Drive-thru loop may solve the problem
By Michael Turton
Garrison may be running a close second to Cold Spring when it comes to the frequency of issues that arise related to parking. Currently, Metro-North is undertaking extensive improvements to its parking lot at Garrison, causing some inconvenience, albeit in the name of a good cause — the end of very generous-sized potholes. Back in July, the Garrison Landing Association (GLA) erected signage reminding commuters that they are not allowed to park on its property west of the Metro-North tracks.
Unauthorized parking on the privately owned riverfront property has been a problem for years. In addition to more regulatory signage, a bright orange plastic fence was put in place to prevent vehicular access to the area located between the Depot Theatre and the building formerly occupied by Guinan’s Pub. Those steps were taken after warning letters from the Putnam County Sheriff and the GLA placed on the windshields of illegally parked cars failed to deter commuters looking for a bargain.
Recently, the plastic barrier has been upgraded, replaced by a more substantial wooden picket fence, a move that has pleased some, but not others.
Murray Prescott has lived at the Landing since just after filming of Hello Dolly wrapped up there in 1969. He has not been amused by the rogue commuter parking.
“I pay for my parking through my rent. Why should they park for free?” he asked. “It really gets jammed up down here.” Prescott also pointed out that commuters who park in the Metro-North lot on the opposite side of the tracks pay for parking through their ticket purchase.
Garrison resident Suzanne Willis recognizes that the illegal parking is an issue — but takes exception to the picket fence. “As an older person with a sometimes handicapped husband, it makes it much less convenient,” she said. “The turnaround space is woefully inadequate. It’s hard to get in and out without ending up on someone’s porch. And when the weather is bad, it makes it a much longer trek for older people.”
Peter Hoffman, GLA president, explained why the fence was installed. “We’re trying to eliminate parking down there. With the construction at the [Metro-North] parking lot, activities at the theatre and summer camp at the Garrison Art Center — people were parking everywhere,” he said.
Despite the fact that the Landing is privately owned, Hoffman said that behavior exhibited by people parking there illegally has been less than exemplary. “People have been rude,” he said. “They screamed at [GLA board member] Margaret O’Sullivan and at the Sheriff — saying we have no right to do what we’re doing. It’s private property. We do have the right.”
Hoffman also tried to put the issue in a larger context. “We want the goodwill of the community, and we want the Landing to be a pleasant place for the community,” he said. “We try to rent to those who will make it good — like the Art Center. We want no bad will. We got very upset when people accused of us having bad intentions.”
But Willis thinks that the fence goes too far. “I think civic-minded people would make it more accommodating for residents,” she said. “It seems a little arbitrary. There really isn’t anything going on down there — not yet.”
That is about to change. Plans call for a restaurant to be established in the old Guinan’s location, tentatively scheduled to open in 2013. “We’re hoping it will start soon,” Hoffman said. “There will be equipment and trucks down there during construction. It will be dangerous — just not a place to park.”
He also said that once the restaurant opens, it will use the area where parking is currently banned for customer parking. “And when the restaurant gets busy, people will have to use the Metro-North parking lot.”
With summer winding down, school just around the corner, and people returning from summer vacations, the number of commuters being dropped off at Garrison Landing each morning will soon increase significantly. There may be an interim solution in the works that will once again enable drop-offs closer to the train platform. When asked if GLA would consider creating a drive-thru lane which would still prohibit parking but allow vehicles to drive up close to the platform, Hoffman said, “We are definitely considering that,” adding, “but definitely no parking.”
David Lilburne, owner of Antipodean Books at the Landing, agrees that a drive-thru loop is the way to go. “That would be optimal at this stage,” he said. “There really are people who need to get closer to drop people off.”
Georgia Christy, a massage therapist whose office is located at the Landing, would no doubt welcome a more orderly flow of traffic. Christy’s car was recently hit by a vehicle as it backed out of a parking space, causing almost $1,100 in damages. The frustrating part for Christy was that both parking spaces reserved for her as part of her rent had been taken — forcing her to park next to her building. Had she been able to use either of her own parking spaces, the accident would not have occurred. In this case at least, the woman who hit Christy’s car paid for the repairs.
I do not believe The Garrison Landing Association is creating any goodwill in the community with this current barricade of access to Metro North. This action is taking place at a time when construction on the other side of the track just increases chaos and frustration for the community. Many of us drop off our children in the morning to go to school and commuters need access to get to work.
I have a few questions:
1. Considering there is an existing ramp on this side of the track, I wonder if Metro North does have legal access rights for its commuters from this side of the tracks.
2. I have never noticed a sign on this road that specifies this is a private road. If it is a private road, are the taxpayers here paying for snow removal and repair of this road?
The Garrison community has always supported the Art Center, Depot and activities at The Landing. Quite honestly this is not a neighborly way of resolving issues. If people park unlawfully, they should be ticketed just like at any other spot.
If The Garrison Landing Association sees fit to inconvenience the community even further, then maybe we need to consider our support of The Landing.
As a resident of Garrison who does not live in and is not part of the landing, I wholeheartedly support GLA’s position for the following reasons:
1. Users of Metro North repeatedly break the parking rules without any regard for tennants or commuters that pay for parking privileges.
2. Users of Metro North continually barrel down to the train ramp at excessive speed because they are “late” for the train putting residents and other commuters at risk.
These are issues of common courtesy that should be afforded to one another as citizens in a small town. GLA did what they did it seems out of frustration. Who can blame them for that? We moved from the city to avoid anonymous discourtesy. Bravo to GLA for taking action!
I have lived here 26 years and have always known that the Landing is privately owned. After Guinan’s closed, however, commuters apparently decided the space was theirs for the taking. I even heard of one instance — well before now — when a commuter told a GLA board member she intended to continue parking on the Landing even after being told it was not a public area. And apparently she was pretty rude in the process.
I regard GLA and Garrison Station Plaza as public-spirited groups that have performed the terrific service for this community of keeping the Landing and the riverfront park area open to public uses. I think it is great that we aren’t confronted with another condominium development or set of “Riverfront Shoppes” down there. If the area were in the hands of commercial entities, there would be a heck of a lot less public access and the character would …. well, let’s not even think about it.
I realize the issue is not just parking but also dropoffs and ramp access. It looks to me however as if there is enough room right now for a person or a wheel chair to pass by the edge of the picket fence on the west or river side. Or if not, another couple of pickets could be removed. Also, it sounds as if GLA may be willing to consider a further accommodation in the form of a loop or drive through lane.
So, I go back to the tremendous service I think GLA/ GSP have been and are performing for the community involving personal as well as economic contributions and sacrifice. When I think of that, I think “HMMM… if I decided to withhold support from GLA/ GSP, as one commenter has suggested, exactly what would I be withholding?”
It seems strange that the GLA would rather barricade the street and inconvenience everyone than tow the offenders. No one is defending the people who park illegally or are rude but that doesn’t make this reaction defensible, either.
I couldn’t believe what I saw when I attempted to drop off my wife at the train station this morning. We in Garrison now seem to have the only station on the Hudson Line that has barricades to prevent us from dropping off passengers. What an outrageous solution to a minor parking problem. What are these people thinking?