Friends of Nyack Forum – Opening

My name is Doug Foster, and I have been a professional planner since 1990 and have worked in local government for 10 years and affordable housing on a national level. Currently I own my own consulting business here in Nyack.

My wife and I were very intentional on choosing Nyack as the place we wanted to live. It has all the aspects we wanted:

• a strong sense of community

• a traditional and walkable downtown

• a vital commercial core with locally owned stores and a critical mass of stores for local residents, like a natural food store, drug store, hardware store, dry cleaners, and a great choice of restaurants and cafes. It could be better, but we are very, very lucky for the retail mix we have.

• Diverse community with a strong progressive tradition

Nyack is a special place and is worth the needed effort.

Now for the doom and gloom. Despite all its assets, Nyack has significant troubles, mostly stemming from an inherent, structural budgetary problem. Over the years the Village has “borrowed” from its assets in the form of deferred maintenance. A quick walk around the Village is all you need to see that there has been no significant investment in infrastructure since 1970.

In 1970, Nyack had its own police force and professional development staff. It had completed a major infrastructure improvement which dealt with a terrible drainage problem which periodically flooded the downtown. As much as we hate the fabulous urban renewal project resulting in our “superblock,” it did deal with channelizing the stream running through the middle of downtown.

The urban renewal project was the result of a significant federal capital infusion. It was Nyack’s stimulus money. Since then we have shed major expenses like our police department, pushed responsibility of sidewalks to the property owners, and struggled to maintain our streets. We have a skeleton staff with no administration or planning/development experience.

Now the Village faces the perfect storm where the housing crash has created a serious budget gap even with deferred maintenance. And the economy will not rescue us in the short run.

We can no longer afford to continue with business as usual. We need to be very creative and find short term ways to increase revenue and become more efficient. Short term solutions will help us weather the next few years, but we also need to make long term plans to restructure the Village so that it has the budget to plan, maintain and improve its infrastructure.