It’s not often that a bunch of business owners will agree on anything. If one portion of the group says one thing, the other will say another. At Monday night’s village board meeting, however, two factions were able to come to amicable terms.
It was democracy in action. A number of Partition Street business owners, village trustees, and the state transportation officials hammered out an agreement that will benefit Jonathan Shapiro, who owns Saugerties Furniture on Main Street. With a warehouse on Russell Street, Shapiro has had to schlep his work crew out to a parking lot off the Thruway to unload furniture delivery trucks and bring the merchandise back to the warehouse, all because the state police have begun to enforce a law enacted in the 1990s.
The state law forbids the operation of tractor-trailers with trailers longer than 48 feet on narrow roads that are more than a mile from a major highway. Most freight haulers have switched from their traditional 48-foot trailers to 53-footers so they can carry more freight. That also helps cut down on the number of trips they need to make to stores, reducing costs for diesel fuel.
State law specify that 53-foot trailers can only be used on roads that have at least ten-foot traveling lanes, which is 20 feet if the road, like Russell, is a two-way street. Alas, Russell is only 18 feet wide. Although it has given the village a waiver on Washington Avenue so that Saugerties High School can get deliveries, the state DOT has refused to issue a waiver to the village of Saugerties for use of Russell Street by 53-foot trailers,.
To help Shapiro out, the trustees proposed a law to make Russell a one-way street traveling from Washington to Partition Street, which would meet the state’s ten-foot-wide lane guidelines. Mayor William Murphy had letters sent out to property owners on Russell Street asking for input “because that’s how we do business,” the mayor said.
He only received one letter in support of making the road one-way and one phone call that was negative.
Last week, however, shop owners along the section of Partition Street that is near Russell Street and the business owners whose shops are in the small mall at the intersection of Partition and Russell began to pepper the mayor and village hall with phone calls. They turned out en masse for Monday night’s public hearing on the proposed law.
Some said that if Russell were made one-way their customers would have to drive around the block because they could not pull directly into the parking lot off Russell Street.
Theresa Deshane, who has owned the Mirage haircutters for 23 years, objected to the law. She had chosen that location, she said, “because of the parking lot.” If her customers couldn’t have easy access to the parking lot, they might go elsewhere to have their haircut.
Brendan Amodeo, owner of Mirabella’s, is in the process of converting two adjacent storefronts on Partition Street into a larger venue. He is planning patio dining out the back of his new restaurant. He thought it would annoy his customers if people seeking to get to the parking lot for the shops at the intersection of Partition and Russell cut through the municipal parking lot to the rear of the new restaurant. Trucks cutting through there to Shapiro’s warehouse would annoy them even more.
“I want to work with everyone,” Shapiro offered. “I’ve had that warehouse building since the 1970s, and this issue only came up this year when the troopers began to enforce it.”
What to do?
After about an hour of discussion and some wrangling, and with the assent of Richard Dillmann, a civil engineer with the DOT who was at the meeting, business owners and the village trustees agreed to divide Russell Street into a one-way and a two-way street.
At the village’s November meeting they will hold a public hearing that will make Russell Street from Partition Street to the municipal parking lot exit one-way heading towards Washington Street. From that point to Washington Street will remain two-way.
“This is a win for everybody,” Murphy exulted.
Dillmann said the DOT would approve such a change. With the first portion of Russell Street one-way, the 53-foot trailers would have a satisfactory traveling lane.
The new law will be introduced at the board’s November 5 meeting. A public hearing will be held at its November 19 meeting.