By Steven Bernstein
Emotions continued to run raw and high during the New Castle Town Board’s second public hearing on the proposed plan to use the 120,000 square feet at Chappaqua Crossing for largely retail use.
The reaction to the plan received overwhelmingly negative public comments among the 100 or so who showed up at Town Hall. Many residents voiced their concerns for public safety.
Resident and elder care attorney Lisa Katz maintained that that board had not voiced “one articulate and legitimate reason for this ‘monstrosity of a strip mall’ other than to reimburse Summit-Greenfield (the developer) for a horrible investment.”
“I never felt after D’Agostino’s closed that I was at a disadvantage because I didn’t have a grocery store right nearby,” said Emily Bloom, a resident of Chappaqua for the past 20 years. Bloom also revealed her two sons, both members of the Chappaqua fire department, “have expressed great concern about traveling to the fire house at certain times of the day, getting there in time to get on the truck. How can you fight a fire if the firefighters can’t get from their homes to the fire department?”
Hedy Simpson noted the danger to high school students just learning how to drive. “There are so many fender benders already…we can’t afford one with an 18 wheeler.”
Rob Greenstein, head of the Chappaqua-Millwood Chamber of Commerce, noted that some 30-40 members of 166 members of the Chamber had come to Town Hall to register their displeasure. First, however, Greenstein read a letter on behalf of Chappaqua resident Sue Grapel. The letter told of a horrific automobile accident Grapel was in on route 117 when she was forced off the road to avoid a truck. She ended up hitting some street signs and a telephone pole.
“Thankfully I was able to get to the hospital quickly. I cannot believe that we, as a community would choose to severely increase the traffic on our only road that goes directly to our local hospital. Our teenagers drive this road every day and an increase in truck traffic will be very dangerous to all that need to use this road daily,” Greenstein said on Grapel’s behalf.
“Forget the Town Board,” Greenstein urged later. “Work with the residents, sit down and form a committee with the residents. Nobody’s accepting this project without a fight.” Greenstein also proposed that Summit-Greenfield, the developer, consider refocusing their plans to build in downtown Chappaqua instead (in a downtown transformation plan similar to other towns in the county) and “swap” town hall and the police dept. to the Chappaqua Crossing campus. Jacques from Healthy Choice Pharmacy suggested “looking in a progressive direction. Perhaps a community garden.”
There were, however, a couple residents, in the face of all the opposition, who spoke up in defense of the proposed plan.
“I believe that contrary to what everyone says that I represent the silent majority. I think the town desperately needs a supermarket. This one to me makes a whole lot of sense,” said Janet Levy, a resident of Chappaqua for 23 years, who also noted that the town is “crying for an increase in the tax base. The taxes here are higher than anywhere.”
“I do see a need for something to be done with that space,” said Audrey Roberts, another resident of Chappaqua. “I don’t look at this necessarily as a zero sum game, that if we put shopping there, it will decimate downtown. I will go downtown, the way I still go downtown, for the stores I like. One resident, Robert Leiblich, urged that Summit-Greenfield invest in a poll of every household in New Castle for an honest answer on the level of support they have.
At 4:30, the Town Board officially closed the public hearing. Public comment will be open until Friday, May 10th at 4:30pm. For all those who didn’t get a chance to attend one of the public hearings, or for those who did, but still have more to say, feel free to email the board at CHAPCROSSINGSEIS@TOWN.NEW-CASTLE.NY.US.