A New Civic Association

Recent stories in 10964 have dealt with two current threats to our community: the increasing size of homes, and the destruction of our historic houses. A proposal to build a huge house — originally 12,500 square feet — was first reduced in size under pressure from the Historic Areas Board of Review (HABR) and then abandoned. A charming house on Woods Road was slated to be torn down by its new owners but now there are plans to re-erect it in a new location.

Last spring three local historians, Mary Cardenas, Orangetown Historian; Carol LaValle of the Tappantown Historic Society; and Alice Gerard of the Palisades Historic Committee, suggested reviewing the present Orangetown Historic Law to determine if it could be strengthened against these threats. A group including these three historians, and Andy Stewart, Orangetown Supervisor; Deputy Town Supervisor Allan Ryff; Clare Sheridan of the Rockland County Historic Society; Larry Bucchiarelli and Thano Schoppel of the HABR, and Palisades residents Susan Nemesdy and Carol Baxter have been meeting since June and are making progress toward this objective.

However, it is clear that mobilizing Palisades residents to attend town meetings and express their concerns to the HABR and to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is essential if we want to influence what happens in our community. Thirty years ago, this was the task of the Palisades Civic Association (PCA).

Dossie Thayer, an active member of the West Hudson Environmental Association, began reporting on the problem of heavy trucks speeding through Palisades in the late 1970s. In April, 1980 she suggested the formation of a civic association, but there wasn’t enough community support for the idea at the time.

Soon afterwards a proposal to build a 70-unit condominium project at the corner of Oak Tree Road and Route 340 united the community in opposition and in June, 1984 the Palisades Civic Association (PCA) was formed. A suit was filed to overturn the rezoning allowing the project, and on October 30, 1987 Acting New York State Supreme Court Judge Robert Meehan overturned the Town Board’s 1984 rezoning decision, dealing a death blow to the plans to build condominiums.

The Civic Association immediately found a number of other community issues demanding attention. Close monitoring of the IBM project led to favorable modifications of its access road and parking lot designs, as well as limiting use of its planned helicopter pad. Consolidated Freightways’ application to allow tandem‑trailer rigs on Oak Tree Road brought the PCA and the community out in full voice, and the state Department of Transportation rejected the proposition.

The PCA joined other groups in a lawsuit brought by the Hudson River Defense League against the proposed Pyramid Mall. They retained counsel to represent the PCA before the Orangetown ZBA on a proposed large office building immediately south of Rockland Country Club and on a possible application to allow a 400 to 500 foot long, 25 foot high, two-story structure to replace the open concrete pads of the 9W golf driving range. During its existence, the PCA functioned as a community watchdog, protecting and uniting Palisades. Perhaps it’s time to revive the PCA. On October 16, a film on the recent destruction of the historic Lent House in Orangetown will be shown at the Community Center. A possible revival of the Palisades Civic Association will be one of the topics discussed at the event. If you are interested, please attend the film showing. If you can’t attend but would like to be involved, please contact one of the people below and we will keep you informed.

Susan Nemesdy at 845-365-1351 or nemesdy@ optonline.net

Alice Gerard at 845-359-4338 or gerard55@verizon.net