 million dollars in grant funding in the last six years.
The Village has committed to repairing 10% of Village roads each year based on need. This year, we are delighted to report that when the fiscal year ends, we will have completed paving in many areas of the Village along with adding storm drains, new curbs and sidewalks and new paving to more than half of Midland Avenue. The storm drains will reduce yard flooding in downhill properties and will help further mitigate to the already significantly reduced flooding in the downtown.
The Village worked with O and R to replace lightbulbs in 60% of O and R light fixtures, we are working on a program to purchase our light fixtures and replace all bulbs with LED lights, a move that will result in a savings for taxpayers and a commitment to reducing our energy footprint. We have seen substantial improvements to our sewer system as a result of Orangetown’s expansive sewer lining project which will go a long way, if not all the way, toward eliminating sewage overflows near the Hudson.
Under the guidance of Village Administrator Jim Politi, Ann Marie Tlsty and Foreman Jonathan Abrahams, DPW has been significantly restructured to run more efficiently, to save tax payer dollars and to expand the scope of work under its purview. By doing full village trash pickup two days a week, each neighborhood now has a second day of trash pickup, a helpful addition. This change has also allowed DPW to have three full days to complete the kinds of jobs we hear most from residents about in Village Hall like pothole filling, downtown maintenance, park maintenance and beautification projects. We have begun training the staff of DPW in sidewalk repair, storm drain construction and other important tasks, so that that jobs that in the past we were forced to outsource at tremendous cost to taxpayers can now be completed in house.
Bulk pickup has been reduced to the first Friday of the month. In the past, residents put large items at the curb whenever they felt like it, a tremendous luxury because this necessitated a full day of one garbage truck simply riding the village looking for bulk items. None of the men on the truck could be working on other tasks, there was a tremendous amount of wear and tear on both the truck and the use of fuel and some days there was nothing to pick up. The shift in schedule will require residents to do some planning when they have large objects to dispose of but will save those same residents thousands of dollars a year and allow for many more infrastructure repair projects to happen in the village. To ensure that residents are not too inconvenienced, and in the case of a sudden need for unexpected large object disposal, residents can call DPW and arrange for a pick up.
We must also thank Ann Marie Tlsty for both the wonderful holiday decorations this year and the addition of hanging flower baskets, a long term goal for the Village, ACADA, Visit Nyack and the Chamber. They were beautiful.
This year saw lots of great park improvements, the most profound of which was the addition of a dedicated park employee who will oversee park maintenance. We are delighted that this summer will bring about the return of the gazebo to Memorial Park. Funds are finally in place, engineering is completed and once it is warm enough, construction will begin. We are fortunate to be the recipients of a New NY Bridge grant to bridge the inlet between the Marina and Memorial Park so that the park Master Plan can be completed.
Other groups are also working to improve the park. The Park Conservancy will begin fund raising at its annual fund raising event for a new water feature. The family of wonderful Nyack resident, the late Rex Bernstein, working with sculptor Rodger Stevens constructed a beautiful memorial seating area at the Southern end of the park and all summer long the park was hopping. Eagle Scout candidate Christopher Walsh is working on a memorial seating area on the south end of the park dedicated to the memory of local hero Welles Crowther, who saved many lives before perishing on September 11th.
The Village Board has noted an uptick in crowding and bus traffic in our small park and we are in the process of creating legislation that will keep buses and large vehicles out of the park. We are also creating a permitting process for large parties so that we can control the use of the park and ensure that it doesn’t get overwhelmed by big crowds.
Rebuilt and dredged and ready to welcome boaters this spring, the Nyack Marina is being transformed. We are delighted that Bar Taco has decided to come to Nyack. This wonderful restaurant became our tenant a few months ago. Currently in the middle of a major renovation of the former River Club, they hope to be open in the fall of 2017.
The Village received a $75,000 grant to update our Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, a plan that will look at long term planning for a more sustainable and vibrant waterfront. A committee has been formed to work on the LWRP and the first public meeting will be held at Nyack Seaport on May 2 from 7:30 to 9:30. Please join us and have a say in the long term future of your waterfront.
The Village has seen a lot of its abandoned properties turn around in the last few years. The former Soffel Seals plant is now the thriving hotel Time/Nyack, the blighted Pavion property is mid construction and slated to be 133 mid-priced apartments, live/work lofts and town homes, with 13 affordable units. The developer is adding twenty parking spots to Franklin Street, bringing Nyack Brook out from underground, and building a public park and extending the gravel Esposito Trail through the property. The former Superfund site on the waterfront was purchased several years ago by a developer who is interested in building residential buildings and providing the Village with a waterfront park, an additional waterfront restaurant and a water dependent use like canoe and kayak rentals. This project is currently in the land use process. The abandoned lot on the corner of Midland and Main is also slated to be mid-priced apartments and the former Sew What’s New is nearing completion and will be home to low income residents and Veterans with disabilities.
All of these properties were blighted and provided very little to the village in the way of taxes. Neighbors often complained about crime, unattractiveness, poor lighting and a decrease to property values. These new projects should reduce all of those problems and add new residents to our Village to help our downtown thrive and to add to our tax base. We are also delighted to note that because of concerted efforts by members of the Building Department, the Village Board and residents, we have only one zombie property remaining. All of the previous thirteen homes have been purchased and are at some stage of rejuvenation.
Our Recreation Department has added youth after school programming that has reached pre-school, elementary and middle school age children as well as several community based events. Classes are offered each fall and spring and range from music, to fencing, to acting and improv, to skateboarding on our own skatepark. Events put on by the Recreation Department are Earth Day Nyack, a summer movie-in-the-park series, a drive-in movie in town, the Hometown Heroes Celebration on September 11, a Halloween costume fun run, the very successful Holiday Window Project and this year will add a Pine Box Derby Car event. The Recreation Department will also be sharing responsibility for the Mostly Music programming in Memorial Park and a new series of summer concerts that will happen in our downtown. Check the Village website for dates and other info related to Recreation Programming.
In 2016, filming once again made Nyack a busy place and you can see us everywhere from the big screen to Netflix, HBO and many of the major networks. We were also featured in lots of news publications who touted everything from our wonderful Hopper House to our desirability as a place to visit or, better yet, to live!
Thanks to support from DPW, Cornell Cooperative Extension and local volunteers, Nyack started a street tree planting program last year that included planting, watering and other maintenance. And it’s continuing this year. With the help of these community partners the Village set up a successful pilot street tree nursery at BOCES in West Nyack, too. For Earth Day, sustainability coordinator Marcy Denker led a community tree planting project and many in the village will be delighted to note a sustainable and appropriate tree planted outside their home in an effort to restore shade trees to our streets. There is a long term plan in place to replace trees that must be removed and make our community forest better.
On a final note, I think it is important to acknowledge that there has been much concern about the future of the Village in the context of changes that are being seen around Rockland County. I will start by saying that Nyack does not discriminate against anyone and that is one of the beauties of our great Village. Recently the Village completed an update to our decade-old Comprehensive Master Plan, a plan that looks at the long term goals and desires for our great Village. The process took over a year and a half and, among many other things, addressed density and overdevelopment. (read plan here:http://nyack-ny.gov/prod/wp-content/uploads/Nyack-Comprehensive-Plan-final-draft-20161006.pdf). Nyack’s plan was the recipient of the best Comprehensive Master Plan in NY State from the NY Planning Federation.
Nyack has some of the most restrictive and thoughtful zoning around. In the most recent zone changes, related to the Comprehensive Master Plan update, long standing density throughout the Village was reduced substantially to diminish the possibility of overdevelopment. The new zoning, changed as part of the long public process with substantial input from residents and drafted by highly skilled and renowned professional planners, caps height in most areas in the Village at three stories and allows, only in a small area of the downtown, for four story buildings and only in exchange for community givebacks like parkland, art centers or things of that nature. Once again, these changes resulted in DECREASED density throughout the Village and ensures that we remain a lovely downtown, a sweet village, a healthy community and the place we all love. The goal in our village and of this Village Board has always been and will continue to be, to encourage healthy, smart and sustainable growth, while preserving the character and quality of life that drew us all to this great Village in the first place.
In closing, I would like to welcome our newest Trustee, Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, to the Board. I would like to thank departing Zoning Board Chair Cathy Friesen for her years of service and thank Steve Knowlton for being willing to return to serve in that spot he held for so many years. I also want to thank each and every resident and neighbor from neighboring communities who donate hours and hours of time to our wonderful Village. Whether it is helping with our parks, attending meetings, working with our neighbors who struggle, supporting our local business or the countless other ways that you contribute…being involved is what makes our village great. Those of us who serve on the Village Board appreciate your passion and we really truly appreciate how much easier you make our jobs.
Nyack is a wonderful place, we should celebrate how well we are doing and we thank you for being the vocal residents you all are. And we encourage you to continue to work with us to problem solve, to continue to volunteer both your time and your ideas and to continue to help and support your neighbors, our businesses and people in need.