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Gail Boccia Day, Census Info, and "Transit Oriented Development"

Last night's City Council meeting started with a very nice dedication to Gail Boccia, the owner of recently closed antiques store, Early Everything. She ran and operated the shop for 20+ years, and was the first brave merchant to relocate her shop to the East end of Main in '91, acting as a catalyst for others to follow and revitalize the area. The mayor gave a nice talk, and then declared April 20th as Gail Boccia Day! It was very touching - her family attended, and everyone was very teary-eyed.

After that, the phrase of the evening was 'transit oriented development' (TOD). They must have said it about 75 times, lol. You can learn more about it here. Wikipedia defines it as "a mixed-use residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership". It has a lot of similar features with the 'placemaking' concept I brought up the other day. They talked about removing the parking lot between the Sloop Club and the River Front Park, and making it into an area conducive to walking, biking, and public transit.

Each of the 'stakeholders' in the development of the waterfront gave a brief presentation of what they've been up to the past few years, generally where things stand, and what barriers still remain before they can move forward. A quick rundown:

Waterfront Committee

- met between April - September 2008 to discuss plans (MTA, DIA, Beacon Institute, Scenic Hudson, Clearwater)
- ideas generated: retail (marine supply store, tourist shops), sidewalk food vending, meeting rooms, charter boat landing, housing (35-40 units/acre)
Beacon Institute
- talked about "Research Vessel Dock" for the Clearwater Sloop; would be a floating dock,
- would cost less than $1/2 million to put in; grant for 50% already obtained from Department of State
- also talked about a Harbor building, would be for Beacon Institute, and an educational/Community Center
Scenic Hudson
- owns the Long Dock/"Beacon Point" land
- 200 Beacon residents responded to surveys about how they'd like to see the land developed
- plans to develop a 16 acre park on the Southern side of point
- the Beacon Point area already developed connects to the trail to Dennings Point
- still working on getting permitting, hoping to begin construction by end of 2009
Long Dock Beacon Development Group
- hm. all i wrote down for this was they said they would provide "shuttles to Main Street"
- showed an aerial photo of the waterfront and some slides of what the hotel/conference center would look like
Edgewater Property (development management & consulting firm)
- 250 residential homes ('flats' & townhouses) planned for area at 45 Tompkins
- would generate around $1 million a year for the city
- still need zoning and environmental clearances
- own 18 acres
- have undergone a 7 year process to reach consensus on TOD design guidelines & principles
- received 5 submissions from developers, all indicated a 'financial gap' would make development not financially feasible; some zoning changes would be necessary
- need to increase residential density/decrease commercial density (increase residential to 35-40 units per acre, reduce parking to 2 space per 1,000 sq ft) for financial viability of a project
BFJ - linkage study to connect areas of all the waterfront projects
- analyzed traffic/transportation behavior & fiscal impacts
- talked a lot about the environmental and financial benefits of connecting all these areas for foot traffic, and again abiding by TOD principles

This is what I was able to jot down while they were talking. These bullet points are really brief, but each presenter talked about TOD, about how much work and collaboration has gone into these projects, and about their interest in community feedback. Seems like an exciting time to be in Beacon. They emphasized the importance of having a quick and easy way to get people from the waterfront to Main Street, which I think is a concern for a lot of people. They talked about creating these parking structures that would be enclosed in a nice facade, so it didn't look like a parking garage, and would be level with Beekman Street so people didn't have to walk uphill as much to get to Main. Again, if you google 'transit oriented development' or go to the link above, you can get a general sense of what that means, benefits, and sample images.

DISCLAIMER: I'M NOT A JOURNALIST. I did my best to get as much info as I could, but it's possible I misunderstood something that was presented, so just take the above info as my interpretation. If anyone else was at the meeting and wants to correct anything here, please do.

Finally, Mayor Gold mentioned that 'Census Bureau Listeners' are out and about in your neighborhoods from April 6 until June. There are 5 of them, all Beaconites, and you can call City Hall for the list of their names. No surveys are being done right now - they will be sent via mail in March of 2010.

There was some other housekeeping stuff after, but I didn't make it to the very end.... You can watch the video on channel 22, or on the website whenever it's posted.

Views: 37

Tags: citycouncil, meeting, waterfront


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Comment by Henry on April 22, 2009 at 1:50pm

Nice take on the anticipated timelines. Mine exactly. Based on what I heard Mon. night, the MTA project has little possibility of reality in our lifetimes.
Comment by Mark Roland on April 22, 2009 at 9:10am
Thanks, CV, I'm certainly no expert either, but after such an informative and well-thought-out presentation, I can now play one on BCN. ;^) Seriously, all kudos to Mayor Gold, and particularly City Administrator Meridith Robson (sorry for the mispelling in the original comment--no way to correct it without messing up the chronology at this point) for putting together this meeting.
Comment by Venessa Miemis on April 22, 2009 at 7:50am
good resource mark. that's exactly what i was talking about. and being located in the quick guides would make a lot of sense.
Comment by Mark Roland on April 22, 2009 at 7:48am
I think the idea of the presentation was to give people an understanding of where the various projects are currently. While the city now has an updated comprehensive plan, each project is of course obliged to go through all the various processes it must go through, as the city administrator was careful to emphasis several times.

I thought the interesting points about the Waterfront Committee were that they suggested lowering the commercial footage on the order of close to 40%, and increasing the residential density. These findings, along with other suggestions they made, were then mirrored by the independent consulting group that has been working with the city on these various projects.

Funding: The Edgewater project (250 "flats and townhouses" north of the train station) looks closest. This is our old friend Erlich, and I would scrutinize their claims regarding traffic, value to the city, etc. Longdock: The developer is waiting for the "credit markets to loosen up." A vague enough phrase meaning don't hold your breath. MTA's Transit-Oriented Development plan--don't tell your kids to hold their breath. Which is unfortunate because I think this re-imagining of the station and reconnection with the town would truly have a wonderfully positive impact. I'd rather see Obama funnel monies to projects like this before working on a high speed rail network.

Some good news here is that Scenic Hudson is moving forward with the park (currently designated Beacon Point) on the southerly portion of the Long Dock land parcel. And the harbor study group and Beacon Institute have rethought the original plan of a fairly massive, fairly research-specific, very expensive industrial style dock, which they don't need for their endevours in any case, and are now looking at something much more flexible and way less costly.

I think Mayor Gold and City Administrator Hobson should be commended for putting together this very lucid picture of the current projects on the waterfront. For the first time, I got a real sense of how everything could tie in, and how it could make the riverfront a vibrant part of the whole town. It's encouraging to see all these groups working together along with real input from Beacon citizens. It kinda sucks that some of the major components may not happen for many years to come. But I believe we can still take some of those ideas and principals and make them come to fruition with a bit of ingenuity and a sprinkling of grant cash--particularly the ever-elusive "linkage to Main Street."

Add a Comment
Comment by Mark Roland on April 22, 2009 at 7:44am
Regarding the website, the city of Newburgh has an index page for residents that lists links to information a resident would be likely to seek. Simple enough for the Beacon site to include under Quick Guides, and a very good idea.
Comment by Judith Filc on April 21, 2009 at 10:05pm
I could translate it, if time weren't an issue. I don't have much, between work and a young child, but I'd like to do it.
Comment by Venessa Miemis on April 21, 2009 at 8:36pm
@kelly - i don't know where to direct community feedback.... your city council representative? i don't even know what ward i'm in, or what the process is for submitting issues. that could be an area of improvement for the website. it's definitely better than what it was, but i have some information architecture gripes with functionality/searchability. i haven't had the time to really organize all my thoughts about it, but when i do i'll submit suggestions to the web manager. one thing for instance would be to organize info by issue in addition to by department... i think for some things, you don't know what department addresses the issue you're looking for, so to search by department seems counter-intuitive. ooo, and i think like 17% of our population is hispanic... maybe a version of the site en espanol? anyway, i'm sure someone here will give us the answer.
Comment by Venessa Miemis on April 21, 2009 at 8:17pm
well, the way i understood it, is that the different stakeholders have been holding public forums during the course of their individual projects. (i'm new to community involvement, so this is the first time i've attended a meeting that has discussed the waterfront projects). this meeting was a general update of where things stand for the time being, what the current roadblocks are, etc. and it was mentioned several times that nothing is yet set in stone. as far as master vision, they did have an aerial shot of the waterfront with some superimposed renderings. there were also a few sketches of waterfronts - not our waterfront - but waterfronts of cities in similar size/scale. the way it sounded to me is that the first of the projects to move forward may be the Beacon Point park, and then i think the developers who are working on the flat/townhouses on tompkins would like to get going, so people can move in and know that as more waterfront projects get underway, their property will go up in value. the other projects were in various stages... a lot of planning and consulting...don't recall hearing any tentative dates saying "we want this done by 20xx"... and they may very well have said it during one of the moments that i zoned out. (hey, i'm human). it would definitely be done in stages though. again, this is just how i understood it.
Comment by Venessa Miemis on April 21, 2009 at 6:08pm
oh, i forgot to mention. they also said that the library will be offering free informational classes on how to navigate the new city of beacon website on May 7 from 6-7pm, and May 9 from 2-3pm.
Comment by Kelly Kingman on April 21, 2009 at 5:33pm
THANKS Venessa!!! You make a great City Council correspondent. It's really nice to know what's going on since the commuters among us can't usually get back in time for the meetings. Lots of projects afoot...

Who should get community feedback for each project I wonder?

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