An attractive green space that offers parking is eye candy to the weary commuter. To that end, Sloatsburg’s new mayor, Peter Akey, is proud to be at the helm of a project he says will add a greener, cleaner and friendlier welcome to those departing and arriving in the village’s train station.
“Sloatsburg purchased the one-acre parcel ten years ago for a commuter lot when I was on the Board of Trustees,” said Akey, who succeeded retiring Mayor Carl Wright in the November, 2020 election. The NYS Department of Transportation had already been working with Sloatsburg for some time to create a streetscape that would make the village’s downtown more pedestrian-friendly, slowing down speeders and accommodating its growing number of visitors to shop downtown and enjoy the local restaurants. Now, Akey is continuing to work with the NYS Department of Transportation, vis-à-vis its Complete Streets Program, to reconfigure Sloatsburg’s main thoroughfare, Route 17. The village’s new “Park with Parking” will be the proverbial cherry on top of the community’s downtown revitalization plan.
The tiny municipality’s new mayor had nothing but praise for Jeremy Shulman, Director of Rockland Economic & Development, who was instrumental in securing a $250,000 federal grant for the Park with Parking project. That grant was matched by the owners of Tuxedo Reserve. He also credited County Executive Ed Day for making it happen. “We wanted to improve the property, but the village already had major improvements it needed to make first — $1.4 million went to upgrades for our fire department alone, as well as improvements to our Brook Street Park. Then Jeremy stepped in and helped us secure the grant money for this project…it didn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure,” said Akey. “One thing Mr. Wright taught me was to have patience…and as a result, we’re going to have a beautiful project everyone can enjoy by the end of June.”
Sloatsburg’s Beautification Committee and its Chamber of Commerce brainstormed ideas on how to best use the property located on the west side of Orange Turnpike behind Characters Restaurant. “The input we received was invaluable,” said Akey. “As a result of all the work everyone has put in, we are going to have a gazebo—it’s already up and the workers are pouring the cement for the floor—along with benches, decorative fencing and shrubbery, and walkways with kiosks pointing out various places of interest in the village’s downtown—complete with a QR codes and Hash Tags that will help visitors who get off the train find restaurants, shopping, personal services—whether it’s a place to go for a haircut or a manicure—as well as the historic sites in and around the village. We’ll be able to hold special events, ceremonies and concerts for the community. We can host a farmers’ market and craft fairs for local vendors. It will be a wonderful benefit to our businesses, our residents and to the visitors who come up here to enjoy Bear Mountain State Park—and of course, it is a great benefit for our commuters who need additional parking.”
The goal of the Board of Trustees was to create a green space for residents that also welcome people getting off the train. “Sloatsburg remains a rustic, rural community, and our goal was to create a space that reflected our village’s character and its charm,” said Akey. “We feel this park with parking will be a wonderful addition to our community.”
Construction on the new park has already begun
Making downtown Sloatsburg more accessible and walkable has been an ongoing project for several years, with the NYS Department of Transportation holding several charettes (citizens’ meetings) to determine how Sloatsburg could be made more walkable—and to get cars to slow down as they go through its downtown area. Akey said when Route 17 is eventually reconfigured, it will become a three-lane road from Auntie El’s to the county line—with the exception of the immediate downtown area, which will remain four lanes. While there was some pushback at the public meetings the DOT held concerning turning 17 into a mostly three-lane route—one lane in each direction with a turning lane in the center-it has become a necessity to keep traffic moving, particularly since the arrival of the massive apartment complex at the south end of Sloatsburg—Woodgrove at Sterlington (formerly known as Woodmont), market-rate rentals that are filling up as fast as the developer is building them. Cars waiting to make a left or right turn on what can be a very busy road also cause significant delays, which should be alleviated once the turning lanes are in.
“People are continuing to move father north of the city,” said Akey, who is a Bronx native himself. When the retired NYPD Detective 2nd Gr. was looking for a house, “My Aunt Kathy told us to check out Sloatsburg, and I’m glad we did. We moved here in 1996 and it was the best thing for our family. We love it here, and it is the only home our children have ever known.” Akey, who is also quite knowledgeable about getting people connected, has created social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Nextdoor.com) for Sloatsburg to boost community involvement and to showcase the attractions it has to offer.
Although he can no longer actively participate in fire calls, Akey is a dedicated member of the Sloatsburg Fire Department. The 75-ft ladder truck that Sloatsburg purchased –with financial aid from Woodgrove at Sterlington—played a major role in helping to fight the tragic fire that reduced Evergreen Adult Home to ashes on March 23, taking the life of Columbian Fire Company’s 15-year veteran, Jared Lloyd. “All my prayers go out to his family. You can’t imagine the sound of fire roaring is like, the noise from the equipment and the trucks all going on around you and the smoke and fumes are blinding—then you hear a ‘mayday’ and you can’t find the fireman—it’s beyond words, the loss we all feel. Jared was a well-liked and respected member of his Fire Company and a brother to us all. It is a terrible loss.”