Editor's Note: The below letter does not necessarily represent the views of Patch media.
Next time you to go to Citibank, Starbucks, Ann Taylor or the Larchmont Playhouse—or any of the shops that are still open in Larchmont’s Palmer Avenue business district—take note of the sidewalks and street lights. Ask yourself whether or not it is worth spending well over $2 million to replace those sidewalks and change the light poles. Actually, there are several more questions that you could ask about the upcoming “transportation enhancement” project about to get under way in Larchmont:
- When the project was designed, were a variety of potential improvements that could be made to the Palmer Avenue business district considered?
- Does the project result in a substantial improvement to local public transportation?
- Will bus routes that pass through Larchmont better link to the MetroNorth train station and each other?
- Will train station pedestrian safety be improved?
- Will access to the train station be improved?
- What will the project do to promote the vitality of the business district?
- Will business district parking be improved?
- Will access for the disabled substantially improve?
- Is the current street lighting inadequate?
- What is the remaining useful life of the existing sidewalk?
- Will the sidewalk on the north (Starbucks) side of Palmer Avenue be widened to help attract customers to local stores?
- Will any new public space be created?
- Will the project create a distinct sense of place and destination?
- Is the project a good use of taxpayer money (defined here as Larchmont and federal taxpayers)?
It had been my contention when I was a Village of Larchmont trustee (2007-11) that this project is ill-conceived. Although over a quarter of a million dollars was spent on top flight planners, the expensive consultants’ remit boiled down to “consider two cases: 1) do nothing or 2) replace what’s already there.”
The upcoming project fails by almost any measure to substantially improve the Palmer Avenue business district. The project is going to lock the area into another 45 or 50 years of having essentially the same infrastructure it has had for the past 50 years – without even considering what could have been done to improve it.
To be fair, the majority of successive Boards of Trustees have voted for the project. Some argued that to pass up a $600K federal grant that required less than $200K in in-kind local matching funds would be folly.
But that begs the question why Larchmont is not now undertaking an $800K project. The question that remains is “How could the village burden its local taxpayers with a large bond obligation without even considering what more could have been done to improve the Palmer Avenue business district?”
So, the next time you get out of the passenger side of your car in front of the theater, and get your nice shoes all muddy, or the next time you dodge traffic at the train station crossing Chatsworth Avenue, or the next time you cannot find parking near Palmer Avenue, or the next time you have to walk a block or two from the bus stop to the train station or transfer to another bus, remember – Larchmont has decided to spend over $2 million of your taxpayer money without addressing your needs.
- Richard Ward, Former Village of Larchmont trustee