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Croton's Bleak House Six Long Months Later

June 14, 2007

just-asking-croton-on-hudson-questions.jpg

Does the date December 15, 2006, ring a bell?

It should. It has to do with your tax dollars at work.

December 15 was the date by which the elaborate community center questionnaire prepared by the village of Croton had to be completed and returned for processing. The brightly colored, convoluted questionnaire was ostensibly intended to ascertain community attitudes about the construction of a community center.

Tomorrow, June 15, will mark the passage of six months since that magic return date. Six months in which absolutely nothing has been done. In the meantime, the returned questionnaires—all 500 of them—have been consigned to the bowels of the Stanley H. Kellerhouse Municipal Building and are languishing there in a cardboard carton in the basement. Or so we have been told.

It’s bad enough so much was spent on questionnaires so poorly designed as to be confusing and so ambiguous as to be susceptible to conflicting answers. It’s even worse it was sent to such a thin slice of Croton’s population—one unidentified person in each taxpaying family—and that the total response was so puny. And it’s unpardonable that nothing has been done to attempt to glean even a smidgen of information about public attitudes from these questionnaires.

In view of this discouraging chain of circumstances, on behalf of taxpaying residents who footed the bill for the questionnaire boondoggle, Crotoblog would now like to know what’s happening. We ask the most vocally strident advocate for this project, Trustee Thomas Brennan, to tell us when (and how) these now-orphaned questionnaires will be processed. And when that’s done, Mr. Brennan, what’s your expectation that the village, which paid almost a million dollars for the Katz property, will be able to scrounge well over two or three times that amount for the Taj Mahal community center building the Schmidt Administration envisions for Croton?

With all the reconstruction and renovation that has been taking a place in Croton’s Municipal Building, Crotoblog fears the village will next discover that the nondescript carton containing the questionnaires was inadvertently thrown out with the trash. If that were to happen, however, it verily might be a fitting but unlamented ending for this benighted boondoggle of a project. Whatever the outcome, Croton residents are owed an accounting. Or an explanation.

Earth to Space Station: What’s happening, Mr. Brennan?

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On June 20, 2007 6:30 PM, weewill said:

I love your idea! Small scale restaurant, possibly crafts and maybe even the often talked about farmers market on weekends. Buy your fresh produce and enjoy some crafts and then celebrate your finds with a delightful lunch on the shores of the river! What a great way to spend a sunny Saturday or Sunday.

And very possibly the village could recoup the lost revenue from the few parking spots that would be lost in rents received from the restaurateur and the vendors.

My thoughts just race when I think about the possibilities. This is creative thinking and I urge the writer to send his thoughts to the Mayor and Trustees, some of whom do not read the blog.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy that creative thinking and courage are what gets important things done. There are so many great ideas and untapped talent, we just have to tap into the talent and beauty of our surroundings. We need to dream the impossible dreams! .

Georgianna

On June 20, 2007 5:07 PM, Just The Facts said:

Here is a suggestion to increase revenue in a relatively low impact manner. We have a tremendous and valuable resource in the acres of parking lot down at the train station that is not being used to its full advantage.

Yes, down the road additional housing, offices and maybe even a hotel (or more likely a corporate retreat/meeting facility) may be built. But, in the meantime we are squandering a resource that could be paying off in the short term.

My idea is this, why not use a small portion of the lot (I am thinking the back 40, with the nice views of the estuary) as a seasonal cafe/bar. Think similar to the 72nd Street Boat Basin in NYC. You know, something relatively simple (white tent type of thing). The village could charge an operator rent and get a small percentage of the sales. There really are not many waterside eating/drinking venues in the area and this could be a draw throughout the area. In particular, on weekends, the lot is completely empty, and this is the time that such a business would likely be most used.

Further, if this takes off, additional side businesses could be created. Like craft fairs/farmer markets on weekends. The town could charge rent as well as a parking fee (hell, they already do that). Or how about rent out a portion of the lot to someone on weekend nights who could set up a screen for drive in movies? I could definitely see some of these ideas as a good money maker and an added resource for our community. It may even increase property values as people come to the area and see what a nice place Croton is.

On June 18, 2007 5:42 PM, weewill said:

All comments are thought provoking and warrant serious examination for both immediate and future consequences. This is an idea being thrown into a huge pot and certainly nothing to be afraid of. Knowledge is power and until the answers to the valid questions the bloggers have raised had been given no decisions or commitments would or should be considered. There would be many, many more before considerations before we even came close to such a far-reaching decision. Having said that, I believe even the craziest ideas should not frighten us away.

And with regard to “before we bring Cappelli in” is probably not the best way to phrase it. Cappelli marches to his own drummer and I don’t believe would react well to being “summoned.” to come in.

Georgianna

On June 18, 2007 3:32 PM, KWilly said:

Depending on the size of the development, i think that it may not destroy our small town character. We will never know if we take the idea off the table and not bring Cappelli in to discuss the idea. For increasing the Croton tax base and getting rid of a Waste Transfer Station many Crotonites would not mind this development.

On June 18, 2007 3:19 PM, TeaDrinker said:

I find myself once again agreeing with Logician’s wise comment, this time specifically with its first premise.

Back to the questionnaire, folks! The two questions nobody in Croton ever bothered to ask before formulating a questionnaire were, “1. What Westchester communities now have a community center like the one Croton envisions? 2. If any exist, what have been their history and the community’s experience?”

This is a village that for 84 years has not had a high school with a swimming pool. Countless Croton kids, me included, grew up not having been taught how to swim in school and not being able to compete in interscholastic swimming and diving competitions. Before we consider a community center, let’s first add a swimming pool to the high school.

P.S. Please don’t bring up seasonal Silver Lake as a substitute. It isn’t.

On June 18, 2007 2:48 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Sheesh. It’s interesting how the authors of the pointless and ill-advised community center questionnaire have been let off the hook and given a pass now that everybody is speculating about what Croton could do with Greentree’s property—that is, find candidates to develop it—without anyone ever asking whether Greentree is interested in selling. Now Hudson National, a limited-membership golf club, is the bait on the hook. Dream on. How typical of Croton!

I’m curious. What are these Crotonites smoking? Who licensed them to be real estate agents and development specialists? Maybe they could help me sell my house. And to think the most ambitious plans are coming from someone who is proud of Croton’s small-town character! What will her plan do for the small-town quality of Croton, besides totally destroying it?

Anyway, no developer in his right mind would consider putting skyscraper apartment buildings this close to a pair of accident-prone aging and obsolescing Indian Point nuclear power installations. Talk about a project being a hard sell! One selling point, however, could be: Dwellers in upper-floor apartments facing north would have a ringside seat, being able to listen for a rumbling sound, see a mushroom cloud and shout out, Moby Dick-style, “Thar she blows!”

If I owned ten acres of prime industrial land with a rail siding at a time when recycling and the fate of the polluted planet are the hottest topics around, I’d be smart enough to know that it’s also too small and too far from the city for a northern version of Battery Park City. But it’s just the right size and location for a C & D transfer station. Oh, I keep forgetting. That was what was there before a few activists with axes to grind killed what could have been a goose that laid a golden egg by scaring everybody in Croton. Compared to Indian Point, Metro Enviro was positively innocuous.

On June 18, 2007 10:28 AM, KWilly said:

I think a hurtle in this idea is if the developer will want more than 2 stories. For having this development and getting rid of the waste transfer station issue i wouldn’t mind having a tall building but some residents might. I can’t speak on the concern about having my Riverview blocked because from my home I would still be able to see the river, but it may the block the Riverview for Benedict residents.

Can our roads handle the traffic that this Hotel will bring? Will the Hotel quests hang out in Croton? What Comprehensive Plan exemptions will need to be put in place? Can the 1A Croton Point Avenue site be cleaned up? Those are all questions that need to be asked if a village board were to take this issue on.

Kevin Davis

On June 18, 2007 10:07 AM, weewill said:

Heads up, Mr. Capellii - 

Croton has the premier golf course in the tri-state area and perhaps in the whole United States … Hudson National ! 

How about a membership at this prestigious club for high-end residents of a new luxury apartment complex that might be included in a development plan of the Croton Harmon MetroNorth/1A Croton Point Avenue ten acre site? And you wouldn’t even have to purchase it. And you certainly wouldn’t have to refurbish or renovate the course. It’s pristine and perfectly manicured and maintained. Members could overlook their own spectacular golf course from their living rooms in any new high-end luxury apartments you might build on this site. And the strikingly beautiful sunsets over the Hudson would be a unique and awesome bonus. Pretty special.!

Mr. Cappelli might even consider a RR Museum in the complex. Our unique place in the history of the railroad is fascinating to railroad buffs around the worldl - and they are many in number. A more perfect spot for such a museum could not be found anywhere. The sheer numbers coming to visit such a museum would surely be great for any hotel. The railroad and our fascination with its origin and growth are a huge part of our history. It fascinates young and old alike and we are proud of Croton’s part in it. 

Beauty and views and history aside, it’s worth exploration. Why not try to arrange a sit-down with Mr. Capelli? Think big … think out of the box. Who can imagine what might result? PGA tournaments? Visitors arriving by train from the north and the south? A RR Museum? Maybe even a Community Center thrown in for good measure? There are endless possibilities! 

What do you say, Mr. Cappelli? 

Georgianna

On June 17, 2007 8:48 PM, sacklabs said:

A Hotel/Office Complex an interesting idea? Perhaps interesting to throw out as an idea, but not one that you will see coming to pass any time soon. As someone that has been in the hotel business for 20 years, I can assure you that no astute hotel/real estate developer will develop a hotel, without a pre-existing base of business. While Capelli’s building of office space will further add demand to his future hotel project, White Plains is an already dense office market, with a high volume of corporate travel and local corporate meetings which creates more than enough demand to support the additional inventory of a new hotel. He would not be interested in developing a hotel in Croton without this base. Who would stay in a hotel in Croton? An occasional tourist? The occasional family visitor that doesn’t want to crash on a loved one’s sofa? As Westchester is so close to Manhattan, it’s tourism is limited to primarily day trips (A recent study commissioned by the Westchester Office of Tourism determined that only 11% of all tour groups to Westchester use hotel accommodations- the remainder are day-trippers.) Yes, a business development minded mayor (or board of trustees) could certainly reach out to Capelli to discuss development opportunities, but they should do their due-diligence on feasibility of a project before they call any potential partner and just start throwing out ideas.

On June 17, 2007 5:40 PM, KWilly said:

Great idea Georgianna, we still can have two of our trustees do it or get the mayor on board. I can’t see by looking at this idea why anyone would be againgst it. This is the type of idea that would come out during the Elliot-Grant administration which you were apart of. Is it possible that Cappelli will want more than 2 stories?

Kevin Davis

On June 17, 2007 5:02 PM, weewill said:

If we had a creative Mayor and Village Board they might take the initiative to call Louis Cappelli. Since he has deep-sixed his exciting vision to rebuild White Plains railroad station, build a first class hotel and needed tax assessables with retail and office spaces. Imagine the magnitude and benefits of such an endeavor in Croton. Could Croton Harmon RR Station be a reasonable alternative? Look at the possibilities.

He might be inclined to purchase 1A Croton Point Avenue from Greentree Realty (the 10 acre former Metro Enviro site) combine it with improvements to Croton Harmon RR Station, build a first class hotel overlooking the Hudson River, create office space to attract NY City business owners who would be thrilled to get away from the NYC rents and costs. They would still be only a 40-minute commute by excellent rail travel to the city as well as a short 15-minute drive to the major retail and business hub in White Plains. As the mid point between New York City and Albany, our State Capital to the north, it would be perfectly positioned for interaction with our State representatives and government. People from all over the country and even the world would have a perfect “home base” for tourism into and out of NYC as well as the Historic Hudson Valley.

Cappelli is forward thinking, not afraid to take a chance, and has a vision for the future that few can grasp. His waterfront development projects in Yonkers and Tarrytown and Ossining are extraordinary in vision and scope.

This village has to begin thinking out of the box in planning for the future.

On June 17, 2007 11:40 AM, crotonres said:

I’d prefer that they find a way to add to our limited commercial tax base in the town to help control property taxes. While a community center sounds like a nice idea there are other things in the town that need to be taken care of like the flooding situation at the train station.

With the Chrysler dealer moving in with the Chevy/Jeep dealer we now have another empty commercial property in the town.

On June 17, 2007 10:40 AM, weewill said:

A little bit of history on the exploration of whether or not Croton wants/needs/should have a “community center.”

Past Village Boards, for as long as I can remember and certainly during my 12 years serving on the board, the wisdom and realities of a Croton Community Center have been weighed and wrestled with. Each and every year the board explored ways and means of obtaining such a dream for our village.

I hope the recent survey provides some realistic resident input about the cost of building and maintaining such a facility. There has never been a question of whether we wanted one. It has long been a dream/wish/hope that we all shared. We considered possibilities each and every year, discussing and studying multiple options to achieve that dream. We explored everything from private/public funding to lone developer funding all the way to very costly taxpayer alone funding.

Unfortunately, none of the options proved doable as we struggled with the mission of keeping taxes as low as possible while maintaining our quality of life.

Perhaps there are new ideas and ways to achieve this long-held dream. While exploring them, I caution us all to recognize the expenses as a very important starting place. Many of us are concerned about the ever rising costs of living in this tri-state area and we need to be very careful if we sign on for yet another long-term expense.

Georgianna

On June 14, 2007 5:26 PM, KWilly said:

If they decide to use the Community Center Survey in determining if/how the Community Center is built im opposed to building the Community Center.

1) I have been an advocate at village board meetings and in general of the general idea of increasing Recreation opportunities in the village but considering that everything costs money we should first focus on lower cost options. These options include having more organized activities on our fields, opening up the CHHS gym in the summer, Organized Outdoor Basketball, field trips, Karooke, etc. Recreational activities that do not require you to build something and its costs are proportionately lower than the costs of building something like a Community Center.

2) For a large financial investment like a Community Center, you need to have a good idea on how it is going to be used and if its functions can’t be served already. To measure the demand for the functions it will be serving, you need to have accurate survey results which no matter what these results turn out to be, will not be accurate for the whole populace of Croton.

3) The survey did not account for the youth who will be big users of this potential center and instead of relying on the kids parents to fill the survey out the survey, they should have also been handed out in Social Studies Classes. In those classes, the teachers can explain what the village is trying to do and how it relates to village government to give an educational component to current history. The kids will be enthusiastic about filling out the surveys and there will be a good amount of surveys filled out.

Kevin Davis



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