THROUGH THE ROCKEFELLER ESTATE: As early as 1932, the powerful Rockefeller family sought to redirect traffic from Bedford Road, a two-lane road cutting through their estate. Originally designed for 1,900 vehicles per day (AADT), the existing NY 117 carried more than 5,000 vehicles per day. The Rockefellers proposed that the state construct a new road along the northern edge of the 3,000-acre estate, away from the Rockefeller enclaves to the south.

Over the years, the Rockefellers had obtained zoning changes for the northern part of the estate, with the apparent intention of developing high-density residential and commercial sites, in what had previously been inaccessible land. It was not until one of the Rockefeller family, Nelson, had become governor that the highway was considered as a serious proposal.

In 1965, Governor Rockefeller announced plans for the Hudson River Expressway (I-487), which was to extend north from Tarrytown to Beacon. In addition to including plans for recreational facilities along the route, the governor's plan included a three-mile-long expressway spur - then called the "Potantico Expressway" - that was to carry the relocated NY 117 from the Hudson River Expressway east to the Taconic State Parkway.

Governor Rockefeller denied seeking any benefit from potential development of the family estate along the new route. He defended the new alignment that would go through "a beautiful section of the property that we have no intention of developing." However, community leaders, who merely sought an improvement of the existing NY 117 through the Rockefeller estate, thought state and local officials had "applied a half-nelson" on them. Some estimated that construction of the Potantico Expressway would quadruple the value of the land on the northern edge of the Rockefeller estate.

The Taxpayers Association of the Town of Mount Pleasant sent the following release to officials:

It is well known to many people in Mount Pleasant that the Rockefellers have been trying since 1932 to have Route 117 relocated. They want truck and automobile traffic through the hamlet of Potantico Hills, which they own, reduced as much as possible.

One look at a map of the proposed relocation indicates that it has been designed to cross the estate where it will do the least amount of damage and will be far removed from all Rockefeller homes… When the governor commented that the revised alignment of the road would result in less cutting-up of properties, he was entirely right. It would - his family's property. He failed to mention that the hiking and equestrian trails would be protected are wholly within the Rockefeller preserve.

Also omitted from the governor's remarks was reference to the commercial zoning the Rockefellers sought and obtained now in the vicinity of the new expressway… This zoning was revoked by the Mount Pleasant Town Board as being consistent with the semi-rural atmosphere of adjoining areas. At the hearings, a spokesman for the governor's family said that the Rockefellers did not object to the rezoning, but "they do think, however, that rezoning should be deferred until the route of the spur (Potantico Expressway) is determined." Does this signify the disinterest or displeasure the governor would like the public to believe his family has in the Route 117 relocation?

The Mount Pleasant Taxpayers Association objects to the governor's repeated assertions that opposition to the expressway is politically motivated. Mount Pleasant citizens of all political persuasions, like the preponderance of citizens everywhere, aware of the facts, are shocked by the ruthless manner in which the Route 117 relocation and Hudson River Expressway were rammed through the State Legislature… and are aghast at the questionable way in which these roads are being given top construction priority.

Despite contentious public hearings held from 1966 to 1968, the State Legislature approved the Potantico Expressway in 1969. Construction of the new limited-access NY 117 took place over a two-year span, at a cost of $7.2 million. Upon completion of the four-lane "Potantico Expressway" in 1971, the NY 448 designation appeared along the existing Bedford Road.

TODAY'S PHELPS WAY: The limited-access section of NY 117 begins in Sleepy Hollow (North Tarrytown) at begins at a set of driveways for Phelps Memorial Hospital Center and an IBM facility, just west of US 9 (Broadway). After traversing the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, the highway ends less than three miles east in Pleasantville at NY 448 (Bedford Road), just west of the interchange with the Briarcliff-Peekskill Parkway (NY 9A and NY 100) and the Taconic State Parkway.

The New York State Legislature later designated the limited-access NY 117 as "Phelps Way." From the New York State Senate Archives:

Portion of the state highway system to be designated as "Phelps Way:" All that portion of the state highway system beginning at the intersection of Route 448 continuing on Route 117 to the Phelps Memorial Hospital and terminating at said hospital shall be designated and known as "Phelps Way."

According to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Phelps Way carries approximately 15,000 vehicles per day (AADT).

UNBUILT TO THE HUDSON RIVER: To the west, Phelps Way was to have been extended one-half mile west of US 9 to an interchange with the Hudson River Expressway. The interchange proposal, which was to have been built on landfill in the Hudson River, was abandoned upon the cancellation of the Hudson River Expressway in 1971.

UNBUILT TO KATONAH: To the east, state officials planned to upgrade NY 117 to a limited-access highway from Pleasantville to Katonah. Most of the new NY 117 upgrade would have paralleled the Saw Mill River Parkway. In this way, NY 117 would have accommodated the commercial traffic that the Saw Mill River Parkway could not. John Manning, an engineer with the NYSDOT, argued for an upgrade of NY 117 because of "faster, heavier traffic," and maintained the firm of Edwards and Kelcey for alternative designs. The NYSDOT held public hearings once the design was finalized.

In 1970, New York State attempted to acquire a 300-foot-wide right-of-way for a four-lane, limited-access NY 117. This proved a formidable challenge: in the Town of New Castle, Supervisor John Reed, Jr. charged that the expressway would affect 108 residential properties, and that the state would have to condemn homes and properties. By doing so, the town supervisor argued that the NY 117 Expressway would destroy the colonial character of the town.

One year later, Governor Rockefeller acceded to the court challenge, killing the northeast extension of Phelps Way.

SOURCES: "Preliminary Plan for Major Thoroughfares in Northern Westchester," Westchester County Planning Department (1956); "Neighbors Score New Route 117 Plan" by Merrill Folsam, The New York Times (4/10/1966); "The Hudson River Expressway and Hudson River Park," New York State Department of Transportation (1968); Road to Ruin by A.Q. Mowbray, J.B. Lippincott Company (1969); "A Study of Conflict in Locational Decisions: The Case of the Hudson River Expressway Controversy" by Shaul Amir, University of Pennsylvania (1970); Superhighway - Superhoax by Helen Leavitt, Doubleday and Company (1970); "Hudson Expressway Is 'Dead,' Rockefeller Says" by David Bird, The New York Times (11/21/1971); "Phelps Way" by Deborah Rothery, Phelps Connections (August 2001).

  • NY 117 shield by Ralph Herman.





  • Phelps Way (NY 117)

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