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Monday, January 23, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Leftovers

Last fall, I viewed a local artist's watercolor rendering of a deteriorating factory building with a backhoe and tractor alongside the boardwalk leading south from Madame Brett Park on Fishkill Creek. At the time, I was struck by the imagery and its metaphor about Beacon: that it's in a state of renewal, where old meets new, and transitions are ongoing. It also feels like Beacon has become a new home for individuals who are also experiencing transformation or expansion. As such, it is a dynamic city. The synergy of the outer and inner renewal is palpable. From the Roundhouse to the Beacon Theatre to the storefronts near the throwback 1950's diner, Yankee Clipper (an iconic imagine in Nobody's Fool - a 1994 movie featuring a unique Beacon family's interpersonal struggles) that are being retrofitted to the historical design that fits the east and west section of Main Street for a better blend of the old Mattewan and Fishkill Landing Villages where they meet "in the middle."

It's also a time of political change with Mayor Steve Gold's term ending and Randy Casale's term beginning. With change comes opportunity for improvement, new directions as well as continuity from the past. Apparently, Mayor Casale is asking for residents in Beacon to further contribute time and talent to the common cause of further developing Beacon into all that it can become. Will the momentum of the last four years continue or come to a screeching halt?

So what are some of the "leftovers" that require a decision about whether ideas, projects and plans should be kept or tossed? What will come of the MTA TOD that had been rejected by the City Council last year and then upstaged by increased parking by the train station on an "emergency basis" after Hurricane Irene disrupted travel for commuters from across the river? What will influence small business to move forward and reclaim empty stores on Main Street during a difficulty economic recession -- more Asian-oriented restaurants or some cuisine with ethnic diversification (Indian, Caribbean, Latino, continental)? Or consumer-oriented services like a general store (like Rhinebeck's A.L.Stickle) with practical, as well as whimsical, five & dime-Woolworth-type offerings inclusive of office and art supplies that preclude a 15-30 minute drive up to Route 9 or across the bridge? Or a good anchor store (albeit a 'chain' like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Ikea, Pearl Paint, Planet Fitness) that would bring Putnam-Dutchess-Orange county residents to town, which would bring new foot traffic to Main Street and showcase the independent store owner's offerings? What will become of the attempt to restore the Mt. Beacon Incline Railway, which intends to offer handicap accessibility to the top of the mountain for the view and historical museum?

Some food for thought:  Progress begins with thoughtful evaluation, brainstorming for creativity and innovation, and strategic planning. The times, are they changing, or not; it's partly dependent on what's already on the plate and partly influenced by what's brought to the table. Neurophysiologists describe a phenomena when a threshold is crossed, i.e. when a just noticeable difference (jnd) occurs. This 'jnd' allows the system to experience all the stimulation that has come before the last flurry of stimuli that tips the threshold. Perhaps we stand at the liminal threshold as the new year unfolds and as we look back at what remains unfinished.

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