Members of the Oyster Bay community attended a meeting to help in the visioning of the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum plans on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Doubleday Babcock Senior Center. The meeting was conducted as part of the New York State Department of State Quality Communities Program and hosted by the Oyster Bay Main Street Association, the grant award winner. The purpose of the grant is to fund the planning and design of the public plaza, access and a pedestrian-friendly streetscape of the area surrounding the museum - in a location that provides a vital connection from the waterfront to the downtown.
A birds-eye view of the proposed plans for the new OBRM and plaza.
"I'm very pleased that the Oyster Bay Main Street Association was able to compete for and win a New York State Department of State Quality Communities Grant to benefit the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum and the entire community. The quality of service providers was top-notch. We were able to hire RMS Engineering to produce an updated topographical survey; Jablonski Conservation of New York City to conduct an Historic Structures Report and Saratoga Associates of New York City to conduct the community visioning for the design of the plaza and streetscape. The community appreciated the sensitivity of the design and appropriateness for Oyster Bay. The designers were very creative in coming up with solutions to create a plaza that works and also make it exciting for the museum visitor," said Joan Mahon, Oyster Bay Main Street Association executive director.
Rob Brusca, one of the attendees said, "It was fantastic. The presentation was great and the renderings for the streetscape and the surrounding area look well planned. The traffic flow looks as if it will be improved. The connection from downtown to the park will be improved and much more inviting.
"I think Ben (Jankowski, OBRM board chair) has done a great job. Clearly the broad support that this organization has behind it is a direct reflection of the very deliberate open and thoughtful way in which they have gone about everything. They and the elected officials on the town, county and state level, deserve compliments for that. It really came together nicely," said Mr. Brusca.
Pat Aitken, the OBRM, secretary said, "As a new OBRM board member I am very pleased to work on such a positive project. I am looking forward to working with the community on such an exciting project that will help rejuvenate the downtown and provide a nexus for the community. And, it will be a great place to bring children to enjoy a family outing."
OBRM President John Specce said, "I thought the meeting was very productive and exciting. A lot of people were pleased with the schematic drawings that Saratoga Associates presented. We are very excited about this. This is going to make such a difference than what is there now. Most of the community seems to be behind it. Those present seemed to be pleased. They thought it was well designed and a well planned solution to what exists there now."
Mr. Specce said some of the issues they are addressing include that there is a problem with the area across from the railroad building. "The pavement is cracked. There is poor water drainage on the southeast corner. Anytime it rains, large puddles form there. There is a drainage basin there but it is either not functioning properly or is the wrong size. Runoff goes to that spot and collects. The whole area looks forlorn.
"Parking too is a problem. There are no defined parking spaces. Another issue is that commercial vehicles use the plaza area as an access route along the railroad right of way. Some of the tenants in the area are businesses that have big trucks. They can't make the sharp 90-degree turn when using Hamilton Avenue - if you drive a car it is all right, but with a truck it is hard to maneuver.
"Tom Golon runs his business Wonderland Trees in a building there, and parks his trucks there. When they leave, they cross the plaza. Jimmy Longo also has large trucks and he parks on the right of way and drives through the plaza.
"When the lines go in for the parking spaces, we will lose some spots, but we are anticipating that Firemen's Field will handle the overflow parking. The Oyster Bay Railroad Museum will get most of its traffic on the weekends, so commercial traffic won't be there then," he said.
Mr. Specce added, "It's going to be a very nice complement to the town. You'll be able to look down Audrey Avenue from the Derby-Hall bandstand and see the railroad canopies/sheds and the turntable. It will be 100 percent better than now.
"We will make sure that the trucks have access. We are thinking of the right of way that exists leading to South Street. It was called Railroad Avenue and was open when the LIRR did over the yards in 1998/1999. The contractor had a construction trailer there and it is still sitting there, effectively blocking the way to South Street.
"Saratoga Associates said if we can get that trailer to move, we can use that road again. It's worth at least exploring. Then the trucks shouldn't have to go through the plaza. It could be an alternate route. The next step is that Saratoga Associates will come back with estimates on what the project will cost entirely."
Mr. Specce said someone asked about making the OBRM a visitor's center. "Ben and I said the trustees considered that and it is probably a good idea.
"Think of the trolley making the rounds of the village. It is a perfect place, a central location to get a brochure and coupons and whatever they need whether they do take the trolley or not. The trolley would travel in a loop from the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum to Planting Fields Arboretum Historic State Park, to Raynham Hall Museum, to the Earle-Wightman House, to the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and to Sagamore Hill - whatever is on that historic route."
Mr. Specce said, "It was a very interesting presentation. We had seen a smaller version (at a previous meeting) and this was a PowerPoint Presentation. At the OBRM Preview Center we have some renderings done by a company we consulted with earlier to get a sense of what was possible. The new plans are drawn to scale and consider the traffic flow and topography."
Caroline Dubois said, "First of all, an anecdote," she said. "After the meeting, a woman from Syosset, asked me, 'I know it seems like you know what's going on. Can you explain why everyone loves this museum and everybody hates the TR Museum. What's the difference?' I said size is the difference. It's between the size of a peanut and an elephant."
Chairman Ben Jankowski said many people attended the meeting, including Oyster Bay Civic Association President Bill Von Novak who was part of the steering committee. "Everybody who was involved in the Audrey Avenue extension - whether they owned property or owned a shop - were invited to participate in the discussions, well before in scoping sessions. That included the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce and the civic association.
"Every question that was put to us was answered with a succinct response and everyone seemed satisfied with the replies. That is what I've been saying all along, that is, that we work with everybody in the community," said Mr. Jankowski.
"The next thing to implement is for Saratoga Associates to recommend what funding is needed for the project," said Mr. Jankowski. He is currently arranging for the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum day trip to the Danbury Railroad Museum on Saturday, April 12. He is also engaged in their 2008 Capital Fund Raising Campaign. "It is basically looking for funding for two things: first the architectural review of the Oyster Bay Train Station which is the next step in the process that will tell us the cost of re-building the station; and the other is continued revitalization of Locomotive 35. We will choose one of those to do, unless someone comes up with a humongous check."
Jack Bernstein, a member of the MSA board and passionate on the subject of the Theodore Roosevelt Museum and Research Center said, "The meeting was informative. It looks like it will integrate well with the TR Museum."
OBRM board member Judy Wasilchuk said, "It was a good idea to hold the meeting so that the community will understand what we have to do. It's a beautiful addition to the hamlet and will take a lot of hard work. But, we have a good board and we think that the railroad museum will be a good addition to the community."
She is asking the community to keep an eye out for old (fashioned) luggage that can be used to bring reality to the museum.
Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce Vice President Paige Dawson said, "The group that attended the meeting were people who were genuinely interested in what happens with the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum, the plans for the museum and the plaza. The schematic design was very interesting. They had views of Audrey Avenue, looking at a traffic circle with a clock in the center. There was another drawing of the end of Maxwell Avenue as a cul de sac so you can't go through 'Suicide Alley'. That little area is two-way. It's a totally blind passage. You creep in and pray for the best - that someone with a hot car isn't coming at you."
Matt Meng, East Norwich Civic Association president said, "I think it's wonderful. I don't see anyone opposing the plans." He added, "They have limited parking for events there. They'll need to rely on municipal parking."
OBRM President John Specce explained the process Saratoga Associates went through with them. He said William Kuhl, senior principal and vice president; Jeffrey Poor, director of landscape architecture, NYC; and Brett Wallace, landscape designer and certified arborist all spoke at the Feb. 27 meeting and were present at the initial meeting when the MSA met on Monday, Jan. 14 for their kickoff meeting with the core group - MSA, SA and the OBRM. "They took photographs to get a sense of what they were dealing with. In January there was a review of the site analysis with the MSA design committee, the OBRM and the community steering committee stakeholders: such as the Oyster Bay Civic Association; Tom Golon; and Mr. Rogers, owner of the Coil Winding building and his son-in-law. There was another meeting in February where SA made a presentation to the steering committee/stake holders. That was the first opportunity those stakeholders had to see what SA came up with. At that time the conversation was about the revisions needed before the Feb. 27 public meeting at DBSC.
The next step is that the people at Saratoga Associates will be returning to Oyster Bay with cost estimates to complete the proposed plan. Mr. Specce said, "They will create construction documents reflective of the architect's plans which we can use to procure a public works improvement project for the OBRM. It will include the landscape architectural design, the public entrance, plaza, walkways and connection to the waterfront enhancing the architect's plans. Then we will submit it to the town to see if they will fund the work or use their own worker to take care of the project."