By JACKSON CHEN
After the incumbent supervisor for the Town of Rye declined to seek a third term, two local attorneys will be facing off to fill the open position.
Combined with his experience as a former Village of Rye Brook trustee and current Planning Board chairman, Gary Zuckerman, 70, recently announced his intention to run for the Rye town supervisor position on the Democratic line. Opposing Zuckerman, the former Rye Town Attorney, Aldo Vitagliano, 57, wants to bring his expertise of law and local government to the race.
The Town of Rye is comprised of the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck and the villages of Port Chester and Rye Brook, where Zuckerman holds eight years of experience as a trustee and 10 years of experience on the Planning Board.
As for Vitagliano, who will be running on the Republican line, he’s spent nine years with the Town of Rye covering property tax enforcement and certioraris and has currently been working as a special counsel to the town since 2008.
“When Joe Carvin decided he was going to step down and people were looking for candidates, I had the credentials,” Vitagliano said. “It was the right time for me to consider stepping up and doing a little more public service.”
While Vitagliano, a Port Chester resident, currently manages his own private practice that handles mostly family transactional law, he wants to bring his experience with local governmental law back to the Town of Rye.
On the other hand, Zuckerman, who is also running on the Conservative line, said he comes from a nonpartisan government background since there is little to no political influence in Rye Brook’s government. Outside of the village, the candidate also serves as an advisor to the Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Mike Kaplowitz, a Yonkers Democrat. On top of his various governmental roles, Zuckerman also works as a real estate attorney.
“When I decided that I would run for supervisor, one of the things I saw was that there was a lot of conflict, sometimes between parties, between areas of the town,” Zuckerman said. “It’s the same thing that’s being reflected on a national basis, on a state basis, even in the county, that people were aligned in parties in different areas.”
Using his experience with Kaplowitz as a springboard, Zuckerman said he wants to bring the Board of Legislators’ coalition type of government, where opposing parties may work together on certain issues, to the Town of Rye.
“In any local government, there are issues of who gets jobs, issues of qualifications, of how you do things,” Zuckerman said. “And we are going to look and see the best way to efficiently operate town government, without regard to party affiliation.”
While Zuckerman has several detailed ideas on his drawing board, Zuckerman said he intends to focus on making the town’s assessment office as efficient as possible.
“There has been some controversy over assessments and I think that we simply need to look at the office and how the assessments are done,” Zuckerman said. “We also need to make it easier for the residents of the town to know what their assessments are and, if necessary, to protest them.”
As for Vitagliano, he said the key to working with the town’s assessment office is communication and transparency.
“I would expect that my style of governance would follow what I have done many times in my life, which is to explain, teach and help,” Vitagliano said, adding that he had years of experience managing tax assessments and certiorari cases.
Since the town encompasses three different areas of Westchester County, two of the major roles of Rye Town include tax assessment and oversight of Crawford and Rye Town parks.
“It’s time for a strategic reinvestment in our parks,” Zuckerman said, adding that the parks should be considered town assets to be maintained and improved. “This is a gem that is used for community purposes by people in Port Chester, people in Rye Brook, people in Rye Neck.”
While the Democratic candidate applauds Carvin, a Republican, for his efforts to reduce the town’s overall tax burden, Zuckerman wants to continue the town supervisor’s fiscal discipline.
Carvin has held office since 2007. And since then, the supervisor has reduced spending, downsized the town government’s operations, relocated the town offices to Port Chester Village Hall and turned down an annual stipend for the supervisor position.
After threats of town dissolution—a proposal first brought forward by Carvin—fizzled recently, Zuckerman said he wants to make the municipality even stronger.
“We have a Town of Rye today and it’s our job, if we’re fortunate enough to be elected, to make it the most efficient, well-run town in the county,” Zuckerman said.
Similar to Zuckerman’s remarks, Vitagliano said he’s not running on a dissolution platform. As an alternative to removing the town, the Republican candidate said he would prefer to run a “solid, honest, and minimalistic government for Rye Town.”
Vitagliano said he wants the town government to maintain a parental role over the individual municipalities where Rye Town would mostly handle their jurisdictional duties, but step in to assist the villages when necessary.
The Rye Town supervisor is elected to a four-year term.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Carvin could not be reached for comment, as of press time.