A meeting of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC) was convened at
4:30 p.m. on February 21, 2008 in the 5th floor Board room, MTA Headquarters, 347
Madison Avenue, New York City. The following members were present:
James F. Blair
The following members were absent:
Richard Cataggio (E)
Francis T. Corcoran (E)
Thomas M. Jennings (E)
In addition, the following persons were present:
William Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Karyl Berger – PCAC Research Associate
Charles Henley – MTAHQ
Linda Corcoran – MTA/MNR
Greg Sylvester – MTA/MNR
Jeff Watson – MTA/MNR
Matt Shotkin – Concerned citizen
Rodney Chabot – Concerned citizen
Mike Wiebe – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda for the February 21, 2008 meeting was approved as amended. The minutes of the January 17, 2008 meeting were approved.
Gerard Kopera presided at the meeting. The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.
The members briefly discussed the changes to By-Laws regarding attendance and the concern about language and voted unanimously to approve them.
Introduction of Linda Corcoran, MNR Deputy Director – Business Development and Facilities and Greg Sylvester, MNR Manager Program Planning – Planning and Business Development
A copy of Ms. Corcoran’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.
Ms. Corcoran noted that Metro-North Railroad has worked for several years with the Town of Beacon and the affected stakeholders. She said that station access and parking have been priorities for MNR and that Beacon has focused on parking and waterfront revitalization. She said the participants include representatives from the Governor’s office and local government representatives as well as civic and non-profit groups.
Ms. Corcoran noted that Beacon had traditionally been an industrial town, but has taken on a new role as an arts center. She said that Main Street has become a focal point for the town’s resurgence; galleries, antique stores and restaurants have opened up and are flourishing. She noted that MNR ridership to Beacon has increased 50 percent over the last five years and they expect a 40 percent increase over the next 10 years.
Ms. Corcoran outlined the principles that have been developed to guide the transitoriented development in Beacon. She said that they want to create a gateway to the town, reclaim the waterfront area and consolidate the existing parking facilities. She said that an intermodal plaza will be built and traffic improvements will be made.
Ms. Corcoran said they are looking at economic incentives as a way to make the project more attractive. She said Beacon has zoned the site for transit-oriented development. She said it is an 18-acre site on the waterfront that is either totally owned by Metro-North or is controlled through 100- to 200-year leases.
Mr. Sylvester reported that they took 67 developers on a tour of the site in December and the proposals from the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) were due on February 7. They were very pleased that they received five full proposals. A number of developers who did not respond said that they would be waiting for the Request for Proposal (RFP). She said there were some comments and concerns about the large amount of structured parking that would be required and noted that some developers indicated they did not respond because they did not want to tip their hands about the designs they were developing.
Mr. Sylvester said the Town recognizes that the density may have to be higher to make the project economically feasible. The impact study that has been done only dealt with seven acres with a maximum density of 20 units to the acre as of right, and at this time the town did not want to commit to more. The final density of the project is negotiable.
Mr. Sylvester spoke about the Long Dock, which is just south of the site. He indicated that its developers are trying to arrange funding by this spring for that part of the project.
In response to Mr. Kopera’s question as to what the optimistic time line is for the project, Ms. Corcoran said that they hope to issue the RFP by the end of the year and to provide a few months for responses. She underscored that Metro-North anticipates that there will be major issues in phasing construction of the project.
Ms. Corcoran said it is possible for the Long Dock project to go forward even if the other parts of the project are not progressing.
Ms. Corcoran said that they are also looking at Harrison as a TOD site. She said a plan to build a parking structure is already in place so they plan to put out an RFP for the other part of the site. Ms. Wells said housing has to be a component and Ms. Corcoran indicated that the NY State Housing Finance Agency has been contacted.
Jim Blair noted that it is a challenge to address the issues concerning linkage between the town and the river. He inquired as to whether there are other examples of places that link the town and the waterfront. Ms. Corcoran said they do not want in any way to compete with the retail business that has blossomed in the downtown area. She said they have considered running a shuttle between the station and the downtown area.
She said there are three types of linkages to be considered in the Beacon project: development linkage; pedestrian linkage; and, a transportation linkage which includes the use of bicycles, shuttles and wayfinding signage.
Bill Henderson noted that the Port Authority is looking at access alternatives for Stewart Airport and that a shuttle from Stewart Airport to the Beacon station is being implemented. MTA is picking up 50 percent of the cost for EarthTech to perform the access alternatives study.
In response to Ms. Wells’ inquiry about how the ferry service has performed, Mr. Sylvester said that there are about 400 rides a day as it only operates during the rush hours, but noted that Beacon is not an urban center like New Rochelle. These results indicate that ferry service has potential and enhances the multimodal nature of the project.
MTA Board – MNR Committee Report
Jim Blair reviewed the year-end financial reports for 2007. He noted that there has been a steady increase in reverse peak ridership. East of Hudson ridership increased 2.8 percent and West of Hudson was up 4 percent for 2007. He noted that the Farebox Operating Ratio for the Railroad is 57.2 percent.
It was announced that Gerard Kopera had volunteered to participate in the meeting of the artist selection committee for the Yankee Stadium project.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:20 p.m.
Please mark your calendars for the quarterly PCAC meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 6. Our guest will be MTA Deputy Executive Director Chris Boylan to discuss the MTA’s new and planned communication initiatives.
Also please mark your calendars for our annual Presidents Forum. It will be held here in the MTA Board Room on Wednesday, March 26 from 5 to 7pm. Please make every effort to attend as this an excellent way to hear what is on the minds of the riders whom we represent.
MTA Executive Director and CEO Lee Sander will deliver his first State of the MTA Address on Monday March 3 in the Great Hall of Cooper Union, which is located on Astor Place. Check in begins at 10:00 a.m., with the program scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. A copy of an announcement about the Address, including a web address and telephone number to register, is included in your packets today.
We have been following up on the names of people who have contacted their local officials about becoming members of the Council. It has been a frustrating experience, but hopefully our perseverance will prevail, and we will get some new members over the next few months.
On January 29, Ellyn attended a stakeholders meeting for the Tappan Zee/Interstate 287 study where the New York State DOT announced a new procedural approach to the project. It is hoped the new approach will help to expedite the review and
implementation of the project. The environmental review process will now be sequenced in two parts. The transit alternative will be selected in the spring, then the bridge design will be finalized and construction will begin on the bridge. The bridge construction will begin while NYSDOT goes through the time-consuming work of cooperatively developing the chosen transit system to fit into local communities. There will be open houses on changes to the study, including additional transit alternatives and new alternatives combining transit with a rehabilitated bridge, on February 26, 27 and 28 in Purchase, Goshen, and West Nyack. Details on these meetings can be found in your packets.
Last week the Regional Plan Association issued the Rockland County Tappan Zee Corridor Transit-Oriented Development Study Workshop Report. Bill Henderson participated in the design workshop that is discussed in this report. While it did not devise a final plan for development in the corridor, the workshop did explore options that can be pursued further once the conceptual plans for the Tappan Zee Corridor and Bridge are finalized. The report is available on the Regional Plan Association website at www.rpa.org, or if you wish staff can send you a website link to the report or a PDF or paper copy of the report. An article about the report is in your packets today.
Finally, Bill Henderson and I attended Charlie Zabielski’s retirement sendoff on February 8. It was interesting to hear him speak of all of the departments within Metro-North and the MTA family that he has worked with over the years. Bill and I were glad to have the opportunity to wish Charlie a well-deserved retirement on behalf of the MNRCC, as he has long been a good friend of the Council.