By Nathan Mayberg
PARKSVILLE January 23, 2004 You may want to pay your final respects to Parksville.
At least, thats how some Parksville merchants put it this week. Business owners described a public hearing at the Liberty High School Cafeteria Wednesday as four options on how to let their town die.
The hearing was part of a plan to turn Route 17 into a federal highway (Interstate 86).
In order to do so, the traffic light at the famous intersection in the center of town the only one left on the 50-year-old divided highway would have to be removed, as well as most of the major businesses.
That is, unless the state Department of Transportation (DOT) decides to build an interchange where the new highway would bypass the town on a hill about a half-mile south of the hamlet.
Business owners claimed that this bypass would only bring them "a slow death." Therefore, they are calling on the implementation of Alternative B-4, which would allow them to sell their property to the federal government for fair market value. They would not, however, receive compensation for their business value.
If the DOT agrees to follow the B-4 plan, the businesses along the current Route 17 in Parksville would be torn down, and all home driveways along the main road would be eliminated.
Federal highway guidelines prohibit driveways or traffic lights on interstates, according to Matt Stiles, one of the engineers on the project.
Alternative B-4 also would require a realignment of the Little Beaverkill Creek. However, Mark Pawlick, another engineer for the project, did not believe that this would be a disruption to the environment.
The Federal Highway Fund Bill, which authorized the creation of Interstate 86 across the length of New Yorks Southern Tier, passed both houses in the Congress in 1997. Backers of the bill believe the new interstate will bolster the economy of the county.
Thats not what Parksville merchants believe, however.
Jodi Fiddle-Lieberman became emotional when talking about her late father, Joe, who owned three of the major businesses in Parksville.
"My father constructed Fiddles Dari King," she said.
Her family still owns Fiddles Wally Mart and rents a building to Charlies Restaurant.
"All of the businesses have given their blood, sweat and tears to make them what they are. I feel that our hearts arent being listened to. . . . Its not fair to the other business owners. There is no alternative business plan," she said.
Manny Anastasis, the owner of the West 17 Diner, said, "We prefer the B-4 alignment to anything. . . . We [the local business owners] looked at everything the DOT has put in front of us. We have reluctantly concluded that there is only one way. If the businesses have no visibility to the traffic, we would die slowly."
Mike Hochstadt, a resident of Parksville, believed there was another way. He would like to see a highway underpass through the town, which "would not destroy the environment, and would be one-tenth of the price. . . . I dont understand why that is not an option. . . . Why rip up the mountain?"
Environmental impact statements by the DOT have been sent to a host of public officials, including the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, the countys Commissioner of Health and Family Services, Commissioner of Public Works and several other county departments.
Public comment will continue to be accepted by the state DOT until February 18, at which point various agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers will make their recommendations.
The project will then go out to bid, and construction could begin as early as August.