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Missing Part of the Renovate/Rebuild Discussion

letter-to-the-editorBelow find a letter from Greenacres resident Jeanette Warner:
Whether we spend up to $60 million on either to rebuild or renovate Greenacres School, the school board must determine whether it is possible to close Huntington Avenue between Montrose Road/Sage Terrace and Putnam Road.

Whether one is in favor of renovation or rebuilding, both plans would benefit by increasing the build-able space by closing the road separating the school and the park.

While there has been an occasional reference to the possibility of closing the road during the renovate vs rebuild discussion, the school board has not released to the public a thorough legal analysis of the possibility and benefits of closing the road.

In 2008, the school district did receive a legal opinion from Keane & Beane which concluded that there is no legal reason why the road cannot be closed, assuming certain criteria are met including a resolution of the Village Board of Trustees. Yes, there are legal hoops to jump through, but they are not insurmountable. The opinion letter outlines the legal steps which must be taken prior to closing the road. Basically, the Village Board of Trustees would have to determine that the road serves no useful purpose and pass a resolution requesting the Legislature to pass a Home Rule Letter.

What are the benefits of closing Huntington Avenue between Montrose Road and Putnam Road?

Primarily, increasing the buildable space for either renovation or rebuilding. The current footprint of the renovation plan as displayed by the architects at the June 22nd meeting has the renovated Greenacres School squeezed into the existing lot with brick walls soaring up within 8 or 10 feet of the street. The architectural features of the historic building are covered on three sides by the additions effectively hiding the charm of Greenacres School. And even with a 30$ million renovation budget, some features cannot be included due to lack of space. Likewise, by closing Huntington Avenue, the architects would have a larger footprint to rebuild the school. The new school could be designed without eliminating some the adjacent playing fields. In addition, the rebuilt school would be linked seamlessly to the playgrounds. The school would be incorporated into the park space symbolically joining the two functions and ideally healing the rifts that the rebuild/renovate discussion has caused.

Of equal if not of more importance is the benefit provided for the safety of the students. Each day, the students must cross Huntington Avenue to reach the blacktop and playground equipment for recess and physical education. Pick off and drop off are white knuckled times for the drivers when children dart in and out of cars. The architects' renovation proposal suggests relocating existing parking to the blacktop requiring the student to not only cross Huntington, but to weave their way through the parking lot to reach the field beyond, thus increasing the danger to the students and providing a smaller blacktop area for recess. By closing Huntington Avenue, the renovation could incorporate an attractive and safe area for pick off and drop off without eliminating any of the playing fields. Further, the layout for a new Greenacres school as presented at the June 22nd meeting does nothing to address the above safety issues. While the architect agreed to examine safety issues in its next revisions, any provision for a dedicated pick off and drop off space in the rebuilt Greenacres school would eliminate some of the playing fields thus decreasing the space for the students and the community to use the playing fields. Both the renovation and rebuilding options would benefit from the additional space to incorporate a safe and attractive location for drop off and pick up.

Both the Village Manager and the Village Attorney suggest that the threshold issue as to whether the road can be closed would be a safety/traffic study. Only with a traffic/safety study can the Village Trustees determine whether this portion of Huntington Avenue truly serves a useful purpose in light of the safety benefits achieved by closing. I've spoken to FP Clark in Rye, a planning consultant which has provided for the Village and School District traffic and safety studies in the past. From my conversation, a traffic and safety study would need to be done while school is in session. They suggest beginning no earlier than the third week of school when school traffic is normalized. With the intervention of the Jewish holidays, the study would be completed mid-October. Estimated cost of such a study would be around $8000.

Before the Village spends either $30 million on renovation or $60 million on a new building, the Village would benefit from learning whether Huntington Avenue can be closed. We need to take the final decision on the Greenacres rebuild/ renovate off the table while we determine whether it's possible to increase the buildable space and increase the safety of our students by closing the street. The delay is only a few months and the cost is very minor while the potential benefits, most importantly, the increase in safety of the children during pick up and drop off and recess is overwhelming.

Sincerely,

Jeannette Warner
6 Farley Road
Scarsdale

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