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A Letter to the FPB from One of Our Veterans

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

Mary E. Hendricks, Planning Board Chair

Members of the Town of Fishkill Planning Board

Town of Fishkill Planning Department

807 Route 52, Fishkill NY 12524

State Environmental Quality Review Act Written Comment:

To the Fishkill Planning Board,

Thank you for permitting the public to provide written comments pertaining to the environmental review of the Continental Commons construction project, pursuant to NYS SEQR Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law. As a lifelong Dutchess County resident, and a military Veteran with over 20 years of service, to include multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, I appreciate the opportunity to provide my thoughts and comments on this project. The Hudson Valley has an extensive and rich history that can be traced back to the very founding of our Republic, and our heritage should be celebrated and cherished by each successive generation. We should also seek to develop and promote this history through the cultivation of well managed tourism, so that we can educate and enrich the lives of those in our community and its visitors.

It is unfortunate that much of the history of the Hudson valley and the Fishkill area I learned as an adult, rather than while attending local schools where this history took place. Up until a few years ago, I only had limited knowledge of the important and strategic role Fishkill played during the American Revolution. I was first drawn to this history by a very well written

2016 article that appeared in national newspapers called “The Fishkill Supply Depot should be preserved”, written by Lt. General David Palmer, a former superintendent for West Point Military Academy. After reading this article I began attending memorial events like Armed Forces Day at the military cemetery just north of Maya Café, as hosted by Continental Commons, and I also began to read the archeological reports and historical records for the Fishkill Supply Depot Historic Site. I interacted and spoke with many individuals both for and against the Continental Commons project both in person and through social media. I was disappointed that the mediator for the Continental Commons Facebook page frequently misquoted members of the Fishkill Historical Society, denied published reports on the Fishkill Depot Site by historians and archeologists, and misspoke on behalf of the elected officials from the Town of Fishkill. I would like to see all parties involved make the best decision possible that benefits our community, but I have found Continental Commons to be deceitful and more interested in using the history of the depot to bring attention to their project than honoring it.

The purpose of NYS SEQR is to satisfy the requirement of the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting. In the case of the Continental Commons project, your board is seeking to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of building a strip mall, hotel, and IHOP on a piece of property that has been designated as a National Historic Site. NYS SEQR also requires that all state and local government agencies consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making. The law is very specific as far as due diligence, and if an agency makes an improper decision or allows a project that is subject to SEQR to start, and fails to undertake a proper review, citizens or groups who demonstrate that they may be harmed by this failure, may take legal action against the agency.

At one point Continental Commons, The Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot, and the Fishkill Historical Society were working together to find a compromise for the best use of the National Registry property, however the relationships between these opposing groups have become increasingly intolerant, and in the case of Continental Commons, unnecessarily hostile towards veterans, preservationists and historians that oppose their project. Preservationists and historians point to the abstract failure of the Dutchess Mall, which destroyed most of the original Fishkill Supply Depot Historic Site as a mistake, and they believe that your board is now one decision away from destroying the last piece of the original site that remains undeveloped.

In the 1970s, members of the local community, made up of Fishkill rotary club and Fishkill historical society members approached the Fishkill planning board with a proposal to build a historical park on the original Fishkill Supply Depot Historic Site. Instead, the board approved the building of the Dutchess Mall. At approximately the same time, the state of Pennsylvania turned over what was state land to the Federal Government establishing Valley Forge National Historic Park. Both sites played significant roles in the American Revolution, with George Washington’s Army spending one winter in Valley Forge, and two winters at the Fishkill Supply Depot. The Dutchess Mall has unfortunately become a failure for the community, and that area of the Fishkill Depot was permanently lost. The question to ask then is what would have happened had Fishkill built the historic park rather than the mall. On April 29, 2016, a new National Park Service (NPS) report showed that there were 2.1 million visitors to Valley Forge National Historical Park in 2015. These visitors spent $26.6 million in communities near the park, and that spending supported 471 jobs in the local area which had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $40.1 million dollars. Based on that report, and the location of Fishkill in New York, a historic park at the Fishkill Supply Depot Historic Site could have been a major international tourist destination bringing significant investments, jobs and economic development to the Hudson Valley. It is not too late to build an historic park here!

In order to understand the contested Continental Commons project, I have attended several of your Town of Fishkill Planning Board meetings, and I have found your members to be knowledgeable, maintaining a questioning attitude, and focused on attention to detail. It is my sincere hope that you truly appreciate the historic value of the property that Continental Commons seeks to develop, and if the value gained by a historically themed strip mall outweighs the inherent value of the property being used as a historic park. As professionals, I hope each board member reads the Hunter Report as created by the National park service grant in 2016. In this federally sponsored and highly detailed report, two significant recommendations are made that I would encourage the Town of Fishkill Planning Board to support. The first is for the local community to give consideration to adopting historic preservation and archeological provisions into the Town Code, and other measures such as establishing a historic preservation advisory board made up of members from each group that has a stake in the Continental Commons project. The second would be to have the Town of Fishkill officials and zoning and planning boards to work cooperatively with the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot, Fishkill Historical Society and local landowners to develop a coordinated plan that balances historic preservation and land use development within and immediately around the Fishkill Supply Depot, and that appropriately respects the role of the Fishkill Supply Depot in the Revolutionary War.

As a Veteran, I am especially drawn to the military significance of the Fishkill Supply Depot Historic Site, and as such would prefer to see the property converted into a historic park. I firmly believe that the military cemetery should be designated and honored properly for the patriots that are interred there, and I do not believe that the current owner has displayed the good faith or proper status that should be in place. I do hope that the Fishkill Planning Board and the Village of Fishkill will make the best decision possible to both honor the history of the Fishkill Supply Depot Historic Site and provides the greatest benefit to the Hudson Valley. The Fishkill Supply Depot is not just a local treasure, but a national one and should be treated accordingly.

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Does anyone know who bought the Maya Cafe? I didn't event know it was for sale until after the sale announcement was made. I was once told that the building where the Maya cafe is may be quite old, and was either part of or replaced a structure that dates back to the FSD era?


Feb 19, 2020

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Valley Forge had 2.1 million visitors in 2015 and the Dutchess Mall lays in ruins!?! Had the Town of Fishkill built a national park instead of a mall, with our proximity to New York City and 84, the Town of Fishkill would be flush with money as a gateway to a major historic park today.

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