Open Letter to BOT January 2021
Mayor Falanka and the Board of Trustees, 1/3/2021
I am writing to you about a number of different aspects of development. I would like to say first and foremost that I am not against development - I am for development that improves the lives of the people of Port Chester.
I would like you to consider Port Chester far into the future at each step of the way, and that means making sure people, and not cars, are at the top of the list. According to the Wall Street Journal, teens are getting driver’s licenses at lower and lower rates because they are more and more interested in public transport. Data from the Federal Highway Administration states that in 2018, only 25% of 16-year-olds and 61% of 18-year-olds got their licenses. As a society, we are moving away from cars, yet many of your decisions seem to be car-focused rather than people-focused.
I am concerned that development in Port Chester seems to be going forward without considering people walking around on the ground around these buildings. Getting rid of the maximum lot width would only encourage large, faceless, inhuman buildings. Granted, these might make a lot of money for the developer, but they would make Port Chester uglier and blight it for years into the future.
In terms of the Broad Street development, the difference between 12 and 15 stories is palpable, no matter what the height of each story is. It seems the developer wants the extra stories to make more money, but will this change benefit the people of Port Chester for now and forever? I really don’t think so.
I also wanted to clarify for you what a “pedestrian-friendly” space is. This does not merely mean “has a sidewalk.” That is only the beginning.
Consider where you yourselves like to be when you are out in Port Chester. If you were to say, “Hey, let’s go downtown and walk around for a bit. We could do a bit of shopping and grab a bite to eat,” would go you to the Waterfront development? No, you would not. The scale of sidewalk to the size of the building makes it clear these are not spaces for people to walk around - these are spaces for humans to scurry through.
Would you choose to walk around on Boston Post Road? No, you would not. The businesses are mostly car-related (gas stations, service stations, drive-through fast food) and crossing the street is a life-threatening task. Try doing that while pushing a stroller, let alone in a wheelchair.
If you want downtown Port Chester to be an attractive, pedestrian-friendly space that people want to spend time and money in - not just zoom in via car and then flee as soon as possible - you need to consider the streetscape differently.
- keep the scale between people and buildings low (avoiding the “canyon effect”)
- keep the scale between people and cars low (avoiding the problem of crossing Boston Post Road)
- give pedestrians long pathways, rather than fractured bits (turning Highland Ave into a two-way street breaks up North Main Street)
- have changing views! Right now Port Chester has a very interesting mix of building styles and dates; some buildings are historical and some are newer, but large chunks of Port Chester have a different kind of building every 50 feet or so. This is something to treasure. No one spends time walking around the Waterfront because looking at a continuous slab of beige concrete is entirely depressing.
- have landscaping! Yes, trees or other plantings make people feel happier! At the very least, you could be requiring plantings of native trees and shrubs (there are many that be planted without disrupting sidewalks) so that our urban landscape is not a desolate area to get through as quickly as possible
As I wrote you earlier, Planting Westchester is putting together a database of tree information, including tree ordinances, funding possibilities, and information on choosing, planting, and maintaining urban landscapes to the benefit of all people in a town.
I urge you to consider if current development decisions are heading in the right direction for the long-term, sustainable future for Port Chester.