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Backing into Zoning Change #5

February 4, 2009

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

On February 4, 2009 5:38 PM, Seth Davis said:

But there is no doubt that history INFORMS a solution.

On the other hand, if mistakes were made in past actions, does that mean we should shrink from taking any further actions, lest they become mistakes?

On February 4, 2009 5:26 PM, Kieran Murray said:

Thank you Seth

We printed and brought this same content to one of our very first meetings. I believe it was all posted before on crotonblog under the alies “Businessperson”. It was helpful to the process.

However, as you point out, history is not the same thing as a solution.

On February 5, 2009 1:49 PM, Concerned Citizen of Croton said:

Kieran,

Your treatment from the Schmidt crowd on the NCN forum about the HEDC proposal was to be expected. As the old saying goes, if you lay down with dogs, don’t be surprised to get up with fleas.

And included in this ruthless pack are some of the worst personalities around town. For starters, there’s bribe-taking accuser and Croton Republican co-chair Chuck Trendell ( video clip: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3484355784059135162 ), and Grand Street vandal Maria Cudequest; who keyed her neighbor’s car, was caught on a surveillance camera, lied to Croton detectives, spent the night at the Westchester County Jail, and finally plead guilty to a misdemeanor plus restitution. Her neighbors have since moved away.

It is through the dreaded ccc1@bestweb.net email list and on the semi-anonymous NCN forum, where they stir up the clan. Look also for them in the Letters section of the Gazette. In addition to the aforementioned individuals, other regulars to take notice of include:

* Mark Aarons
* Joann Minett ( Lost ‘08 bid for trustee, see also: http://www.crotonblog.com/archives/2006/10/06/whatsupdoc/mayorschmidtdontgetnorespect/ )
* Richard Pellicci ( Croton’s ugliest citizen; http://www.crotonblog.com/archives/2006/06/21/village
news/anout-of-controlrichardpellicciragesoverlistening_session/ )
* Jim Moore
* Robert Wintermeier ( Co-chair, Croton Republican Comittee )

Anyhow, keep up the fight both here and on the NCN. Soon enough, all residents will see through the angry Schmidt crowd’s distortions and realize that your committee has only proposed zoning changes that need to pass the muster of a transparent NYS environmental review to move forward.

On February 6, 2009 4:36 PM, Concerned Citizen of Croton said:

On the NCN, Mark Aarons just posted the following:

“To the public at large,

It is time for Croton to eliminate political parties from village elections. I have witnessed time and again the alignment of interested persons around issues for partisan objectives, as opposed to exercising reason and judgment when confronted with difficult choices. The amount of time and energy spent mudslinging and campaigning detracts from the focus on important issues affecting the future of our beloved village.

While I sometimes disagree with members of the various village boards, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the time, energy, and attention each and everyone of them give to the village. It is a tremendous responsibility to serve the village, regardless of party affiliation.

Yes, I was dismayed to find out that a blogger had informed members of the local democratic party that I am one of the “usuals” to watch out for. The level of distrust that seems to ooze out at election time is both appalling and disheartening.

Briarcliff uses a caucus method to choose its elected officials. Prior to elections a meeting is called where interested members of the community attend. At this meeting various individuals indicate their desire to run for office and nominations are made. Another meeting is had to allow each of the nominees to present their positions and opinions to the group at large. A vote is then taken to choose the candidates for the general election. Those candidates then typcially run unopposed. Briarcliff has been doing this for more than 100 years. The advantages are that candidates are presented to the public as individuals, with independent thought and judgment, and not as members of any political party. While factions align behind various issues, the common thread is support of an issue, not of a party. The elected officials, not bundled together by party unity, tend to work together in a more harmonious fashion because the issue of party politics is eliminated from discussions.

Another advantage: The funds raised each year for village elections (some $15,000 to $20,000) can be spent on doing something worthwhile for the village, as opposed to buying signs, and materials, geared at winning elections.

If you’re in favor of working with me to eliminate political party affiliation in local village elections, please email me at kmgb@optonline.net

With hope and optimism,

Mark Aarons”

His message is especially hypocritical since he as a Croton GOP official, Susan Konig and Rob DiFrancesco created and distibuted “low-income housing” flyers to residents of North Highland Avenue in 2005 to scare them into not voting for Ann Gallelli. Read more here: http://www.crotonblog.com/archives/2006/03/18/letters/crotongopcampaignrunsafoulofthelawagain/index.php#comment-1158

On February 6, 2009 12:37 PM, ROFL said:

And residents are supposed to trust a $16M budget to the likes of the the Schmidt crowd? Now there’s a laugh.

On February 4, 2009 5:05 PM, Seth Davis said:

Bob:

I’ve read all of this before, elsewhere, lived the history and, for a few years, tried to undo some of those planning mistakes. But what I haven’t read yet, and maybe you can tell me in which numbered episode it will appear, is WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE DONE NOW? Mind you, I don’t know what the answer is—but if you are proposing one, I would like to know what it is.

On February 10, 2009 11:51 AM, Robert Scott said:

To Seth Davis and all impatient readers: I do not write for individual readers. To all who may find this material old hat, I can only remind them that Croton has many newcomers who know nothing about Croton’s retailing past. Finally, since each letter ends with “To be continued,” it should be apparent that this is part of a series that will end after a carefully crafted serial presentation with recommendations for the future. So please bear with me while I develop my case.



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