Earlier this week the Town Board approved a resolution establishing an interim Town Hall meeting room access policy limiting use of Town Hall meeting rooms to town-appointed boards, councils, committees and commissions, as well as any other group already appearing on the town’s meeting calendar as of October 2, 2015, limited to meetings to be held in 2015. This is a change in policy. Access to Town Hall had been open and content neutral. It has always been my position as Town Supervisor to open Town Hall as the “people’s building”. We did not charge groups that reserved meeting spaces. On typical evenings one, two or three different groups would be meeting at different locations at Town Hall. I loved seeing lots of people walking around Town Hall during evening hours –and benefitted tremendously from the exchange of ideas and the feedback residents gave me
While our intentions were good – recent events have brought attention to the fact that there are vulnerabilities to allowing such open access. There is a need for a clear policy on the use of Town Hall by outside organization. While reviewing the event this week about Israel sponsored by Wespac and upcoming already scheduled events, concerns were raised by the public and town officials. Among the concerns: The overtime costs associated with providing police protection at controversial events that deal with issues that the town government has no control over. This pro Israel rally and anti Israel meeting held this week cost taxpayers thousands of dollars and required substantial police resources. After doing legal research to determine whether we had the right to cancel events at Town Hall, it was found that such action was not supported by law or policy. We had consulted with lawyers, the Westchester Jewish Council and the ADL.
It was immediately decided that access to Town Hall would be limited to all scheduled events pending the implementation of a strong policy that protects the town from the vulnerabilities exposed by the recent events. The decision to allow the events to continue as scheduled was a legal one, and absolutely not an anti-Israel or anti-Palestinian decision. Those who are now spinning this in an anti Israel manner should realize that this is nothing but a legal issue. Speaking personally – I do not support a boycott of Israel and do not agree with the statements made at the meeting that was held by Wespac about Israel. The entities complied with the existing use requirements and cancelling the events would have violated their constitutional rights and exposed the Town to liability. A policy will be adopted quickly that protects the town and insures that such events will not occur at Town Hall in the future.
Although we plan to limit the use of Town Hall to town appointed boards, council, committees and commissions and are looking for ways to allow neighborhood groups that appear before the town to discuss town issues to continue to use Town Hall for meetings – it should be pointed out that the town will continue to allow access to the Greenburgh Library, Theodore Young Community Center and Multipurpose Community Center for community meetings. These town owned buildings rent out their meeting rooms. In addition, I have sent letters to schools, religious institutions, neighboring community centers asking if their meeting space could be reserved by those desiring to sponsor meetings. I will compile a list of locations that that are willing to rent out or donate their meeting hall space to community groups and will make that list available to the community.
The Fairview Engine Company #1 is the the portion of the Fairview Fire Department that is completely volunteer, we are hosting a Free Movie Night on Friday October 23, 2015 and would like to know if you would send out the flyer in your e-mail blast?
Sarah Parker, Secretary
19 Rosemont Blvd
White Plains, NY 10607