With Klein defeat still fresh, KRVC loses one of its own

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Cliff Stanton fought hard in his race to represent this area on the city council, putting together a war chest of $156,000 compared to Andrew Cohen’s $205,000, but just came up short.

Instead of taking the loss hard, Stanton refocused his energy on making a difference, something he would do for the next four years as greenway director of the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corp.

But even good things must come to an end, and just weeks after one of KRVC’s biggest benefactors, Jeffrey Klein, lost his primary bid to keep his state senate seat, Stanton is parting ways with the civic organization — at least as a paid employee

KRVC executive director Tracy McCabe Shelton announced Stanton’s departure last week, which not only calls into question how involved KRVC will remain in the effort to provide better public access to this part of the Hudson River, but also in one of the area’s biggest summer events — RiverFest at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, an annual festival Stanton was heavily involved with.

“We’re going to continue to have a greenway program, and since it’s going to be a bit more limited program, we don’t need as big a staff,” Shelton said. “We’re still supportive of the (greenway) development, and we want to continue to do all of these things. (But) at this point it makes sense for us to cut back a bit to cut down on the greenway initiative.”

The KRVC staff has always been small to some degree, Shelton said, between about six and 10 people. But the organization did benefit from state funds funneled through with the help of Klein, and with that spigot now seemingly closed, KRVC will have to regroup. 

Yet, at least according to Stanton, Klein’s election loss had nothing to do with his departure as he looks to focus on both his family and his company, United Snacks, which operates the Nuts4Nuts honey roaster nut carts in the city.

“I’ve got to focus on my business and my day job, and I think it was the right time,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a while.”

Yet Klein’s expected departure and replacement by Alessandra Biaggi — if she pulls through in the general election, as expected — could have a detrimental effect on efforts to create a riverwalk along the Hudson, efforts the senator has redirected considerable amounts of funds toward.

“I do think that in the short term it’s a setback for the greenway initiative,” Stanton said.  “Sen. Klein was pretty involved, and without his presence, in Albany, it may be a bit of a difficult lift for the new senator. But I’m hopeful that she will be supportive of it and continue to fight for it because it remains something that the community very clearly wishes for.”

Klein delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars to his senate district, and Riverdale in particular, over the years, particularly thanks to the relationship his breakaway group of Democrats — the Independent Democratic Conference — had with the majority Republicans. Even last year, Klein was able to announce $250,000 worth of funding directly to KRVC.

“He was also very supportive of RiverFest along with the funds he provided to produce the event,” Shelton said.

These are certainly some uncertain times for KRVC, something Shelton openly admits especially after the sudden cancellation of a Johnson Avenue street festival right after the primary election. But then again, it’s not the first time she’s had to deal with adversity as head of the KRVC.

“You grow with the times,” Shelton said. “I’m glad we were able to do what we did when we were able to do it, and we have always gone year-by-year, and we never knew what next year would look like or what our funding would look like.”

Despite the changes, neither Shelton’s optimism nor her steam for the organization has wavered.

“We want to maintain our jobs program and our beautification program on a more modified base, and we still want to be able to produce cultural events,” Shelton said.

“We’re still figuring all of that out, and we want to continue to be here for the community in whatever way we can. There were years where we were small and then larger, and we’re exploring the types of things that we can find funding for and that are needed in the community.”

Some are worried about what the future has in store for KRVC, but Shelton doesn’t count herself among them.

“Change can be exciting and you just never know,” she said. “I enjoy putting on these events, and we have done it for a while. “It’s a lot, and in some way we’ll see what new kind of things we can do.

“I’m really happy to see what we’re doing moving forward.”

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