After remaining vacant for more than two decades, the former site of Dino and Artie’s Automatic Transmission Co. will be transformed into a park.

The North Salem Town Council ordered an 18-foot-wide gazebo for the space last week and have a site plan that features plantings and a swing set.

Pam Pooley, vice chair of the North Salem Open Land Foundation, designed the layout of the nearly 1-acre lot, which will include a foot path around the gazebo, shade trees, benches, a pollinator garden, an area for native grass plantings, and a fence around the property.

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Hardscrabble Farms is donating the plantings.

“We just thought it would be nice, architecturally and visually, and highlight the area instead of just having something that looks like a lawn,” said Deputy Supervisor Peter Kamenstein. “We wanted something that would attract people and be practical.”
In designing the property, Pooley looked for ways to educate the public along with designing something useful and beautiful.

“We’re really interested in raising awareness of native plants to attract the butterflies and bees ... that are indigenous to the area,” Pooley said. “There is less and less land available to preserve these days and so we must go to more urban or municipal areas to create conservation places for people to enjoy nature and learn about nature.”

The town acquired the property in the ’90s when the owner fell behind on taxes, said Kamenstein, who’s also on the board of the North Salem Open Land Foundation. The town then worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up contaminated soil on the land.

According to DEC records from the time, the soil was “so saturated with flammable material that it caught on fire on more than one occasion.” 

During the turnover of the soil, nine underground storage tanks, three dry wells and more than 1,100 cubic yards of contaminated soil was removed. 

The cleanup was officially completed in 2011.

“The property is clean and has been tested every year,” Kamenstein said.

The site is located along Route 22 directly behind the Croton Falls Train Station. Making improvements to the site is part of a larger revitalization of Croton Falls.

“We’re spending a lot of energy and effort trying to spruce up the hamlet and make it more welcoming for businesses and shoppers and commercial enterprise and so we decided it would be nice to create a pocket park in Croton Falls,” Kamenstein said. “It’s the entrance to the hamlet and there is no other place in the hamlet where somebody can simply go sit down and relax during the daytime.”

Kamenstein said the project is expected to cost “in the neighborhood of $40,000 to $50,000” and the town will either take out a bond for the work or come up with the money in the general fund.

Meanwhile, the town is also involved in a project to replace street lights in Croton Falls with energy-saving bulbs that will change the glow of the light from a yellow to a white hue, improving the look of the downtown.

The idea that Croton Falls is just a commuter town is starting to change, Kamenstein said, and the town wants the area to reflect it.

“I know that many of the store owners in Croton Falls are anxious to see improvements in town,” Kamenstein. “We want to make Croton Falls a destination place.”