New Rivertowns Chamber Spreads Its Wings and Begins to Show Its Clout

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by Barrett Seaman – 

Nick Campbell has trouble saying “No.”

Having only just opened his insurance business in Irvington last year, he went to an event put on by the irrepressible Maggie Segrich, who was promoting the idea of forming a new four-village chamber of commerce in the river towns. Segrich had revived the Chamber of Commerce in Dobbs Ferry after she moved her bespoke jewelry business there from Irvington and was recruiting from neighboring villages in the belief that a consortium would have more clout than any single village chamber. When Campbell showed some interest, she immediately asked him to join her board.

Then Deputy Mayor Connie Kehoe asked him if he would run the 2018 Celebrate Irvington Day. Again, he said yes. Then Joyce Chapnick, Principal of Irvington’s Main Street School, asked if he would take on the task of building a new playground for the school, one that had been partially funded by an Irvington Education Foundation grant. Again, the answer was “Yes.”

The playground, to be built using volunteer labor in early June, is one of several projects taken on by the new Rivertowns Chamber of Congress, with chapters in Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings and Ardsley. When Maggie Segrich and her family moved to Texas this spring. she handed over leadership to the new chapter heads, which included Nick Campbell in Irvington, Michelle Adams, private dining manager at Hastings’ Bistro St. George, and Dennis O’Brien, proprietor of Celtic Corner Bar & Grill in Dobbs Ferry.

In a display of the new group’s potential clout, Michelle Adams put together a meeting of Warburton Avenue’s business owners, the Hastings Village Manager and Police Chief and representatives of Con Edison to persuade the utility to speed up a street repair project that had cut business traffic in half. By getting the village to approve work on weekends, they succeeded in getting the project finished up in time for the annual Memorial Day parade.

Campbell’s next challenge will be in pulling off an ambitious Celebrate Irvington Day on June 23rd. In addition to dedicating the playground, which features a teepee-like rope play structure called a “pentagode,” the day will hold a vintage car show, in which some 30-to-40 classic autos will be on display in the Main Street parking lot, an art exhibit, a mural painting, balloon sculpting, face painting, sidewalk chalk drawing, a tour of the fire department, a police fingerprinting demonstration, a band in front of Sunnyside Savings & Loan and food up and down Main Street. Eileen Fisher, who has been a major contributor, will open up her Labs on Bridge Street and offer a “Mindfulness Experience.” Student winners of a contest to produce the best public service video promoting pedestrian safety will be announced. A trolley, sponsored by the Historical Society, will shuttle celebrants up and down Main Street all day.

One of the roles the new Rivertowns Chamber has taken upon itself is to coordinate such events so that villages don’t compete with one another. They have already worked out a calendar for the fall so that Irvington’s Roctoberfest, scheduled for September 29, will not overlap with similar events in Dobbs Ferry and Hastings.

Promotion of such events and projects like the playground all fit the model espoused by the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, whose President and CEO, Mark Jaffe, has attended many of the new Rivertown Chamber’s meetings. “Businesses in a community can only be as good as the community itself,” said Jaffe, who is schooling the Rivetowns leadership in best ways to develop contacts with local and state governments. He notes that this is the first multi-town chamber in the area. With representatives from each village, they are forming committees—governmental relations, transportation and beautification, for example.

By year’s end, Campbell hopes the organization will have hired a new, paid executive director to take on day-to-day chores, as is typical of most chambers. To do that, he will need to meet another year-end goal, which is to double the group’s current membership of 106. Dues range from $75-a-year for sole proprietors to over $1,000 for large employers like Eileen Fisher.

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