May 29, 2012
Petition seeks 2-way Main St.
Businesses make push ahead of Jets training camp
Karina Murphy sees potential business from the New York Jets training camp this summer as too good to let slip away.
That’s why Murphy, owner of the Blue Frog Cafe and Music Club on Main Street, says Cortland needs to convert Main Street into a two-way street during the camp. Last month, Murphy submitted a petition to the city Common Council signed by nearly 70 local businesses and residents requesting the change.
“To get on Main Street from Tompkins, you’ve go to go up, around and down just to get there,” Murphy said in an interview last week. “Because Main Street is so difficult to access, potential visitors and customers are virtually directed away from our business district, leaving downtown Cortland at a distinct disadvantage.”
Mayor Brian Tobin said the idea is worth exploring, but other city officials had reservations about rushing a temporary change without knowing the costs or labor commitment involved.
“Because of the petition and the number of business owners involved, we’re asking questions and we’re going to revisit what the actual costs are,” Tobin said. “If this is something they say is a priority, we need to investigate.”
The idea for a two-way Main Street has been tossed around for years, dating back to when Main Street was converted into a one-way street in 1967. It last came up in 2010, when former Mayor Susan Feiszli pitched the idea to capitalize on potential business from the Jets training camp.
City Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi estimated in 2010 that a proposed 90-day trial of a one-way Main Street, which involves removing three street islands and installing new traffic signals, would cost about $140,000.
The city would also lose 24 parking spaces to make the change.
Murphy said Cortland needs to “maximize the unique opportunity” it has with the Jets training camp. The camp was canceled last year due to the NFL labor strike. The Jets have not formally announced their training schedule in Cortland but typically come in late July or early August.
The Jets are in the second year of a three-year contract with SUNY Cortland to hold training camp at the college’s facilities. The contract includes an optional two-year extension.
In 2010, the training camp attracted 41,000 spectators. Murphy’s petition was signed by officials from Brix Pubaria, Woodman’s Pub, Pita Gourmet, Cortland Beer Co., Sarvay’s Shoes and a few other Main Street businesses.
“Let’s figure it out and do it,” Murphy said.
Jodie Wainwright, owner of the Bling Store on Main Street, signed the petition. Wainwright said she had concerns about losing parking spaces on Main Street but said she is in favor of whatever can make business flourish on Main Street.
Wainwright and Murphy both agree that this year could draw more interest than previous years because of the arrival of new Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, one of the most popular players in the league.
While the two-way plan has some support from downtown businesses, there are skeptics.
Alderman Carlos Ferrer (D-6th Ward) and John Bennett (D- 4th Ward) said it was not realistic to make the change this year.
“It can be looked at down the line, in the future, for a permanent option,” Ferrer said. “But for temporary change, I don’t think it’s a good option and it’s too expensive.”
Bennett agreed that visitors might have a tough time accessing Main Street. He said the city should begin talking about whether it needs to make Main Street a permanent two-way street.
“Logistically, I don’t see any way that it could be done for a temporary period,” Bennett said. “But I totally understand everyone’s concerns down there, and it’s something we need to think about.”
Adam Megivern, executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said there might be cheaper alternatives to improving access to Main Street.
He said the city has explored the issue several times but said the costs make it tough to pursue.
Megivern said the city needs to find ways to make Main Street a part of main traffic flow and a destination for people to visit.
Despite past resistance, Murphy said she would like to see the change happen this year.
“Nothing like this (Jets camp) happens in Cortland,” Murphy said. “For us to choose not to do this is perplexing to me.”
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