Despite the years of planning and public debate leading up to this moment, many commuters have been startled recently by the sudden and unannounced arrival of fencing blocking them from a good portion of the Metro-North parking lot.
Could a newly paved parking lot be on the way?, many wondered. No.
Rather, tennis and basketball courts will live in this central lot.
While some sports players might be happy to have their amenities return and further from the wind of the river, commuters both resident and non-resident who pay hundreds (or over $1,000 annually in the case of non-residents) to stow their cars here feel like they are on the wrong side of a park vs. parking problem. They feel as if there are more parkers than tennis/basketball players, and worse, more parkers than parking spaces.
Dr. John Marks of Tarrytown commutes daily to the city and has of late been engaging in long detailed back and forth emails with Mayor Drew Fixell. The exchange, he said, has made him feel better about the development and the village's conscientiousness about commuter sentiment, though not entirely.
"Tarrytown’s virtue is that it’s a great commuter town," he wrote. "Why make it more of a hardship to find parking for those of us who moved here in order to commute by train?"
Save for Yankee game days — another topic deserving its own article, stay tuned for that — Mayor Fixell attests that the parking lots actually rarely get used to full capacity. He noted that if ever there was a deficit that residents would get first dibs; less non-resident permits would have to be issued.
Officials point to the temporary lot available now off West Main Street (there is a big sign here for this), and the new lot underway further down Green Street in the former fire training yard.
What the administration does apologize for however is the abruptness of the loss of a big central portion of the parking before the new lot is complete. The recent timing of the project, they say, has not been as planned.
The restoration of Andres Brook portion of the park rehab was meant to come first while a new replacement parking lot would be built. But because of a delay in the water permits required for the brook project, the work had to continue elsewhere to avoid increasing project costs.
There will be some weeks of unexpected lag time between the destruction of the old lot and the construction of the new lot on Green Street, but both the Mayor and Village Administrator Mike Blau have been assuring people that it's truly only a few weeks – contractors promise early September. They also say that new parking spaces will actually exceed the old.
Blau said there's 155 spaces being removed, with 167 on their way further south.
The now-controversial placement of things – basketball and tennis in the lot and a new commuter lot further south – never generated much debate at the time of the public meetings, said Fixell. He said about 15 to 20 people would show up for a series of meetings and he can't recall much dissent over the issue. This followed years of Planning Board, Board of Trustees, Recreation Advisory Committee, and Waterfront Advisory Committee meetings.
While Marks wondered why the project wasn't billed more as a "parking" project than a "park" one (and why not target announcements to commuters and nonresident users while they were at it), Fixell said they never saw it this way.
"I'm sure we didn't advertise it to non-resident commuters or to the commuter lot generally, but that goes back to how we viewed the project – once we figured out that we weren't going to significantly reduce the spaces, we didn't perceive the location switch as being an issue that deserved special attention," Fixell said. "But I do agree that if we had advertised it as such, the turnout and reaction likely would have been significantly different."
Blau said the Pierson Park rehab comes from a six-year planning process that took different forms along the way. From the earliest talks of the project, the idea was just to replace park existing amenities with the same. But, he said, the plans didn't work with expansion (and that is someday supposed to happen care of Hudson Harbor, who has been roundly silent on their intentions) as well the realization that tennis and basketball don't work so well with the wind. The plan, he added, was actually scaled back in the end to take away less of the parking lot.
It's the "further south" part of the new lot underway that has many upset. Blau agreed, their walk to their spots would be longer, but not significantly. Many feel as if they are being pushed further aside by courts that won't always be in use – especially in the winter months.
Marks wondered about their future usage at all. He also suggested a few creative solutions to the problem: tiered parking levels like White Plains has, appointed premium spaces like at airports.
"Between 8 am and 10 am weekdays, when hundreds of folks are searching for parking, the sight of that empty acre of recreational space will be VERY irritating," he said. "It already is."