At the Oct. 2 meeting of the White Plains Common Council, $1.53 million was authorized by a vote of five to two for White Plains Transit District pedestrian and bicycle improvements.
The funding for the project is a combination of a $1.2 million New York State TAP grant with the remaining $320,000 from the City of White Plains.
White Plains Planning Commissioner Christopher Gomez explained to the Council that the formulation of a strategic plan for the city’s Transportation District with specific improvements for pedestrian and bicyclist safety had made the White Plains application for the grant very competitive. “We did well because of the Transit District Plan,” Gomez said.
The money will be spent on a dedicated bike lane on Martine Ave. near the Library, which is undergoing improvements at the plaza, for the widening of the bike lane to 10-feet with a protective median to keep cyclists and traffic separated.
In what has lately become combative discussion from Councilmembers Milagros Lecuona and Dennis Krolian to programs presented by Mayor Tom Roach and members of city staff, Councilman Krolian said he could not support the program because of the “limited number of cyclists” using the bike lanes in White Plains.
Councilwoman Lecuona scoffed at the $1.53 million price tag for what she called a mere 1,200 feet of safe bike lanes. She said she would have preferred seeing the money spent on bicycle safety all over the city, not just in one area of the downtown. She voted against the appropriation.
Councilman John Kirkpatrick mentioned the White Plains Safe Streets policy that was enabling White Plains to make the city’s streets safe for everyone. He thanked NYS Assembly members Amy Paulin and David Buchwald as well as State Senator George Latimer for helping to get the grant money focused in the direction of White Plains.
The $1.2 million grant is part of a $16 million program by Gov. Andrew Cuomo specifically for bicycle and pedestrian safety programs.
Councilwoman Beth Smayda said the grant money had to be used for the programs allocated, which includes the Martine Ave. bike lane enhancements, and that the money could not just go to other projects or into the general fund.
Mayor Roach responded to Krolian’s and Lecuona’s comments by saying the elements of the plan are what got White Plains the grant in the first place and that $1.2 million from the state with $320,000 from the city is a good deal. “We are careful with how we spend money,” Roach added.
Roach said that White Plains prides itself in being a progressive city that attracts Milennials who often prefer to take a bicycle to the train station, rather than driving a car.
Roach further said that White Plains was positioned well in the region to attract businesses that employ Milennials because of its progressive programs.
During the vote on the ordinance, both Krolian and Lecuona voted no.
During the Oct. 2 meeting a parking garage extension by New York Power Authority (NYPA) on Main St. was also approved.
Councilwoman Lecuona said she would like NYPA to go back to the table and produce a better plan. Right now the park in front of the building will disappear, she said. “If they are eliminating the park, they should bring something green to the city.”
Lecuona recommended that the exterior wall facing Main Street could become a garden or a sculpture.