A former Pleasantville village trustee has created an online survey regarding the proposed new civic space and park planned for the northern end of the Memorial Plaza.
The three-question survey was created by Jonathan Cunningham with the help of a marketing professional.
“I felt people weren’t as informed as perhaps the [village] board thought they were and there were reasons to test public sentiment. This a big project that will remake downtown Pleasantville and involves quite a bit of money,” said Cunningham, who served on the Village Board for 12 years. “Businesses and commuters will be impacted. The proposed scope really needs to be tested and understood.”
Cunningham’s survey is only available online and will not be distributed by postal mail. He hopes to receive 200 to 300 responses over the next few weeks, then share the results with the Village Board.
Cunningham, who said he is not opposed to the project but had conveyed skepticism for the project at a public hearing earlier this year, shared a draft of the survey with the Village Board in May.
“I invited them to partner on this but they felt the survey was biased,” he said. “When I asked for ways to improve the survey, they said they had ideas, but ultimately never shared them with me.”
Since then, Cunningham has revamped the survey with the goal of making sure it is viewed as credible.
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer, who has seen Cunningham’s online survey, said he felt the Memorial Plaza project had been fully vetted and approved by the public. Scherer said the village had no plans to distribute a village-wide survey.
“We have built on work the village has done for 15 years or more and in the last two years the process has been very public with much participation,” Scherer said.
Cunningham acknowledged that he would have received a more robust response if he was able to mail the survey as well.
“The village is spending about $2.5 million on part of this project and if they could get behind this (survey) and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a village-wide mailing, we could make sure we gauge the community sentiment correctly,” he said.
The survey asks respondents to what degree they support the Memorial Plaza Civic Space project; the elements of the project that are most appealing to them; and which elements are most concerning.
It also asks for individual names and addresses to verify residency and accuracy.
“Individual responses will not be shared,” Cunningham said. “We geared the survey to village residents but the project will impact those living outside the village. There is a tax aspect to this project and if you’re not in the village you don’t have to pay for it. There are serious concerns for the project’s costs.”
Scherer said the village has taken steps to clarify the scope of the project by improving its website. He said the village has hired a part-time communications specialist to keep the website’s content new and fresh and to better respond to residents’ concerns, not only for the civic space project but for many other issues as well.
“Even though Jonathan’s survey is not something the village has been involved with, I think the feedback he generates will be interesting,” Scherer said.
But Cunningham said the village should be proceeding with the project more carefully.
“I’m not against this project; I just think that if we go slower and not faster, it will provide a scope and range where we could better address the impacts all around,” he said.
Transforming a portion of Memorial Plaza into a civic space will require work that is part of the Manville Road streetscape and the removal of the slip lane from Memorial Plaza. As part of the streetscape, a median is planned along Manville Road from Grant Street to Vanderbilt Avenue, lanes will be widened to 15 feet, curb lines will be pulled back to increase sidewalk width and a right-turn lane will be constructed at the intersection of Memorial Plaza and Manville Road.
The plan also includes additional crosswalks at Vanderbilt Avenue and Manville Road. Crosswalks on Manville Road, Washington Avenue, Wheeler Avenue and Tompkins Avenue will be shortened to create a series of curbed peninsulas.
Work on the streetscape is planned to begin next spring or summer with construction starting on the civic space the following year.
The link to the survey is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SK6Z8NN.