Monday, May 20th

Trustees Consider Repairs to Freightway Garage While They Search for a Better Plan

freightwayIt’s the eyesore that won’t go away. And in addition to looking unsightly the Freightway Parking Garage is badly in need of costly repairs. There are cracks on the structural slab and membrane, moisture is seeping through to the concrete slab and there are signs of corrosion. The top two floors are no longer in use and there are temporary supports in place to shore up the structure.

In 2019-20 the Village engaged proposals Village engaged proposals for Transit Oriented Development to transform the Freightway site and adjacent lots to a mixed use complex of residential and retail units and parking. The idea was to replace the garage, provide additional housing, add new vitality to the retail environment and even include community assets such as a dog park or a skating rink.

However, after vocal opposition from those who feared an increase in the school population, negotiations were shelved and the garage was left to rot in place.

Since 2020 no preventative maintenance has been done on the structure. At a work session of the Village Board on September 12, Superintendent Jeff Coleman warned the trustees that repairs would need to be made in order for the structure to pass inspections and remain safe for the parking permit holders who use it.

How much will it cost? He explained that $770,000 is already in this year’s budget for steel work and deck repairs and that another $3 million will be needed over the next five years to keep the garage operational. He called it “a combination of repairs and preventative maintenance.”

Trustees voiced concerns about spending considerable funds on a garage that will ultimately come down. They wondered what the minimum spend could be to keep the garage open while the Board seeks out information, data and proposals for a better use for the site.

They wondered how many of the parking spots are filled, what the future portends for commuting to the city and what other Villages have learned about Transit Oriented Development. Will there continue to be demand for station parking? How many children would a new development bring to the school district and would that increase be manageable? Can stormwater and traffic concerns be mitigated?

Trustee Ken Mazer said, “It looks like $10,000,000 in repairs are needed. How does this compare to the cost of a new garage?” Coleman said it would cost $20-$30 million to build a new garage in addition to the cost of demolishing the old one. He added, “It is better to spend the $10 mm over time than to spend $20-$30 million on a new one.”

Trustee Jeremy Gans was concerned about the long term. He said, “I can’t engage in this without thinking about the grand plan. 40 years ago it was called an eyesore. The figures we have before us are to restore this to the condition people didn’t like 40 years ago. It may be that this is best suited to be a parking structure. But we should think about how many spaces we need at the Metro North site.”

Trustee Randy Whitestone concurred. “This opened fifty years ago. How much do we have to put into this to keep it going? What are the best uses of the site without the structure?”

Trustee Dara Gruenberg asked, “How long do we have to consider this before the garage is dangerous?” Coleman responded, “There is a narrow window – we know we have to do something today. Even if you made a decision today it won’t be implemented for years – we need to design it, get approvals and build it. We have a responsibility to do this $3 million investment. Today some parking spaces are closed. We need to make repairs now so that it’s not dangerous.”

Referring to the survey report done in 2020, Coleman said, “I would propose staying on track with Desmond’s proposal until we have a grand plan or else we will start losing parking spaces in that garage.”

Mayor Justin Arest agreed, saying, “I think we have to do what is needed to keep it open. “

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The question turned to timing. Whitestone said, “We need to buy time until we have a bigger plan. Gans added, “If it takes five years we’re spending $5 million to keep this operational. The sooner we can make the decision the more efficiently we are able to spend our money. How do we start to get to a plan?”

Raising the possibility of reopening the discussion of a Transit Oriented Development Project Mayor Arest asked, “What were the impediments to development? School population, stormwater? I think we have an obligation to start the conversation again. We have a good relationship with the schools now. Let’s look at the school impacts in neighboring towns.

Referring to Governor Hochul’s proposal to build additional housing along the Metro North corridor, Gruenberg added, “We also don’t know what is going to come down from Albany.
And Gans said, “We have the opportunity to do it our way. It is something we discussed and it happens to coincide with certain people in Albany.”

Concluding the discussion, Arest said, “We have a meeting with the schools soon. This could be part of the conversation. We need to work with our Village Planner and our Superintendent of Public Works to get information about parking, stormwater and traffic. Everything can be fixed. It is just a question of money. We deserve to have those answers before we take a next step.”

Commenting on the discussion, Susan Douglass from the Scarsdale Forum said, “It doesn’t seem wise to spend $7 to $10 million when we should be moving forward on a plan. Nothing has been done since the last plan was turned down. The Forum is meeting to come up with some ideas on what could be done.”

Former Village Trustee Lena Crandall said, “I was a Village Trustee when Freightway was being considered. Is there a way to find out what incentives Albany might offer? It would also be good to know what other requirements they may make for affordable housing.”

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