One almost expects to be assailed with fear mongering by politicians in the nation’s capital. Scare tactics, a standard operating procedure in Washington, are de rigueur nowadays. But one doesn’t expect to experience them in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson from a would-be contractor to the village.
Yet that’s exactly the unseemly tactic Anthony O. Conetta, 60, vice president of the Long Island-based engineering firm of Dvirka and Bartilucci, tried to employ at last Monday’s sparsely attended work session of the village board. Dvirka and Bartilucci have done work for this village before. They should know better.
It seems that some 700 parking spaces may continue to be lost to use from time to time if the flood-prone area of the parking lot (Sections G and H) at the Croton-Harmon station is not renovated at a cost to Croton of more than $2 million. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, has already unequivocally turned down Croton’s application for a grant to make improvements that would forestall future flooding events.
The federal government is obviously not anxious to open its coffers for the repair of a parking lot built over a filled-in marsh and with a long history of flooding—one that probably should never have been placed there. Where were environmentalists when this wetland area was originally filled in? Croton is appealing the decision, but getting an inept FEMA to acknowledge that it made a mistake is unlikely. It still won’t admit that anything was wrong with the hundreds of thousands of formaldehyde-contaminated trailer homes it supplied to Katrina hurricane victims, causing many to sicken or die.
Dvirka and Bartilucci have their eyes fixed on a heftily remunerative contract to raise sunken portions of the parking lot by five or six feet. Mr. Conetta conjured up his mushroom cloud at Monday night’s work session. Unethically trying to scare board members and the public, he claimed that the loss of the sinking parking spaces would mean that some 700 current parkers would be driving to New York City instead of taking the train.
Clearly way out of his depth as an oracle, he claimed that it would also cost the 700 evicted parkers an extra $8.5 million annually plus $3 million in tolls to make the round trip by automobile. Mr. Conetta seems to have an unusually clouded crystal ball. We don’t know where he gets his numbers from or what are his credentials as a traffic consultant and planner. It is patently obvious that Robert Moses he ain’t. Nor is he another Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs or James Howard Kunstler.
Mr. Conetta would have you believe that—with gasoline already topping the $4.00 a gallon mark in Westchester—parkers are going to elect to drive to the city. Does he not know how much parking garages or parking lots charge for daytime parking in the city? In the East 40’s, for example, monthly parking rates vary from $480 to $1,200. Just how gullible and sheeplike does Mr. Conetta think the people of northern Westchester are?
Mr. Conetta is a civil engineer with expertise in storm-water management. A graduate of the City College of New York (Class of 1971) with a Bachelor of Science degree, he also has a M.S. (Environmental) degree from the same institution. Mr. Conetta is even familiar with garbage. For 14 years he served as garbage commissioner of the community of Port Washington on Long Island. He was edged out and unseated by challenger Jeremy Devine in 2002 by a close vote (602 to 571). Asked about his plans after his defeat, he was quoted as saying, “I’m going to devote my time to the PYA (Port Washington Youth Activities) league.”
But Mr. Conetta is really no more qualified to opine on issues like the driving patterns of commuters than Mayor Schmidt, a chiropractor, is qualified to perform brain surgery, or even to treat a hamster with the sniffles or a guinea pig with a nosebleed.
Were Mr. Conetta more familiar with the parking picture at stations on Metro-North’s Hudson Line, he might have been spared from making such a foolish Baron Munchhausen prediction.
There’s an ace in the hole for harried parkers at the Croton-Harmon station beset not only by rising water but by ever-rising parking rates. We refer to the $29.3 million expansion and improvement plan for MTA’s Cortlandt station. Announced last September, this program adds a broad list of amenities, including 750 new parking spaces being added to the 885 existing spaces already available there.
Paradoxically, not only is parking at the Cortlandt station more convenient for many commuters who now park at the Croton-Harmon station, its rates are cheaper. Is it possible that Mayor Schmidt is spending more than $2 million to save the flood-prone area from a watery grave like the Titanic, only to find that parkers—so long taken for granted by money-grubbing Croton—have long since abandoned Croton and are parking at Cortlandt?
Instead of throwing money down a rat hole, perhaps the most sensible course for Croton would be to let the river reclaim the continuously sinking flood-prone area. With parking facilities more motorist friendly and less expensive at the Cortlandt station, Mayor Schmidt’s legacy to Croton may very well turn out to be a $2 million white elephant that attracts no parkers at all.