South Nyack and Tarrytown are adopting starkly different positions on hosting the work crews who will commute into the villages to start building the new Tappan Zee Bridge in March.
Tappan Zee Constructors, the consortium chosen in December to construct the $3.9 billion span over the Hudson River, likely won't face much opposition in Tarrytown.
But South Nyack's official point man on the megaproject said the consortium's plan to put a staging area for workers and equipment on land off Exit 10 of the New York State Thruway was unacceptable.
For years, residents have complained about the State Thruway Authority parking vehicles on the parcel, a few acres of no-man's-land encircled by highways and exit ramps in the center of the village, said Jerry Ilowite, chairman on the South Nyack Planning Board. Now the property figures to be a source of still more noise, pollution and traffic.
"The Thruway [Authority] has always ignored us on this," Ilowite said. "Now they are talking about it for the contractors as well. We are basically adamantly opposed to that."
South Nyack has little leverage to stop the company from using the parcel, Ilowite acknowledged.
Local laws don't apply to the Thruway Authority, which owns the land. And a spokeswoman for Tappan Zee Constructors, Carla Julian, said there were few if any other options for its workers and equipment.
"There is just not a room over there to really stage anywhere else," Julian said. "We understand their concerns completely. That Exit 10 area has been an ongoing issue for them."
Brian Conybeare, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's public outreach coordinator for the new bridge project, said the discussions with South Nyack village leaders are ongoing.
"As with communities on both sides of the river, we plan to work collaboratively with them to find mutually agreeable solutions as the process moves forward," he said.
But Ilowite said he and other town officials had an idea that might be recompense for the Thruway Authority's use of the property and its presence in South Nyack in general since the 1950s, when the state bulldozed the village center to make way for the Tappan Zee Bridge.
South Nyack officials want to build a commercial development at the base of the bridge that could include a deck over the Thruway to potentially serve as a public park, Ilowite said. The development would serve as an end point for sightseers who will use the bikeway and pedestrian paths that are planned for the replacement bridge.
The idea might seem overly ambitious, Ilowite said. But the new bridge design frees up space around Exit 10, he said. He added that he didn't see where bikers and pedestrians would enter or exit the bike path and walkway on the Rockland County side of the new bridge.
"Right now, it just dumps into South Nyack," Ilowite said. "When they talk about what a great benefit it is, we don't see it. Where are they going to park? They haven't discussed this with us."
Ilowite said a study to assess the feasibility of the commercial development and park above the roadway would cost around $400,000. Tappan Zee Constructors or the Thruway Authority could supply the funding, he said.
The state has received South Nyack's plans, Julian said. But she added that the idea was outside of the scope of the consortium's contract.
In Tarrytown, the village's liaison to Tappan Zee Constructors, Planning Board member David Aukland, said the consortium was considering a privately owned property on the riverfront as a staging area but had yet to make a final decision.
Workers could take Metro-North trains to the Tarrytown stop and then either board barges to reach the bridge construction sites on the river or buses that would take them to South Nyack to work. They also might use State Police property in the village. As a result, most workers wouldn't pass through Tarrytown's center.
Aukland cautioned that the village's board of trustees would need to approve the consortium's plans to park cars and equipment on the riverside. Current village bylaws don't allow for uses associated with a staging area for construction, he said.
But he didn't foresee big problems with Tappan Zee Constructors obtaining the approval, at least in the short term.
"We would want to go along with getting the bridge built," Aukland said. "Anything that isn't really intrusive we're going to find ways to enable with no trouble. There might be things down the line where we'll want to negotiate with them."