Almost a year to the day after Police Chief Chris McNerney told the Edgemont Community Council that he believed construction of sidewalks were needed to make it safe for Edgemont children to walk to and from their elementary schools, the Town released a feasibility study putting the cost to make that a reality at $1,162,360.
Installing a sidewalk only on Seely Place between Ardsley Road and Seely Place Elementary School – which worried Edgemont parents have been requesting for at least the past ten years – was estimated to cost $258,260 of that $1,162,360 for what would only be 950 linear feet of walkway.
The feasibility study documented with glossy photos and traffic counts the public safety need for sidewalks on Seely Place, as well as along Ardsley Road from Central Avenue to Seely Place, and to make it safer to walk to Greenville Elementary School, along Ardsley Road from Central Avenue to Highland Road, and along Fort Hill Road – but only from Ardsley Road to Longview Road.
The study, which cost the Town a total of $20,000 and included the results of a survey this past summer of Edgemont residents which strongly favored efforts to make Edgemont more pedestrian-friendly, also recommended several state and federal sources where funding might be available to pay for the sidewalks.
Town officials meanwhile met Friday with representatives from the Cotswold and Old Edgemont civic associations and said they would recommend proceeding for the time being only with the one sidewalk proposed for Seely Place.
No one from the Fort Hill and Longview sections of Edgemont was invited to the meeting and no explanation was given as to why the sidewalks the study said were needed for walking safely to and from Greenville School were deemed less of a priority by town officials – particularly since federal and state grants would presumably be applied for to pay for them.
Because Edgemont is not an incorporated village, it must rely exclusively on the Town to apply for such grants.
Mr. Feiner also held out the possibility that he would include the Seely Place sidewalk in his capital budget for the Town — but that is something that Mr. Feiner would not be putting together until the spring of 2016 at the earliest and is a promise that could soon be forgotten.
In the meantime, the longer the Town puts off constructing sidewalks needed in Edgemont for public safety purposes the more expensive the installation of such sidewalks is likely to be. The feasibility study documented repeated instances where existing conditions have deteriorated so substantially in certain areas particularly along Fort Hill Road that there is no safe place at all for children to walk to or from school.
The Town meanwhile is boasting of its efforts to construct sidewalks in locations outside of Edgemont, claiming that 1.6 miles of new sidewalks “have or will shortly be built.”
However, none of these sidewalks are in the vicinity of any schools, all are being paid for by developers as part of the Town’s ad hoc program of requiring the construction of sidewalks as a condition for granting approval of projects and, as if to underscore the unusual hurdles Edgemont must jump over to get anything from the Town, none of those other sidewalks required a “feasibility study” to document the health and safety needs that Chief McNerney pointed to when he told the ECC last year that sidewalks in Edgemont were needed.
After Chief McNerney said last year he was recommending to the Town Board that sidewalks in Edgemont be built, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner promised to support the effort, but at a town board work session in early December, town board members, including Mr. Feiner, said no sidewalks would be constructed in Edgemont at all unless and until Chief McNerney first analyzed the need for sidewalks in all nine schools districts that serve unincorporated Greenburgh.
When Edgemont leaders criticized Mr. Feiner for reneging on his promise, town board members the following month agreed to support a sidewalk feasibility study that was limited to the Edgemont school district.
Whether the Town’s release of the study means Edgemont is one step closer to seeing any sidewalks constructed at all remains to be seen. Many residents are skeptical that Mr. Feiner will do what is necessary both politically with his colleagues and financially with his budget to get any sidewalks built in Edgemont at all and think he is just interested in issuing “feel-good” press releases telling Edgemont residents he wants them built — without actually building anything.
The ECC first began advocating for a sidewalk on Seely Place in 2004, but the ECC’s efforts were blocked by Mr. Feiner who personally went door to door on Seely Place to urge residents there to oppose the construction of any sidewalks, warning them that not only would they lose any shrubs in the Town’s right of way where such sidewalks would be built, but they would be legally responsible under Greenburgh law for removing any ice or snow on them after a storm.
Mr. Feiner also said at the time that if Edgemont wanted sidewalks to make it safer for their children to get to and from their elementary schools, Edgemont would pay for such sidewalks itself – and not put the burden on the Town.
Last fall, though, Mr. Feiner said he had changed his mind and now favored the construction of sidewalks if the police chief felt they were necessary for public safety.
But whether Mr. Feiner is willing to do more than just say he is now in favor of sidewalks when he used to be against them remains an open question.
Parents who wanted sidewalks on Seely Place back in 2004 have now seen their children graduate from Edgemont Junior Senior High School, and time will tell whether a new generation of Edgemont parents see the same thing happen with their children.