Hawley Smith recalled coal ash and lumber spread in front of his house near the Croton Falls Train Station 20 years ago. With the creation of a park and renovations of buildings, the area will be transformed into a center the hamlet can be proud of.
“It’s a lot better than it was before,” Smith said.
Supervisor Warren Lucas envisions the result of revitalization as a vibrant hamlet with businesses that are thriving, where people can experience open spaces and community programs.
“It will reinvigorate the community,” Lucas said. “We’re looking for ways to enhance the businesses and make the place more attractive.”
To do that, the town is beginning the process of creating a master plan for Croton Falls. Lucas recently wrote an initiative report for grant money, pinning the total cost for all the various projects at about $9 million.
The master plan will focus on improving the quality of life for residents and business owners by boosting infrastructure and green spaces, including parking lots, sidewalks, sewers, a park and a community center.
In the report, Lucas envisioned turning the old train depot into a community center, hosting events in the new Croton Falls Park and adding dozens of parking spots. These sites, he said, could host a variety of community programs, such as a farmers’ market and music in the park.
Formed in the early 1800s, Croton Falls grew rapidly as a transportation center after the metro station was built. However, the construction of Muscoot Reservoir forced many property owners to vacate in the 1890s, which left the area struggling, according to the initiative report.
Over the years, North Salem has improved the hamlet by replacing sidewalk lights, improving the quality of water and building a park at the former Dino and Artie’s Automatic Transmission Co. site.
Additionally, private investments by local business owners and residents have helped move the plan forward. Their efforts have rebuilt the Schoolhouse Theater, Lift Trucks Project and Railyard Arts Studio.
Lucas said, however, to continue the expansion, the area is in need of a well, a sewer system and more parking space. This needed infrastructure will allow businesses to expand and provide additional residential units and office space. The new parking would help to accommodate thousands of visitors, especially during peak apple-picking season.
To fund these projects, Lucas is hoping to get money mostly through grants, in addition to donations and tax revenue. Applications for three grants are underway. Additionally, donations from the North Salem Open Land Foundation and Lions Club have provided a gazebo, plants and fencing and will add a children’s playset to the park. The Boy Scouts built and planted the butterfly garden.
Lucas looks to complete the Croton Falls update in the town’s Comprehensive Plan in 2020.
“The challenge is always about funding,” Lucas said. “The trick is to make it very affordable for businesses and homeowners.”
Dawn and Tom Christopher, owners of the Lift Trucks Project, a 5,000-square-foot forklift factory-turned-art gallery, and a cellar restored in the old train station, are excited about the opportunities the project will bring to the community.
“[The town] planned a lot of activities, like the concerts and farmers’ market,” Dawn Christopher said. “That just draws more people in.”
Smith, who recently sold the old train depot to the town, hopes the character of Croton Falls will be preserved by the coming changes. In decades past, he recalled people greeting each other on the street and families hanging together.
“This place has an old charm, but it has a new charm that came in the last 15 years,” Smith said.