by Eileen Gallagher
Tuesday, March 18, in Chappaqua had all the energy of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan the day before–with a great deal of information conveyed to anyone attending or watching online.
For starters, during the annual “Conversation with the Supervisor” hosted by the League of Women Voters at the Chappaqua Library, about 35 audience members listened as Town Supervisor Rob Greenstein touched on various topics including the Master Plan process and proposed Chappaqua Station restaurant.
Via Vanti Discussion
Throughout the week, Carla Gambescia’s name has been highly visible in social and local media outlets. Her idea for the Chappaqua Train Station, which she first proposed to the town board in February of 2013, would have been a smaller version of Via Vanti in Mount Kisco. Controversy seemed to rest on the bathrooms and their availability to the public.
Greenstein was asked about this matter by an audience member on Tuesday, prefaced by his explanation that there had been a disagreement over the terms of the lease with Gambescia, and that a deal was never reached. He went on to explain that when incoming and outgoing board members met, they all agreed the bathrooms must remain open to the public, a term that was not negotiable. According to Greenstein, this was clear from the beginning, and even more important than the rent.
“Why wasn’t [the bathroom availability] brought back to Via Vanti to say, hey, it’s mandatory?” continued the questioner.
“It was made crystal clear about the bathrooms, there was a breakdown in negotiations and no communication for three or four weeks,” responded Greenstein. “It is all documented in emails.”
During the previous year’s “Conversation” event, then-supervisor Susan Carpenter made the following statemen which also incorporated this stipulation:
“We’re hoping, or at least the town board is at least considering leasing the train station for some public use, with the condition, of course, that the coffee service will be maintained for the commuters in the morning and that the bathrooms will remain open to the public so that people using the train can always go in and use the bathrooms if they need to.”
After former Town Administrator Penny Paderewski stated in her Administrator’s report on October 22 that “the Chappaqua Train Station floor renovation is completed, and we are days from signing a lease with Via Vanti,” nothing further was noted in board minutes for the remainder of the year.
The current New Castle Master plan was written in 1984, and has not been updated since 1989, offered Greenstein. Work groups formed are brainstorming issues and questions for public outreach, he explained. The process is being guided for the next 12 weeks by Tiffany Zezula and John Nolon of the Pace Land Use Law Center, and is expected to last about 18 months.
Nolon praised the town board for having an open, public approach to the process. “You are legallly obliged to have one public hearing before turning it over to the town board, then the town board has one public hearing before you adopt the plan. [Including the public throughout the process] is something you are doing in your wisdom.” He went on to say that “there is a tremendous amount of wisdom handed to the town board from the community.”
Meetings will be held in different parts of town to best reach all members of the community, and will include small group discussions facilitated by Pace to discern the concerns, values and “pie in the sky” visions of each resident. As Zezula put it, the town should “strongly value that ‘pie in the sky’ because that means something to people.”
A Ladle of Chappaqua Love?
The same day, Leslie Lampert introduced her proposal for a “hybrid” of Ladle of Love and Cafe of Love for the Chappaqua Train Station.
Lampert arrived with her “posse” and shopping bags brimming with three kinds of soup and bread for sampling. Her presentation included a slideshow playing in the background as she described her 24 years as a resident of Chappaqua and railroad commuter, sitting around the dinner table every evening asking her children “what’s Chappening?” Understanding the hectic lives faced by many families, Lampert’s theme for the restaurant would be “we’ve got you coming and going.”
Community and relationships were the key words Lampert and her team used as they spoke of nourishing and participating in many community efforts. Jennifer Mendes, manager of Ladle of Love in Mount Kisco, referred to their many regular customers as friends. Kitchen manager Mike Donnelly, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, spoke of their “good, honest food,” all locally provided. Mendes went on to say of Lampert, “Leslie being great to her employees has enabled them to be great to their customers.”
Lampert envisions a “gathering for the community in a casual way” where people could get food quickly, or just sit and linger. Soups and everything available at Ladle of Love, as well as some menu items from Cafe of Love (also in Mount Kisco), would be available in Chappaqua or, as she proposed, “Love at 10514.” Flowers, wine, and vegetables from farms such as Hilltop Hanover would be available to buy as a “quick grab getting off the train,” as well as seasonal ice cream and hot chocolate. The restaurant would open at 5 a.m. and remain open throughout the day until at least 8 p.m. According to Lampert, other than minor adjustments, the train station is perfect the way it is, and she would keep it that way.