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What defines hyde park?
Mavis proposal divides town
BY JIM LANGAN • ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 9/7/16
It’s been a long time since anyone has turned up in any great numbers at town hall for either a town or planning board meeting. As Hyde Park’s fortunes have faded with the economy and lack of leadership, a certain air of resignation has settled in locally. As empty storefronts line the main thoroughfares of Routes 9 and 9G, as schools continue to close for lack of students and families move away, the current local government has proven incapable of stemming the flow or convincing anyone they have a solution. Supervisor Aileen Rohr and her board have become less and less transparent while the planning board continues to be seen as increasingly anti-business with its imperious chairman Michael Dupree acting as a one man arbiter of what’s appropriate for Hyde Park.
So the proposal to consider building an eight-bay Mavis tire facility on the site of the long vacant Molloy’s Drug Store, in what locals call the old Grand Union Plaza, had residents out in force at a recent planning board meeting. A packed room saw resident after resident rise to oppose the proposal which would have Molloy’s razed and the Mavis facility erected on the site facing west. Many residents vehemently objected to the idea of a noisy and unattractive tire store looking directly at homes behind the Chase Bank and serving as the anchor of the so-called new town center.
But the common theme amongst the residents was their support of new business in Hyde Park but their opposition to a tire store at that location. The Rohr administration before had attempted to shoehorn the same Mavis facility into a vacant gas station adjacent to Sweet’s Funeral Home. The proposal was withdrawn by Mavis after a huge community outcry. As one exasperated resident told Hudson Valley News, “It’s not that we object to the concept or Mavis. It’s just that this is the wrong idea at in wrong place. What do they think is going to follow a tire store into the town center?”
The plaza itself has been vacant for many years with both Molloy’s and the old Amish Market giving visual testimony to Hyde Park’s diminished state. The buildings are dilapidated and the parking lot a minefield of potholes and obvious neglect. Many people have remarked that Rohr’s well documented obsession with building new sidewalks as evidence of some sort of economic resurgence is laughable when these same “sidewalks to nowhere,” as residents call them, go past so many vacant or abandoned properties like the one under consideration. While the aesthetics of a tire store are debatable, it’s the overall vision that has residents up in arms.
For many observers the project in general was born out of desperation. Rohr and her close friend planning board chair Michael Dupree have been attempting for years to maintain Hyde Park’s rural and historic charm and reputation. Many residents chafe at the insistence of weekenders like Dupree or large property owners like Rohr maintaining the facade that Hyde Park is some sort of post and rail community populated by middle and upper class families. “Hyde Park is and always will be a blue collar town and it’s time we came to terms with it. Remember Hyde Park has one of the highest concentrations of mobile homes in the state. Keeping Mavis out is just crazy. We need business and taxes more than we need to pretend we’re Rhinebeck,” said one East Park resident who declined to be identified.
Attempts by previous Republican supervisors, like Yancy McArthur and Tom Martino, to encourage franchise businesses and big box stores were met with derision and scorn by the so-called smart growth crowd led by Dupree, Rohr and former Supervisor Pompey Delafield. In fact, Rohr was a leading member of “Stop the Sprawl,” a group dedicated to stopping what they considered inappropriate development, prior to Dupree engineering her nomination for supervisor.
Enter a few years of economic stagnation and a shrinking tax base under Rohr and Dupree and you see a rather surprising change of heart. When local builder Bob Baxter elected to put the plaza up for sale, Dupree and Rohr among others encouraged Nicolas Dibrizzi and Nick Citera, owners of the Cosimo Restaurant Group, to purchase the property which has been vacant for more than ten years. Commenting at the time, Dupree and Rohr were effusive in their appreciation to “the two Nicks” (as they called them) for investing in downtrodden Hyde Park. According to sources, part of the purchase agreement included the commitment of a major supermarket chain to erect a store behind the CVS building. No one has ever been willing to say what became of that commitment or if it ever really existed.
The absence of an anchor tenant like a supermarket then made the newly acquired property far less attractive and the development has been stalled since. It has been no secret that Dibrizzi and Citera have been disappointed with the purchase and the town for some time. Given their involvement in persuading the Cosimo investors to purchase the plaza, there has been much speculation that Rohr and Dupree are pushing the Mavis plan as some sort of make good effort to placate Dibrizzi and Citera.
After nearly five years in office Rohr has presided over the slow death of a once vibrant town and Dupree has been unable to generate anything of note at the planning board. The irony is had Yancy McArthur or Tom Martino proposed putting a tire shop into the old Molloy’s, Rohr and Dupree would have been leading the charge in opposition to such a tacky and downmarket idea. How the times have changed.
For Hyde Park residents it is truly decision time. Either the town elects to throw in the aesthetic towel and take anything it can get or dig in its heels. Clearly, green lighting a tire store is unlikely to transform Hyde Park into Rhinebeck. Ironically, or as a result of better planning, Rhinebeck has a Mavis facility on Route 9. The difference is it is not in the center of town.
The overwhelming opposition to the Mavis proposal prompted the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce President Frank Castella Jr. to write a Letter to the Editor which can be seen [ here ]. In the letter Castella laments the fact that at a planning board hearing that Citera and Dibrizzi attended, “little to no support for the project was present.” Castella is hoping his efforts serve to focus local businesses and residents to get behind the proposal. The next planning board meeting is scheduled for September 21 at which time the future of Hyde Park could be determined.