Town government seeks community input for Croton Falls master plan
North Salem town leaders are seeking community input as they prepare to develop a master plan for the Croton Falls hamlet. While individual residents and business owners may have differing priorities, there appears to be widespread agreement that the Croton Falls area has tremendous potential to be a thriving village for locals and visitors alike.
Danielle Gervais-Puchir lives in Croton Falls with her husband and two children and is eager to get involved. “As members of the community, we are just excited to be part of the conversation and to be part of growth for the hamlet. We plan to stay here for a long time; we love the community, the walkability, and we want to see it continue to thrive.”
Gervais-Puchir is particularly interested in features that will increase safety and recreational options for her young family. “We’re all very excited for something we could walk to with the kids, and a pretty space to look at,” she said, adding that she’s interested to hear whether there will be plans to add more sidewalks.
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For resident Nzingha Milanes, mail service is top of mind. “I would like the town to look into a mail delivery option for Croton Falls. The whole hamlet has P.O. boxes only. If it’s possible, I would support having residential mail delivery service.”
Libby Parker, owner of Lift Trucks Gallery in Croton Falls, is pushing for a continued effort to draw more artists and makers to the area. “I want us to really stay in the mode of making this a creative destination, and have that image as you drive by,” Parker said. She envisions a beautiful sculpture park designed by Hudson Valley sculptors, with elements built to be kid-friendly so that it would be both visually interesting and functional for families.
Frank Lulgjuraj, owner of Frank’s Pizzeria, also acknowledged the significance of Croton Falls being an artist community. “You can’t ignore the fact that there are very talented artists, including some who are world-renowned, who have invested in this town,” Lulgjuraj said. “I really think there’s a huge opportunity for upward potential.”
For Lulgjuraj and other business owners, however, that upward potential can’t be met without adequate water and septic systems. “There is no plan if wastewater is not the number one on the list,” Lulgjuraj said. “You can have pretty sidewalks, beautiful shrubs and a nice park, but if you have a restaurant with a beautiful patio and you’re sitting outside and you smell septic, that’s not so good.”
For food vendors and restaurants, operating on a septic system is an incredible resource drain. “We are constantly pumping out our septic tanks. It’s very, very expensive,” Lulgjuraj explained. “It’s not sustainable. I went all in with my family in this town, but if there’s not going to be a [water and septic] plan in place that works, we’ll have to rethink whether we want to hang in there.
Lulgjuraj said he does understand how complicated and expensive a process it would be to add a wastewater treatment plant. Before getting into the restaurant industry, he worked for a White Plains-based environmental engineering firm. “We are in a NYC Department of Environmental Protection watershed property. We’d have to get them involved, and the Metro-North,” he said. “I certainly recognize that. But I feel so strongly that now is the time.”
Cynthia Curtis, chair of the committee responsible for assembling the master plan, acknowledged that water and sewer is an issue impacting many Croton Falls businesses. “A lot of things are happening in this one little corner of town that really need addressing,” Curtis said, adding that the committee is relying on community feedback to understand the priority issues. “We have great people on both the town board and planning boards, but there's a time when you have to pause and say, what do the people who live there think?”
Whatever the town ultimately decides to invest in, Curtis said they will focus heavily on obtaining grants to help offset costs. “The Town Board is very good at finding that money and putting it to work,” she said.