Tensions ran high at a recent community meeting in Ossining, where residents continued to voice their opposition to a plan proposed by village officials to construct a roundabout at a five-point intersection in the village’s downtown.
“To put a roundabout there would literally kill that intersection,” Gayle Marchica, president of the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce, said at the April 6 meeting. “It will keep traffic moving, most definitely, and that’s not what we want. We want people walking. We want people spending money, because when you spend money in your own town, it’s a win-win situation.”
In February, village trustees approved a $500,000 bond to finance the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Spring, Main, Brandreth streets and Central Avenue. Ossining Mayor Victoria Gearity has said that the traffic circle would provide safer flow for cars and crosswalks for pedestrians. The roundabout would replace the traditional intersection and traffic signals.
Opponents, however, have continually cited the traffic circle’s potential effects on safety, parking, traffic and economic development in downtown among their concerns.
The chamber of commerce filed a petition in March that sought a public vote on whether to defund the project’s previously approved bond, though the village rejected that petition, citing a number of reasons that many signatures were invalid.
During the April meeting at the Ossining Public Library, the village also laid out its intention to assemble a working committee with the goal of crafting a plan of action for the redevelopment of downtown.
The committee will consist of 20 members appointed by the board, including residents and village officials. Those who wish to join the committee can do so by filling out an application online.
Some residents were concerned the village board would only appoint members to the committee who they believed shared their views, but village officials said they hoped to include a range of stakeholders in the group.
“Our intention is to make (the committee) as widespread and representative as possible, otherwise it’s not going to work,” village Trustee Rika Levin said.
The village will accept applications through April 18 and announce committee members on April 26.
Ninety days following the formation of the committee, village officials expect the working group to recommend a plan to the board. Gearity said that plan could include a request for proposals for developers for village-owned properties, enlisting the help of a consultant group or rejecting redevelopment and maintaining the status quo.
“Whether or not a roundabout is part of this, we’re going to find out the first week of May,” Gearity said, adding that at that point, “we’ll have numbers” regarding the expected cost of the roundabout.
The village plans to issue a request for proposals later this spring regarding the proposed changes to the downtown intersection. If the village moves forward with the roundabout, construction would last from June to August.
“If we don’t do all this administrative (work) upfront, the logistical work, we won’t be able to commence construction in June and construct the project over the summer,” interim Village Manager Paul Fraioli said.
Many village residents expressed concerns that village officials had already made the decision to move forward with construction of the roundabout no matter the outcome of the working group. Residents also questioned the timeline, saying that the village hopes to begin construction on the roundabout in June prior to the working group’s recommendation in late July. Others were concerned that the committee would be unable to come up with a plan in the three-month timeframe.
“This is not a good process. You’re putting a lot of pressure on this committee that is not yet formed. You’re putting a lot of pressure on the community,” resident John Van Steen said. “This is something that if you really want to go forward with thoughts of what to do with our downtown, you should take that (roundabout) part of the process off the table.”
Levin assured residents that the committee would not be charged with solving all of the village’s problems in 90 days.
“It is not to design the village,” she said of the committee’s task. “It’s a recommendation to move forward to helping the village board. It is not 90 days to come up with a plan for how the village will look.”
While many residents expressed their frustration with the village board leading up to the meeting, others remained hopeful.
“I also really do believe that we have to give this process a chance,” said Kaja Gam, owner of Kaja Gam Interior Architecture and Design at 127 Main St. “There is no decision made until a bid has been granted a contract, end of story.”