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Bedford Word Salad

As much as I wish that this piece was about a new (albeit poorly named) salad joint opening up in downtown Bedford Hills, I am sad to say that is not the case. Instead, it refers to the NY Forward application that was submitted on behalf of Bedford Hills last Friday. The intentions were good - to win one of three multimillion dollar grants from the State, which would allow the Town to revitalize the neglected hamlet. The execution however is where I will take aim.

While I am no expert in grant applications, I did think it prudent to do some research before I remarked on the package our Town Council put together. And a primitive Google search led me to a document published by the very same governing body that will be reviewing these applications and nominating winners. I chose to narrow in on a section titled How to Prepare the Best Application Possible to see how our submission stacks up against some of those recommendations.

  • Applications are informed by robust community engagement. ✅ Their submission references a lot of the ideas that were raised by community members at the Open Forum held back on September 15th - almost exclusively so in fact.

  • An opportunity for the community to review a preliminary list of projects to be included in the application and propose additional ideas. ❌ As mentioned in my previous article, those of us in attendance at the Open Forum were not made aware of any precursory work done in advance of that session, which made it feel an awful lot like they were just beginning the process. Which would have been fine if the submission deadline wasn't 8 days away!

  • Applicants should consider hosting the public event in tandem with another standing community event that typically draws a large local crowd. ❌ Not only was the Open Forum held without partnership but it was also on the same evening as Back to School night at Bedford Hills Elementary. I've since heard from a number of young families who expressed their frustration with the poor planning, many of whom indicated they wanted to attend but weren't able to do so.

  • Consider providing multiple opportunities for the public to provide feedback during application development. ❌ There was just one opportunity, and it was held 5 business days from the submission deadline no less...

  • Applications present a compelling, community-based vision for revitalization. ❌ Can they truly call it a community-based vision after a single, 1.5 hour event - one that did not feature a large contingency of young families in addition to zero members from the Town Board?

  • Proposed projects are well-aligned with the community vision. ❌ I take issue with the proposed projects part of this recommendation specifically because I didn't get the sense that anything they presented was at the project level. It's almost as if they transposed the sticky notes filled out by community members in attendance, into a PDF document rather than flesh out some of these broad ideas into more defined goals. Which to be fair, would be difficult to do with only a few days between the Open Forum and the application deadline. For example, we heard from a number of people in attendance who cited the lack of parking downtown as a major concern for attracting and retaining business. But in this application, they simply stated that a significant need will involve parking logistics (e.g. maximum hours) and providing navigational directions from parking lots to activity hubs. Does that sound like a proposed project to you - one that would make you want to cut a check for $2.5M - $4.5M?

While I am pleased that they submitted this application - and hope that the Town is awarded with a grant - I am disappointed in what feels like an underwhelming effort for something so significant. And I chalk this up to a Town Council who is not in tune with their Bedford Hills constituents. We deserve better, especially when you consider how quickly almost 150 residents were to jump to action when called - whether it was by way of digital survey and/or in-person attendance. But the Town only asked us a mere week before the submission deadline, and there should have been more opportunities for participation in the 10-week time period they had for this application. I personally would have greatly preferred to spend my time assisting in the preparation and/or review of said application rather than hopelessly playing Monday morning quarterback with this article.

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