The drive down New Hempstead Road from the Palisades Parkway to the Allison-Parris County Office Building in New City took less than five minutes this morning. It’s the first time in more than three years this trip hasn’t rattled my car… or, my nerves. Today, I’m pleased to report the agonizing project I inherited in January – the reconstruction of New Hempstead Road in Clarkstown – is finally complete.
This $33 million “extreme makeover” of New Hempstead Road included significant improvements along a two-mile stretch from North Main Street in New City to the Palisades Parkway at exit 11. Along with widened and resurfaced lanes, three new traffic lights, new turning lanes, sidewalks and street lamps come a host of improvements you don’t see, including new culverts, sewers, water mains, electrical lines and fiber-optic cable.
Like most local drivers and residents, I am thrilled this massive project is finally over. For local residents, it’s been 40 months of dust, diesel fumes and detours. But, despite the delays and added costs, I am thoroughly impressed by the finished product. This reconstruction and beautification effort will make driving into the heart of our County safer and smoother, which will improve the overall quality of life here.
Inconvenience aside, replacing one of the County’s busiest roads was no easy task. Under the leadership of Rockland’s Highway Superintendent Skip Vezzetti, County engineers drafted blueprints, secured state and federal funding and hired contractors. The first phase of the project, started during the previous administration, involved the temporary relocation of New Hempstead Road, from Little Tor Road to the entrance of Rockland’s Government Center. This allowed for the replacement of the flood-prone culvert carrying the Demarest Kill.
The improvements crept west, eventually resulting in:
• 4.5 fully reconstructed lane miles of New Hempstead Road, widened and resurfaced
• Five-foot wide safety shoulders to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists between Little Tor Road and the Palisades Parkway
• New sidewalks, street lamps and plantings, all coordinated to match the features used by the Town of Clarkstown on South Main Street.
Most existing drainage facilities were replaced along the construction route, including the relocation of several major water mains and all utilities. The project also included the installation of 17,000 linear feet of drainage pipe, 260 drainage structures, 18 retaining walls, 1,400 linear feet of sidewalk, three bus shelters, four new or reconstructed parking areas, 260 signs, 66 ornamental street lamps, 1,320 trees and shrubs and 2,800 perennial flowers.
There’s no doubt it’s been a difficult time for homeowners living along New Hempstead Road. While serving as a county legislator from Clarkstown, I responded early and often to complaints of congestion, noise and debris. Working closely with state Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, we held several informational meetings to keep the public updated on the various phases of reconstruction. The leadership of Temple Beth Sholom were invaluable in providing input and assistance in organizing community stakeholders. While this was a project led by the County Highway Department, hundreds of engaged County residents made certain their voices were heard. Inclusion and transparency were critical in the overall process.
I believe the short term pain of this mammoth road construction project will yield long term gain. New Hempstead Road was in bad shape for many years. Today, this newly-redesigned route will be a pleasure for the 18,000 cars and trucks which roll over it each weekday. Another benefit may be an increase in local property values. At the end of the day, I believe you will come to appreciate the long-awaited upgrades. After all, safe and smooth roads are a service that taxpayers expect and deserve.