Panel Assesses Sleepy Hollow’s Needs and Offers Suggestions
by Robert Kimmel –
Among a special panel’s recommendations to the Sleepy Hollow business community and government was a “need to strengthen its outreach efforts to the new largely South American and Caribbean immigrant community and integrate them more fully.” That advice, in a report released last month, came from a Technical Assistance Panel (TAP), whose guidance was sought by Mayor Ken Wray and the Village Board of Trustees.
TAP’s aim was to offer “strategies to connect the new housing to the Village and encourage/incentivize investment in its downtown area that celebrates Sleepy Hollow’s diversity and history while welcoming new residents and not pushing out lower income households.”
The panel conducted a two-day study in mid-November under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) through its New York and Westchester/Fairfield District Councils.
TAP noted the pressures Sleepy Hollow was undergoing from its redevelopment activities; what “once was a factory town with blue-collar roots to an eclectic mix of modest homes and narrow streets…now [sits] in the shadows of the new, $5 billion-dollar bridge that will bring new traffic and economic development to its streets.” It also observed the development of Edge-on-Hudson a “luxury housing community across the railroad tracks from a low and moderate, largely immigrant neighborhood. “The redevelopment activities and pressures will reshape and impact the village long into the 21st century,” it stated.
Eight volunteer professionals and three ULI staff members drew their conclusions from interviews with residents and business owners, as well as “village leadership and community stakeholders.” Among those were neighboring Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell and Sleepy Hollow Police Chief Anthony Bueti.
TAP’s aim was to offer “strategies to connect the new housing to the village and encourage/incentivize investment in its downtown area that celebrates Sleepy Hollow’s diversity and history while welcoming new residents and not pushing out lower income households.”
Village leaders, it found, “want to encourage new retail businesses, and multi-family residential housing along Beekman Avenue…and rid the avenue of weedy vacant lots and sidewalks that are unattractive and in need of repair, that are adjacent to popular bars and restaurants. A mix of thoughtful new construction with adaptive reuse of neglected properties,” was suggested in the report. “The Mayor and community want to ensure that these efforts work in harmony with the village’s economic and cultural diversity,” it stated.
The report had positive descriptions for the schools, Warner Library and medical institutions. It described them as “strong anchor institutions and doing a good job of providing social and educational services to Village residents and establishing trust with the immigrant community.” Noting Sleepy Hollow’s “wide range of incomes,” the report proposed what it called “placemaking” as a means “of connectivity to appeal to a sense of pride that crosses demographic lines. Placemaking can also help unify long-established residents with newcomers.”
It described placemaking as “an intentional strategy of putting people first and about being unique and authentic… which the panelists believed “Sleepy Hollow has in its DNA. Sleepy Hollow’s challenge is to create centers of activity and to leverage existing cultural resources.”
In regard to the immigrant community, TAP reported that “many immigrants may be undocumented and fear arrest or deportation by immigration authorities.” It noted that “doubling and tripling up in many immigrant households is a problem creating potential health and safety issues.”
On another issue, it said, “Established businesses, such as restaurants and small property owners expressed frustration with code enforcement for existing buildings and permitting for new ones; the rules seem complex, unfriendly and processing for permits and inspections cumbersome and oftentimes slow.”
For better connectivity, the report said that, there are “opportunities for using smaller circulator buses that could be integrated and coordinated with the new Edge-on-Hudson project; so too with bike routes and bike share programs.” It also called for “adding green space where possible; enhancing wayfinding and better maintenance of sidewalks and street trees.” Noting Sleepy Hollow’s Halloween festivities, and “historical treasures,” it suggested that other events throughout the year can “inspire community involvement, attract visitors and bring greater vibrancy to the village.”
TAP also proposed the encouragement of “mixed-income housing, developing a common streetscaping plan that would connect Edge-on-Hudson to downtown, creating a pocket park that capitalizes on the Tappan Zee Bridge viewshed at the intersection of Beekman Avenue and Cortlandt Street, and enhancing the gateway at the intersection of Beekman Avenue and Route 9.”
Proposed items were divided between those actionable within one to five years and longer undertakings, five to 10 years.
From the ULI Panel report:
“The overarching goals were (1) to propose strategies to manage the change emanating from the large housing project and integrate it appropriately into the community and (2) to revitalize and incentivize development of the Village’s commercial corridor, Beekman Avenue and the housing in the lower income neighborhoods.”
It suggested “…using the Urban Land Institute’s extensive library of resource materials, such as “Building Healthy Corridors” and “Building Healthy Places,” that offer municipalities, businesses, not-for-profits, developers and community organizations tool kits of best practices. These resources can assist Sleepy Hollow in navigating the challenges ahead using its best and most important resource, its people.”
The report also stated, “Many commercial corridors and small businesses (with limited resources) work together to organize farmers markets, animate their streets with outdoor string lighting and activate vacant retail with pop-up shops or artist installations. A merchant’s association, art’s council or business improvement district are good vehicles for organizing such activities, and among the panelists’ recommendations.”
The volunteers work in small scale and affordable housing development, architecture, urban and environmental planning, economic development, traffic engineering, transportation planning, and historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Their pooled expertise brought insight to many of the cost, design, strategy and investment questions driving this TAP. TAP Chair: Kim Morque President, Spinnaker Real Estate Partners, LLC An architect: Shay Alster Partner, GF55 Partners Two traffic engineers: Adam Catherine Senior Associate, Stantec Lou Luglio Vice President, Sam Schwartz Consulting A project manager: Joanna Cuevas Senior Project Manager, Gardiner & Theobald A placemaking consultant: Andrew Manshel Principal, Placemaster Projects Advisory Services An economic development advisor: Christian Michel Senior Technical Director- Economic & Real Estate Advisory Services, AKRF An urban designer and the in-house counsel for a major design firm: LeAnn Shelton General Counsel, Rockwell Group Felix Ciampa, Executive Director of ULI New York, Mara Winokur, Director of ULI Westchester/Fairfield, and Kathryn Dionne, a Manager for ULI New York provided organizational and technical support in preparation for and during the TAP process. Special thanks to Alec Appelbaum, our TAP report writer and The Berman Group for providing support with the layout, design and production of this report.
“The Urban Land Institute (ULI) is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit research and education organization whose mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.