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Thursday: Special T.O.D. Meeting with City Council, MTA

I apologize if details are sketchy, but it's come to my attention that a special T.O.D. meeting open to the public will be held this Thursday, December 10th at 5:30pm, presumably somewhere in the Municipal Building.

I understand that the meeting is to address the concerns of a group called "Beacon Deserves Better."

This is the first I've heard of that group, if anyone can shed some light on any details of this meeting it would be appreciated by all, I'm sure.

Views: 33

Tags: TOD, development, transit-oriented, waterfront

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Comment by Ben Royce on December 8, 2009 at 5:48am
kevin: the highline analogy is perfect. yes, please email me that (can that be done through the system here?)

another analogy would be the the walkway over the hudson in poughkeepsie. beacon is in a perfect spot to get its own walkway over the hudson/ highline

or if worse comes to worse, we can always do this:

http://www.policeoracle.com/news/6-DIY-Train-Buffs-Arrested_20957.html

(the picture is priceless ;-)
Comment by Thomas Cunningham on December 8, 2009 at 12:27am
Kevin -- could you please email me a copy of that study as well? thanks!
Comment by Kevin Byrne on December 7, 2009 at 10:15pm
Ben -I am beginning to like what you are talking about- There was a "linkages' plan done by BFJ a NYC Planning firm focusing on the transportation issues connecting the waterfront to the rest of the city- it was a little heavy on the roadway work and was pretty much ignored by the city as far as i can tell but exists as a resource of info on the routes around town. I can email it to you. There is a lot more community support for bikeways, they are cheaper and the funding is there. It could be planned to expand into a dedicated transit path(no cars) Both Beacon Institute and Long Dock have an interest in making alternative transit connections as it helps with the LEED cred and makes it possible for people to access their sites with other than cars. It deserves support,is possible and would make things better. It will be a lot of work and take years to get done, but so did the Highline.
Comment by Ben Royce on December 7, 2009 at 3:17pm
ps: addendum to previous comment:

there is a rail bridge over the tracks. that can be modified for a trolley bus. if this proves too expensive or otherwise impractical, the bike/ trolleybus path can run on MTA land east of the main tracks, terminating at DIA instead of the west parking lot, on archaic but still existing track beds you can see in satellite mode on google maps
Comment by Mark Roland on December 7, 2009 at 2:30pm
There has been plenty of time for anyone interesting in forming a group supportive of the TOD. But as I pointed out in bold below, Beacon Deserves Better is not against transit-oriented development. We are against a zoning law dictated by the MTA that has few if any of the features of successful TODs, and very little input from the community or the comprehensive plan.

I look forward to seeing everyone interested in this important issue at tonight's city council meeting, the special meeting at 5:30 on Thursday, and the town hall meeting following at 7:00. And contrary to how some here might frame it, you don't have to be rabidly for or against. You only have to be curious to learn more about the driving force and process behind the proposed zoning law, what can happen under the zoning law as drafted, and how that will affect our city for generations.
Comment by Ben Royce on December 7, 2009 at 12:05pm
mark: thanks, you are correct. resigning in face of the MTA hydra before you have even begun to fight it is just a lack of commitment ;-)

furthermore, i modify my original comment to say this: the MTA does not need to fork over the beacon line for TOD approval. nor tear up the tracks. instead, the MTA needs to build a bike/ bus path ADJOINING their tracks

putting a trolley on the tracks will result in a severe case of MTA bureaucratitis. however, i'd like to see them complain much about simply building a slim asphalt path to the side of their tracks large enough to accommodate 2 bike lanes and a 20 mph trolley on tires (bikes pulling over with a toot of the horn). heck, get them to even buy the dang trolley. i really can't see the MTA complaining about the cost of a one measly disney-style winterizable trolley on wheels and the cost of paving an asphalt path next to their precious tracks (that they won't give up but also won't let us use). that would appease east main (west main gets their focal point grand continuous staircase, also at MTA expense). then we give the MTA their precious TOD approval. hurrah

they also need to inform us when they run trains on the beacon line in advance. then we simply cease all bicycle/ trolley use during that time. how onerous can that be for beacon or the MTA? considering they've probably run trains on that line at what, 5 times in the last 10 years?

the city of beacon will run the trolley on tires for operator salary and gas money (or make the thing electric, as long as it can be heated in the winter), and plow the snow in the winter on the path. drainage isn't an issue, and the basic train track outlay has taken care of grading. so the MTA simply can't find many reaons to complain about these expenses as simple reasonable TOD concessions on their part. meanwhile, enough business is generated at east main for the city to offset the simple modest costs of running the trolley on tires

this allows us to get a foothold to prove the idea workable for little money. then extend the path to fishkill, get fishkill to kick in to help with the simple maintenance costs, and the scheme gets even cheaper as an economy of scale kicks in. eventually, egads, sometime down the road, running an ACTUAL trolley on the tracks, perhaps all the way to hopewell junction, becomes an incrementally realized future, and one that grows on people as a desirable goal, perhaps even at the MTA. rather than a huge, expensive, bureaucratic and legal chasm to jump all at once

whaddya think? ;-)
Comment by Mark Roland on December 7, 2009 at 11:09am
Ben writes: "...lately i've grown despondent with the financial legal and bureaucratic hurdles with getting a simple trolley on that line."
Sorry you've grown despondent in such a short time, but most public works face financial, legal and bureaucratic hurdles. What exactly were you expecting? A train in time for Christmas? ;^)

"Vesuvius" writes: "You have invited two groups that are rabidly against any development by the MTA to speak to the council."

BDB writes: Done with much thought and planning, and referencing the comprehensive plan as well as new community input, transit-oriented development on the waterfront can be a positive overall for the city of Beacon. As it stands, the MTA’s waterfront development zoning draft falls short.

Everything in "CV"s world is rabid. Certainly it's an apt description of her constant distortions, negativity, and general disposition.
Comment by Ben Royce on December 7, 2009 at 9:24am
IF the T.O.D. proceeds, main street must be appeased:

1. a grand staircase that serves as a natural focal point for driving foot traffic to west main
2. revival of the beacon line to shuttle visitors/ residents to east main

i think these two ideas allows the T.O.D. to continue while addressing the congestion/ main street access considerations of beacon

i've devoted a website to the trolley idea:

http://beaconline.org

however, lately i've grown despondent with the financial legal and bureaucratic hurdles with getting a simple trolley on that line. such that i now think the line should just be torn up, and that it be replaced with a trolley bus on the path of the old line, serving as nothing more than a scenic conduit. it could also therefore anchor other transit responsible development along the old beacon line that exists in various planning stages, thus further fulfilling the mandate and reason for the TOD in the first place

one would think that an actual trolley on rail is superior to a trolley bus on a devoted path (biking could exist alongside in either scheme). however, the current legal, financial, and bureaucratic restraints means that the MTA will never help beacon in this regard. so, the MTA should fork over ownership of the beacon line, at least as far as east main, to the city of beacon in order for the TOD to proceed. and beacon in turn should tear up the tracks and put in a faux trolley

its a shame the tracks can't remain, it would be superior, but the legal and financial environment disallows it
Comment by Steve Gold on December 6, 2009 at 12:44pm
Update: A letter was mailed on Friday to the council, council elect and for distribution in the media regarding an exchange of ideas with two community groups. The meeting place has been moved to the TOMPKINS HOSE FIREHOUSE (across the street from city hall), for both the TOD and Town Hall meetings. Note: This particular meeting is not a public hearing; it is intended as the first of a potentially a few meetings for the council to listen and discuss the issues as presented by the two community groups (only members of both committees will be invited to speak at this time).

The letter read as follows…

December 4, 2009
Dear Council and Members-Elect and the public,

A citizens group and the Main Street Corridor Committee have been meeting regularly with the goal to assist the city with regards to the MTA proposal for the Transit Oriented Development and the TOD zoning amendment.

To give these community minded citizen groups an opportunity to express their thoughts and findings directly, I have invited them to address the council and members-elect on Thursday December 10th at 5:30PM (prior to the town hall meeting which starts at 7:00PM), at the city hall court room (now updated to the Tompkins Hose Firehouse). Also in attendance will be two representatives of the MTA, City Planner David Stolman and County Planner John Clarke. The meeting will be announced and is open to the public.

Thank you,
Steve Gold
Comment by Mark Roland on December 6, 2009 at 9:41am
Beacon Deserves Better was formed in response to a proposed zoning law that would create a so-called "Transit-Oriented Development" or TOD, zone consisting of approximately 22 acres at the train station waterfront.

We have several concerns.

First, the parameters of the zoning change were driven by the needs and wants of a single property owner, the MTA/Metro North, rather than the comprehensive plan, a document created over a period of several years with extensive community input. In important ways, the MTA-crafted zoning law is in direct opposition to the desires of the community as represented by the comprehensive plan.

Second, the proposed changes to the zones would allow development that would actually create the kinds of problems transit-oriented development is supposed to help mitigate, including a large increase in auto usage, formation of a distinctly separate retail/commercial zone that is not integrated into the rest of the city's commercial district, and language that uses alternative transportation and pedestrian access as window dressing, not a binding commitment to facilities, access, priority, etc. It is transit-adjacent, not transit-oriented, development.

Third, the plan is at best a boiler plate, with no consideration to the unique challenges presented by the Beacon train station and how it functions. Right now the station functions mostly as a "nodule" (read: parking lot) for commuters, a majority of whom come from across the river or from Fishkill. Trying to turn it into more of a "place," while laudable, is not as simple as adding 6-story buildings with 600 dwelling units and 120,000 square feet of commercial space. It presents a much more complex challenge. These likely include long-term regional plans for transit on the other side of the river as well as the possibility of a spur line from the station to service other proposed development and commuters in Fishkill. There is also the matter of integrating everything with Main Street, a puzzle that has yet to be solved, and will only be exacerbated by this plan.

This is a large project that will have serious impact on traffic, and on infrastructure such as roads, sewers, water, as well as fire, police and school services. It will also impact existing commerce in town.

Some of these "cost of services" issues are accounted for in a cost-benefit analysis typically done for these types of projects, to show everyone how much money the municipality stands to make. But the first study was flawed--not just a glitch in the addition, but based on numbers that literally had no meaning and were seemingly pulled out of thin air. Luckily a Beacon citizen spotted the problem before the city council voted on changing the zoning, affecting our waterfront for generations to come.

A new "cost benefit" analysis has been ordered up, and the results should be here any day. One gets a sneaky suspicion the moon and the stars, and the numbers, will all align. If at first you don't succeed...
Also see: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. These cost benefit studies also leave out the most important factor--the social costs and benefits. Who, other than the developers and traffic engineers that must figure out how to modify 9D, benefits from the plans as currently proposed?

Done with much thought and planning, and referencing the comprehensive plan as well as new community input, transit-oriented development on the waterfront can be a positive overall for the city of Beacon. As it stands, the MTA’s waterfront development zoning draft falls short.

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