Proposed Somers Public Safety Center Wins Key Approvals

It is anticipated that the Somers Fire District will take ownership of a 12-acre parcel near the current State Police headquarters on Route 100. Credits: Google Maps

SOMERS, N.Y. - A new “downtown” firehouse—which would also provide a command post for emergencies and, not incidentally, guarantee a continued state police presence in Somers—passed a key regulatory hurdle last week.

The planning board, in a 5-1 vote, approved IBM’s sale of land, now home to the state police barracks on Route 100, to the Somers Fire District. Fire officials look to build a public safety center there, replacing their half-century-old firehouse on Route 202 and providing expanded space for the state police.

Carved from more than 160 acres that IBM owns in the area, the 12-acre parcel is already in contract to be sold to the fire district for an undisclosed sum. The subdivision approval allows the district to close the deal, an action expected in the next couple of months. The project must then win two critical approvals: the planning board’s on every detail of the new facility and the public’s, on a bond to pay for it.

Sign Up for E-News

With extended municipal reviews on tap, Somers’ top fire official said in an interview that a referendum could be a year or more away. “Government doesn’t move fast,” said John Markiewicz, chairman of the board of fire commissioners, noting that the project must undergo further regulatory scrutiny by town, county and New York City bodies as well as two state agencies. “You get done with one and then another says, ‘Oh, by the way, you need to do this, you need to do that.’”

Such detailed inquiry, while necessary, is also expensive, Markiewicz warned. “All of the nuances and bureaucracy and everything else are going to cost the taxpayers,” he said. “We’re not a developer coming in. We’re not going to pass it on to our tenants.”

Among those tenants are likely to be the state troopers who now occupy what they call a too-small, 3,000-square-foot structure on the same Route 100 property. Unhappy with their quarters, leased from IBM, the state police have talked about locating elsewhere. Now, Markiewicz said, state police brass have embraced the safety center, with some 7,000 feet set aside for the troopers’ operations.

“By us doing this,” the commissioner said, “we’re going to ensure the state police in the town for a number of years. Whatever the number of years on the lease is, that ‘s the number of years they’re going to be in town.”

In addition, if Somers is hit with a hurricane, snowstorm or other calamity, town officials—the supervisor, highway superintendent, chief of police and others—could use the building as a central command post, linked to the world and each other by phone, computer and radio.

The new quarters would replace a firehouse on Route 202 near the Somerstown Center shopping complex. “The building’s too small,” Markiewicz said of the existing structure. “Ten years down the road, the building’s going to be totally non-functional. Before we get to that point, we want a building that’s going to get the fire district through the next 50 to 60 years without having to worry about it.”

Plans call for the building being left behind on Route 202 to be donated to the town for use as a community center. Besides being too small for the firefighters’ needs, Markiewicz pointed out, the current downtown firehouse does not have an ambulance. In an emergency at, say, nearby Heritage Hills, an ambulance must now be dispatched from the fire department’s Lincolndale headquarters. “We’re going to put an ambulance in the [proposed] new building.”

The Planning Board moved the building a step closer to reality with its Jan. 11 vote to authorize subdividing 12 of IBM’s 166 acres. Board member Eugene Goldenberg cast the lone dissent, arguing that the environmental impact on IBM’s entire tract—including wetlands, ponds and streams—be considered before the subdivision approval was granted. The town’s Open Space Committee had urged a similar holistic approach in an October memorandum.

But Joseph Barbagallo, the consulting town engineer, said that ecological concerns will be fully addressed in forthcoming site plan reviews, a position endorsed by a board majority in separate 5-1 votes on both environmental and subdivision issues.

Markiewicz later pointed to that protracted Wednesday evening debate, with his professional consultants’ billing clock running, as an example of the expensive regulatory gauntlet a project faces. “Talking for an hour cost me an hour’s time with my attorney and my architect that the taxpayers are going to pay for,” he said.

“We’re here to provide a public safety center for the residents of the town of Somers at the least possible cost. And the more they talk,” Markiewicz said of the regulatory oversight this project faces, “the more they delay, the more they want to meet, the higher the cost is going to be.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


This can't be happening to me

Several years ago, as part of an assignment for Linda Spear’s writers’ workshop, I began developing a short story. With a dear friend’s permission, I wrote of her long-ago troubling encounter; again, with her permission, I am sharing it with you. I wrote it in the first person, and all names, some facts and locations were changed to protect her privacy.

Hitting the road, Part I

Nothing captures the imagination of the American traveler like a good old-fashioned road trip. It reminds me of when I was a kid, packing the car for our annual family trip to Atlantic City. My primary function was to complain that there was not enough snacks and Hawaiian Punch to last the epic three-hour journey. I remember these trips as a lot more fun than they probably were, partly because I ...

A gentleman and a gentle man

My father crossed the River Styx in his 92nd year. He did not go gentle into that good night, but after diagnosing his own problem, fought to keep his promise to my mother and not leave her alone after nearly 70 years. He was a lateral thinker and lucid to his last breath.  

My parents were very private people who shared seven decades of being together, not only as husband and wife but ...

Competing—Against Yourself

This is the time of year when students are recognized at public ceremonies for notable achievements in their studies, their sports and in their extracurricular pursuits.

Where we live, there are awards in various sports that are named for our son, who also is memorialized by town ballfield Harrison Apar Field of Dreams and a charitable foundation of the same name.

Due to a rare dwarfism, ...

I Come from the Land Down Under

I know this is a family column, so I’m going to put this in as delicate terms as possible.

This morning I woke up and I knew, as sure as the sun shines over Bora Bora, that something was very, very wrong in that place in my body where the Bora Bora sun doesn’t shine.

It’s that place I used to refer to my daughter as her hoo-hoo. But it certainly wasn’t a happy ...