Two Harrison town leaders are working on a program they hope will help rebuild the town's struggling business district.
Councilwoman Marlane Amelio and Mayor/Supervisor Ron Belmont are establishing a downtown revitalization committee with the hopes of finally bringing life and prosperity back to the area.
“People coming here from Manhattan and other areas look to the amenities available, including those downtown, as an important part of their consideration in moving their family to this community,” Amelio said.
The goal of the committee is to set in motion a series of realistic goals that will begin to reform the district, Amelio said. With the recent resignation of Ada Angarano as president of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce for family reasons, the founding of the committee comes at a time when the business area is in need of new leadership.
“We are just starting out and have a core membership to get the basics set up,” Amelio said. "Then we will invite additional key business owners to come on board, either permanently or on a rotating schedule, as their business commitments and time allow.”
The core committee is currently comprised of Belmont, Amelio, Pat Cleary, Harrison’s planning consultant, Bill Powell, owner of , Martin Spatz, a local real estate developer and owner, Rob Luison, owner of properties on Halstead Avenue and Brenda Maeda, owner of on Halstead Avenue and Hair and Beyond in Rye.
The committee will meet every two weeks.
In their initial two meetings the committee has accomplished two core achievements. The first was defining the downtown area as the space from to West Street along Halstead Avenue.
“We needed to be clear about the core area we are going to be working with and we also wanted to extend the traditional borders of what was seen as the downtown area,” Amelio explained.
The next step was to work on simple aesthetic fixes that the committee hopes will make a difference.
“One of Ron’s first concerns was that the downtown area needed cleaning,” Amelio said.
Department of public works coverage for the area has been increased, with their attention focused on keeping the streets cleaned and the sidewalks swept and tidy.
Having grown up in Harrison, Amelio is aware of what the town has lost by not having a thriving downtown.
“I remember when you could get anything you needed in downtown Harrison and the streets and merchants were always busy,” she said. “There was everything from clothing stores to a movie theatre and we all shopped locally. Now our main street has vacant storefronts and many merchants continue to struggle to keep their doors open.”
The committee is well aware that they are working with some major infrastructure weaknesses that will need to be addressed for the downtown area to thrive. But that is a long-term goal that they hope will be achieved over time. Amelio will be suggesting at the next meeting that the group look at both short-term and long-term fixes for the parking issue.
“Obviously long-term parking has been addressed in the various plans for the proposed Metro North development. Short-term however, I would like us to look at the possibility of leasing currently empty storefronts, creating municipal parking lots and installing meters to make them self-pay or at least well-subsidized,” Amelio said.
The group will also look at how to give the area an inexpensive facelift to attract desired new businesses. They also hope to create an events calendar that will ensure increased foot traffic in the area throughout the year.