Katonah Art Center tries to fit in

Though mostly acknowledged as a huge success at its new home on Old Bedford Road in Goldens Bridge, the Katonah Art Center (KAC) has not been without some growing pains as it settles into its new home.

Since relocating from Katonah to the Goldens Bridge Community House in January, the KAC has been the subject of several complaints from neighbors who were unhappy with the new level of activity in what had been a sleepy neighborhood. A majority of concerns involved parking, as cars took up spaces in front of houses up and down the street during KAC events. Others expressed displeasure with increased traffic, making it less safe for children to play in the street, and providing less privacy.

Developing solutions

KAC owner Loren Anderson of South Salem told The Ledger she has attempted to deal with these concerns, meeting with several neighbors and developing solutions, some in cooperation with the town.

Lewisboro Supervisor Peter Parsons acknowledged that the town approved construction of a higher privacy fence by an immediate neighbor to the property.

“This is a fabulously successful business,” he said of the art center. “It has added vitality to the hamlet and the town. Any time we have an opportunity to support and encourage local business, we should take the initiative to do so.”

Parsons said KAC had come up with a simple solution to the parking issue.

“The center is practically adjacent to the Goldens Bridge train station parking lot. Since their events are all on the weekend, when Metro North offers free parking, they have instructed attendees to park at the south end of the lot. Problem solved,” Parsons said.

Building was vacant

The Goldens Bridge Community House had been vacant since the Parks and Recreation Department moved its offices to Onatru Farm Park in 2014, and what to do with the former schoolhouse had been the subject of numerous discussions since. Among the proposals were selling the building or converting it for use as affordable or senior housing. The idea of renting it to KAC was first discussed by the Town Board last August, when it voted unanimously to authorize Parsons to negotiate a lease, and the board again voted unanimously to approve the lease in November.

As part of the lease agreement, KAC shares meeting space with the community, such as the Goldens Bridge Hamlet Organization (GBHO), which holds its monthly meetings there. GBHO president Jonathan Monti told The Ledger that the organization considered any traffic or parking issues related to KAC to be something that should be resolved between neighbors, and not something in which GBHO should be involved.

“We are trying to focus on larger planning issues impacting the hamlet as a whole,” he said.

A long history

Built in 1912 as the Goldens Bridge Schoolhouse, the building has had a variety of uses over the decades.

“This is nothing new,” said Anderson. “The building was used for a similar business in the past.” Indeed, the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts (NWCA), founded by Goldens Bridge resident Bira Rabushka, got its start in the former schoolhouse in the 1970s.

Since NWCA left, however, the property has had a much lower profile, with the Parks & Rec offices generating minimal traffic. Anderson and Parsons both told the Ledger that, though some on Old Bedford Road may find the increased activity in the area disconcerting, it was inevitable that there would be change no matter what use had been decided on for the building.

“We now have a healthy business there that is paying rent to the town, and is a positive addition to the community,” Parsons said. “It seems to me it is a win-win situation.”

Anderson said she has a number of initiatives she plans to announce, including planting of gardens that will beautify the property and “help make it an even more positive addition to the neighborhood.”

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  • Jonathan Monti

    Mr. Morris’s article has misquoted me. I have stated that the town needs to involve the community when making decisions that greatly impact a neighborhood. A sizeable portion of this past Wednesday’s GBHO meeting was dedicated to traffic and parking issues within the hamlet. At this point the GBHO is working with two communities and their parking concerns. Our next meeting is, Wednesday, June 15th.

    • Jay Thant

      Mr. Parsons might have created something he can’t control. I hope Mr. Monti does not devour him.

  • Katherine B

    What is missing from this article? Any input from the actual RESIDENTS of Old Goldens Bridge.

    From the beginning, the relocation of the art center has been an inside arrangement
    between KAC and the town board, without much thought to the impact on the surrounding community. Town Supervisor, Peter Parsons, says it represents “revitalization.” But what constitutes revitalization? Over 22,000 vehicle trips during a 6-week period in a neighborhood of 16 occupied homes? Cars perpetually turning around in the neighbors’ driveways? A parking lot in what once was our neighborhood basketball court? Random strangers playing ball on our front yards like it’s a public park? Noisy delivery trucks coming and going? The patrons of KAC aren’t spending money in Goldens Bridge beyond paying KAC itself. So, what exactly does
    revitalization mean, Mr. Parsons?

    The town board spent much money ($40K) to rehab the old building and more ($10K) to air condition it this summer for its new tenant (courtesies never extended to
    previous inhabitants like Parks & Rec), but has left pressing issues of new
    fences and traffic management/signage entirely up to the residents to manage
    and pay for. Moreover, it remains questionable whether the economics of the
    arrangement are even beneficial to Lewisboro taxpayers; they certainly are not to
    the residents of Old Goldens Bridge. One homeowner who is trying to sell her property has heard from more than one prospective buyer about all the traffic and increased activity. While our property values are negatively affected, our voices go unheard.

    In actual fact, we residents have initiated the community meetings with KAC staff,
    we ourselves have purchased & installed the car-counter which is now
    tracking the high number of cars speeding down our road, we have come together to
    brainstorm and offer the proactive suggestions to members of the board and made
    repeated requests of the Highway Department to install a speed table near the
    school bus stop; but thus far, our efforts have not been acknowledged.

    Believe me when I say that this has NOT been an easy transition for the residents of Old Goldens Bridge, whose opinions in this article were yet again not sought and overlooked.

    • Jason Quackenbush

      Thank you

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