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.
Many 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.
— Sloatsburg Village (@Sloatsburgny) February 11, 2017
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.
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.
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.
Do 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.