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Before the Jefferson Avenue Bridge can reopen to vehicular traffic, the road and bridge itself must be paved. This can’t occur until the weather gets warmer, according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, which will delay the opening of the bridge until at least the springtime. Photo/Ashley Helms

Jefferson Ave. Bridge: A project delayed

Before the Jefferson Avenue Bridge can reopen to vehicular traffic, the road and bridge itself must be paved. This can’t occur until the weather gets warmer, according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, which will delay the opening of the bridge until at least the springtime. Photo/Ashley Helms

Before the Jefferson Avenue Bridge can reopen to vehicular traffic, the road and bridge itself must be paved. This can’t occur until the weather gets warmer, according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, which will delay the opening of the bridge until at least the springtime. Photo/Ashley Helms

By ASHLEY HELMS
After 18 months of construction, numerous anticipated finishing dates and one broken sewer line, the Jefferson Avenue Bridge remains closed to vehicular traffic with no opening date in sight.

The bridge was officially closed in September 2012 to increase space between the base of the bridge and the Mamaroneck River in order to help mitigate flooding issues in the area, but members of the community have grown increasingly concerned with the timeline of the project and a perceived lack of transparency from village officials regarding what has caused the delays.

Perhaps most notably, construction was halted when a 21-inch sewer line was broken at the Jefferson Avenue Bridge site in March 2013.

The leak caused 3 million gallons of raw sewage to leak into the Mamaroneck River, which ultimately flows into the Long Island Sound.

Stemming from the break, the village was ordered to pay a $17,000 fine to the state Department of Environmental Conservation in September 2013. .A change work order worth roughly $1 million was finalized in January 2014 for the replacement of the sewer line. Arben Group, the Pleasantville-based contractor responsible for the project, will be ordered to pay for the fine handed down by the DEC. The change work order for the sewer replacement, worth about $1 million, was put into effect in January.

In July 2013, it was reported by the Mamaroneck Review that the village did outline the sewer line in the original site plan documents, but Assistant Village Manager Dan Sarnoff was quoted as saying at the time of the article that the sewer main wasn’t shown on the original plans.

The markings on the original documents weren’t clear in outlining if there was a sewer line at the construction site and the village didn’t know the pipe was still being used to transport sewage, Village Manager Richard Slingerland said. He denies the village knew specifically about the sewer pipe and said that the markings on the documents appeared to be man holes instead of a sewer pipe.

Documents obtained by the Mamaroneck Review suggests otherwise.

A letter from Village Attorney Charles Goldberger to WSP Sells‑the company tasked with designing and outlining the bridge project‑in March 2013, after the break, indicates both the village and Arben were aware of the sewer line’s presence when it was broken.

According to Goldberger’s letter, the village marked the sanitary sewer line on documents used to determine where construction could occur in September 2012. The letter states Arben, at no additional expense to the owner, was to protect all sewer pipes and any utilities laid across or along the site of the work and claims Arben is responsible for, among other things, emergency repair work, fines imposed by the state Department of Eenvironmental Conservation and delay costs associated with the bridge work.

When asked if the village plans to enter litigation with Arben and WSP Sells over the break, Slingerland said the village is “exploring the records and exploring their options.” As it stands, the project has cost the village roughly $4 million, but Slingerland said costs may increase.

The project was initially estimated at $1.2 million to be split between the village and Town of Rye.

The Arben Group was awarded the bid to revamp the bridge in May 2012. According to the contract between the village and Arben, the construction was not to exceed six months, from Jun. 1, 2012, to Nov. 30, 2012. The project could be extended an additional six months, until May 31, 2013, only with written authorization from Slingerland.

According to Slingerland, written authorization did not occur and the over-extending of the contract by Arben is under review by the village’s legal counsel.

The project also hit some weather-related delays, including heavy rainfall in the summer of 2013 followed by extremely dry weather that made it difficult to continue with construction, Slingerland said, and the past few months this winter have not been conducive to bridge work either.

“Now everything is delayed because of extreme cold. We have had delays in relation to the bridge panels being delivered recently,” Slingerland said.

In October 2012, the village Board of Trustees approved a change work order for the project, stating that, following the awarding of the bid to Arben, the village discovered the contract omitted a requirement for a performance and payment bond.

A performance and payment bond is to protect the village in case of bankruptcy or financial default by Arben, according to Slingerland. Arben was required to produce a performance bond due to the additional expenses not included in the original contract, the village manager said.

The initial Nov. 30, 2012, completion date arrived, but construction was halted at the site around that time; a stop work order remained in place until February 2013.

But there are other problems.

According to the contract, discontinuation of work for more than 72 hours wasn’t permissible without written authorization from the village engineer.

Slingerland said that, in November 2012, the village was still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, which hit just a month prior. There was a gasoline shortage and fallen trees were blocking many roads, he said, making it difficult to work, and halting construction. Any extension of the contract was covered by the performance and payment bond, he said.

Another issue that drew considerable criticism from the community and added to delays in construction was Arben subcontracting out for sheet piling work at the site. The subcontractor pulled out and Arben was unable to find a new subcontractor at an equivalent price.

The contract between Arben and the village states in section 103, under subcontracts, that “the contractor shall not execute an agreement with any subcontractor or permit any subcontractor to perform any work included in this contract until he has received written approval of such subcontractor from the owner.”

The village manager said Arben had a verbal agreement with a subcontractor to do the sheet piling work, but the subcontractor fell through. In order to try to stay within budget, he said, Arben removed Jefferson Avenue street paving from the contract.

A written agreement to subcontract between the village and Arben was never made.

In May 2013, the village anticipated the bridge project would be completed by August 2013 if not sooner, but to date, the bridge remains impassable.

May 2013 was supposed to be the final completion date, with written authorization from Slingerland, according to the contract.

Slingerland said the village was given numerous completion dates by Arben that they were unable to live up to and the construction company ran into many unexpected road blocks in finishing the project.

“There was major additional work of moving of unsuitable soil, that was a major issue,” Slingerland said. “We lost six weeks to heavy rain at the end of May and into early June. They couldn’t work in those conditions.”

Going forward, Slingerland said the village is eager to finish the project. The bridge and the section of Jefferson Avenue leading up to it must be paved to even out the roadway, but that can’t continue until the weather gets warmer because otherwise, the concrete will crumble.

Slingerland said it’s difficult to say when, exactly, the bridge will be finished.

“We need 8 to 10 days of extended weather of 40 degrees plus,” Slingerland said. “It’ll be a little while longer.”

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
Robert Cypher, Jr., left, was unanimously appointed to the position of part-time city judge by Republican Mayor Joe Sack and the rest of the City Council on Feb. 26. Cypher, a Republican, served one term as a city councilman from 2002 to 2005. Photo/Liz Button

Former councilman appointed judge

Robert Cypher, Jr., left, was unanimously appointed to the position of part-time city judge by Republican Mayor Joe Sack and the rest of the City Council on Feb. 26. Cypher, a Republican, served one term as a city councilman from 2002 to 2005. Photo/Liz Button

Robert Cypher, Jr., left, was unanimously appointed to the position of part-time city judge by Republican Mayor Joe Sack and the rest of the City Council on Feb. 26. Cypher, a Republican, served one term as a city councilman from 2002 to 2005. Photo/Liz Button

By ASHLEY HELMS
A fresh, although perhaps familiar, face has joined the ranks of Rye City Court judge.

Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, and the City Council unanimously appointed Robert Cypher, Jr., a former Republican city councilman who had a seat on the dais from 2002 to 2005, as a part-time city judge on Feb. 26.

Cypher is taking over for Richard Runes, a Democrat, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 for city court judges and needed to be replaced this year.

Cypher is a graduate of Fordham University Law School and went on to have a career as a civil litigation attorney in addition to serving on the City Council. He was also an attorney for the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an attorney in the office of the Judge Advocate General.

Sack said he interviewed five qualified candidates for the position before deciding to appoint Cypher, who will be paid an annual salary of $31,900 as a part-time judge.

“I think both [Cypher’s] trial experience and his community and public service will create a nice blend that will serve him well in his new role,” Sack said.

The mayor makes the decision of who to appoint to full-time and part-time city judge positions with the approval of the other council members. Full-time Rye City Court Judge Joseph Latwin, also a Republican, was appointed to his role by then Republican Mayor Douglas French in 2010. Latwin has served four years as judge, leaving six more before his term is up in 2020.

Peter Lane, a former Rye City judge, said that although Latwin and Cypher are Republicans like Sack, judges don’t always belong to the same political party as the sitting mayor. Lane is also a Republican, and said he was appointed to city court judge in 1992 by Democratic Mayor Warren Ross. Before his appointment, Lane served as the city’s Republican Party chairman.

“I think there is a tradition of keeping the Rye bench a quality bench and as bipartisan as possible,” Lane, who is currently the executive director of the Rye City Republican Committee, said. “The Rye court is a lot of citizens’ only interaction with the justice system. I think it’s important that the people who sit there have the right temperament.”

Cypher is currently the secretary of the city’s Republican Committee, but is expected to resign from his political position since judges cannot participate in politics while on the bench.

Just before the November 2013 general election, Cypher announced his support of Sack in his race for mayor and the Republican Rye United ticket, which included new council members Terry McCartney and Kirsten Bucci along with Sack and incumbent Councilwoman Julie Killian.

Despite putting his support behind Sack, Cypher was once a running mate and supporter of former Councilman Peter Jovanovich, who ran against Sack as an independent candidate in hopes of securing the mayoral position.

Cypher said he was disappointed to see then-councilman Jovanovich accept the support last year of former members of the Rye Citizens First group, a now defunct third party slate formed in 2005, leading up to Election Day 2013. He said the group sabotaged Jovanovich’s candidacy in 2005.

The group ran a slate during the 2005 election that failed to elect a candidate, splitting the Republican Party in half and ensuring a Democratic sweep in the City Council election, according to Cypher. Jovanovich was running as a Republican candidate for a council seat during that period.

Regarding his appointment as a part-time judge, Cypher said he thanks his children for their unwavering support for him through all of his endeavors. He said they often “grinned and beared it” when he made decisions on the council that may not have been popular with their classmates. Cypher promised to treat everyone who appears before him in court with the same respect, fairness, courtesy and compassion.

“You can treat people fairly, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t treat people with the respect they deserve regardless of what their station in life is,” Cypher said.

The council members also had kind words for Cypher and his appointment. Councilman Richard Slack, who is not affiliated with a political party, said Cypher, as a councilman, considered issues in a non-partisan way and listened to everyone. He said Judge Runes, Cypher’s predecessor, performed the job of part-time city judge with wise and considerate deliberation.

“I expect Judge Cypher will continue in a similar fashion,” Slack said.

McCartney said that, as a marine officer, Cypher learned how to lead people and, as a City Court judge, he will be tasked with the same responsibility.

Many of the young offenders who will appear before Cypher did something foolish and just need a little guidance, McCartney said, who thinks Cypher is the perfect person to serve as a judge.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
The Village of Mamaroneck is proposing a ban on smoking tobacco products in public parks at anytime. A similar law is already in place outlawing smoking during sporting events or other activities that may involve children, but the law proposed on Feb. 24 is more far reaching. File photo

Village considers smoking ban in parks

The Village of Mamaroneck is proposing a ban on smoking tobacco products in public parks at anytime. A similar law is already in place outlawing smoking during sporting events or other activities that may involve children, but the law proposed on Feb. 24 is more far reaching. File photo

The Village of Mamaroneck is proposing a ban on smoking tobacco products in public parks at anytime. A similar law is already in place outlawing smoking during sporting events or other activities that may involve children, but the law proposed on Feb. 24 is more far reaching. File photo

By ASHLEY HELMS
If a new proposed law is passed in the Village of Mamaroneck, smokers will be out of luck in public parks.

A ban on smoking tobacco products, most notably cigarettes, in parks within the village was proposed by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 24. A prohibition on smoking in the parks is already in place during sporting events and other activities that involve children, but the current proposal would outlaw smoking at any time in public parks.

The village has 14 parks, including Harbor Island Park and Columbus Park on Van Ranst Place.

Village Manager Richard Slingerland said the administration has received a few complaints about smoking in parks, but the current proposal was fueled by concerns raised by the Committee for the Environment. He said the board is largely in favor of the ban and a public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the March 10 Board of Trustees meeting.

The committee’s drive to enact a ban in every village park also centered on concerns over second-hand smoke. The state only outlawed smoking in public parks nearby playgrounds and other areas for children.

“The state enacted a playground smoking ban, but it didn’t cover the entire park. We are looking to do [it in] the entire park,” Slingerland said.

The ban would fall under the current parks section of the village code, Slingerland said, and would carry a $250 fine for offenders. The  parks section of village code states that, in addition to a $250 fine, offenders could face up to 15 days in county jail, but Slingerland said it’s unlikely anyone would face jail time for illegally lighting up.

To enforce the law, the village manager said larger events at the parks will have park rangers and police officers on duty watching for people smoking where they shouldn’t be.

In Westchester County, it’s illegal to smoke in restaurants, near schools and hallways of apartment buildings, among other public locations. Smoking is permitted outdoors, but not underneath an overhang or anything that might trap smoke.

The county law exempts private membership clubs, hotel rooms and cigar bars from the smoking bans.

Many colleges have also enacted smoking bans on their campuses. Westchester Community College stopped allowing students and staff to smoke on campus in November 2011; it was the first college in the county to enact such a rule.

Starting in the 2014-2015
school year, the State University of New York made it against school policy to smoke outside any of its campuses. According to the 2003 Westchester Smoke-Free Worksite law, smoking regular paper cigarettes inside any work place with “one or more employees” is illegal.

Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, said the ban is based on environmental and general health concerns. If there are cigarette receptacles in outside areas, residents will be required to dispose of their cigarettes in it to cut down on pollution. If they don’t, Bermudez Hallstrom said they will face a fine “similar to staying in the park past dusk.”

Citing a few complaints submitted to the board via email, Trustee Louis Santoro, a Republican, said some village employees have grown concerned over other employees smoking electronic cigarettes inside village court. He said he wanted to know if a law against that would be written into the parks smoking ban.

An electronic cigarette is a battery-powered smoking simulation device that vaporizes a liquid for inhalation, similar to smoking a regular cigarette. Some solutions contain nicotine, the addictive quality in cigarettes, mixed with other flavors while others don’t contain nicotine.

Village Attorney Linda Whitehead said the village’s smoking ban will outlaw electronic cigarette smoking in parks, but a precedent has not been set yet for smoking them inside village buildings. Some electronic cigarettes contain nicotine and can pose a second hand smoke concern.

Catherine Hiller, a member of the Village of Mamaroneck Committee for the Environment, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
HOTELTAX1

Village pushing for hotel tax

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees is applying to the State of New York in order to implement a 3 percent tax on hotel occupants. The tax has a sunset clause, which requires communities to reapply every three years. Photo courtesy Mamaroneck Motel

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees is applying to the State of New York in order to implement a 3 percent tax on hotel occupants. The tax has a sunset clause, which requires communities to reapply every three years. Photo courtesy Mamaroneck Motel

By ASHLEY HELMS
In order to bring in more revenue through ways other than property taxes, the Village of Mamaroneck is seeking approval from New York State to implement a hotel tax.

The village Board of Trustees approved support for a hotel tax at its Feb. 23 meeting. The law must be passed by the state Assembly and Senate, before being signed into law by the governor. The proposal would impose a 3 percent village hotel occupancy tax on patrons.

The state allows municipalities to pass additional laws to govern itself, such as a hotel tax, under home rule legislation. Since it has a three-year sunset clause, communities must seek authorization for the tax after the state has initially approved it.

The village attempted to pass a hotel tax law in 2011 and again in 2013, but the bill didn’t gain support from the state.

Standing in the way of communities’ ability to impose a hotel tax has been the governor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, swore to not impose new taxes when he took office in 2011.

The Republican-led state Senate has also expressed opposition to the law due to its nature as a tax.

The state allowed the Village of Rye Brook to implement its own hotel tax in 2010, and now, with that precedent set, villages and towns in Westchester County are trying to impose the revenue generating tax that was originally intended only for counties and cities.

Village Manager Richard Slingerland said the village requested approval from the state for the tax in 2011, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Cuomo due to his stance on new taxes. Slingerland said the hotel tax would net roughly $30,000 per year in non-property tax revenue, but it isn’t a major source of income.

“We have smaller-scale motels. I’m sure they don’t have the room count or impact that a larger hotel would have,” Slingerland said.

The village has two motels; Vincent and Son’s motel in Rye Neck and the Mamaroneck Motel on Boston Post Road.

Chris Bradbury, Rye Brook’s village administrator, said Rye Brook raked in roughly $240,000 in non-property tax revenue in 2010 from the Hilton Westchester on Westchester Avenue the first year the hotel tax was implemented. In 2014, Bradbury said it is anticipated that $630,000 in revenue will be generated.

Assemblyman Steve Otis, a Rye Democrat, said that up until 2006, when the City of Rye implemented its own tax, no municipalities in the state had a hotel tax. Otis was serving as mayor of the city at the time as well as state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer’s chief of staff.

He said there is also a Westchester County hotel tax of 3 percent that is charged to guests. The revenue from this goes to the county and is separate from the community’s specific tax.

“Its hard to pass, but the benefit is that they reduce what property taxes tax payers have to pay,” Otis said.

State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat who is sponsoring a hotel tax bill in the Senate for the Town of Harrison and the Village of Mamaroneck, said that, even though the Republican-led Senate doesn’t want to raise taxes, the economic advantage is that the Village of Mamaroneck won’t have to rely as much on property taxes to bring in revenue. This will lessen the chances a municipality will have to raise property taxes or cut services as much, Latimer said.

Since many of the communities surrounding the village, except for Harrison, impose a tax, including New Rochelle, White Plains, Rye Brook and the City of Rye, Latimer said village hotel owners won’t have to worry about losing business to other locations that don’t impose a tax. According to Latimer, the bill to impose the tax will be voted on by the state legislature in June.

“It will help restrain property taxes and it’ll be an added revenue benefit…I’m going to keep pushing this bill until we get it done,” Latimer said.

Harrison attempted to impose a tax on its two hotels—the Renaissance Westchester Hotel on West Red Oak Lane and the Hyatt House on Corporate Park Drive—in January, marking the town’s fourth attempt at approving the tax in the past few years.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
A proposal aimed at improving flooding by planting absorbent trees and other vegetation on the bank of the Mamaroneck River at Saxon Woods Park, pictured, was submitted to the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Feb. 21.  Photo/Ashley Helms

County executive proposes flood mitigation

A proposal aimed at improving flooding by planting absorbent trees and other vegetation on the bank of the Mamaroneck River at Saxon Woods Park, pictured, was submitted to the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Feb. 21.  Photo/Ashley Helms

A proposal aimed at improving flooding by planting absorbent trees and other vegetation on the bank of the Mamaroneck River at Saxon Woods Park, pictured, was submitted to the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Feb. 21. Photo/Ashley Helms

By ASHLEY HELMS
A proposal to combat flooding by planting a new crop of vegetation on the banks of the Mamaroneck River at the county-owned Saxon Woods Park is in front of the Board of Legislators for review.

Submitted to the board by County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, on Feb. 21, the Mamaroneck River project is one of two proposals that are expected to cost a total of $1.8 million.

The county will go to bond for the projects if the board approves the proposals.

The project at Saxon Woods Park is expected to cost $600,000, while the second proposal, at the Bronx River Parkway Reservation spanning Eastchester and Yonkers, would cost $1.2 million.

The Mamaroneck River project would revamp the river bank with new trees and bushes, providing a way for excess water to be absorbed during a heavy storm. The vegetation’s roots will take in water through the ground that has overflowed during flooding, potentially cutting down on water flowing into nearby streets.

The Mamaroneck River flows through both the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Harrison.

Saxon Woods Park, located at 1800 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains, is a 700-acre recreational property that includes a golf course, a public pool, a children’s water playground and picnic areas.

Ned McCormack, communications director for the county executive, said that, if the proposal is approved, planting at the river bank would start in August. Late summer is the optimal time of year to plant trees and bushes because they will grow best in that climate, McCormack said, but he didn’t know exactly what type of absorbent plants would be brought in.

“Down in the village [of Mamaroneck] is where the problem is occurring,” McCormack said. “The project creates this kind of sponge so the rain will be absorbed and will flow downstream at a slower rate.”

The riverbank has suffered natural erosion over time and the vines that currently live along the river don’t soak up as much water, McCormack said. Vine overgrowth will be replaced with more lush vegetation, he said.

The proposal will be assigned to a committee within the Board of Legislators and McCormack said he is hoping the board will make its decision quickly.

“Mother Nature is always at work and we’re always behind her working to make things better as well,” he said.

When a proposal is in front of the board, it is referred to one of the board’s committees for a thorough review. Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, said that the two proposals, including revamping the Mamaroneck River, will be looked over by one committee first to make sure it’s a good fit for the county, and then the board’s other 11 committees will review the proposals as well, Kaplowitz said.

“Flooding along the [Long Island] sound is a very, very unfortunately all too common problem and we work hard to mitigate it as much as possible,” Kaplowitz said.

Though both aimed at cutting down on flooding and the damage it can cause, the riverbank project is separate from the Village of Mamaroneck’s plans to dredge the Mamaroneck River.

County Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat, said the proposal is currently in front of the Economic Development and Capital Projects Committee, but will be reviewed by the Environmental and Energy Committee, which she chairs, afterwards. She said she hopes this is just the beginning of flood mitigation efforts that will significantly impact communities in a positive way.

“I think there’s a lot that could be done for flooding. I would like to see some bigger projects that are bringing more help to the municipalities,” Parker said.

Since August, the Village of Mamaroneck has been discussing options it has for dredging the Mamaroneck River and the village’s other waterways. Currently, the village is looking into whether it would be more cost effective to buy its own silt removal machine or contract the work out like some other municipalities do.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a study to see how much dredging the river would need in the village over the next 20 years.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
SNOW

Village’s snow budget depleted

By ASHLEY HELMS
Numerous storms have pummeled the Village of Mamaroneck this winter with more than two feet of snow. As a result, the village’s snow budget has been depleted and requires extra shipments of salt before the winter is over.

According to Village Clerk Augie Fusco, taking into con-sideration the bills for new salt and fuel for Department of Public Works trucks, which should become available for the village’s review next week, all of the roughly $309,000 set aside for snow removal in the 2014 village budget has been used.

Fusco said the snow budget is set by looking at the average amount needed to remove snow in the last five years. Except for another exceptionally bad winter in 2011, Fusco said the amount of snow the village was receiving was trending downward,

causing the snow budget for this year to be lower.

The clerk said he plans to advise the Board of Trustees on Feb. 17 that the snow budget has been used up. Until the village knows exactly how much extra funds it will need to cover snow removal for the rest of the winter, Fusco said he isn’t going to suggest transferring money from the contingency budget into the snow budget yet.

“It’s almost guaranteed we expended the budget,” Fusco said.

After being pummeled with snow this winter, the Village of Mamaroneck anticipates it has used all of its snow budget, roughly $309,000. Snow that is plowed off the streets is stored in Harbor Island Park, seen here.

After being pummeled with snow this winter, the Village of Mamaroneck anticipates it has used all of its snow budget, roughly $309,000. Snow that is plowed off the streets is stored in Harbor Island Park, seen here.

The village has a contingency budget worth $150,000 that is set aside annually for unforeseen expenses, according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland. If extreme circumstances occur in which an large amount of money needs to be transferred into the snow budget, the village could dip into the fund balance, which is used as a last resort if funds are needed and not allocated from the contingency fund, Slinglerland said.

Any transactions would have to be approved by the Board of Trustees.

According to the village’s adopted 2014 budget, the fund balance stands at about $5 million.

Other options include looking at the total 2014 budget and seeing if there is any extra money that hasn’t been used, Slingerland said, which could be applied to the snow removal.

It’s unclear at this time how much the village will need to apply to its snow budget, which includes salt, DPW labor—including overtime costs—fuel and truck repairs.

Slingerland said the DPW has experienced delays in salt shipments dating back to December, when new shipments were ordered.

Salt is purchased through the Atlantic Salt Company in Staten Island for a price of $51 per ton, he said. The village has requested an in excess of 10 tons of salt, according to Slingerland.

“We have enough [salt] for, if we are extremely limited in the salt we used, maybe one or two more storms,” Slingerland said.

Due to the magnitude of storms that have pounded the region for weeks, New York and New Jersey are experiencing shortages of rock salt used to melt snow and ice on roadways. This is the cause of the salt delay, Slingerland said.

Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said an environmental concern is the amount of salt the village has on its roads. The salt, along with snow, melts and runs into storm drains and local waterways. The mayor said the village has been using the parking lot at Harbor Island Park to store snow that was plowed by the DPW crews.

“Problem is where do you put the snow? You can’t put it in the water anymore, which is ironic because it gets there anyway,” Rosenblum said.

Another concern was flooding, the mayor said, since large amounts of snow can back-up storm water drains and cause melting snow to flood streets.

Rain has also accompanied a few of the storms, leaving a wet coating on the snow that turns icy in sub-zero temperatures.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
Left to right, Mamaroneck Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps, Hispanic Resource Center Executive Director Zoey Colon, Washingtonville Housing Alliance Program Assistant Angela Torero and Washingtonville Housing Alliance Chairman Richard Nightingale participate in a panel discussion at the Feb. 11 Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit. The discussion centered on the individual challenges low-income and immigrant populations face in Mamaroneck. Photo courtesy Linnet Tse

Local Summit talks affordability

Left to right, Mamaroneck Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps, Hispanic Resource Center Executive Director Zoey Colon, Washingtonville Housing Alliance Program Assistant Angela Torero and Washingtonville Housing Alliance Chairman Richard Nightingale participate in a panel discussion at the Feb. 11 Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit. The discussion centered on the individual challenges low-income and immigrant populations face in Mamaroneck. Photo courtesy Linnet Tse

Left to right, Mamaroneck Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps, Hispanic Resource Center Executive Director Zoey Colon, Washingtonville Housing Alliance Program Assistant Angela Torero and Washingtonville Housing Alliance Chairman Richard Nightingale participate in a panel discussion at the Feb. 11 Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit. The discussion centered on the individual challenges low-income and immigrant populations face in Mamaroneck. Photo courtesy Linnet Tse

By ASHLEY HELMS
Members of local nonprofits, along with Mamaroneck Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps, came together at the Feb. 11 Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit to discuss the individual challenges that lower-income and immigrant populations face in both the town and village of Mamaroneck.

While Shaps spoke about what the school district is doing to improve opportunities for its students, Angela Torero, a program associate at the Washingtonville Housing Alliance, and Richard Nightingale, chairman of the housing alliance, focused the discussion on their efforts to increase affordable housing in a community with high rental prices. Hispanic Resource Center Executive Director Zoey Colon also joined the panel for the
discussion.

Torero said the housing alliance has seen an increase in demand for affordable housing options. For a two-bedroom apartment in the Village of Mamaroneck, rent prices can be as much as $1,300 per month and a three-bedroom unit could run as much as $2,300 per month, she said, and most of the people she works with can’t afford rent that high.

“For the majority of people that come through my door, those prices are not reasonable for them,” Torero said.

Torero said that, when new clients come into the housing alliance building, located at 136 Library Lane, for housing services, they’re asked to fill out information cards that ask the maximum amount of rent they can pay, among other questions.

About 80 percent of her clients say the most they can pay per month is between $400 and $600, Torero said, which is unlikely to be found in Mamaroneck. She said larger families who can’t afford the rent prices in homes that can accommodate them may be forced to live in much smaller quarters.

“This can lead to overcrowding in homes. It wasn’t a problem a few years ago, but it is today,” Torero said.

To provide more housing opportunities, Torero said the housing alliance built 600 units of affordable housing in the village in 2007. The units include one, two and three bedrooms and range between $800 and $975 per month in rental price.

Without affordable housing alternatives, Torero said many of her clients face eviction because of high rent prices.

“Some of them have relocated to Yonkers or the Bronx or even out of state, but they want to stay in Mamaroneck,” she said.

Nightingale, who is also the president of Westhab—a non-profit Westchester County organization offering housing and social services to the homeless—said the organization provides 1,000 units of affordable housing in cities such as New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and Yonkers.

Westhab also helps homeless residents transfer into permanent housing and provides employment services including job training, job placement and resume writing.

“These people are not easy job placements, they’re folks who have been out of the work force for many years, folks who may not have a college degree or even a high school education,” Nightingale said.

Westhab recently built an elderly housing complex in New Rochelle to help further improve affordable housing options, Nightingale said.

“There’s not enough affordable housing in [the county] to keep up with the demand,” he said

Speaking specifically about the Mamaroneck school district, Shaps provided a few statistics. He said 12 percent of the district’s student population is considered economically disadvantaged and qualify for reduced lunch programs. Graduation rates for Latino students now exceed that of white students; 83 percent of Latino students graduate from high school, while only 70 percent of white students do, according to Shaps.

To promote excellence within Hispanic students from a very early age, Shaps said the district rolled out its first dual-language kindergarten classes in September 2013, he said.

The district’s dual-language kindergarten classes have 48 students enrolled this year and the district anticipates expanding the program through fifth grade in the future.

The program works by alternating between English and Spanish curriculum on a daily basis. Latino and white parents can sign their children up for the classes before the beginning of the each school year.

Shaps said the program has been working quite well and the children are easily picking up the dual-language curriculum.

“It has been remarkable to see the day-to-day learning in those classes,” Shaps said.

After the three panelists discussed their specific topics, audience members were invited to ask questions. Village of Mamaroneck Justice Christie Derrico, a Republican, asked how aid, like Section 8 housing vouchers, are broken up in the Village of Mamaroneck.

Colon, of the Hispanic Resource Center—a village non-profit that provides social services to Hispanic families—said the community is in a “political blind spot,” meaning it has a high median income, but has pockets of concentrated poverty like in the Washingtonville neighborhoods. State and county agencies sometimes overlook Mamaroneck for aid because of this, she said.

Another issue stems from the area’s immigrant population, some of whom aren’t eligible for Section 8 benefits because of their immigration status, meaning they may not be living in the country legally, Colon said.

To apply for Section 8, at least one person in the family must be a citizen or legal resident.

“Our population is different because of undocumented residents,” Colon said.

The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit meets every other Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. at the Nautilus Diner, located at 1240 W. Boston Post Road.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
A petition for rezoning at Hampshire Country Club in order to build luxury condominium units on its golf course was turned down unanimously by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 10. This was the culmination of controversies centering on the club regarding the proposed plan and alleged zoning violations. Photo courtesy Hampshire Club

Board denies Hampshire petition

By ASHLEY HELMS

Opponents of plans to develop on Hampshire Country Club’s golf course can celebrate a victory, at least for now.

A petition for rezoning at Hampshire Country Club in order to build luxury condominium units on its golf course was turned down unanimously by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 10. This was the culmination of controversies centering on the club regarding the proposed plan and alleged zoning violations. Photo courtesy Hampshire Club

A petition for rezoning at Hampshire Country Club in order to build luxury condominium units on its golf course was turned down unanimously by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 10. This was the culmination of controversies centering on the club regarding the proposed plan and alleged zoning violations. Photo courtesy Hampshire Club

A petition for rezoning aimed at developing luxury condominiums where a clubhouse currently stands on the club’s golf course, a proposal that received harsh criticism from some village residents, was unanimously defeated on Feb. 10 by the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees.

The decision to strike down the petition was met with cheers from an audience that extended into the hallway at village court.

Hampshire Country Club, located at 1107 Cove Road, petitioned the Board of Trustees for a zoning change to build one of two proposed housing options. One would see the construction of 121 condominium units, while the other included 106 single-family units.

The club intended to gain approval from the board so it could rezone the property, located in the village’s marine recreation zone, to build the luxury homes.

Flooding was one of the top concerns for those who live in the area who feared that, because of the club’s close proximity to sea level, building condominiums would create a surface that was impervious to water, forcing it out into the neighborhoods. Obstructing the view of the Long Island Sound by the proposed housing units was an issue that came into play as well.

Hampshire needs the zoning change to carry out its plan since residential development is not allowed in the marine recreation zone, according to village code.

Republican Mayor Norman Rosenblum’s refusal to comment on issues of possible rezoning at Hampshire Club since fall 2013, and through the November election, had some residents sensing he would be in support of any development proposal.

Following Rosenblum’s decision to scratch the application for a zoning change, and the board’s unanimous vote to turn down the petition, the mayor said he felt the density of the development project didn’t meet the village’s comprehensive plan.

Even though the Board of Trustees rejected this application, the club could come back with a different proposal, Rosenblum said, and the idea of building some units at the club is still plausible.

”Basically what we turned down wasn’t a concept, but, in essence, was the specific proposal itself,” Rosenblum said.

Celia Felsher, president of the Mamaroneck Coastal Envir-onm-ental Coalition, a group of residents pushing for Hampshire’s reform—said she was pleased to see the petition turned down. She said she and other residents aren’t against the club, but want its activities and any building plans to be vetted transparently.

“I’m really gratified the board acted to deny the petition. I think it’s the right thing for the community,” Felsher said. “We all have to sit down in order to figure out what the best alternative for the property is going forward.”

What snowballed into several tense, but passionate verbal exchanges on Feb. 10, and even elicited intervention by a police officer, was preceded by a series of controversies at the club over the last several years.

Concerns over Hampshire’s housing idea began when plans for a potential condominium building and parking garage on the club’s property were displayed at a January 2013 open house. This was the crux of the current uproar, but the club’s operations were on the radar of some residents for at least two years before that.

New World Realty, a real estate advisory firm based in New York City, bought Hampshire Country Club in 2010 for $12 million after the club started to face financial difficulties. New World is the company that came up with the idea of developing the property for housing, which critics say is related to the purchase of the club and the need for New World Realty to turn a profit.

Hampshire Club owner Dan Pfeffer partnered with New World’s real estate advisor, Thomas Nappi, to co-operate the club.

In 2010, residents began complaining the club consistently hosted non-member events on the property, such as receptions, golf outings and dinners. Attendees were allegedly bussed onto the property to attend the events after the sale of the club.

Regarding the club’s petition for rezoning, Nappi told the Mamaroneck Review he thinks rezoning of the property and the construction of condominiums are good ideas for the club and would, in turn, provide elderly residents a place to live that’s still in the village.

“A lot of residents say there is a demand for this type of housing in the village. Empty-nesters want to stay in the village where they’ve raised their kids…these people have fewer people at home and they want to stay in the village, but they don’t want the expense of living in a single-family home,” Nappi said.

Nappi said New World Realty would agree not to build any additional housing if the current proposal was to be completed.

Jenn Kronick, a resident who lives near Hampshire Club, said she found fault with the club’s assertion it would be preserve green space in its development plans.

“For someone to say conservation was their goal, but then to petition to build a massive condominium project seemed counter to a conservation goal,” she said.

Felsher said most of the club’s- property, apart from where the condominiums would be built, isn’t able to be developed because it doesn’t meet FEMA’s requirements of being at least 16 feet above sea level.

“The club has said out of 160 acres at the club, 90 would stay green. In our view that’s a bogus argument because most of the property is not buildable now,” Felsher said.

In order to operate as a non-profit membership club in the village’s marine recreation zone, all of Hampshire’s events must be held for the sole benefit of the members, who are intended to be the deciding factor in who is granted membership to the club. The village code states that no more than 20 percent of the club’s total events can be for non-members, which is essentially an event that anyone could host by paying a fee to the club.

To hold non-member events in any capacity, the club is required to obtain a special permit from the village every three years. Hampshire hasn’t had such a permit since 2010 and is currently applying for the one in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals. This is a requirement for all four of the village’s beach clubs. All of the other clubs, including Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club—which some say operates in a similar fashion to Hampshire—hold a current special permit.

In August 2013, residents and members of Felsher’s coalition alleged multiple violations to the village zoning codes, such as holding non-member events without the required special permit, not filing an IRS Form 990—used for reporting non-profit finances with the village— and that Hampshire is, in reality, a for-profit corporation operating in the marine recreation zone, an area which, as designated by the zoning code, is for not-for-profit membership clubs only.

According to the village code, clubs in the marine recreation zone must annually file an IRS tax form 990 to the village clerk-treasurer and for-profit entities are not allowed in the marine recreation zone.

In September 2013, village Fire Inspector William Ciraco submitted an order to remedy to the club due to its failure to obtain a special permit.

Following the submission of an order to remedy, the village filed an injunction against the club in November 2013 in order to prohibit it from conducting any commercial or recreational activities and place a permanent stop on the club conducting any non-member events. The court case remains ongoing.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

cameronfeature

Cameron named Democratic chair

By LIZ BUTTON

Former City Council candidate Meg Cameron has been selected to lead the city’s Democratic Party after committee chairman Rodney Brown announced his resignation at the committee’s Feb. 4 meeting. 

Rye Democratic Committee chairman Rodney Brown announced his resignation at the committee’s Feb. 4 meeting. Committee members elected Meg Cameron, who ran for City Council last year, as his replacement.  File photo

Rye Democratic Committee chairman Rodney Brown announced his resignation at the committee’s Feb. 4 meeting. Committee members elected Meg Cameron, who ran for City Council last year, as his replacement.
File photo

Rye Democrats are hoping that Cameron’s leadership will help jumpstart the political party, which was trounced by Republican opposition in the 2013 City Council election, in which Democrats failed to run a mayoral candidate or fill out a full ticket, and has been largely unsuccessful in winning seats for close to a decade.

Brown, 64, cited his lengthy seven-year tenure as chairman, the demands of his position as partner in the New York City law firm of Brown & Whalen, and his desire to spend more time with his family as the reasons for his departure.

A 27-year Rye resident, Cameron, 59, ran for Rye City Council in November 2013 on a Democratic ticket with fellow political newcomer Shari Punyon. The pair was defeated by the Joe Sack-led Rye United Republican ticket in a sweep, in which each Rye United candidate garnered more than 2,000 votes.

The City Council is now all Republican with the exception of Councilwoman Kirstin Bucci, a Democrat who ran on Mayor Sack’s Republican ticket, and recently appointed Councilman Richard Slack, who is unaffiliated. Prior to county Legislator Catherine Parker’s re-election to the Rye City Council in 2011, the last time the Democrats were successful in securing a council seat in a contested election was 2005.

Under its new leadership, the Democrats plan to continue working on expanding membership and are currently completing construction on a website that will enable members to communicate with registered voters, Brown said. The party considered making some of these changes after the 2011 election, but few of these objectives were implemented in the intervening time before the 2013 race.

“We’re also going to try to put more structure into subcommittees,” Brown said, to make sure policy positions are developed and communicated. He added the committee is also interested in increasing the number of representatives in its 14 electoral districts.

Brown thought about stepping down for a while, was looking for a replacement and asked her if she was interested, Cameron said.

Cameron said running a campaign got her more interested in taking an active part in local politics, even though she was not successful in her bid.

“[Running] was a very interesting thing to do, and I felt, and I still feel, that [it’s not ideal] if one party has all the seats on the City Council,” Cameron said. “Even if it was my party, I would feel that was the case. There needs to be a variety of viewpoints.”

Cameron has been a member of the Democratic committee and a district leader for about year.

Cameron really stepped up through hard work and gaining a deep understanding of the issues, Brown said. He noted that Cameron’s 1,721 votes in the 2013 election are more than Parker received when she won her seat in 2011.

“From my point of view, [Cameron] is an ideal person to take over and I think being chairperson will give her a podium from which to address community issues,” Brown said. “I view her as a very solid and competent person.”

Brown said he is confident that, as Cameron’s new leadership takes hold and the committee’s membership expands, the party will establish more of a political foothold in the future, a task that will involve spending more time and energy and money at the local level especially since, historically, Rye Republicans have been much better funded than Rye Democrats.

There is also the fact that Rye voted the party line in last November’s county executive race, in which 65 percent of Rye voters supported incumbent Republican Rob Astorino.

Brown said he believes in the candidates that the Democrats party has put up at the local level, and said more people might want to reconsider voting down the party line in the future.

“In retrospect, in light of the problems that the French administration had, one has to at least wonder whether people, in retrospect, might have made a different selection,” said Brown, referring to the administration of former Republican Mayor Douglas French that spanned 2009 to 2013.

Cameron will lead the committee until the positions of chairperson and district leaders come up for a vote next spring. The 17 district leaders who make up the committee are elected by voters in their assigned electoral districts and tasked with identifying candidates to run on the party’s ticket during election years.

Brown, who said he believes he is the second-longest running Democratic committee chairman in Rye City history, said he will remain on the committee and work with Cameron during this transitional period.

Cameron and her husband, Jim Glickenhaus, have children who attended Rye City schools and she currently serves as an officer on the Board of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. She holds a masters degree in immunology/molecular biology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and has also supported and volunteered for Milton School, Meals-on-Wheels, Literacy Volunteers of America and Open Door Medical Center.

Rye Republican Committee chairman Tony Piscionere said he welcomes working cooperatively with [Cameron] in the
future.

“She seems like a nice person and she seems like she cares about Rye,” he said.

However, Piscionere said he has never met or spoken to Brown in the 10 years he has been Republican chairman and in the seven years Brown has been chairman of the city Democrats.

That is a shame, Piscionere said.

“I think that is important to have these different relationships with the other side,” he said.

But Brown said that the two met at least once at a party.

In the 2011 election cycle, the Democrats filed a complaint against the local Republicans for their failure to disclose the campaign finances of its three candidates. This is not something, Brown said, that would have endeared him to the Republican chairman or induced him to reach out in friendship.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com

Tom Murphy

Murphy to be appointed to Town Council

By ASHLEY HELMS 

A familiar face in local politics will soon be added to the all-Democratic Mamaroneck Town Council.

Former Village of Mamaroneck Trustee Tom Murphy, a Democrat, was expected to be appointed to the Mamaroneck Town Council following the resignation of longtime Democratic Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner on Feb. 1, after press time. The appointment has caused a stir amongst former town officials, who say Murphy’s appointment may not bode well for the unincorporated area.

Former Village of Mamaroneck Trustee Tom Murphy, a Democrat, was expected to be appointed to fill the open seat on the Mamaroneck Town Council vacated by Phyllis Wittner, who resigned on Feb. 1. The appointment has caused concern from some former town supervisors, who believe the appointment should be given to someone who lives in the unincorporated area. File photo

Former Village of Mamaroneck Trustee Tom Murphy, a Democrat, was expected to be appointed to fill the open seat on the Mamaroneck Town Council vacated by Phyllis Wittner, who resigned on Feb. 1. The appointment has caused concern from some former town supervisors, who believe the appointment should be given to someone who lives in the unincorporated area. File photo

News of the appointment broke last week, causing former town supervisors, including Republican Valerie O’Keeffe and Democrats Elaine Price, Caroline Silverstone and Dolores Battalia, to disagree publicly over the appointment.

O’Keeffe, who served as town supervisor from 2000 to 2011 as the lone Republican in town elected office over that time, said that, since Murphy, 52, lives in the Village of Mamaroneck and sitting Councilwoman Jaine Elkind Eney and Supervisor Nancy Seligson live in the Village of Larchmont, the unincorporated town would lose its majority representation on the board.

Price, who served as supervisor from 1995 to 1999, agreed with O’Keeffe’s stance. O’Keeffe and Price argue that, if a majority of council members don’t live in the unincorporated area of the town, as current council members Ernest Odierna and Abby Katz do, it would affect voting on a budget that could potentially levy taxes in an area it does not represent.

The loss of Wittner as a resident of the unincorporated area on the council means a loss of majority leadership.

O’Keeffe said the unincorporated town only has one form of government, the Mamaroneck Town Council. Council members who live in the two villages have representation from the two village boards, currently led by mayors Norman Rosenblum in the Village of Mamaroneck and Anne McAndrews in the Village of Larchmont.

“That would mean a majority of the people on the Town [Council] would be voting on the board and levying taxes in an area that they don’t pay to. That’s why it’s not a good idea [to appoint Murphy],” O’Keeffe said. “If Abraham Lincoln or George Washington lived in the Village of Mamaroneck I still wouldn’t think they should be added to the board.”

In response, Murphy, who worked as an elevator mechanic, said that anyone who is elected or appointed to the council has the responsibility of protecting the town and its interests and said he thinks O’Keefe simply wants a Republican candidate appointed.

Once appointed, Murphy will have to run to keep his seat in the November 2014 election.

“If I haven’t done a good job, the people won’t elect me,” Murphy said. “I want to be a town councilperson so we can work on issues like shared services. I want to work on what unites us, not divides us.”

Contrary to what Murphy said, O’Keeffe said she isn’t pushing for a Republican candidate, but would rather see someone from the unincorporated town on the council. The former supervisor said there are plenty of qualified candidates who live in the unincorporated area.

“There are plenty of public servants who live in the town. I find it impossible to [believe] that they can’t find someone,” O’Keeffe said.

Democrat Caroline Silver-stone, who served as town supervisor from 1990 to 1994, said a candidate’s residence shouldn’t play a part in their appointment to the Town Council. She said doesn’t think there should be a designated amount of unincorporated area residents on the council and the decision of who to appoint should be left up to the current Town Council.

“I was on the town board for eight years as a [councilwoman] and as town supervisor for four years. In those 12 years, I never heard any member of the [Town Council] take a parochial view of the village or unincorporated area,” Silverstone said. “It’s too small of an area to split things off.”

Supervisor Seligson said town administration officials contacted almost a dozen people that had been involved in the town and were interested in joining the council.

“We chose the best available candidate at this time and we’re excited to have him join us,” Seligson said.

In 2013, Murphy ran for the county legislator seat in District 7 that was vacated by Judy Myers, a Larchmont Democrat, who announced she would not seek re-election. Murphy was defeated in a Democratic primary by Rye City Councilwoman Catherine Parker, a Democrat who went on to win the general election in November.

Murphy served on the Vill-ge of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees between July 2001 and December 2001, and again from 2004 to 2009, also serving as deputy mayor. He entertained the idea of running for supervisor, looking to unseat O’Keeffe in 2010, but pulled out of the race at the last minute.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com