Featured PieceGovernmentThe Examiner

Mt. Pleasant Residents Keep Wary Eye on Traffic at Amazon Facility

We are part of The Trust Project
The new Amazon distribution center and warehouse on Route 9A in Hawthorne, which has been in partial operation the past few weeks.

Recently, there have been a limited number of vehicles rolling out of the new Amazon distribution center on Route 9A in Hawthorne.

During the upcoming weeks, operations at the more than 150,000-square-foot facility that had been approved three-and-a-half years ago are gradually expected to ramp up, according to Mount Pleasant Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi.

“I get the impression that it would probably be a month or so before they have a full opening,” Fulgenzi said. “So maybe by the end of the month we’ll know better.”

For Amazon and some others in Mount Pleasant the full opening may be something to look forward to, but there are residents who live near the site that won’t be celebrating. Some have lived through years of cut-through traffic in their neighborhood and endured blasting, hammering and the rumble of trucks on their streets for the past two years. They expect conditions near their homes to deteriorate unless certain steps taken by the town remain in effect or are considered.

Two of those residents, Don Maldonado and Domenick Vita, said now that the warehouse is soon to become fully operational, they expect their quality of life to decline. Vita, a Pythian Avenue resident, called the Amazon warehouse, the latest in a series of large developments in Mount Pleasant that have either been built or are under consideration, “a huge issue for this neighborhood.”

But with the sprawling three-million-square-foot North 80 biomedical complex being reviewed by the town’s Planning Board and potential expansion of Westchester Medical Center and Blythedale Children’s Hospital, residents across the town are wary of what the future holds.

“Before Amazon was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, cut-through traffic was a problem here,” Vita said. “Cut-through traffic is going to get worse and exacerbated by North 80, by the next tower at Westchester Medical Center and certainly by Amazon. Just the nature of Amazon having a lot of vans and people that work there is going to create issues naturally on (Route) 9A, and if we allow it, through our neighborhood.”

With hundreds of vehicles ready to enter and leave the site each day in the near future, Maldonado said traffic and congestion can only get worse. He and Vita would like to see the current closures of Belmont Road, which is nearly directly across Route 9A from the Amazon site, and West Stevens Avenue be permanent to ensure that their neighborhood isn’t overrun, although there has been no decision by the town yet.

Having the town address the protection of residents’ quality of life should have been more closely evaluated during site plan review, Maldonado said.

“To be at this point now should have been a consideration when the plans were being drawn up,” Maldonado said. “That didn’t happen.”

Fulgenzi said there has been split reaction among residents that he’s heard from regarding the closures of Belmont Road and West Stevens Avenue. Some are happy that it’s reducing congestion in their parts of town while others find it a tremendous inconvenience.

The West Stevens closure was put into effect after the start of roadwork on Old Saw Mill River Road where a new water main is being installed. The town will reevaluate the road once work is completed, including the closure’s effect on emergency services, Fulgenzi said, but he understands there will be those who dislike whatever decision is made.

“It’s interesting that people are split with it being an inconvenience, but that it’s also a benefit that it is closed,” he said. “You can’t make everyone happy, but we’re trying.”

The supervisor said that around the start of the partial opening of the Amazon warehouse, the town learned that most of the company’s vehicles will be servicing areas south of the site, throughout lower Westchester and possibly into the Bronx. That should hold down the traffic volume headed through town, Fulgenzi said.

Police Chief Paul Oliva said that in early January he and other town officials met with Amazon security staff, toured the facility and discussed potential issues at and around the site, including the monitoring of traffic complaints.

Vehicles must make a right turn out of the facility to travel southbound on Route 9A.

“It was reported that a few of the vans may have made an improper left turn out of the facility’s northernmost exit,” Oliva said. “We advised security of this and believe that they have handled this.”

Police are also monitoring noise from the facility, particularly in the evening and overnight hours, Oliva said. As of last Friday, the department had not received noise complaints caused by trucks.

While the recent commencement of operations at the Amazon site has been in the forefront, it is not the only area of town that is concerned about traffic and diminished quality of life near major thoroughfares. Outspoken residents who live along or just off of Bradhurst Avenue (Route 100) in Valhalla and have complained for years about the volume of traffic, including large trucks, are also pointing to how the state has let the condition of the road deteriorate.

Bradhurst Avenue resident Glenn Accocella said despite the town’s efforts to redirect haulers taking trash to Charles Point in Peekskill off of the busy road as well as tractor-trailers traveling to and from local supermarkets, the camera on his property catches many trucks using the road.

With North 80, the medical center and Blythedale projects having been proposed, the situation could easily worsen, he said.

“I think our biggest concern is our volume of traffic that can go up from where it’s already high now,” Accocella said. “The improvements they have to do and work on the road, that just has to be done. It just can’t go like this, but the volume of traffic is what we worry about and where that’s going to go, and that’s how the town should look at this when they’re developing.”

He and Armand Place neighbor Sean Quigley were among those who met last Friday with staff from Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ office to discuss the challenges they face. While there were no immediate solutions offered, Stewart-Cousins’ representatives took note of their concerns.

Quigley said with additional projects in the pipeline, there is a high level of anxiety. He and Accocella agreed that a bypass road from Route 9A to the North 80 site must be built, otherwise residents’ lives could become intolerable.

“I know this is a state road here, but at what point, what is the breaking point,” Quigley said. “We’re just in a sea of development, and I’m not anti-development. I’m not. There has to be a grander plan. The North 80 will likely go through, I would think, but if you’re going to do that, there needs to be some serious investment in these roads.”

Last month, the town also had a meeting with state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials about Bradhurst Avenue. Fulgenzi said the solutions are difficult because that stretch of the road cuts through a residential neighborhood.

A DOT spokesperson last week indicated that Route 9A and Bradhurst Avenue is on their radar.

“Safety is always the priority for the New York State Department of Transportation and we routinely engage with our local partners to discuss concerns and areas for potential enhancements,” a DOT statement read. “As always, NYSDOT continues to monitor conditions on all our roadways – including State Routes 100 and 9A.”

But for those affected every day, Vita said he and other residents have been more vigilant in keeping tabs on the North 80 project compared to Amazon, which was approved during the height of the pandemic.

“We are going to continue hoping that everyone who’s in a role to make decisions makes the right ones for the benefit of all these residents and puts their concerns ahead of the developers,” Vita said. “We want to be good neighbors and we expect our businesses that come into town to be good neighbors. We expect our developers who are from out of town, who come into town to respect our wishes, our desires and to be good neighbors as well.”

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.