This letter is in response to the nostalgic proposal from Eric DiBartolo to make Commerce Street a one-way street. I have five major concerns with this:
- Public Safety: No seasoned fireman would say 17 seconds don’t matter. Every fire on the west and northern sides of the fire department will take at least an additional 17 seconds to reach. At some point in time, this will cost a building, a home or even a life. Fire poles were not invented because seconds don’t matter!
- Convenience: Unlike Katonah, where Katonah Avenue is a virtual dead-end street, Commerce Street is the main thoroughfare through town. Under the proposed change, anyone coming from east of town on Hanover Street would have to make an additional left-hand turn, two additional rights and a final left to travel to the west or a right, back into of town. When making all these turns, there is a much greater potential for mishap, particularly to any pedestrians crossing the street.
- Congestion: The increase in the amount of traffic making a left-hand turn from Route 118 to Crompond Road under this proposal at the busiest intersection in town will further slow down traffic. Already, the traffic from Route 35 is frequently backed up all the way to and even past Ridge Street at peak traffic periods and will probably get significantly worse when Costco opens.
- The “village-type feel”: Here is where the nostalgia kicks in. DiBartolo’s reference to Katonah is worth looking at again. In that village in the one-way section, which is approximately 680 feet, there are 36 storefronts or doorways on just one side of the street. These businesses include multiple restaurants, jewelry stores, galleries, etc.—many of the types of businesses that tempt browsers. By comparison, the area along Commerce Street is approximately 880 feet. Within this area, there are only 17 storefronts/doorways, as well as the Yorktown Cultural Center and a large professional building. And they are located on both sides of the street. There is an average of only six steps between doorways in Katonah as opposed to 30 steps in Yorktown, not including the steps to cross the street. Katonah needs the diagonal parking as there are only a few very narrow driveways. In Yorktown, every building has a dedicated parking lot eliminating any such need. Katonah was moved to its present site in 1897, well before the automotive era and that history has had a great influence on its present layout. Its population in the 2010 census was 1,679. Yorktown’s population in the same census was over 36,000, so it is reasonable to assume the traffic needs are somewhat different. And for the people who just like to walk, Yorktown already has great sidewalks and a popular track behind the six grade school.
- Makes no sense: The idea of eliminating the left-hand turn from Downing Drive onto Route 118 makes no sense. Do police records show this to be a dangerous turn? And as far as people finding alternate routes such as Kear Street, anyone coming from Hanover and heading toward Underhill Avenue can already turn left directly onto Underhill from Hanover, completely bypassing Commerce Street. The concern here is the probability that many of these potentially aggravated drivers will cut through the K-Mart parking lot, putting the many pedestrians at risk. While DiBartolo denies it, I can’t help but think this idea was included to curry favor with the pro Depot Square advocates.
Conclusion: It seems to me that this idea is based largely on the nostalgia that we all feel remembering back to simpler times, with no real basis in fact. The reality is that this will do nothing for business, and in fact more likely hurt it since access is everything. It will create a great deal of inconvenience and even some significant safety issues. It is clearly not in the best interest of most of the people of Yorktown and therefore should not even be tested.