Yorktown town officials, state representatives, big and small business owners and stakeholders, as well as residents gathered for a roundtable on Thursday to discuss plans for of Route 202 and how to address traffic, drainage and wetlands issues in the area.
"The Route 202 corridor to me is the area of decades of what has been the plight of Yorktown, the poster child for what has been a lot of inaction over decades," Yorktown supervisor Michael Grace said. "That road has never changed and the problems have always been the same and they need to be addressed."
The purpose of the meeting was to open up a dialogue between the business owners, town, county, state and federal officials about the business development of the area between the Taconic State Parkway and Lexington Avenue.
Grace said stakeholders are looking to make major investments in their properties. Through the dialogue businesses could express what they want to see happen on Route 202 to make themselves viable. The town is also looking for high quality and high end commercial development, Grace said.
Some of the issues that need to be addressed on Route 202, which is state road and Yorktown doesn't have jurisdiction over, are traffic and drainage.
"[Route] 202 suffers from a compromised and very difficult traffic situation and the water quality issues that are nearby," Yorktown planning director John Tegeder said.
Grace said the town has a "unique opportunity" to receive public and private money to invest into Route 202 to make it viable and something that everyone could be proud of.
The town generating more tax revenue, creating permanent and temporary jobs and managing the infrastructure to enhance the economic development were some of the advantages officials discussed about fixing the Route 202 corridor.
"The time really is now, as the supervisor and others said, to really jump on this wagon and try to get something moving here," Tegeder said.
The town is also proposing a 4-6 lane section of highway from Strang Boulevard to just beyond the Bear Mountain Parkway. A center left turn lane is proposed for the remainder to Lexington Avenue to make it easier for people to get to the businesses along the corridor.
Large projects, such as , , Crompond Crossing and the , are already for Route 202. Representatives from these projects as well as other businesses that would be affected by the changes Route 202 attended the meeting. A representative from the Staples shopping plaza addressed concerns from residents and explained why bringing in more business is needed.
He said they do have mixed feelings about BJ's possibly losing some business because of Costco, but in the big picture, he said, retailers want to be in an area that has other businesses. An example he gave was the Bed Bath and Beyond store that moved to the Cortlandt Town Center once its lease in Yorktown was up.
Yorktown resident Jennie Sunshine, who is a member of the non-profit organization, said she was concerned about increasing traffic on Route 202 and big stores driving the 'mom and pop' business owners out of business.
Bill Gorton, acting regional director for the state Department of Transportation (DOT) spoke about various issues and challenges that were brought up, including funding projects, the Bear Mountain Parkway extension project, traffic and stormwater planning.
Thomas Sung, who has served on New York City economic development board for three years and has worked on Times Square along with former mayor Rudy Giuliani, offered an insight into how to be successful in development.
"The government has to be in frame of mind of pro-development," he said. "I don't like to use the words pro-business because when you say pro-business, then there is the opposite side of 'You're not pro-resident.'"
Pro-development, he said, means that in the process of developing business, you're also taking care of the residents.
Those in attendance of the meeting expressed their support of developing the Route 202 corridor. Al Cappelini, attorney and former town supervisor, said the existing problems were not a reason to deny a project, especially when people who are promoting it are willing to improve the situation.
"These problems have existed for years and no one has taken care of it, or the treasury wasn't there to do it," he said. "Development is not something that should be perceived negatively. It's a positive thing. Take the opportunity. You have it now.”