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Assembly Bill Could Halt Saw Mill Towers Project

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – A room full of residents were given a glimmer of hope Monday night as local New York State Assembly member Bob Castelli (R-Bedford) announced at the Pleasantville Board of Trustees meeting a proposed bill that may help stop the state department of transportation (DOT) traffic monitoring tower project on the Saw Mill River Parkway.

“None of the local governments consented to this and there were no public hearings for this project,” Castelli said.  “We want the opportunity to have our local governments have the opportunity to be heard in this matter, whether positively or negatively, before any determination is made.”

The pending bill provides that towers, including those for telecommunications, may not be erected on special parkway lands within Westchester County without the consent of the local government in which the tower is located. The bill is sponsored by Castelli’s fellow local Assembly member Gary Pretlow (D-Yonkers) and co-sponsored by Assembly members Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) and Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale).  Castelli said a meeting to discuss passing the bill will take place Tuesday in Albany.

If the bill passes, Castelli said there is enough time to alter or cancel the state DOT’s project and that a decision on the bill can come as soon as next Monday.

“I do believe that it can be taken up quickly and my colleagues and I have the ability to move this thing forward in a timely fashion,” Castelli said.   “The ability to stop this project, based upon this legislation, certainly still exists.”

Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer, along with the board of trustees and the roughly 30 residents in attendance at the meeting Monday, praised the local Assembly for listening to their complaints.  Scherer made it clear that he and board are adamantly against the project.

“It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to spend a lot of money on an eye in the sky project that tells us something that we already know, which is that when it rains, the traffic stops,” Scherer said.

The DOT project includes a series of closed-circuit television system towers that are around 125 feet high and feature a camera on top that can monitor traffic flow and accidents. The DOT plans to install seven towers on the Saw Mill River Parkway – beginning from where the parkway crosses the Taconic State Parkway near Hawthorne, and ending in Chappaqua. The state department said traffic monitoring cameras can sense heavy congestion, show when an alternate route should be recommended and also detect accidents quickly in order to dispatch emergency forces in a timely manner.

Earlier this month, DOT officials said the department recognizes the local concerns but that a suspension or alteration to the project is possible.  The department said the cameras do not capture personal identity information.  The project is anticipated to be complete by this summer.

Although progress in stopping the project is being made, Pleasantville residents such as Deana Nelkin urged residents Monday to continue voicing their concerns to state government.

“Please pressure DOT and please make the phone calls or even if you just want to send an email, all it takes is a couple minutes and it will go a long way,” Nelkin said.

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