New Lebanon Update: Below Disagreement there is Unity in Byram

On Thursday of last week the Board of Selectmen held their monthly meeting.  This came just two days after the public hearing at the New Lebanon school which assembled so many public voices.

The primary topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting was of course New Lebanon.  First, Dana Sanchez, a New Lebanon parent and PTA member presented the Board with a chart drafted by the PTA.  The chart plainly shows the pros and cons of the two options dominating the current debate: Scheme B and Scheme D.  The following is a description of said chart:

Scheme B is a flat lot at ground level providing increased street presence.  B would be integrated into the community and provide easier access for all.  It would be shielded from I-95 by rock formations and trees, with multiple possible evacuation routes on all sides.  Scheme B would be located on a portion of the current ball field, well enough away from the current school for classes to continue during construction, eliminating the need for cross-town busing or modulars.

Scheme D would be set high on a hill on a narrow but level building footprint.  Evacuation possibilities would be limited to the North side of the school only.  There would be limited space for playgrounds and sight lines would be hidden.  The school would be exposed to the sound and pollution of I-95.  The site would be located on the current school’s footprint, so construction could not begin until the existing school was demolished.  New Lebanon children would need to be relocated to other elementary schools in the interim or taught in modulars.


Oscar Rodriguez addressing the Board of Education at Tuesday’s public hearing. Credit: Leslie Yager

Oscar Rodriguez then addressed the Board.  Rodriguez is a New Leb parent, member of the Byram Neighborhood Association, and a Friend of the Schubert Library.  Following the divide in public opinion apparent at the hearing on Tuesday, it seemed Rodriguez was making an attempt to show the Board some kind of coalescence in the community. “When the plans [for a new school] were being presented in a public form, there seemed to be a perception that the Byram community was very against using site plan B,” said Rodriguez.

He mentioned a message sent by Nicole O’Connor, a representative of the Byram Neighborhood Association, that included certain community specifications for the new school.  These include the maintaining of a village green, the building being of a proper height and proportion so as not to dominate the Byram landscape, providing ample visibility, and minimizing the impact to current students of New Lebanon School.

O’Connor indicated in the same message that Scheme B, “As it is currently drawn would not be aligned with the Byram comprehensive plan.” Scheme D would meet many of the community specifications, but The Byram Neighborhood Association feels that, “We can do better.  And the New Lebanon Community also agrees that we can do better.”

The Byram Neighborhood Association, with this letter presented by Ms. O’Connor, did not endorse either site.  It is Rodriguez’s belief that, “They want it to be objectively viewed so that the best site is picked.”  According to him, the community specifications outlined in the letter are conditions that the New Lebanon community agrees with and wants.  “There doesn’t seem to be such a substantial division in Byram,” said Rodriguez.