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A summary of the highlights of 2020Happy new year!
2020 YEAR IN REVIEW, GREENBURGH, NY
In just a few hours, the year 2020 will be “history,” having wreaked havoc across the world, both physically and fiscally. We, as residents of the Town of Greenburgh, were not and are not immune to the effects of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic and many of our neighbors, regrettably continue to suffer.
What we have found throughout this period of crisis, something we knew all along, is that Greenburgh, as a community of caring people, is strong, compassionate and active in providing support to those who are in need. The outpouring of assistance we have seen among the residents of our Town has been heartwarming. It is important to recognize the efforts of all of those individuals who reached out to assist, or even check up on a neighbor.
We, as elected officials and employees of the Town, have worked diligently to ensure that the provision of service and life safety to our residents was unabated. I believe we were successful in that regard and I would like to take this opportunity to offer my appreciation to the Town Council (Councilmembers Diana Juetter, Francis Sheehan, Ken Jones and Gina Jackson) and each and every member of our staff for their dedication and diligence.
Although dealing with the effects of COVID-19 was our biggest concern, the Town Board was successful in accomplishing a number of notable achievements as well. The following provides a summary of notable experiences from 2020 and an update on many “Things to know about our Town, 2020.”
NO TAX HIKE OR LEVY INCREASE FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR
Recognizing the financial hardship experienced by so many of our residents, the Town Board was able to adopt a budget with no tax increase and no increase in the levy for the second consecutive year. We tried hard to cut spending, and we deferred capital expenses and will be refinancing bonds at lower rates and longer terms to reduce operating costs. No salary increases for elected officials will occur during 2021.
MAKING EARLY VOTING EASIER
We tried hard and succeeded in making early voting easier for residents. There were long lines, over three hours in some instances at early voting locations. We provided residents with live streaming of the polling place so they could arrange their voting when the lines were shorter. Councilman Sheehan updated the wait times in real time on our Youtube stream. We established special lines for Senior Citizens to reduce waiting time, and provided the frail elderly and disabled with the ability to avoid waiting on line to vote. We extend an enormous thanks for the efforts of the Greenburgh Neighborhood Health Center offering flu shots outside of the polling location at Town Hall and we arranged for food trucks to be at the parking lot and outdoor musical entertainment to make the wait more enjoyable.
For the 2020 elections the Board of Elections reduced the number of voting locations, creating significant lines. Members of the Town Council (Councilmembers Diana Juettner, Francis Sheehan, Ken Jones and Gina Jackson) assisted voters during early voting hours, making the process run smoother. Town Hall was likely the safest place to be during early voting because of the precautions in place.
EARLY COVID-19 WARNING, GLENN EISEN'S CRUISE TO THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
In February Glenn Eisen, a former member of the Greenburgh Ethics Board and a Tai Chi Balance instructor in our Parks and Recreation Department, celebrated his 80th birthday with a cruise on the vessel Westerdam on the South China Sea. Most of us had not yet heard of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus, but Glenn introduced me (via his numerous emails) to the depth of the crisis. Although Glenn did not contract the illness, his ship was unable to dock in the Phillipines, Taiwan, Korea or Japan. As he approached each country, he and his wife (and fellow passengers) were told that access was barred and they were legally required to remain on the ship. I was in touch with Glenn via email and reached out to Congressional representatives, attempting to be of help. Eventually, his ship was allowed to dock and Glenn came home.
TOWN BOARD AND OTHER TOWN MEETINGS GO REMOTE
Greenburgh was the first community to ask NYS to authorize members of the Town Board to hold meetings remotely. Before we even heard of Zoom, we asked the state to allow our Town Government to vote via “Skype.” By March our meetings were conducted via “Zoom.” Although some communities in NYS have restricted public participation, the Greenburgh Town Board encouraged citizen involvement. Residents have the right and the ability to speak at public hearings and are encouraged to comment at Town meetings. Our Zoom meetings are televised and streamed live on the town website and are archived. Councilman Francis Sheehan mastered the Zoom technology very early on, helping the Town to quickly transition from in person meetings to Zoom meetings with public participation.
TAXPAYERS FACING HARDSHIPS WERE ENABLED TO PAY TAXES LATE, IN APRIL
In the spring I actively lobbied the NYS Governor and Westchester County to pass legislation that would enable the town to offer residents facing hardships, the opportunity to pay their Town, County and School taxes late. The Governor issued an Executive Order and Westchester County approved legislation authorizing the hardship late payments and the Town Board approved a resolution authorizing County, Town and Fire District taxes to be paid without penalty by mid-July.
NEWLY FORMED TOWN MEDICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE PUSHED FOR REGULATIONS TO MAKE SUPERMARKET SHOPPING SAFER
The Town of Greenburgh is extremely fortunate to be a community replete with highly qualified, active and caring individuals. A recently formed Medical Advisory Committee, comprised of local medical professionals, “pressed” NYS to establish regulations to address guidelines for safe supermarket shopping and to help residents who have no option but to enter stores, avoid having to stand shoulder to shoulder on lines. The committee recommended limiting the number of people who might shop inside stores, advocated having supermarkets provide hand sanitizers and provide for “6 ft distance” limitations. The NYS Health department issued guidelines endorsing these recommendations.
DIFFICULTY GETTING MASKS --BUT RESIDENTS DONATED!
At the beginning of the pandemic there was a serious shortage of masks for first responders. We organized an effort to obtain donations and were successful in obtaining significant donations from Greenburgh residents. Again, this was another example of our neighbors “being there” for the community.
UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE, HELPING RESIDENTS OBTAIN THEIR CHECKS
Because so many residents were out of work, NYS was inundated with requests for unemployment benefits. I received numerous requests for assistance from many of our residents who were unable to effectively navigate the NYS UI system as so many of the residents were unable to connect with the NYS Department of Labor. Phones were busy and calls unanswered. NYS responded to the concerns by creating a special form for elected officials to utilize. I was gratified to be able to intervene and help most of the residents who called seeking assistance.
OUR EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH AND WELL BEING
Thankfully, none of our staff lost their lives due to COVID-19. Sadly, some residents did. Many of our employees were directed to work remotely from their homes during the pandemic. The police department was hit hard with COVID-19 (our current Police Chief and former Police Chief recovered from the illness) and other essential workers in different departments also had the virus. To keep those employees safe who continue to work in our municipal buildings the Town implemented an action plan that includes:
1- Plexiglas partitions have been installed in workplace areas less than six feet apart. These Plexiglas shields have been installed between office cubicles and at public reception areas.
2- Air filters in the ventilation systems have been upgraded to MERV 13 standards, or better, depending on the ability of the individual system to accept the higher rated filtration.
3- Signage has been installed as reminders to wash hands, maintain separation, and inform about COVID-19 symptoms, in a format as published by the CDC.
4- Disinfecting agents have been made available at all office work stations and public lobby areas.
5- We have purchased advanced fogger disinfectant equipment used by our Building Maintenance Department as appropriate along with outer disinfection techniques.
6- In Town Hall, public access beyond the Lobby area has been restricted.
7- High-touch surfaces are wiped by Building Maintenance staff at greater frequency.
8- The Town Hall Cafeteria and other meeting areas now have reduced seating and greater separation.
Special thanks to Building Maintenance Supervisor Michael Broder for overseeing these initiatives.
SUPPORTING OUR RESTAURANTS
In partnership with the local community and our store owners, we were able to create outdoor seating opportunities at some area restaurants. The Parking Authority created additional outdoor space for restaurants on East Hartsdale Avenue as well.
OUR PARKS PROVIDED A NEEDED ESCAPE
This pandemic has demonstrated how our parks are essential for our residents and the people who work in our communities. Record crowds have visited our parks this year to walk, jog, hike, meditate or exercise, using our tennis courts, ball fields, swimming pools or playgrounds. Our parks became a refuge for so many people who have been unemployed or needed to get outdoors for their mental and physical wellness.
NUTRITION PROGRAM CONTINUED
Throughout the crisis the drivers and staff of the Greenburgh Nutrition Program continued to deliver meals (over 5000 each month) to at risk seniors who could not get out and were sheltering in place. Volunteers helped deliver food to seniors afraid to shop inside a supermarket.
THEODORE YOUNG COMMUNITY CENTER CONTINUED SERVING COMMUNITY
Even in the midst of a pandemic, the Department of Community Resources’ team was able to provide quality programming, in-person and virtual, to town residents, ensuring health and safety was a priority. Committed staff members remained on the front lines to ensure the needs of senior residents were addressed, provided a safe space for remote learning, assisted with the increased 2020 Census responses, engaged and supported social justice demonstrations, and brought awareness to the importance of civic engagement during an intense campaign and election season. In addition, due to the proactive approach of the implementation of CDC protocols and Westchester County Department of Health, with appropriate approvals, the Theodore D. Young Community Center’s indoor pool facility was one of just a few that remained open throughout the entire county during the ongoing public health crisis.
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY AND TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENTS
Between late 2019 and early 2020 there were nine pedestrian accidents, some involving fatalities. We created a Traffic Safety Committee which made several recommendations to the Town Board. We were able to finally install a new traffic signal at the intersection of Sprain and Ardsley Roads. The Commissioner of Public Works and the Commissioner of Planning and Community Development issued a report prioritizing sidewalks that need to be built in the Town. We worked with the NYS Department of Transportation to address safety issues on Central Avenue, near Sacred Heart Church, were a child was very seriously injured. NYS will allow the Town to construct a “Hawk Traffic Control Device” designed to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely at the crosswalk. Councilman Francis Sheehan helped with a petition process to initiate this effort. We are currently designing two sidewalks, on Hillside Avenue and North Washington Avenue. We are also taking steps to build a sidewalk on Fort Hill Road from Ardsley Road to Longview. A permanent resident Traffic Safety Committee will be appointed by the Town Board with representation from different neighborhoods. A new sidewalk is also currently under construction on Old Tarrytown Road.
TOWN BOARD AUTHORIZES FORFEITURE OF CARS OF THOSE CONVICTED OF DRAG RACING
Regrettably, Drag Racing has increased locally, including on streets within our community. Police have worked diligently to identify locations and times when such activities were occurring, but ticketing appeared to be inadequate disincentive for those involved in this extremely dangerous and disruptive activity. The Town Board has been able to pass guidelines which now will allow those convicted of Drag Racing, on our streets, to potentially forfeit their vehicles. We believe this law will adequately discourage Drag Racing.
NYS REPAVES ROADS THEY OWN FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER FIVE YEARS
For first time in more than five years, NYS has repaved roads they control which are located in Greenburgh. Dobbs Ferry Road, Hillside Avenue and Saw Mill River Road in Ardsley have all seen excellent upgraded paving. In 2018 student interns lobbied NYS to address road conditions and we thank them for their effective work.
MARIO CUOMO BRIDGE BIKE PATH
A long-awaited bike/pedestrian path has been opened across the Mario Cuomo Bridge, enabling cyclists and pedestrians to bike/walk from Tarrytown to Nyack. I had pressed for this for many years and expressed concern about the narrow width of the shared walkway. I am also pushing for a bike lane to be built from the South/North County trail on Route 119 to the Cuomo Bridge. Such a path would make it safer for cyclists to bike from the Yonkers/Bronx border and from Putnam to the bridge without having to worry about street traffic.
ODELL HOUSE NOW IS OWNED BY THE TOWN, ITS HISTORY WILL BE PRESERVED
Odell house was finally turned over to the Town by the “Sons of the American Revolution.” It was a long process. A private foundation, “Friends of the Odell House Rochambeau” was formed to work with the Town to provide assistance and direction, as we proceed with efforts to restore this important national landmark and to make it a museum.
CON ED ISSUES REFUNDS FOR FIRST TIME FOR POWER OUTAGES
After far too many power outages, we were able to lobby Con Ed to issue refunds to customers who experienced losses due to outages and partial refunds were issued for the first time. Con Ed was fined by NYS for being unprepared to address power outages during this summer. It's my hope that Con Ed has learned from the experiences. On Christmas day there were outages around the town and Con Ed responded quickly and efficiently to these issues. We are pressing Con Ed to create a joint plan with Verizon and Optimum to coordinate initiatives to avoid such service disruptions.
Site Approvals: Shoprite will replace the movie theater in North Elmsford. Brightview Assisted Living has been approved at Metropolis Golf Club. Amazon to open a last mile distribution facility in Elmsford. Proposed assisted living at Maplewood has been abandoned. The Town has committed to hiring an Economic Development Coordinator. A new Self Storage Facility opens on White Plains Road. Chelsea Assisted Living opens in Greenburgh at the former Franks Nursery. Carlsons to remain a nursery at 625 Dobbs Ferry Road. Westchester Broadway Theater closes. Tesla Dealership construction almost completed on Route 119.
GOVERNOR SIGNS LAW PUSHED BY TOWN REQUIRING LARGE SUPERMARKETS TO MAKE EXCESS EDIBLE FOOD AVAILABLE TO THE NEEDY
The Governor signed a law that was developed by the Greenburgh Conservation Advisory Board and Councilman Ken Jones providing that large supermarkets should make available excess edible food, that is otherwise being carted away for disposal, to religious or other non profit organization which provide food for free to the needy. The Town Board passed a resolution supporting this initiative. The bill was overwhelming passed by the Senate and Assembly, and the Town Board urged the Governor to sign into law. It becomes effective in June 2021.
KNOLLWOOD/RUMBROOK INTERCONNECTION PIPELINE INSTALLATION UNDERWAY
Construction of the critically important Knollwood Rumbrook interconnection pipeline project began in 2020. The interconnection is needed from the Rumbrook Pump station to the Knollwood Pump station to provide the town with a second (redundant) water source in the event that the NYC Delaware aqueduct system is shut down or one of our pump stations is out of service.
SUMMER INTERNSHIP STUDENTS MET WITH NATIONALLY KNOWN LEADERS
During a Town sponsored Virtual Internship, comprised of 42 Greenburgh student interns, Hillary Clinton, Ed and Randi Zuckerberg, (father and sister of Mark of Facebook fame) former White House correspondent for TIME Magazine, Barrett Seaman, Newsweek columnist David Kaplan and others were interviewed. PSAs were produced by these bright and remarkable students. The internship program was overseen by Town Clerk Judith Beville with assistance from Commissioner of Planning Garrett Duquesne, Town Attorney Tim Lewis and me.
ZUCKERBERG INSTITUTE AND GREENBURGH CREATE PARTNERSHIP TO HELP SMALL LOCAL BUSINESSES
After hearing Randi Zuckerberg, former marketing director for Facebook speak to Greenburgh student interns about the Zuckerberg Institute, the Town became one of only two communities in the nation to partner with the Institute to assist local retail businesses. Students will have access to Silicon Valley business leaders and work with them to develop creative ideas to assist local businesses. We anticipate that the program will be launched in March. Over 60 brilliant students from all over Greenburgh have already expressed interest in participating.
The Appellate Division of the NYS Supreme Court is reviewing an appeal to determine the sufficiency of an incorporation petition filed by Edgemont residents. Two years ago the Appellate Division overturned a lower court ruling and determined that the first petition filed was insufficient. A second petition was subsequently filed and the same Judge who issued the first ruling issued a similar decision which is the subject of the new appeal.
Our Town joins 27 communities in participating in an ESCO (Energy Service Company), with Sustainable Westchester, to provide residents with “Green Energy.” Residents who wish to opt out of the ESCO may opt out without penalty. The Town Board will provide residents with comparisons of Con Ed rates and the rates the ESCO are charging. The Sustainable Westchester rates can’t go up or down for the life of the contract. Con Ed rates can.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE GOVERNMENT MORE EFFICIENT
The Town provided residents with the ability to request bulk trash pickups online utilizing a new system. In 2021 residents who have complaints about Town service-related matters will be able to utilize a new automated system to memorialize their complaints online.
Greenburgh was the first community in Westchester County to create a cricket field, which is now at Richard Presser Park in Hartsdale. An extremely popular sport with many of our new residents, this year the Westchester Board of Legislators approved a one million dollar capital expenditure to create a cricket field in Yonkers. As is often the case, Greenburgh led by example. County Executive Latimer and Legislator Shimsky were instrumental in obtaining the funding.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
The Town Board appointed a committee headed by Councilwoman Gina Jackson to identify systemic racism (housing, health, police, employment, etc.). The committee members have been meeting and will issue a report with recommendations early in 2021. The Governor had directed (after the horrific murder of George Floyd) all local governments in NYS to create committees and provide recommendations for change. The Town Board continues to promote more diversity in our Police Department and recently elevated the Sergeant of Community Affairs to Lieutenant as well as promoted the first Hispanic officer to the position of Lieutenant.
Chris McNerney replaced Acting Chief Brian Ryan, who retired, as Greenburgh Police Chief. Chief McNerney had previously been our Chief, prior to accepting a position with the Westchester District Attorney. Welcome back Chief! Richard Fon replaced Victor Carosi as Commissioner of Public Works, who retired. Richard was the “Number Two” person in the Department under Victor. Mondaire Jones and Jamaal Bowman were elected to the US Congress representing Greenburgh, replacing long term elected officials, Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel. Councilwoman Gina Jackson joined the Town Board last January, replacing interim Councilwoman Ellen Hendrickx.
COUNCILWOMAN DIANA JUETTNER TO RETIRE AT END OF 2021
Greenburgh Councilwoman Diana Juettner has devoted the past 29 years to the Town, serving as a member of the Town Board. She has worked hard advocating for seniors and for our parks programming, among other causes. Ms. Juettner helped the Town achieve its excellent Triple A bond rating during her tenure. She will be missed though we still will benefit from her service in 2021.
FUN FACT! BLACK BEARS SITED IN GREENBURGH
This summer, NYS DEC provided the Town Board with a presentation from which we created a You Tube infomercial advising residents what to do if they see bears.
NEW AFFORDABLE HOUSING BEING BUILT
Former WestHELP Affordable Housing site under construction in the Mayfair-Knollwood section of Town for 74 apartments for seniors which will replace 108 homeless shelter units. The Greenburgh Housing Authority is demolishing 30 Senior Housing units on Manhattan Ave to build 70 new units of Affordable Housing for seniors. The Town Board approved both agreements.
NEW AMBULANCE TO HELP ARDSLEY SECOR AMBULANCE CORP
A new ambulance arrived in Ardsley, thanks to a NYS grant secured by Senator Andrea Steward Cousins, to help the Ardsley Secor Ambulance Corp continue to provide high level ambulance services to residents.
THANK YOU, SNOW ANGELS
Over 50 Senior Citizens and disabled residents were helped by Greenburgh Snow Angels this December. The Snow Angel program is headed by Miles Cooperman, a senior at Ardsley High School.
CONTINUING IMPROVEMENT OF OPERATIONS-- NEW BULK PICKUP OF ELECTRONICS BEING TESTED
Despite the pandemic, we have continued our focus on improving efficiency and effectiveness in delivering services to our community. With many staff working from home, and limited direct contact with others, we nevertheless were able to come up with initiatives that will help make your lives better. For example, during the week of January 11th the DPW will, for the first time, pick up from homes old TVs, computers, printers and e-waste. Because of the demand for bulk pickup, we placed temporary bins at key locations around Town last December so our residents don't have to wait for pickups: they could drop off the bulk items themselves.
RENEWAL OF EXEMPTIONS FOR SENIORS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES MADE EASIER
The Town Board also voted to waive the renewal requirements for seniors and persons with disabilities who previously received STAR exemptions.
TOWN TESTS WINTER SNOW PARKING REGULATION HARDSHIP WAIVERS
The Greenburgh Town Board approved legislation authorizing the Police department to issue hardship exemption permits this year to residents who have hardship due to the winter snow parking regulations. We have a snow ordinance which bans parking on town streets during winter months.
Happy New Year! May 2021 be a healthier and happier year for all of us. A thank you to all the other members of the Town Board, Councilmembers Diana Juettner, Francis Sheehan, Ken Jones and Gina Jackson, as well as the department heads, town employees, civic associations, appointees to our many boards and committees for your hard work during 2020.
Paul Feiner, Supervisor
Town of Greenburgh