The Clarkstown Planning Board and other Clarkstown officials continued discussions with Simon Property Group, Inc. on the transformation of the Nanuet Mall into ‘The Shops at Nanuet’ at a Planning Board meeting Wednesday night at Clarkstown Town Hall.
Representatives that spoke about The Shops at Nanuet:
- Chuck Schneider, senior civil engineer for Simon
- Ira Emanuel of the Law Office of Ira M. Emanuel, P.C. in New City
- Sam Fattah, vice president of project management for Simon
Clarkstown Consultants present working on the plans with Simon are
- Jose C. Simoes- Town Planner
- James Creighton - Assistant Town Planner
- Charles Maneri - Clarkstown Building Plans Examiner
- Dennis Letson, Clarkstown - Deputy Director of Environmental Control
- Daniel Kraushaar – Deputy Town Attorney
Simon plans to change the Nanuet Mall into The Shops at Nanuet, an open air Main Street concept. “We’re trying to replicate a downtown experience … in a contained space,” said Schneider.
Read more about these changes in this detailing the October informational meeting. Check back with Patch later for more follow-up articles on Wednesday's meeting.
During TAC, Emanuel said that the major discussions between Simon and the consultants dealt with traffic flow, specifically “Configuration of the main entry drive into the site and impact of diagonal parking on the main street.”
TAC is the Technical Advisory Committee part of the Clarkstown Planning Department that is chaired by Jose Simoes. In these meetings, TAC evaluates the technical adequacy of all applications to Town agencies concerned with planning.
The main entry to the Shops at Nanuet is the current traffic light on Route 59 opposite of the Rockland Shopping Plaza. Upon entering, consumers would drive a short distance before having to make three choices: right or left to the ring roads or straight onto the ‘Main Street.’
“Concerns that were raised initially … was traffic (backing up) into Route 59,” said Emanuel, adding that both County and Clarkstown Planning Departments. “Probably the best way to deal with this is to take that entry drive and expand it from two lanes to three lanes. This way—instead of having one right turn lane and a combined thru-lane and left turn lane—each movement would have its own lane.”
“If somebody comes in here and needs to make a left turn, they do not hold up the thru-way movement,” said Schneider. “
“It’s a big improvement,” said Shirley J. Thormann, chairperson of the Planning Board.
Simon asked for an override of the comment from the county planning department.
“We think this (third-lane addition) is a very good solution and addressees the concerns,” said Emanuel. The County Planning Board recommended two different solutions before the third-lane addition was discussed or decided upon.
“The two recommended solutions that they had was one to make the ‘Main Street’ pedestrian only and the other is to take that entry drive and offset it from the ‘Main Street (so that traffic doesn’t naturally flow into the pedestrian-congested ‘Main Street,’ but around to the ring roads,” said Emanuel. “We’re going to ask that that there be an override of this particular item. We believe this meets the spirit of what they were trying to accomplish, which is to minimize or eliminate the chance of bleeding back into Route 59. It addresses (the problem), but not in the way it was suggested.”
Kraushaar read the comment from county:
One of the main entrances to the site from NYS Route 59 is aligned to traverse directly into the more constricted shopping area: the ‘Main Street’ of the proposal. This through-road, between shops, will have both vehicular and pedestrian circulation traffic volumes. Vehicles driving through this section will have to wait while pedestrians cross the road or while vehicles maneuver into and out of preferred parking spaces.
Because the roadway is aligned directly into this high-traffic area, congestion delays could occur backing traffic up into the state highway. In addition, funneling traffic through this high pedestrian area may result in conflicts and create safety issues. The applicant should consider several redesigns of the circulation for the site.
The letter then goes on to list the two suggestions Emanuel stated earlier.
“We don’t override unless we feel we have properly addressed the safety concerns,” said Thormann.
Letson clarified that the letter does not raise a concern about safety for pedestrians or vehicles, but the possibility of traffic backing up onto Route 59.
The board discussed the fact that the county’s comment is worded as “should consider” and not “shall consider.”
“It’s a safety issue with what they’ve done,” said Planning Board Member Mary Jane O'Connor. “Do our consultants feel that this addresses the need?”
“Yes it does because one of the comments they made is to allow the circulation around the shops as a whole,” said Letson. “Now you have two dedicated turn lanes that will allow traffic to circulate around to the parking fields if the straight ahead movement is backed up or delayed.”
“We also agreed to participate in the post-occupancy traffic assessment along Route 59 so that if for some reason, the timing of the lights need to be changed, we’ll find that out at a fairly early stage,” said Emanuel. “That will further refine what we’re doing and further reduce that there will be a problem.”
“Right now everything is guesswork. You can do so many models of cars and traffic and studies of pedestrians,” said Planning Board Member Peter E. Streitman. “What happens if the worst case scenario happens where (Route) 59 becomes a complete parking lot because the mall is a very attractive and people want to go and there are consumers are everywhere turning into a Times Square type of thing.”
Steitman asked if there’s any possibility of making the ‘Main Street’ a pedestrian-only area in the future after everything is complete and if this back-up traffic problem occurs.
“We’re pretty comfortable with the studies that have been done,” said Emanuel. “This has been done before. We don’t think that there is going to be a problem. The day after Thanksgiving? You may have a little (back up). But is there going to be a significant issue? My engineers tell me ‘no’ and your engineers tell me ‘no.’”
Emanual added that the majority of shoppers coming in at that entry will be making a right or left turn to avoid traffic and the possibility of not finding an available diagonal parking spot.
“So it’ll only be the die-hards that don’t want to walk that will go onto the ‘Main Street,” he said.
"We're going to have to get together and create a resolution for the overrides," said Simoes, adding that the board will meet the following Wednesday for more discussion and to vote on the resolution.
Their next discussion is Jan. 25.
To read more details about the plans for the Shops at Nanuet, check out this four-part series from October 2011:
Check back with Patch later for more follow-up articles on this meeting.