MAHOPAC, N.UY. - The revitalization of downtown Mahopac—the business district along South Lake Boulevard—has begun to take shape as town officials held their first meeting in conjunction with area residents in an effort to garner feedback and cultivate ideas for the project.
At the center of it all is the Swan Cove park and the creation of an adjacent municipal parking lot—something officials say is sorely needed for the overcrowded business district.
But the revitalization is more than just the park and the parking lot, as was revealed at the Dec. 5 meeting held at Town Hall. The meeting was led by members of the Town Board, along with the engineering department, the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee and members of the Chamber of Commerce.
“Downtown Mahopac needs to be revitalized,” Supervisor Ken Schmitt told the audience. “We need to do some things not only to address what we need now, but for the future as well. There is a tremendous lack of parking; we all know that. Sometimes you have to make three trips around the block to find a parking space. We have known that for years, but couldn’t make changes until we acquired property to create a municipal parking lot.”
Schmitt said the Swan Cove park project will require certain elements that are “absolute,” and others that will be “add-alternates,” which will be considered once the scope and cost of the project is determined.
“We want your feedback,” Schmitt said to the audience. “We want to hear from you about what you want this to look like.”
Somewhat at the center of it all will be the reconfigured traffic light that currently sits at the intersection of routes 6 and 6N. That DOT project is already in the works. It will push the traffic signal a little further up Route 6N so it will not only control the 6/6N split, it will regulate traffic going in and out of the municipal parking lot and the bank (both of which will have the same entrance and exit).
“Right now, there are difficulties with people getting in and out of there,” Schmitt said. “The current entrance for the bank drive-thru window will be sealed off. It was dangerous. You will now go through the municipal parking lot for that and exit the same way.”
Right now, the way it’s constructed, the parking lot next to the bank floods during heavy rains. Town officials say that will be dealt with when the new parking lot is built.
“People say, what about the flooding there? I have that thrown at me quite a bit,” said Councilman Mike Barile. “There are two ways of building that parking lot; you can raise it a little bit to have the runoff go naturally, or we can use the pump system. We are going to send it out [for bid] to see which one comes back cheaper.
“That [parking lot] property right now is a funnel [for water coming] off of Route 6,” he added. “If you look at the DOT plan, they’ve addressed that as well with new sidewalks, new curbs and a drain in front of the entrance.”
Barile said as far as the park itself is concerned, the cost will determine what gets in first, and what will have to wait.
“There are a lot of amenities people would like to see in the park, but until we get a full picture of the costs, the essentials will have to be done first—the parking, the bathrooms, the rec building and the bridge [connecting Swan Cove to Chamber Park].”
Barile said some of the ad-alternatives that have been bandied about include a fishing pier, a boardwalk and a small spray park.
The channel between the Chamber Park and Swan Cove will have to be cleaned out and replaced with aquatic vegetation, added Schmitt
“It really comes down to shovel after shovel after shovel and loading it onto trucks,” the supervisor said.
Dave Furfaro, chair of the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, presented some ideas that the Rec Department would like to see take place in the park, including outdoor theater productions, a movie night, and a temporary ice rink, as well as the town’s new farmers market.
The idea of so many activities in the park concerned some residents of Mahopac Point, which borders Swan Cove.
“I live on the Point, very close to that area, so I hear everything,” said Elisa Grotto.
Furfaro said the town was aware of the Point residents’ concerns and will take them into consideration.
“The needs of the community and the needs of the neighborhood—we are going to have to balance all that,” he said. “We don’t want to put anyone out. We are not going to stay out until two in the morning doing movie night.”
Point residents were also concerned about potential plans to build a dock where boats and kayaks could be tied up while their owners patronized area businesses. They also said they worried about safety, fearing that the park would attract the homeless, who could wander into their neighborhoods.
Margharita Chirurgi, a Point resident, said she was in favor of the park, but worried about the impact it would have on Mahopac Point homeowners.
“I think the park is a great idea. When it’s done it’s going to be gorgeous,” she said. “But we are right there, and you need to understand that. It opens the Point to a whole other element. As it is, we have people who don’t pay attention to our signs and walk in as they please. With the park coming in, where does that leave the Point as far as safety goes as far as more people walking through?”
Town officials said nothing was set in stone, adding that events would not run late into the night, and noted that the public restrooms would have raised doors so if anyone remains inside at night, it would be evident.
There will be other changes to the downtown area beside the addition of the park and parking lot. Cherry Lane, a side street that connects 6 and 6N, will be made a one-way street and include additional parking spots.
“Should that be a one-way street? I think the answer to that is, yes, it should,” said Schmitt. “There are issues there. If you try navigating Cherry Lane with cars parked on both sides, it’s virtually impossible to get through. By creating a one-way, we will be able to add more parking.”
Barile said which direction traffic will be allowed to go on Cherry Lane will be determined by the experts and with input from area businesses.
“We will go to local merchants, the Chamber. Everyone will have input. It’s a mess now,” he said.
The entire area will also get new lighting and wider sidewalks.
“Sidewalks will be widened, and the diagonal parking will be removed,” Barile said. “We have about 43 spots there now, and they will be replaced by 20 vertical spots with 10 more on Cherry Lane. We would only lose about 13 spots, but the new municipal parking lot will be a minimum of 90 spots, so it’s a net pickup of about 80-plus spots.”
Barile said the widened sidewalks will allow for outdoor entertainment and alfresco dining for restaurants.
The two crosswalks in that area will be eliminated, replaced by one larger one in the middle. The crosswalk by Crossroad Deli will remain and be upgraded.
“But the big thing is the intersection [of routes 6 and 6N],” Barile said. “It’s an approved DOT plan. We are hoping everything comes together at the same time—about a year-and-a-half to two years from now.”
He said the traffic light project will begin at the end of 2020 or early ‘21.
Town officials said they will continue to conduct more special meetings to receive input on the revitalization project and encouraged residents and area business owners to participate.