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Tappan Zee Bridge update
by Shel Haber

Some organizations associated with the building the new Tappan Zee Bridge have managed to antagonize a lot of people and communities.

• In Piermont, there is a major plan to eradicate Phragmites, a tall perennial wetlands reed. Called a restoration project by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, some Piermont residents consent to the plan; others describe it as a calamity.

Superstorm Sandy hit Piermont very hard; some residents are still recovering. One group points to the marsh Phragmites as a big factor in protecting Piermont from even worse wave action during the storm.

Further, they believe the toxic herbicides that must be sprayed on 200 acres of the marsh to destroy the Phragmites, will affect not only the targeted reed but also other plants, fish, animals and residents.

Others disagree. Their point is that the Piermont Marsh is now dominated by Phragmites, an invasive reed that has replaced the native marsh grass. Phragmites is widely recognized as a wetland pest because of its rapid expansion and its ability to quickly dominate the marsh and alter resources available to other living things.

• Homeowners near the bridge have discovered that offers from the Tappan Zee Bridge project group to grant money for new, noise-reducing windows and doors comes with an increased tax bill.

In May, the bridge builder and the Thruway Authority announced their offer of $1.7 million for sound-reducing windows and doors to owners of 57 eligible homes in Tarrytown, South Nyack and Grand View-on-Hudson.

Today, of the 57 eligible individual homeowners, 24 have accepted the offer and 13 have already received checks. The recipients claim that they were not informed, prior to receiving these grants, that the money may be considered taxable income.

One recipient said, “I think getting a 1099 (income tax form) is a stab in the back and not the right thing to do. We’re not generating income.”

Another grant recipient said “If the money is considered part of our annual income, it could have a negative effect on STAR exemption.” STAR is a school district tax reduction for seniors. Other benefits that may be affected are Social Security and Medicare. The concern by some is that if they don’t accept the unfair tax increase and get their windows and doors fixed immediately, they may have cause to regret it in time.

Editor’s Note: As we go to press it appears that Albany has changed its mind. “The state will make sure residents will not pay any new taxes for noise reduction measures through our Community Benefits Program,” Brian Conybeare, special advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement Monday morning, July 21.

• The Tappan Zee builders are going to mark a passage on the Hudson River to help recreational boaters enter and exit the Piermont waterfront. This marked passage is needed because the most-used water route to and from Piermont is about to be closed while work takes place at the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction site. The markings will help local boaters, as well as traveling sailors, who wish to come ashore to spend some time dining and shopping in Piermont.

• For the next four years while the new Tappan Zee bridge is being built, NY State Police Troop T and The Thruway Authority will temporarily re-locate their operations from Tarrytown to Route 303 West Nyack, across from the Palisades Center Mall.

The State Police and Thruway facility in Tarrytown is scheduled for demolition. Part of the property will be included in the bridge’s alignment. In about four years a new State Police barracks will be built and Troop T will return to Tarry-
town.