GOLDENS BRIDGE, N.Y. – Geographically, Goldens Bridge is the western-most hamlet in the town of Lewisboro, but it certainly feels like the center of attention these days.
Two high-profile developments are currently being reviewed by the town’s Planning Board: the construction of a 46-unit affordable housing complex and a 40,000-square-foot expansion to Mercedes Benz’s existing buildings, as well as the construction of a new parking garage.
Members of the Goldens Bridge Hamlet Organization, a non-profit group of concerned residents formed in 2015, said their small community is changing, and they want a say in where it’s heading.
“We wanted to take control and shape our part of town because we felt that the Town Board wasn’t listening to us,” said Jonathan Monti, president of the organization that meets every two months at Increase Miller Elementary School to discuss issues in the hamlet.
Members said they would like to see a plan developed to make Goldens Bridge a more community-oriented hamlet. The affordable housing building and Mercedes Benz expansion, they said, are just two of the projects that they don’t feel mesh with the existing residential areas.
Monti said Goldens Bridge “bears the brunt of 19th, 20th and 21st century progress,” such as the train station, I-684 and cell towers. He said there needs to be a vision for Goldens Bridge, but that cannot happen until the town updates its master plan. He said the document that guides planning has not been revised since 1985.
“It’s very important to know where you’re going,” Monti said.
Supervisor Peter Parsons told The Katonah-Lewisboro Times that the master plan certainly needs a refresher, but said it is “not at the top of my agenda.” He said Goldens Bridge residents can have their voices heard by seeking opportunities on town-wide boards or organizations. Though many residents strongly identify with and lobby on behalf of their hamlets, he said, the town cannot afford to have a narrow view.
“The difficulty of being town supervisor is often getting this town to realize this is one town,” Parsons said. “It is not Vista, it is not Goldens Bridge, it is not Waccabuc, it is not South Salem, and it’s not Cross River. It is all of those together as one entity.”
Regardless, with two residents on both the Planning Board and the Town Board, Parsons said Goldens Bridge is well-represented in town government.
On top of sensible development, items on the hamlet organization’s agenda include a sound barrier protecting the hamlet from the noise of I-684 and the implantation of amenities such as sidewalks and social spaces.
“We’re really looking for all of the other benefits that all of the other parts of town have had,” Monti said.
The Katonah-Lewisboro Times asked New York State Department of Transportation officials if the feasibility of a sound barrier in Goldens Bridge has ever been investigated. Curtis Jetter, assistant director of communication, said federal noise regulations only allow for noise abatement studies as part of major new construction of highways and bridges, or reconstruction projects that significantly increase traffic on an existing road.
“As [New York State Department of Transportation] does not have a capital project at this location, we are unable to conduct a noise analysis at this time,” Jetter said.
Jim Moreo, though, said the Goldens Bridge Hamlet Organization is “much more than a sound wall organization.”
“We really are an organization that wants to improve the hamlet as a whole for everyone,” Moreo said.
He said Goldens Bridge has a rich residential and commercial history and should be developed as a “livable” community, and not just a place that’s known to commuters.
“We don’t want to come off as a bunch of complainers,” Moreo said. “We’re trying to facilitate improvement of the town.”
Mickey Di Nicola, a member of the organization, said, “We’re still a community, even though the highway runs down the middle of us.” She said there can be sensible development that fits with the character of the community, such as the Goldens Bridge Shopping Center off of Route 138.
“Why not make it a more inviting place to live?” Monti said. “We are 400 homes. We surround the highway and the train station. We really are a hamlet that’s not much different than Katonah, when you look at the infrastructure we have, when you look at the number of people, as well.”
The organization’s members said they were displeased that a town-owned building on Old Bedford Road, which once housed the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, was rented out two years ago to a commercial entity—the Katonah Art Center. The neighborhood, otherwise, is entirely residential.
Parsons, however, said the tenant was only chosen after a public meeting with Goldens Bridge residents.
“We held a meeting over there prior to that in order to ask them what kind of use they wanted for that building,” Parsons said. “The meeting was not as well-attended as it should have been, but the number one thing they chose was something to do with arts and culture.”
Monti, though, maintains that his organization’s “chief concern” is the “lack of involvement, sharing of information, transparency, or empathy” for the residents of Goldens Bridge.
The Goldens Bridge Hamlet Organization typically meets the second Wednesday of the month every two months. Its next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 12 at Increase Miller Elementary School.
Learn more about the organization at goldensbridgehamlet.org.