To the Editor:

This morning, I read with interest the article about “Bridge Business.” First of all, I commend all who are bringing this much-needed replacement bridge to Rockland County. I also urge Mr. Samuels to step up to support of rapid transit to Suffern. There is great untapped potential in Suffern that could support job-growth very well.

I agree more opportunity other than shopping needs to be offered to attract the world to support ridership to Suffern/Rockland County. I suggest high-level tourism as supported by a concert shell/performing arts center and the world-class 200,000 sf/$50 million museum/cultural center already in design by the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation that could be sited in the Union Hill quarry could well be the draw that is needed; the draw that could support well the economy of Rockland County for generations to come.

In 2012, I met Mr. Samuels at the FHA/TZB hearing at the Palisades Mall, where I cited the astounding statistics given to me by a senior marketing consultant for the US Dept. of Commerce, that in 2010, 33% of all international tourists to the US, went to NYC where they spent $42 billion or 19% of all monies spent in the city; that they comprised 37% of pedestrian traffic, as well as 51% of hotel usage. This man, Mark Brown, also commented, “They do fan out.” I suggest Rockland needs to do all it can to pull them in.

I also urged any new rapid transit station be constructed on the Chestnut St. parking lot in Suffern, citing the contributions of my ancestors to the transportation initiatives of the Erie Railroad and Nyack Turnpike – right-of-way across their land was essential. I feel their contribution should continue to be honored in Suffern. The MTA bus lot is adjacent and already is over parking capacity. If this garage were constructed, it could incorporate the Trader Joe’s grocery everyone wants, as well as a dry cleaners, coffee shop, etc. to accommodate commuters. If it had enough stories to afford the spectacular view of the Empire State building from the roof, a restaurant could be built there, perhaps in collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America to assure quality/economic viability.

In 2008, I learned of a plan then on the books in Suffern to erect six 6-story high-rise buildings across from the train station in Suffern, a concept that is an absolute horror to me. I have been advised by the Ph.D head of the University of TN’s School of Community Economic Development that especially in a small landlocked place like Suffern, it is the tourist dollar that is to be pursued; that tourists come, spend money and go home without taxing infrastructure like schools and sewer systems.

Suffern already is “on the map” from a tourism perspective since it already is a designated gateway to the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area (HRVNHA) and is included on the new NPS Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. (WARO) At the same conference where I met Mr. Brown, I heard a presentation by Marci Ross of the MD Dept. of Tourism who cited the strength of tourism where a NHA and a NPS Trail meet as is the case in Suffern.

The head of each of these organizations has met with me in Suffern and each offers support for a “welcome center” there.

At the present time, the highest concern associated with the Union Hill quarry is flood remediation for Suffern, but it should be possible to meet this need as well as to construct there a concert shell/PAC – it is known the acoustics of quarries are so good, microphones are not needed. The Union Hill quarry is almost a replica of Dalhalla in Sweden, although it might be better to put seating on the long-axis of the UH quarry. A stage could float. images dalhalla

The NY Philharmonic Orchestra was and may still be looking for a site to be its permanent summer home. At 30 miles from NYC, Suffern might be their choice if a PAC were built. I did contact the assistant to the executive director of the NY Philharmonic in November 2012, and have sent a packet of information to her about Suffern, but have heard no follow-up. The NY City Ballet Company expresses interest as well. When they perform in Saratoga, housing for 200 people must be rented, an expense not needed to perform in Suffern.

The Ramapough’s museum is in part a collaboration with the United Nations. It would include a children’s learning center, a 1,000 seat amphitheater and more – one of their tribal members is the Ph.D head of programming at a children’s museum in New England. She might well come “home” to a Ramapough museum. It also would be a repository for their important artifacts now housed elsewhere. This museum in Suffern has been endorsed by the Lenape/Munsee Indian coalition that gathered at the Dutch Collegiate Reform Church in Manhattan in November 2010, where they met to decide on the site for a museum dedicated to their culture as part of the church’s “Healing Turtle Island” initiative – I was there. Chief Perry pointed out that the ancestors of every Native in the room, Natives gathered from Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Ohio, Canada and other places, once had traveled through the Ramapo Pass – it is their sacred ground. I told them about the quarry; we did reach consensus if a 7-10 acre site could be secured, the quarry was their preferred site for a museum dedicated to their culture.

I recently shared with Suffern Mayor Trish Abato, this link about the incredible $73.4 million boost to the local economy generated by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: Children’s museums are especially effective in supporting local economies since many visitors make repeat visits.

I expect business growth the RBA seeks historically has not been tourism, but I suggest this could well be “the ticket to ride” for Rockland County – with many spin-offs, including the attraction of better quality-of-life to the regional economy. At the FHA hearing we attended, Mr. Samuels told us he once had ridden in rodeos – I am glad he survived that!, but this experience might make him mindful of the economic value of events/tourism. Who knows the commercial expansion that might come to be if these quarry initiatives were pursued.

Now if we could only find the millions more needed to retain the old bridge as another “walkway” across the Hudson….

Carolyn Suffern
Knoxville, TN

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