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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Tours the Rivertowns and Doles Out State Largesse

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September 3, 2023

By Jeff Wilson–

      Gazing out over the waterfront at the Tarrytown Marina, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie listened as village officials and Heastie’s colleague in Albany, 92nd Assembly District representative MaryJane Shimsky (who spearheaded the tour) explained the need to extend the dock into deeper water to avoid grounding Tarrytown’s Emergency Services Fireboat in low tide. This upgrade, which assures that the vessel can respond to emergencies more safely and effectively, will now become reality courtesy of a $150,000 grant the village had already received from the state.

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     Speaker Heastie was in the rivertowns on August 31 for the purpose of viewing and eventually funding (to the tune of $2.1 million in addition to the dock grant) various infrastructure projects in Tarrytown, Irvington and Dobbs Ferry. The intervillage trip would include a stop in Irvington, to view “Yesterday,” a new sculpture depicting an enslaved girl.

     Hesstie’s tour was delayed for three hours by an accident on the New York State Thruway on the western end of the Mario Cuomo Bridge that backed up traffic for 12 miles.

     Once in the rivertowns, Heastie’s visit was all business, with none of the ceremony that often accompanies a visit by a high-ranking official. This trip was all about infrastructure.

     After discussing the dock and the seawall – to be reinforced after dredging the marina (an idea that could be realized down the road but is not yet in the planning stages), the group moved on to the H Bridge. This heavily travelled overpass, Tarrytown’s only access to the riverfront for both vehicles and pedestrians, crosses the tracks just north of Tarrytown’s train station. It is as dilapidated as it is essential. Dan Pannella, the village’s chief engineer, gave Heastie a laundry list of needed repairs to the steel, concrete, I-beams and bearing plates needed to insure continued safe operation. The Speaker was sold, confident that the $500,000 earmarked for the project was “money well spent.”

     Mayor Karen Brown was elated. “I am thrilled to have secured these funds for our Village and thank Assemblywoman MaryJane Shimsky for going to bat for Tarrytown,” she enthused.

      Then it was on to Main Street in Irvington where Mayor Brian Smith joined Heastie, Shimsky and other officials as Sarah Cox, Chair of the Irvington Commemorate Committee, introduced them to the recently installed sculpture “Yesterday,” a figurative representation of an African girl once enslaved by local farmers. Cox stated that communities like Irvington must “serve as a model to other communities to grapple with their own history with slavery.”

Heastie examines “Yesterday” sculpture with Sarah Cox (left) and Shimsky

     Heastie followed the presentation intently, grateful for Cox’s gifts of a souvenir necklace (emblazoned with “Yesterday”) which he vowed to give to his daughter, along with an artistic pocket-sized brochure and map entitled “Slavery in Irvington.” The Speaker also raved about Cox’s summer peach cake (her Cajun grandmother’s recipe).

      Along with its past, Irvington is also focused on the future: electric cars. To that end, Heastie and Shimsky announced a $100,000 grant in support of the village’s electric vehicle charging station initiative.

     The Legislators eventually arrived in Dobbs Ferry, where they joined Dobbs officials and engineers in examining the bridge leading to the train station and the waterfront (Dobbs’ version of Tarrytown’s H bridge). Salt and water had damaged the underside of the bridge to the point where further erosion could result in its collapse. The structure had last been worked on in the 1980’s; engineers estimated the present cost of repair at $2 million. Although Heastie committed $1.5 million, Shimsky went one better. “Between the Speaker and myself, we’ll come up with $2 million [as a capital grant],” she promised the Dobbs contingent.

“We are are extremely grateful to Speaker Heastie and Assemblyperson Shimsky for awarding us the grant to repair the High Street bridge,” said Mayor Vincent Rossillo afterwards. “The Village is already facing a heavy financial burden in repairing/replacing key infrastructure.  This grant helps alleviate some of that burden.

The tour stops to examine deterioration on the underside of the Dobbs Ferry overpass

     In parting, Shimsky stated her philosophy of being proactive when it comes to maintenance. “We’ve got to keep things as good as we need them to be,” she asserted. “Often it’s simple fixes in Year One that prevent a world of hurt in Years Seven and Eight.”

     While Speaker Heastie ultimately holds the purse strings, Assemblywoman Shimsky’s role in targeting projects is critical. “Shimsky,” said an aide, “had worked with the village governments to identify areas of need and to make the requisite applications for capital funding from the State.”

     Shimsky, a first-term legislator, has already learned the importance of closing the deal by taking the Speaker into the field to sell him on the urgency of the proposals. “In arranging an itinerary for the Speaker’s visit to our district,” the aide continued, “it was important for us to show him how much the projects will benefit these communities – to maintain and update their infrastructure, improve resilience and sustainability, and help keep our Hudson River villages thriving.”

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