By Paige Schoenberg
To improve pedestrian traffic and address infrastructure problems while enhancing the aesthetic aspects of our already charming town, several new projects have kicked off a multiyear beautification of downtown Chappaqua. First up was the unveiling of a new gazebo at Recreation Field, just in time for summer’s Wednesday night concerts.
More Room to Park
During the summer, the South Greeley parking lot adjacent to the Bell Middle School fields was redesigned and repaved, with, at the request of store owners, the time limit increased from one to two hours. According to Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, who along with four other Town Council members is responsible for policy-making and passing town laws, approximately 176 orderly parking spots would be created.
“The idea was to improve parking while creating a more driver and pedestrian friendly route,” said Gerrard. “The existing layout was a mix across –the separate parcel and the traffic enforcement was hard to maintain.”
The improved layout will also allow for easier access to downtown stores, including new additions like Aurora, the recently opened gift store offering beautifully crafted fair trade goods, and the Kings Scribe, which sells stationery with designs featured by Martha Stewart. A third shop, Breeze, is opening this September, offering fine tableware. The redesigned lot will be right behind many of the established stores along South Greeley Avenue, such as Squires and Eye Gallery, as well as other recent arrivals like Local, along with Villarina’s and Chappaqua Paint and Hardware, both of whom have new owners.
The Long-Awaited Route 120 Bridge
The installation of the new Route 120 bridge over the Metro-North train tracks and Saw Mill River Parkway continues; and it is everyone’s hope that the long period of inconvenience will result in improved traffic flow through downtown Chappaqua. The New York State Department of Transportation declared the bridge structurally deficient more than six years ago, requiring a complete overhaul to bring it up to safety standards. Construction began in the fall of 2008, but has faced many setbacks due to both weather and state politics and budget issues. The extremely harsh 2011 winter and heavy spring rains further delayed construction. With the start of summer came a welcome period of drier weather, and as of June, it was expected that the bridge structure would be finished by the end of September. Completion of the aesthetic details, including lighting and stonework, is expected to be completed by the end of November.
Chappaqua residents eagerly anticipate not only the new vehicle bridge, but the opening of the bridge sidewalks. Throughout construction, walkers had to use a temporary pedestrian bridge, with many voicing concerns about the stability and safety of the structure. “Using the sidewalks to get to town can be pretty difficult, especially with traffic. But I’m always really scared when it’s time to cross the bridge, because of how close the cars are and how unstable it seems,” said Horace Greeley High School student Margot Silberblatt. When completed, the two sidewalks on either side of the bridge will connect with the recently updated sidewalks along Route 120 north of downtown. While there are no plans to expand the sidewalk past Dodge Farm, the town plans to add a sidewalk on Route 117 and possibly one between Gedney Park and Rt. 100.
Residents Look Into A Crystal Ball
Chappaqua residents have their own wishes and predictions for Chappaqua’s future. Continuing with the recent surge in the “green movement,” we might expect more eco-friendly shops like Aurora and restaurants such as Local that cook with locally grown ingredients. Rising interest in locally grown foods has been demonstrated by the crowds of people attending the Chappaqua Farmer’s Market every Saturday, many of whom also attend the Pleasantville Farmer’s Market the same day. Many residents also hope for more restaurants that can add more of a “night life” to our little town.
Who knows what Chappaqua will look like in 20 years? What would you like to see?
Paige Schoenberg is now a sophomore at Horace Greeley High School.