By LIZ BUTTON
The small, but controversial, parcel of land on the corner of Central Avenue and Boston Post Road will be re-seeded with grass and turned back into green space, Mayor Joe Sack announced at the April 9 City Council meeting.
The move on Sack’s part is intended to quell dismay expressed by some residents after the city graveled over the area for possible construction purposes instead of turning it back into a park following the completion of repairs to the Central Avenue Bridge.
Sack, a Republican, said he made the executive decision to re-green the area so any further decisions about the spot, such as whether or not to turn it into a parking lot to alleviate possible traffic safety concerns in the intersection, can be made “without any anxiety or angst.”
“Rather than reflexively dig our heels in, this new City Council took a new and refreshing approach. It decided to act swiftly, fairly and decisively to reset the table,” Sack said.
The mayor said he believes he has the consensus of the current council on this, as various members have expressed their desire to see the area turned back into green space after citizens brought the issue to light this winter.
The mayor said neither he nor the City Council were made aware the city had graveled the lot last summer. According City Manager Scott Pickup, he made the decision to gravel the lot in anticipation that the developer of a new building at the 2 Central Ave. site across the street might possibly decide to work out a temporary agreement with the city to use the space for equipment storage.
Ultimately, the developer did not need the lot for the project, which began last summer.
The lot had previously been used for construction equipment during the repairs to the Central Avenue Bridge, which took six years, from the destructive floods of spring 2007 until summer 2013, to complete due to issues getting state and federal approvals.
Previous to its use as both a construction lay-down area and then a graveled over lot, the property had been utilized as a small-scale park since 1967.
On April 9, Sack said, that, while it has not been resolved as to whether the area is official parkland as defined under New York State law, it can be considered an implied park use.
According to Doug Carey, a former member of the city’s Trailways Committee, this implication is based on the fact that 40 years ago, the parcel was established and then preserved and maintained for those same park and recreational purposes.
Pickup said there is no additional cost to replant grass in the space, a task that can be accommodated by the city’s operating budget.
According to Department of Public Works assistant foreman Craig Casterella, the city workers predict the removal of the gravel and re-seeding should be done by the end of the week of April 14, after press time.
On Monday, April 14, four DPW workers and two bulldozers began tearing up the gravel and smoothing out the land for planting grass seed. The next step is to lay down topsoil, Casterella said, followed by certified premium-grade topsoil.
The Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee suggested in a Jan. 10 memo sent to the city and the entire council that making the quarter-acre lot on the southwest corner of the intersection of Central Avenue and Boston Post Road into a parking lot could be one solution to
alleviate possible traffic, sigh-tline and parking issues at the busy intersection.
Safety issues could potentially be exacerbated by the increased number of people trying to get to the two new businesses and two apartments that are currently being built at 2 Central Ave., according to the committee, the property directly across the street that used to be the home to the Black Bass Grille, which closed in the early 2000s.
In the memo, the committee, led by Brian Dempsey, recommended that the city should wait to observe the full traffic pattern before any final recommendation is made.
Carey—who also served as a recreation commissioner for 15 years—and Central Avenue resident Anne McCarthy sounded-off at City Council meetings this winter about their concerns regarding the parkette, as it came to be known, after they discovered that the area was not returned to its former state when the Central Avenue Bridge reconstruction project ended last summer.
“I’m happy that Mayor Sack ordered the park be replanted, but this is an interim step,” McCarthy said. “The area had been such a mess for so long; I think people forgot what it looked like.”
Deputy Mayor Laura Brett, a Republican, said the Landmarks Committee is expecting to get a new mile marker from the Village of Port Chester in the next couple of weeks, which they might ask the city to place in the parkette.