The current campaign for the one-year term on the town council has called into question the Narrowsburg esplanade project and its potential impact on the community versus the cost. Ask just about any town manager in Sullivan County if they would change places with Narrowsburg, and chances are, nine out of 10 would likely reply with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” And the reason is that Narrowsburg has become one of the most vibrant and appealing destinations in the area.
People come to Narrowsburg all year long to dine, shop and enjoy our unique river views, the eagles, or more recently our award-winning garden atmosphere. It’s a principal of urban renewal that any time an area adds amenities that appeal to a wide array of individuals, neighborhoods improve and businesses thrive. This is not conjecture, it’s a fact.
Statistics just released by the New York City Department of Transportation have calculated that the pedestrian plazas created in areas such as Broadway, the financial district, Herald Square and Times Square have not, as some feared, hurt business, but on the contrary have dramatically increased business from 14 to 49%. In the area of Brooklyn known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a dingy parking lot converted into a pedestrian plaza increased sales to local businesses by 172% in three years. (Based on tax receipts—New York Post, October 24, 2012.)
Check for yourself: www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/publicplaza.shtml .
While our little hamlet is not New York City, the principal still applies. Make your town or street or neighborhood a desirable destination and people will come, stay and spend money. We already have ample proof of that from the just completed summer season. Most stores and restaurants on Main Street had a good summer, certainly better than many towns in Sullivan County.
Rather than the demagoguery around the esplanade with a six-foot roving sign that appeals to ignorance and claims that are not borne out by the facts, let’s stick to what has been a proven long-standing axiom in urban renewal efforts both large and small. Virtually every town that has ever invested in an amenity such as the Narrowsburg esplanade thrives. What makes this project so appealing is the unprecedented access it gives residents and visitors to the same river that makes this such a special place to live.
Remember, if Narrowsburg were not a destination, Main Street would be as it once was—boarded up—with paper and plastic debris (our version of tumble weed) blowing down the street, and we would all be dealing with much higher taxes.
[Tony Staffieri is a resident of Narrowsburg, NY]