Guest Columns

Commentary: Future Growth in Yorktown is Dependent on Improving its Infrastructure

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By Lanny Gilbert
Former Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert
Former Yorktown Supervisor Ilan Gilbert and candidate for Town Board. 

In order for Yorktown to thrive, we need to grow. Our population in 2010 was 36,095 and in 2019 it was 36,269 – virtually unchanged, according to the census and town data. 

We need to continue growing the population and the businesses that support our residents. When you have defined borders and limited open space, growth requires revitalization, especially when you recognize that the core infrastructure was put in place in the 1960s when the population was around 16,000.

To revitalize Yorktown and make it a thriving community relies on repairing or replacing the visible and invisible infrastructure. This includes the roads, communications, water towers and power above ground, along with the water, sewer, communications, power and drainage systems underground.

To do it right, we need to make wise decisions now as we consider significant changes to our zoning that is meant to facilitate our growth.

Infrastructure on the federal, state and local levels is the watchword of our times.

During my term as Yorktown supervisor, I led the effort to make much-needed infrastructure improvements in the town, including repaving, new generators for our public works buildings (Town Hall and the highway garage) for emergency storm strengthening and new roofs on the badly-aged Town Hall, police department and courthouse complex and Water Department buildings.

Additionally, we improved playgrounds, completed the Granite Knolls Sports Complex and repaired our tennis courts. I secured the grant money for revitalizing Railroad Depot and Park, and we began critical work on the failing Mohegan Lake retaining wall. Various culverts on Veterans Road and Hill Boulevard were identified for repair, and grants were sought to pay for them. 

But these infrastructure projects were intended just to catch up, to keep us current and operational. I gained invaluable knowledge and experience about our existing infrastructure, and I understand the need to continue critical maintenance but to also execute a needs assessment.

As former town supervisor I know that much more work is needed going forward, especially if the town intends to expand businesses and increase rental apartments and other housing to move out of stagnation.

It’s time to properly study our infrastructure needs. Where are the traffic bottlenecks and dangerous intersections? How much additional capacity will our sewer and water supply systems require? How much additional power and bandwidth must the utilities provide? How do they improve availability? Which roads need more than patching?

There are proposals to permit more flexible zoning for developers, but we need the supporting studies completed on our future infrastructure needs, before we even consider those proposals.

Since leaving the supervisor’s office, I have been named a commissioner on the New York State Bridge Authority, which oversees five bridges, from the Bear Mountain Bridge north to the Rip van Winkle Bridge, along with the Walkway Over the Hudson. Bridge infrastructure maintenance and growth are continuously monitored and future needs are considered to determine future actions. Being a bridge commissioner has increased my appreciation for proper maintenance and planning.

All state and local infrastructure require maintenance and/or replacement, in order to support growth and ensure safety due to wear and tear.

The key to Yorktown’s growth and revitalization projects is effectively balancing the needs for vital development with the residents’ quality of life. With our knowledge of the infrastructure, zoning and permitting processes and the needs of all hamlets considered, we can proceed with projects that will help our town grow appropriately.

I look forward to using our significant fund surplus and the newly committed federal funds to improve our current infrastructure and to properly plan and budget for our future needs.

Lanny Gilbert is a former Yorktown supervisor and is a candidate for Town Board this year.

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