By Tom Bartley
Rain lashing Dobbs Ferry’s prized waterfront forced government figures and others indoors Friday to break ground on the multimillion-dollar renovation of this riverside recreation area.
Local, county and state officials joined with project supporters, volunteers and others in marking the start of the upland improvement phase of the Waterfront Stabilization and Renovation Project.
“It doesn’t look like it,” Mayor Hartley Connett said as winds swirled outside the Half Moon Restaurant and a few dozen guests inside laughed with him, “but it is a beautiful day in Dobbs Ferry.”
They had gathered to celebrate the years of planning and necessary fund-raising—private as well as public—that went into making the waterfront renovations possible. Backed by $2 million in county money and more than $1 million in private donations, the renovation will bring new walkways to the waterfront, tying in with the 50-mile stretch of pedestrian right-of-way known as RiverWalk.
Dobbs Ferry's portion of the RiverWalk "will begin at Wickers Creek on the west side of the Metro-North Railroad Hudson Line tracks and proceed south along waterfront lands on Palisades Street," according to a statement from the Westchester County. "Railroad Hudson Line tracks and proceed south through waterfront lands on Palisades Street. The trailway will then continue through a now undeveloped portion of the village’s waterfront property to an existing path along the shoreline of Waterfront Park. At the southern end of the park, near the Half Moon Restaurant, RiverWalk’s prospective route will follow High Street over the railroad tracks to Walnut Street where it will intersect with the Old Croton Aqueduct."
The upgrades will also include pedestrian lighting and plantings, new picnic tables and grills, benches and trash containers, a gazebo and performance stage, new playgrounds and a comfort station. Connett predicted the finished project will “enhance the lives of all the residents of this village and the experience of all those who visit here forever.”
Fittingly, Friday’s celebratory spotlight found village residents Arch McKellar and his wife, Marie, a retired Mercy College mathematics instructor, who pledged $1 million to the park project. “Without their incredible generosity,” Connett said, “this project would not be possible.”
Arch McKellar, for his part, insisted “many people contributed. This would not have been possible without all of your support. You should all be justifiably proud.”
Praised was passed around Friday in measures equal to the size of this project, on the drawing board now in its fifth administration. In his remarks, state Assemblyman (and longtime county legislator) Thomas Abinanti noted, “It’s not easy for local government officials to stand up and say to the community, ‘We’re going to spend your money.’"
Nevertheless, Dobbs Ferry officials had the “political courage” to do so, he said, and “they got it done...So, they really deserve the credit for this.”
Connett also thanked Westchester County planners Anthony Zaino and Suzette Lopane; the members of the Waterfront Committee and its chairman, Steven Hunter; and architect Stephen Tilly for their work in making the project a reality.
Others on-hand Friday included village Trustees Vincent Rossillo, Donna Cassell and David Koenigsberg; Kevin Plunkett, deputy to County Executive Rob Astorino, and County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky of Hastings-on-Hudson; Symra Brandon, director of community affairs for state Sen. Andrea Stewart Cousins; and Jaime Ethier, from the secretary of state’s Office of Communities & Waterfronts.
“Not only will this project enhance the county’s popular RiverWalk trailway, but it will also improve Dobbs Ferry’s Waterfront Park, “ said Astorino in a statement. “There will be new playgrounds and picnic areas, a stage and a kayak launch things to be enjoyed along with the spectacular river vistas. At the same time, it will stimulate our local economy.”