February 22, 2009
Guinan's site slated to become office space
Barbara Livingston Nackman
The Journal News
GARRISON - The former Guinan's Country Store and Pub is all but gone from its Garrison Landing location.
The nearly 4,000-square-foot space, tucked into a ledge at the Hudson River shoreline just steps from Metro-North tracks, has been gutted. It is ready for new tenants - two local businesses and a resident.
Garrison Station Plaza, the owner of the property at 7 Garrison Landing, presented plans Thursday to the Philipstown Planning Board showing how it wants to reconfigure the structure. It is more than 100 years old and is in dire need of renovations, which include a septic system and new electrical wiring.
Guinan's operated as a local gathering spot for morning coffee and newspapers and for evening beers and Irish music for nearly 50 years before Jim Guinan, its patriarch and owner, retired in January 2008.
Guinan's customers, many of whom think of themselves as extended Guinan family members, gathered 1,000 names on an online petition to encourage the building's owners to welcome a new deli or food-service operation at the site.
The Garrison Station Plaza group sees a different future for the prime riverfront real estate. While the property owner acknowledges the store's history, a majority of the group's eight board members believe it is time for a change, said Delmar Karlen, president of the group.
"Putting in a new restaurant or bar did not seem to make sense," Karlen added, noting that his board considered many proposals, including some for food operations.
"My father and I patronized Guinan's for years," he said. "The Guinan's business ended not through our doing but at their own timing."
Planning Board member Michael Gibbons said he wasn't upset at "losing a tavern" but was disturbed that the property would become office space. "It is short-sighted in what the building has meant and can continue to be. … It would be a great little deli and serve the community for years," he said.
Mary Ellen Yannitelli had sought to build and operate a cafe at the site but was rebuffed even after securing a letter of credit showing financial backing for her business plan. She and others believe the community needs a place at the train station for commuters and local residents to gather day and night. She said she was disappointed that some sort of food service won't be there, even if it isn't her operation.
"They are taking something that was a lively center and pulling the plug," she said. Others agree that creating more office space at the site would be a mistake.
"I just feel they haven't listened to what people want," said lifelong Garrison resident Lisa Light, whose family has lived in Philipstown for generations. "There is historic value to that place. The landing is not the same. The dynamics have changed."
Tim Donovan first came to Garrison in 1978, when his Amtrak train to Syracuse University broke down. He said he was instantly enchanted by Guinan's. "Clearly, it was different from anything else I had seen," said the Long Island native. "In the back room of the store, there were men in suits and men in muck boots - and they were all talking to each other, easily." He said he knew he wanted to raise his family in this community, where people of different walks of life and ages shared their stories.
Many people are hoping the Station Plaza owners will change their minds. "They are not obligated to sell coffee. But at the end of the day this is about civilized behavior," Donovan said.