Bedroom or Bust — Sloatsburg at a Crossroads

Posted on 11 February 2017 by Editor

Part One of a two-part editorial that will, hopefully, provide incentive for residents to seriously prioritize improvements on Route 17 through Sloatsburg, and think about more than just a repaved road, a few curbs and a couple of stretches of new sidewalk. 

Through SloatsburgMany Sloatsburgers look around this semi-rural bedroom community, nestled snug in the surrounding Ramapo Mountains, and see potential. There’s plenty of green space, accessible rail service, houses that are still relatively affordable, and a main transportation artery in Route 17 that runs, well, right through the village.

Sloatsburg could be so much more than a safe, sleepy bedroom community in the Ramapo Mountains, with main street highway to race commuters from across the Ramapo Highlands to and from work.

The Village is at a crossroads, with a depleted main street corridor and common properties in need of improvements, and a Route 17 traffic dynamic that residents have grudgingly complained about for years.

Sloatsburg is something different to each resident, from the firefighter on-call and focused on sustaining the volunteer fire department, to the scout leader with a full calendar leading young lads, teacher up and at it before sunrise, to the near sleep-deprived daily commuter, off eastward to work on the early train.

People look around the village, sigh and say, yeah, well, Sloatsburg could be so much more.

The view along Route 17 is the first impression of Sloatsburg. Cars and trucks race unimpeded through the streets, hurrying to and from work, or playing bumper cars with drivers who might conform to the speed limit or even slow a moment to try and turn. For years now, a tattered blue tarp has flapped greetings across from the Municipal Building while empty storefronts reflect street traffic like lifeless eye sockets; not to mention the plague of colorful used clothing drops — which are profit centers for someone.

Prime pieces of beat down village center property continue to haunt Sloatsburg, while some local landlords have allowed commercial or residential rental properties to deteriorate like rotting teeth.

Travel Lane Myths

Road Diets, or narrowing lanes from 4 to 2 lanes, with dedicated turning lanes, DO NOT lead to traffic delays and backups, according to Federal Highway studies.

Sloatsburg can be much more. And improvements along Route 17 can be key to any Village revitalization – investment in Sloatsburg’s common properties and surrounding assets can send a message, pride of place, while acting as a powerful magnet to help attract new business and new residents attracted by the semi-rustic character of the village.

Route 17 needs much more than just repaved with a few sidewalks and curbs here and there.

Route 17 needs to be transformed so that it will act as catalyst to re-energize the village. The road needs safe, pedestrian-friendly crosswalks, road diets, dedicated turn lanes, a whole re-configuration through the village center that promotes traffic calming and renewed focus on civic quality of life.

Road Diet EV Myths

Another Road Diet myth involves delays in emergency vehicle response times. Federal Highway studies suggest that a dedicated turn lane provides easily navigable passage for fire trucks, police and EMT responders.

There are already sidewalks and curbs in the village center that have done little to calm traffic and attract vital new businesses and residents. Route 17 through Sloatsburg is about more than just those who use it for travel through the village; improvements to the road provide the key to what kind of village Sloatsburg wants to be.

Speed LimitDo we continue to pretend that Route 17 and Sloatsburg’s village center will miraculously improve, or do we as a community take action?

The 2007 Comprehensive Plan advocates (with repeated urgency) that Route 17 is “a major influence on land use patterns within the community” and “shapes the visual impression of Sloatsburg,” and its current configuration has not only compromised the “basic safety, local access, and safe environment,” but contributed to a decline in community quality of life.

The upcoming NYS DOT Public Workshops on Route 17 offers a unique opportunity to re-imagine this center corridor, and to make improvements that will serve the residents now and into the future.

The first in a series of Route 17 Main Street Public Workshops takes place Tuesday, February 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sloatsburg Municipal Building. For more information, please contact the Village of Sloatsburg at 845/753-2727.


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19 Comments For This Post

  1. Jim Goodfellow Says:

    Traffic is very much held up when organizations of all sorts solicit money at the lights throughout the spring, summer and fall. With one lane going both ways it could be a real mess.
    And, what about the oversized vehicles which are allowed on Rte 17. How would the traffic lanes accommodate them. Why are they allowed at all??

  2. Editor Says:

    There isn’t a sustained and varied level of solicitation on Route 17 in Sloatsburg. The Sloatsburg Fire Department has a seasonal solicitation drive where volunteers collect funds in red buckets. That drive has helped pay for a number of communication equipment upgrades for the department. Other solicitation drives have benefitted local student causes. The effort hasn’t appeared to impede traffic as the solicitation mostly takes place during traffic stoppage.

    The idea that Road Diets, or narrowing of Route 17 from four to 2 lanes with 3rd dedicated turn lane for turning options, probably wouldn’t create a “real mess.” That belief is called a traffic flow myth and is rooted in speculation. Federal traffic studies on road diets tend to counter that argument. Additionally, the NYS DOT has highly qualified engineers and professionals who would not promote a Route 17 Complete Street solution for Sloatsburg that would impede the general flow of highway traffic. Any changes would be engineered by NYS DOT, an incredibly expert organization on the multiple complexities of transportation, especially how transportation on highways might impact local communities — and how to optimize traffic flow through those communities + Route 17 as an extremely valuable NYS DOT asset.

    Solicitation on narrowed lanes would be safer and most likely just as generous.

    Permission for such activities is probably worked out at the local municipal level.

  3. Jim Goodfellow Says:

    Has the NY DOT addressed the fact that the large development planned in Harriman will include the elimination of the RR bridge over Rte 17 by the old Nepera plant. That elimination will allow a whole new wave of large truck traffic to avoid the Harriman toll and truck on thru Tuxedo and Sloatsburg. Will the one lane idea solve that problem? In other words, this is a regional problem that requires a regional solution.

  4. Sissy Says:

    I have not lived here as long as some, but have been here longer than others. To this date the improvement in Sloatsburg i.e. the Downtown Vitalization has really not materialized.Yes, we have a new person investing, but it has been 40 or more long years in coming. It is the same view as 1970 with some areas in recent years really taking a beating. Landlords are not held accountable for maintaining rental properties etc. It is the same tune that just seems to go on and on. Most people I speak to remark with that sideway glance…well it is Sloatsburg
    Time to end the Apathy!

  5. Editor Says:

    Absolutely agree with your comments. Whether one has been here 5 or 55 years should not matter. The benign neglect of Village common properties and inaction on code violations encourages more of the same. If there are no codes in place upon which the municipal government can leverage business/commercial property owners, well, there should be. Fear of flight shouldn’t be a guiding principal in local code enforcement or civic engagement.

    One can only assume that the neglect of common properties is a management strategy (with acknowledgement that the Municipal Pool and Community Fields have been improved and are taken care of [tx Trustee Akey]– the comment is more abt Village involvement with the Route 17 corridor). The corridor along Route 17 through Sloatsburg is “Sloatsburg” to visitors and the outside world. And it’s not exceptionally attractive.

    Conditions through the village center have reached a critical tipping point — loss of vitality and growth leads to decline and decay, which leads to flight … or the antithesis — attraction by interests that exploit those very conditions for their own gain and enrichment.

  6. Sissy Says:

    The last paragraph tells the story of why most people settled in Sloatsburg from, “Over the TZ”. Most left a city that was reaching a tipping point and here was an affordable, welcoming place to live. Sweet, is the word to describe it then. Two small stores each with a resident butcher etc. But over the years it has become even more worn at the edges and neglected by the Village, Town and inhabitants.There are times when I feel we are doomed and also have to believe there is a “Flight” mentality among residents as well as business owners. It can be an ever better place to live, but agree change and enforcement in the Village codes are long overdue and needed.

  7. Editor Says:

    Advocacy and calls for action are increasing, but also folks organizing on the ground to contribute to change. Those activity involve building coalitions with other like-minded residents and organizations and working with Village officials to provide plans, programs and projects.

    Sloatsburg is, as you said, a sweet semi-rural spot in the Ramapo Mountains, nestled in the fair bosom of southern Harriman State Park. It says NO to dense housing and development. But needs hands-on TLC and re-energized. It needs re-imagined and an organic growth conditioned on the Comprehensive Plan that promotes features and services that can help sustain the Village’s quality of life and economic health. Through these actions, the preferred and demonstrated values and village character can and will live on. It needs a good, spicy dash of community engagement and consensus on how to move forward.

  8. Bill Duffy Says:

    My advice would be to listen to what Pete Akey has to say and get a big group of villagers to participate along with Village Board,DPW, Building Inspector, Tom Bollotto & office staff plus all the help possible from local,county, state & federal governments. This would be a great start.

  9. Dave Veraja Says:

    Any changes to Route 17 will impact the entire region, the thruway authority should also be in attendance at these meetings. Other state roads are problematic in Rockland,due to being single lane. Anyone who has driven the single lane route 9w at 5pm has been backed up in traffic while traveling northbound into Haverstraw. Traveling Route 202 and obeying the speed limit can prove to be another challenge as well. Than there is the single lane section of route 59 in Spring Valley another traffic issue. While the volume of traffic is heavy through Sloatsburg/17, we must consider our proximity to NYC and the thruway exit, further keep in mind Orange County has been one of if not the fastest growing county in the state for more than several years. I believe it would be best to leave route 17 as is, unless the thruway agrees to put a Greenwood lake exit in as was under consideration so many years ago.

  10. Editor Says:

    Not quite certain what you’re advocating here … the logic appears to be keep Route 17 an open highway through Sloatsburg because any changes might impact other areas of Rockland County or impede growth in Orange County.

    I’m not concerned about traffic/speeds on 9W, Route 202, and/or Route 59, which, truth be told, have nearly no relationship to traffic on Route 17 moving north/south through Sloatsburg. Improvements to Route 17 in Sloatsburg are really about home rule and improving quality of life in the local community by trying to calm traffic + create safe passage on a state highway that bisects a community.

    Thruway exists are very expensive projects and I just don’t believe that the mythical Exit 15B is going to happen just to help little ol’ Sloatsburg.

    If I’m reading you right, it sounds like you’re asserting that speed limits and road widths actually impede vehicle traffic and are quite the bother when you’re running late.

  11. Dave Veraja Says:

    The facts I provided need to be considered, like it or not they need to be addressed. Sloatsburg sits between the thruway exit and Orange county. People wanting to avoid tolls will continue to travel through Sloatsburg and you cant change that. The comparisons provided concerning other single lane state highways routes [9w,202,and 59] are examples of what we would be dealing with if we were to have a single lane in the village. I am not so sure the residents of Sloatsburg want to be sitting in backed up traffic while merging into a single lane along with other motorist exiting the thruway. Just imagine how that Renaissance fair traffic will impact on the single lane.

  12. Editor Says:

    The idea that a Road Diet would encourage people to use the Thruway instead of running through Sloatsburg would be positive net change for the village. Transitioning commuter and other truck traffic to the Thruway is a good thing. I believe that advocacy for a Tuxedo-centric Thruway exit lies with the Town of Tuxedo and Orange County, and isn’t vital to Route 17 improvements through Sloatsburg.

    With that said, I’m also a big advocate that County Highway 106 should be somehow connected to the NY Thruway — it was an error that has multiplied over time. Unfortunately, Thruway entrances/exits are often driven by business decisions and not traffic/access flow considerations. The County Highway 106 to Route 17A at Route 17 is a vital and important connection.

    The idea that if you remove/convert a travel lane, road traffic will then back up is called a Road Diet myth. Federal Highway studies of before/after Road Diet traffic indicate that that just isn’t the case, as the flow of traffic is re-oriented. Additionally, traffic through Sloatsburg peaks in early drive time and evening drive time. The Western Ramapo corridor does not have the same density of traffic flow that eastern Rockland County experiences.

    Must disagree with your recommendations that Sloatsburg should prioritize Route 17 traffic flow around commuters’ needs and not necessarily the needs of the community itself. If people want to avoid Thruway tolls by driving through Sloatsburg, then those drivers should be compelled to conform to local road rules and road use design that best optimizes economic opportunity and village quality of life.

    I think Route 17 improvements will eventually find a sweet spot of harmonious balance, where people pass through Sloatsburg because of the interesting opportunities and interests it provides, not because the road happens to pass through this way.

    If three minutes of drive time through Sloatsburg increases the general roadside attraction of both Route 17 and the village, and helps secure new businesses and residents vested in the particular characters and values of a Western Ramapo lifestyle, well, then that would be a win/win.

  13. Sissy Says:

    Coordination with Ramapo PD for more coverage during peak driving hours would/ could possible facilitate better traffic speeds. Commuters are aware that Tuxedo no longer has the manpower to ticket as aggressively as they did in the past…and so it becomes the INDY on work days. Just a thought.

  14. Michael Says:

    I am all for a road diet in Sloatsburg. It should include the Seven Lakes Drive intersection with a left turn lane onto Seven Lakes Drive coming southbound on Route 17. I would like to see a traffic light where Washington Ave meets Rout 17 also.
    We need some road calming features in Sloatsburg. Many mornings on my way to work I see the Ramapo PD pulling over people who run red lights or speed in the village proper.

  15. Sissy Says:

    Not speaking to the Road/Speed conditions, but rather to the still unsightly,gray derelict building across from the Town Hall. The blue tarp has all but disintegrated, some siding has fallen off on the upper right hand side at the front of said eyesore and yet it still stands. Is there no way to have this absolutely, terrible, horrible eyesore of a building torn down? It no longer has historical value to the Village…at the very least it detracts from the Village. I know it is for sale, but what can legally be done to have it fixed or removed. Is the Real Estate Co. responsible, or the Bank for maintenance? How in all that is right and just can anything be built its place? There is no room. And we wonder why Sloatsburg has a name, and not one anyone will repeat in polite society. Shame, Shame, Shame!

  16. Editor Says:

    Yes, the blue-tarped building is notorious … but, as an fyi, the Village and board have attempted over time to deal with that property. As you know, private property laws in NYS can be both a shield and sword. The former property owner allowed the building condition to deteriorate beyond safety and repair. The Village at one time had an agreement in place with the bank holding the note on that property, where both parties were fully in agreement and prepared to have the building condemned and removed. But at the last minute, the property owner was able to once again use the courts to stall until the building was sold at auction. At this time, the Village apparently is working with the new property owner to deal with the building … which means starting the whole process of encouragement/enforcement over again.

    It is a visual blight on the community. Hopefully, this go-round will result in eliminating the problem once and for all.

  17. Sissy Says:

    Thank you for the clarification.

  18. E Smith Says:

    It’s Sloatsburg….what do you expect?

  19. Sissy Says:

    Sometimes that is what I say and feel like E Smith but, as they say, “Hope Springs Eternal”! There is way too much government and personal apathy in our small little village. I wonder if it is the “Iam outta here” sentiment in 10 or 15 or 20 years and I don’t care. Well, with this latest debacle try and sell your home at a profit. It is disgusting.There was something to be gained by some of our esteemed politicos in this Village, Town State, or they are even more blind then we are.
    So Disgusted. I can not really say what I feel.

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