2021 has been an eventful year in so many ways, both difficult and uplifting. Here are some highlights:
NO TAX HIKE FOR THIRD YEAR–The Town Board approved a budget with a slight tax cut in December. Our third year with no tax hike. We maintained our AAA bond rating from Moody's and Standard & Poor's. Unincorporated Greenburgh will receive over a two-year period (2021/22) almost 5 million dollars in federal stimulus funds from Washington.
COVID ANGELS–Early in 2021 we formed the Covid Angels program with over 300 volunteers helping over 4,000 seniors receive difficult to obtain vaccines. Strangers helping strangers schedule their vaccinations! Our Covid Angels program was featured on NBC National evening news with Lester Holt twice which led to it being replicated nationally. We also set up “pop up” vaccination clinics: the Theodore Young Community Center vaccinated 750 seniors in one day! Thank you, Carol Allen, for chairing the Covid Angels committee and a big thank you to all the volunteers. The program also assisted seniors and disabled residents who were very frail obtain home visits.
VAX UP WESTCHESTER–After vaccinations became more plentiful, our focus shifted to addressing vaccination hesitancy and access. We received two grants from the Westchester Community Foundation and United Jewish Appeal to set up the initiative called #VaxUpWestchester. Headed by Kenny Herzog, volunteers have partnered with various organizations and healthcare providers to set up “pop up” vaccination and information sites around the region, create a website, and encourage everyone eligible to get their vaccinations. Visit vaxupwestchester.org for upcoming events and info.
GREENBURGH NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH CENTER STEPS UP WITH VACCINES/BOOSTERS–The Greenburgh Neighborhood Health Center has been regularly providing a wonderful range of services to the community. First, they provided vaccines during early voting at Town Hall, then “booster shots” are given without appointments every Monday & Wednesday. Thank you to the wonderful staff and administration of this exceptional organization.
At the end of the year (yesterday) the Theodore Young Community Center, Town Board and Housing Authority worked together to give out to the public 720 Rapid Covid tests provided to us by the county. A fair process, well organized. An example of teamwork at its best.
REOPENING OF TOWN HALL–For a good portion of the year Town Hall was not open to the public. Meetings of the Town Board were held by Zoom. Once vaccinations became more available, life began getting back to normal and we re-opened our buildings to the public and resumed many programs. Masks are required at Town Hall and in municipal buildings for the protection of staff and residents. By the end of the year, with the variant increasing again, the Town Board meetings used a hybrid model for meetings, with some Board members and the public attending meetings in person, others participating remotely. Councilman Francis Sheehan spearheaded the movement to Zoom and hybrid meetings.
REGENERON EXPANDING–This highly successful Bio-Tech company, headquartered in our Town, plans to eventually spend $1.8 billion expanding their facility during the next six years. Over 1,000 new jobs will be created, and we expect that our residents will benefit. The Town Board preliminarily approved the start of this expansion with a 207,000 square foot laboratory space to be built within the existing loop. Eventually one million additional square feet will be built, providing an exceptional boost to the town's budget. It should be noted that the Town’s ability over these past three years to keep property taxes at the same level is based on building fees and increased property tax revenue, generated by large developers and national companies who believe Greenburgh is a solid, well-administered Town, with an accepting community and a pool of skilled potential future employees.
REASSESSMENT–In 2022 we continued the property reassessment process of every property in Greenburgh. Over 5 years ago we conducted our preliminary reassessment, the first in more than 60 years. All properties have been assessed at their market values providing equity in tax payments for all our resident property owners. Although home market values skyrocketed in many areas of our Town, with many residents experiencing increases and decreases in their property taxes, based upon valuation changes, the total amount collected by the Town remained the same.
HURRICANE IDA AND FLOODING–Hurricane Ida caused significant flood related damage throughout the town. Many people lost cars, homes, and suffered significant property losses. We are hiring a consultant, Woodard & Curran, to review flooding problems at Troublesome Brook and Manhattan Brook and to come up with recommendations. We have been clearing obstructions from rivers and brooks to reduce flooding. We also created a Storm Relief Angels program, helping residents get reimbursed from FEMA and secure loans from SBA for their property damages. FEMA set up a temporary outreach location at the Greenburgh Library.
Kudos to the leadership of Theodore D. Young Community Center for completing restoration to its pool and a total gym replacement due to Ida at a record pace.
SIDEWALKS–As part of a continuing program to upgrade safety for pedestrians, we built a new sidewalk on Ardsley Road leading to the Greenville School from Ft Hill Road, on Central Ave. from Marion to West Hartsdale Aves, on Old Tarrytown Road and Manhattan Avenue earlier this year, and have applied for a grant from the State to build a sidewalk on West Hartsdale Ave.
RECYCLING/PUBLIC WORKS NEW INITIATIVES–The Public Works Department offered residents some new initiatives: We placed dumpsters around the town during the year, making it easier for people to dispose of their bulk items. We set up recycling days at the Highway Garage and for the first time had town DPW trucks schedule e-waste pickups during the year.
GREENBURGH WATER DISTRICT–Our major infrastructure initiative, connecting the Rumbrook Pump station to Knollwood is completed, allowing either of the pump stations to provide service if the other is incapacitated, providing excellent backup. We plan additional water infrastructure enhancements including replacing the very dated Knollwood Pump station which was last rehabbed in 1965. Greenburgh water rates continue to be less than Suez’ rates. Suez serves some residents of unincorporated Greenburgh.
OUR PARKS MORE ACCESSIBLE TO THE DISABLED-AND ANOTHER PLAYGROUND–We built this year new ADA-compliant stairs and ramps at the Anthony F. Veteran Park pool complex along with the new shade structures by the adult/lap pool. We installed a new ADA-compliant playground at Washington Avenue Park known as “Kiddlyland.” And, installed a new playground at West Rumbrook Park home to Elmsford Little League baseball and softball.
Pickleball participation is one of the fastest growing sports in America and Greenburgh was no exception. In 2021, the demand for pickleball has sky-rocketed and the parks department started to offer more pickleball clinics, instruction and league play. The town is presently taking steps to build four new pickleball courts at East Rumbrook Park and convert two tennis courts at AFV Park into 6 pickleball courts in 2022.
ODELL HOUSE SAVED! –We completed phase one of our efforts to save the historic Odell House by making sure that we addressed structural concerns of the building. We had received a $600,000 grant from NYS in 2019. Our next goal: exterior landscaping and exhibit for the museum design. Thank you to the Friends of Odell House Rochambeau headquarters for your hard work restoring the historic house at 425 Ridge Road, Hartsdale. This property played an important role in winning the Revolutionary War.
COMMITTEE AGAINST SYSTEMIC RACISM–A Greenburgh committee, chaired by Councilwoman Gina Jackson, has established recommendations for addressing questions related to systemic racism and discrimination. $100,000 was included in the 2022 budget for recruitment activities, police training initiatives and other reform initiatives. Thank you, Gina Jackson. for your hard work.
BLACK LIVES MATTER EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGN–Councilman Ken Jones is chairing a committee that has been working to place signs, banners and a mural supporting the fact that Black lives matter throughout the town. The signs declare that racism is not welcome in our town and that all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter. The banners, to be placed on municipal buildings, are being created by young people as part of an educational campaign at local schools and camps. A mural to be unveiled on Manhattan Avenue on both sides of the I-287 overpass, will illustrate aspects of Black History chronicled from 1619 to present. The mural will also highlight the accomplishments of local residents. There will be a QR code which is a bar code which opens a website from your phone with historical information. Thank you, Ken Jones and the rest of the committee.
HISPANIC LIAISON Maria Portilla is donating her time every Tuesday helping the hispanic community. Maria will help residents with personal issues and assist those who need government assisstance. She also is doing outreach to the community - hoping the Hispanic and immigrant population will develop trust with their government.
FAIRVIEW EMPOWERMENT GROUP–a group of active citizen leaders has been planning, canvassing, conducting citizen surveys, and hosting community forums around the mission of: creating opportunities within the Fairview neighborhood by amplifying community voices to improve living, economic and social conditions. To learn more and join the effort visit: fairviewempowermentgroup.org. A shout out to Tasha Young, who ran against me for Town Supervisor earlier this year, for her hard work and commitment to this initiative.
BLACK LIVES MATTER SIGN VANDALIZED ON KNOLLWOOD ROAD–Regrettably, the GPD was unable to identify the person/persons who intentionally and violently vandalized a newly installed BLM sign in the middle of the night. Security cameras have been placed at locations where replacement signs will be constructed. We as a Town government will not tolerate hateful actions, crime and any expressions of racism!
BOARD VOTES 4-1 TO ALLOW CANNABIS DISPENSARIES BUT NOT LOUNGES IN UNINCORPORATED GREENBURGH–After NYS legalized marijuana all local governments had to decide whether to allow cannabis dispensaries/lounges in their locality. The Town Board voted to allow cannabis dispensaries but not lounges. The Board will pass a law next year to ban dispensaries on Central Ave., E. Hartsdale Ave, Route 119, near schools, playgrounds and parks.
BOARD APPROVES LOCAL LAW REGULATING BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE SYSTEMS–The Board, with the involvement of members of the Planning Board, Conservation Advisory Council, and community leaders approved a local law that balances the benefits of these systems with safety and neighborhood character.
APPELLATE COURT DENIES PETITION TO INCORPORATE–The Appellate Court denied a 2nd Edgemont petition to incorporate to become a village. The NYS Senate regrettably refused to consider legislation that would have enabled the entire unincorporated, registered voter population of Greenburgh to vote in future referendums regarding incorporation. At this point, the vast majority of the Town will remain unrepresented in any future vote.
74 AFFORDABLE APARTMENTS IN MAYFAIR–Construction of the affordable housing at the former WESTHELP homeless shelter was completed and seniors have moved into the apartments.
BRIGHTVIEW SENIOR LIVING RECEIVES APPROVALS AND SHOULD BEGIN THEIR CONSTRUCTION IN 2022–Brightview obtained Town Board and Planning Board approval to construct independent living apartments, assisted living units and accommodations for seniors in need of Alzheimer's care.
DROMORE SETTLEMENT–The town settled a lawsuit dealing with land use on Dromore Road. $9.5 million. Based upon the settlement, 45 units of workforce housing may be built on Dromore Road, near the Greenburgh Nature Center. The Edgemont community, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (whose sanctuary is on Dromore Road) and town had previously objected to development of housing on this site, adjacent to the Nature Center.
GREENBURGH HOUSING AUTHORITY–Construction of 70 units of affordable housing for seniors on Manhattan Ave. is underway. 30 older units were demolished. The complex is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022. Another positive: we received a CDBG grant from the County to provide Broadband for residents of the Greenburgh Housing Authority. We want to provide students who live in the Housing Authority with the same high-speed internet service that more affluent residents receive.
NEW FARMERS MARKET AT GREENBURGH TOWN HALL–Greenburgh has sponsored a Farmers Market on E. Hartsdale Ave for almost 30 years. This year we tested a Farmers Market at the Town Hall. A fantastic response during our two trial markets co-coordinated by Greenburgh Town Clerk, Judith A. Beville and Krista Madsen, Assistant to the Supervisor, along with the partnership, during this pilot, of Westchester Greenhouses & Farms. I believe our residents will enjoy the market scheduled to operate from June-November in 2022.
NEW PEACE GARDEN AT THE GREENBURGH LIBRARY AND TECH INITIATIVES–A new peace garden honoring women veterans was dedicated at the Greenburgh Library. The Barbara Giordano Foundation sponsored the garden. The Library now circulates laptops, hotspots and Amazon FireSticks so patrons have access to services anywhere, anytime.
HONORING OUR LATE COUNCILMAN KEVIN MORGAN–The Town Board voted to name Babbitt Court in memory of Kevin Morgan who grew up on Babbitt Court and served our community steadfastly, with class and conviction for decades.
TEENS HELPING BUSINESSES USING SOCIAL MEDIA SKILLS AND SUMMER INTERNS–the Town was fortunate to contract with the Zuckerberg Institute and offered students from around the Town the ability to interact with national and local business leaders and to use their social media and other talents to assist struggling local businesses hurt by the pandemic.
Our summer internship program, coordinated by Town Clerk Judith Beville, provided students with the opportunity to learn about government and to interact with leaders, to benefit community interests.
LANDSCAPE ANGELS–Jackson Tavel, a student at Edgemont High School, is coordinating our Snow Angel program. He is also organizing volunteers to participate in the project. Students and other volunteers provide some landscaping support, at no cost, for elderly or disabled residents, helping them maintain their properties.
CARING CUPBOARD–Ardsley High School student, Tanya Shukla, organized a “caring cupboard” at the Greenburgh Neighborhood Health Center. Donated canned food products may be placed inside the entrance to the Health Center where needy individuals may receive critical food for their families.
BIKE CALLS–I cycled over 2,000 miles this year around Greenburgh engaging our residents who were walking, doing landscaping, congregating with friends, etc., asking them the same one question: “What can we as a Town Government do to make your life better?” Highlights of the bike calls: Spoke with a woman who needed a chair lift for her suddenly disabled and housebound daughter. We were able to assist by having one donated for her from local charity the Gullotta House! An elderly couple pointed out how difficult it was to walk on a bumpy road in front of their residence with a walker. We milled and repaved the road. There was a father of a baby worried that a drain with a large opening near where he lived was dangerous and he feared a child might fall in. We placed a safety metal rod across the drain to reduce the possibility of his child falling into the drain. Although these examples are specific, the general purpose of Bike Calls is to hear the issues which our residents find troubling and respond as quickly and efficiently as we are able.
HELPING RESIDENTS GET PASSPORTS–This summer when people started traveling again, many Greenburgh residents contacted me seeking help obtaining passports. Expired passports created problems for residents hoping to travel out of the country. The Passport offices had long delays in processing the passports, up to six months. I worked with Senators Schumer's and Gillibrand's offices and was successful in helping a woman get a passport for a brother’s wedding in Bulgaria. Another woman needed an emergency passport so she could fly to India to see her sick father; she was able to obtain the passport within 24 hours. And a woman received help and was able to take her 90-year-old mom out of the country. Expediting communication from Municipal to State or Federal Government is always difficult, but relationships I have formed over decades of experience allow us to intervene on behalf of our residents.
HELPING AFGHANISTAN WOMAN ESCAPE THE TALIBAN–A Greenburgh resident, Sheldon Malev, was a Professor at Westchester Community College. A former student, Sophia Bator, needed help getting her cousin out of Afghanistan during this most dangerous period. I reached out to our Congressional delegation and was able to help Freshta Nazari escape the Taliban. Our Congressional delegation acted expeditiously with urgency and compassion and we thank them.
NEW MEMBERS OF OUR TEAM–My long time and wonderful assistant, Cynthia Adamson retired and we miss her. My new assistant is Krista Madsen who comes to the position with excellent skills in organization, communication, and writing. Anne Povella is retiring as Receiver of Taxes after a long career of service to Greenburgh and will be replaced by Venita Howard who was elected to the position in November. Diana Juettner, who served on the Town Board for almost 30 years, decided not to run for re-election and will be replaced by former Councilwoman Ellen Hendricks, who was recently elected to the Town Board. Thank you Diana and welcome to Ellen. George Longworth was appointed Interim Police Chief, replacing Chris McNerney who took the Chief's position in Larchmont.
Rich Fon is our new Commissioner of Public Works, replacing Victor Carosi. Brian Simmons is the new Deputy Commissioner of Public Works. The Board is currently interviewing candidates for the position of Building Inspector, as Steve Fraietta has retired. Town Judge Christie D'Alessio was elected to the Supreme Court of NYS, creating a vacancy in the Greenburgh Town Court. Christina Linder is the new Executive Director of the Greenburgh Library, replacing John Sexton. The Board honored Councilwoman Diana Juettner by naming the lounge at the multipurpose center in her honor. Diana Juettner worked selflessly for decades, and she will be missed.
I would like to thank the voters for also re-electing me as their Greenburgh Town Supervisor. I begin my 31st year as Town Supervisor on January 1. I love the job and am very excited about 2022. Happy New Year.