Continuing the short history of Croton retailing: In the 1950s, the lower end of Route 129 (Maple Street) became home to the Van Wyck shopping complex, anchored by a Grand Union supermarket. The 1960s brought a competing A&P supermarket complex immediately opposite. Opening a new Croton post office next to the Grand Union in 1966 added to the parking problems of that complex. After the A&P decamped, the building was divided into small shops and called Croton Commons. This marked Phase 4 of Croton’s retail development.
In the fifth and final phase, the area south of Croton Point Avenue became the site of the most ambitious retail development in Croton history. Anchored by a ShopRite supermarket, it was built in the early 1970s, occupying space that previously had been a drive-in movie and a bowling alley. This latest supermarket complex and its massive parking lot only compounded the problems caused in Croton by the two competing shopping complexes facing one another across Maple Street. Eventually, it hastened their demise.
This village made a fatal planning mistake by shortsightedly adopting zoning that allowed supermarkets to be built in the heart of Croton, instead of at its periphery. Hard to believe, but at one time three giant supermarkets and their unsightly parking lots occupied the vibrant heart of the village. Add the giant station parking lot to the mix, and you have an example of what can happen when planning runs amuck: acres upon acres of parked automobiles, the ultimate Automobile Age eyesore.
Misguided planners took a workaday village whose richly layered architectural history from pre-Colonial to Modern could easily be explored on a short walking tour and converted it into a planning nightmare, a disaster from which we may never recover. By making automobile parking so central and accessible, planners not only caused congestive traffic problems, they effectively destroyed the “butchers, bakers and candlestick makers” in each of Croton’s original shopping areas. It was “sudden death by supermarket.”
As readers can deduce from these comments, I do not worship at the altar of the Great God of Planning. Hasty, ill-considered planning and zoning changes like those described above caused more problems in Croton than they solved. Those worried about the Harmon project should remember the havoc wrought by the Gateway zoning changes and the adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” (To be continued)
— Robert Scott