Huguenot Street could become a little bit more like it was back in the day, if an idea being batted around New Paltz Village Hall takes root. At their June 8 meeting, village board members discussed closing the historic section of the street to vehicular traffic entirely.
That would be terrible news for the drivers who regularly make the illegal turn around the monument at Huguenot and North Front because following the law is too inconvenient. When one of those drivers got a car caught up on the rocks last August, numerous members of the New Paltz Facebook group admitted to violating the law and complaining about it. That car damaged the monument itself, according to Mary Etta Schneider of Historic Huguenot Street, and that’s not the worst of it: truck drivers often ignore the heavy vehicle ban, and cut through the neighborhood of stone houses. All that traffic has taken a toll on the foundations of these buildings, leading to the request for relief. Cracked foundations let water into the historic structures, and the cycle of freeze and thaw can wreak terrible damage upon them.
Schneider said that speed bumps can actually exacerbate the problem by concentrating the weight in a single spot. The area that Schneider and board members agreed would be helpful to close would be from the monument to Broadhead, because it would allow access to the one private residence and the church parking lot. Schneider would also like to see Huguenot Street get a different surface, but Mayor Tim Rogers said that such work would not be paid for out of village funds. Changing tacks, Schneider suggested the possibility of exploring joint grants. Other options including curving the road a bit to get it farther from some buildings were discussed, but closing the street was where most of the talk was focused.
This was only a first conversation, Rogers stressed. Any action to close Huguenot Street would require a new law, and that always comes with a public hearing. Before any such hearing could be held, board members will have to compile more information about impacts and study it with care.
Another road closure
Church Street has been closed at least once on a weekend to experiment with a pedestrian mall, and board members are mulling over making that a regular thing during the warmer months. Mayor Rogers said that business owners along the stretch from Barner Books to Academy Street seem interested in trying to close it on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Before the concept is tested, board member Dennis Young agreed to reach out to members of the synagogue to gauge their reaction.