FIRE DISTRICT CONSOLIDATION COMMISSION COMPLETES REPORT—A commission looking into the 3 paid fire districts (Fairview/Greenville/Hartsdale) completed their report. The report indicated that the three independent fire districts spend 32% more on personnel compensation than comparable peers. The report (which received page one attention in the NY section of the Wall Street Journal) recommended “cost savings measures to lessen the impact of financial troubles.” The report recommended administrative consolidation (sharing of administrative personnel and maintaining 3 independent districts). The report urged the town to study optimal staffing levels of the 3 fire districts and proposed that the state change the law so that pension payments would be based on base pay, excluding overtime and other benefits. The commission recommended the creation of an oversight committee to keep the community aware of the activities of the three paid fire districts. The majority and minority reports are posted on the town website: www.greenburghny.com.
GREENBURGH’S HEALTH CENTER TO RECEIVE $12 MILLION DOLLARS FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN STIMULUS FUNDS FOR EXPANSION—The health center is currently located on Tarrytown Road and will relocate to an approximately 30,000 square foot building on Knollwood Road at the site of the abandoned Cooke’s Nursery. The center has outgrown the existing facility. The Health Center provides excellent quality comprehensive primary health care services. The Health Center is independent of the town and county governments and receives funding from the US Departmetn of Health and Human Services.
$10,000,000 IN CERTIORARI PAYMENTS—the town, villages and school districts pay back over $10 million a year in certiorari refunds. A new Judge assigned to certiorari cases has forced all municipalities to pay certioraris faster. The town paid $5 million in refunds for the town alone, not counting schools, the fire districts or county. We need to look for ways to stabilize taxes, eliminate big payouts and remove the volatility of the tax rates from year to year. The percent of the total tax bill paid by residential property owners is going up, while the percent of the total tax bill paid by the commercial sector is going down. We are reviewing the possibility of reassessment. However, before any decision is made we are going to ask the NYS Legislature to approve hardship provisions. The Town Board approved funding in the 2011 budget to conduct an impact study to determine the impact of a reassessment.
TWO MAJOR STORMS RESULT IN MANY TREES DOWN, ROADS CLOSED—This spring the town experienced two major storms. At least 55 large trees along the roadside were uprooted during one of the storms. Some trees hit homes. There were hundreds of downed trees and one fatality in Hartsdale (a tree hit a man who was visiting his daughter). The public works department worked overtime to collect and dump the debris into our large container trucks. It took weeks to clean up the mess. I sent out frequent updates –every few hours –advising residents what streets were closed, re-opened, where the power outages were. We opened up warming centers at our community center. We have applied for a FEMA grant and expect to be reimbursed for most of our costs.
FORTRESS BIBLE CHURCH DECISION—A federal Judge issued a decision more than three years after a trial supporting the application of Fortress Bible Church to build their church on Dobbs Ferry Raod. In evaluating the church’s application to build a large combined school and church immediately adjacent to the busy entrance to the Sprain Brook Parkway on Dobbs Ferry Road, the town relied on its traffic expert who advised the town that the project, as proposed,would cause unsafe and dangerous traffic conditions. The town will be appealing this decision. During my tenure as Town Supervisor we have welcomed numerous and diverse religious institutions that have applied for and received approval for their projects. The town would welcome Fortress Bible church at an appropriate and safe location in Greenburgh.
AUCTION OF SURPLUS PROPERTY generates $457,000 in revenue for the town.
TRYING TO GET MORE BUSINESS—Held a meeting with realtors. The goal of the meeting: for town leaders to understand why there are so many vacancies on Central Ave and to work with them to attract new businesses. The town will be releasing a draft comprehensive plan in early 2011 and will recommend modifications in the law—which will make Central Ave and Greenburgh a more business friendly community.
NYS LEGISLATURE DID NOT ACT ON TOWN REQUEST FOR HOTEL TAX—During the past two years the NYS Legislature has authorized other localities in Westchester to levy a tax on hotels. The tax is generating significant revenue to those localities. Greenburgh did not receive permission to have a hotel tax last year but will renew the request in 2011. We anticipate that the hotel tax would generate six figures annually for the town--the funds would be used to keep your taxes down.
NEW ASSEMBLYMAN—Tom Abinanti was elected to the NYS Assembly.
COUNTY ANNOUNCES PLANS TO CLOSE WESTHELP WILL COST TOWN $1.2 MILLION IN LOST REVENUES—The County Executive announced plans to close down WESTHELP, a homeless shelter located in Greenburgh that houses 108 homeless families. The facility was built in the late 1980s by Andrew Cuomo. The town will lose $1.2 million a year if the shelter closes.
HELPING PEOPLE FIND WORK---With unemployment soaring I saw an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Two years ago I set up an informal job club. I send job opportunities that I learn of to out-of-work residents who subscribe to my job e mail list almost daily. I also post job notices on www.linkedin.com (search for “Greenburgh Jobs Group” in LinkedIn Groups) and sponsor periodic meetings with employers, headhunters, Labor department officials and those seeking work. Over 60 people have found work--thanks to this service. A forum I had on September 14th, 2010 attracted over 100 job-seeking residents. Know someone who needs to find employment? Encourage them to join the Greenburgh Jobs Group at LinkedIn.com or contact me at home or at the office. Attached you’ll find notes of thanks from successful job seekers.
E Hartsdale Ave is undergoing a revitalization. This vital east-west artery through Westchester County that was once home to banks, pharmacies and specialty shops, E Hartsdale Ave has reinvented itself of late as an international food court. Vega, a zesty new Mexican restaurant and an expanded Enrico's pastry and cheese shop joined eight other eateries that include Azuma Sushi, Frankie & Fanucci's Wood Oven Pizzeria, Harry's of Hartsale, Hunan Village II and Masala Kraft Cafe. Frankie & Fanucci’s is doing so much business that they are expanding In 2010 we expanded our farmer's market--more farmers, more vendors, more food and excitement.
We are planning an E Hartsdale Ave Art Walk in the spring--which will consist of a juried show of local artworks reproduced on vinyl banners suspended from lampposts. Our goal: to make the avenue a destination place. Sarah Bracey White, chair of our arts & culture committee, placed art work in vacant store fronts.
OSI WON’T STAY IN GREENBURGH—Last year the town got some good enws. OSI planned to move their bio tech headquarters to Greenburgh. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their new building (located on 9A, south of Ardsley). In 2010, Astellas took over OSI. The new owners decided that they did not want to move their offices here. We are working hard to find a new tenant for the property ---and hope for some good news in 2011!
FISHER BRIDGE DETERIORATES—The town learned that Fisher Ave bridge (connecting to the N White Plains Train Station) is in bad shape. The steel support beams under the closed side are severely deteriorated and no longer support the traffic. A new bridge is being ordered – and will be installed in the spring of 2011.
EMPIRE AND STELLARIS SETTLE CONTRACT DISPUTE --The Empire Blue Cross/Stellaris Health contract dispute created a dilemma for many Town residents. A four month impasse denied them access to White Plains Hospital, Lawrence Hospital, Phelps Hospital and Northern Westchester Hospital. I got involved, insisting Empire and Stellaris document their grounds for failing to resolve the dispute in a meeting with me and other municipal officials, I also organized an e mail campaign, asking residents to personalize their hardships over losing access to their hospitals. I gathered and shared over 100 distressing situations involving disruptions to treatments for cancer, leukemia and heart problems, among others. Coincidentally or not, the dispute was resolved shortly after I took action.
TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENTS MADE ON JACKSON AND 9A—Traffic improvements are being made on Jackson and Saw Mill River. A new left turn lane and traffic signal upgrades. New drainage facilities around the intersection.
TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENTS BEING MADE ON DOBBS FERRY ROAD- NYS is currently working on a major project that will increase traffic safety on Dobbs Ferry Road (intersection with Knollwood). The improvements include sidewalks.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING—We were able to negotiate an agreement. The abandoned and foreclosed Water Wheel property will be turned into affordable housing. The town is selling the property for $1.2 million. Working with the village of Ardsley, we negotiated an agreement with a developer to create affordable housing opportunities for volunteer firefighters/ambulance corp members.
PETITIONED TO TAKE OVER FRANK’S NURSERY—The town has filed legal papers seeking to foreclose on Frank’s Nursery which is located on Dobbs Ferry Road. We anticipate that we will take ownership of the property in 2011.
MAJOR COST-SAVING OPPORTUNITIES—Pension-padding has contributed to trillions of dollars in unfunded retirement liabilities nation-wide. I contacted NYS officials suggesting pension reform. I want pensions to be based on base salary, not overtime. A report by the Empire Center for New York State Policy indicated that statewide, 1,348 municipal retirees have pension benefits of more than $100,000 a year. Twenty-five Westchester employees are among the top retirees who earned the highest pensions in the state. I object to pension padding-a practice that uses overtime to boost salaries so public employees can receive disproportionately higher pensions. I also suggested a change in the state law that interferes with local government officials in negotiating with employee unions. Currently, we are forced to accept sometimes overly generous arbitration decisions when there is an impasse concerning public safety personnel salaries.
ENCOURAGING FAMILY NATURE WALKS --We expanded our successful Story Walk in 2010. Pages of a children's book are placed along a nature trail for children and parents to read. You will find them at the Greenburgh Nature Center and Hartsbrooke preserve. The Greenburgh Nature Center hired a new executive director.
GOVERNOR HOLDS TOWN HALL MEETING AT THEODORE YOUNG COMMUNITY CENTER_- Governor David Patterson is the most recent state official who held a community meeting at the Theodore Young Community Center. Secretary of State (and former US Senator) Hillary Clinton was at the TDYCC at least twice.
HONORING OUR VETERANS --LIVING HISTORY—The Living History Initiative is one of our exciting new projects. We are creating a verbal history of the experiences of Greenburgh’s esteemed war veterans. Our Veterans Advisory Committee is conducting the interviews, which are then featured on public access TV and archived at the Greenburgh library. Our veterans are sharing their experiences so future generations never forget. If you are a veteran and want to be included in our living history project, please contact me. We also hosted a very successful veterans appreciation barbeque --sponsored by a local bank. Alan Hochberg, former chair of the Poets Corner Civic Association, organized a very successful barbeque (sponsored by a bank) –honoring our veterans. Hundreds of veterans showed up.
SAVING THE WESTCHESTER-NY EXPRESS BUS The County Executive threatened to eliminate the popular and needed Westchester-NY express bus. I organized a letter writing campaign, a petition drive, sponsored community meetings and staged rallies. A compromise was reached which saved the bus route.
HISTORICAL DOUBLE AAA BOND RATINGS -For the first time in town history, Greenburgh received the highest possible bond rating from both Moody's and Standard and Poor’s. This rating (which only 3% of all localities in the nation have achieved) saves taxpayer dollars by reducing the interest we pay on capital bonds. We sold bonds at a low interest rate this year: 2.49% interest.
NO FUND BALANCE IN “A” BUDGET BEING USED IN 2011—for the first time in memory,the town is not using any fund balance (savings account) to balance the budget in the town-wide “A” budget. In the past programs were artificially subsidized with savings.
NEW PLAYGROUNDS—A new playground was installed at Richard Presser park (no taxpayer funds used—we paid for the playground with developer escrow funds). A new playground is planned for the Greenburgh Nature Center---target population: pre-k school children. The current playgrounds in Edgemont are on school property and are not accessible to pre k children. We will also use developer escrow funds (not tax dollars) to pay for the playground.
POOL STUDY== The town will need to spend millions within the next six years replacing the aging pool at AF Veteran park. A report was presented to the Town Board discussing options. Our goal: to plan ahead so when we need to replace the pool we don’t lose a season.
Garage Sale: Town Clerk Judith Beville organized Greenburgh’s first annual garage sale. 50 vendors participated. Hundreds of people enjoyed the event. The town clerk also organized a fund raising benefit to help the victims of the Haitian relief effort in late January.
HOME COMPOSTING OF LEAVES ENCOURAGED—We’re working with Irvington’s LOVE EM AND LEAVE EM initiative – encouraging residents to home compost their leaves. The initiative, if it takes off, could save the town and other localities hundreds of thousands of dollars. Home composting is easy and is good for your lawn.
CHILD CARE CENTER OPENS NEAR PROPOSED STOP & SHOP ON TARRYTOWN/GREENBURGH BORDER—A new child care facility has opened in Greenburgh (at a corporate office park).
AVALON STARTS CONSTRUCTION OF HOUSING OFF OF TAXTER ROAD—Construction has started off of Taxter Road. A 400+ housing development is being built.
SHOPRITE TO OPEN IN JANUARY—Shoprite will open their new supermarket, off of Ardsley Road and Central Ave in January, 2011. Construction could start in early 2011—a new supermarket (Stop & Shop) is being planned near the Sheraton Hotel, off of 119 (near Tarrytown).
3,755 NEW BUILDING PERMITS ISSUED IN 2010. $29 million worth of new construction in the town. The building department received 3 million dollars in building permits.
New restaurants on Central Ave include Hurricane Grill, El Dorado, Banzai. Walgreen’s also opened up.
NEW COURT ADMINISTRATOR—The town Board, at the urging of Judge Apotheker, Supervising Judge for local courts, hired Regina Hill as the Greenburgh Town Court administrator. She is implementing many internal controls in the court and has generated new revenue for the town. We now accept credit card payments.
FREE PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARDS -- I have been distributing to residents free prescription discount cards for humans and pets. One constituent indicated that she expects to save over $900 a year using the card. There is no cost to the Town.
Those are a few of the highlights of 2010. As you can see the town never gets boring! Special thanks to the members of the Town Board: (Kevin Morgan, Francis Sheehan, Sonja Brown, Diana Juettner, Town Clerk Judith Beville, town department heads and town staff for their hard work. Have a healthy and happy holiday season and a fantastic new year!