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PlaylandBeach

County finalizes Playland deal

On June 15, the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the Playland management agreement with Standard Amusements by a 17-0 vote. Standard will now co-manage the park with the county this summer season before taking over the park’s operations fully next year.  File Photo

On June 15, the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the Playland management agreement with Standard Amusements by a 17-0 vote. Standard will now co-manage the park with the county this summer season before taking over the park’s operations fully next year. File Photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
Finally, Playland has a new operator. That is for now, at least.

A private-public partnership with Standard Amusements to run the county-owned amusement park was approved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators in a somewhat surprising vote on June 15.

As part of the approved 15-year Playland management agreement between the county and Standard Amusements, Standard will invest $25 million—$2.25 million in upfront costs to the county and invest $22.75 million directly into the 87-year-old amusement park—and pay annual rising payments to the county starting at $300,000. The county will receive 7.5 percent of the profits once Standard recoups its initial investment.

“With this vote, we have saved Playland and given rebirth to Playland for the next 87 years,” Board of Legislators Chairman Mike Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, said.

But there is a provision in the management agreement that includes an opt-out clause for Standard that allows the group to walk away before Nov. 1, 2015. But by doing so, it would leave its initial payments of $500,000 on the table.

Kaplowitz compared the agreement to a marriage and said, “The wedding is on Nov. 1 and hopefully the groom shows up.”

If the wedding is on Nov. 1, the engagement period is the time between now and the end of October, during which Standard and the county will enter into a co-management period, where the county will remain the sole decision maker but Standard will study Playland’s operations.

Ned McCormack, spokesperson for Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, told the Review he’s confident Standard Amusements will still be around come Nov. 1.

“We wouldn’t have gotten to this stage if it wasn’t a good deal, and I don’t think they would’ve come this far to back out,” McCormack said.

Just hours before the final, full legislative board vote on June 15, legislators were working with the executive branch and county attorneys to finalize language in three memorandums of understanding that were attached to the Playland management agreement and essentially memorialize the legislative review over the past two months.

The promise of no inclusion of fields into the plan by Nick Singer, who heads Standard Amusements, was included in one memorandum, and the county’s promise to retain all 29 of Playland’s full-time workers as county employees to preserve their state pensions was included in the second one. The third memorandum was a list of capital projects for Playland that the county must pay for, which includes the colonnades, fixing the lights on Playland Parkway and the Playland pathway, among other projects.

County Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat, pushed the county executive’s office to specifically include which projects the county would be responsible for financing.

“Until the specific capital improvements were memorialized in writing, I could not have supported this proposal,” Parker said. “But I was satisfied with the MOU, and my colleagues were satisfied. And it’s a great position that the county is putting some skin in the game like Standard is.”

Just to get to this point was five years in the making with more twists and turns than Playland’s iconic Dragon Coaster.

Before Astorino was elected county executive, he blazed the 2009 campaign trail with promises of revitalizing a Playland that had become stale and dated. Soon after taking office in 2010, he sent out a request for proposals to potential bidders and received 12 responses by March 2011 with varying versions of how to reinvent the park for the 21st century.

Standard Amusements submitted its proposal but ended up runner up to Astorino’s preferred choice, a Rye-based non-profit startup called Sustainable Playland, Inc., but the SPI vision quickly came under fire after it was realized that the biggest component of the plan was to construct a 95,000-square-foot field house in Playland’s main parking lot shrinking the size of the amusement park.

The result was an attack from all sides.

Rye residents of the Ryan Park neighborhood abutting Playland spent nearly a year contesting SPI’s proposal. County legislators asked questions during the legislative review process that SPI couldn’t answer. And the City of Rye was preparing for a legal battle with Astorino’s administration over land use jurisdiction.

The non-profit ultimately decided to pull its proposal in June 2014, which opened the door for the county to reconsider Standard Amusements. But not before Astorino hired Dan Biederman, a renowned developer who is best known for redeveloping Bryant Park in New York City, for $100,000 to serve as a consultant on Playland. The report was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 but wasn’t released until April 2015.

In the meantime, as the Review reported in February 2015, the Astorino administration had begun negotiating with Standard Amusements behind closed doors, as was the recommendation in the withheld Biederman’s report.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Town Dems to run unopposed

By JACKSON CHEN
The Town of Mamaroneck’s Democratic Party will notch another political victory for this year’s elections as five town officials plan to seek re-election in what will be another uncontested race due to the Republican Party’s inability to present any challengers.

The town’s Democratic Committee announced that they will support the incumbent slate of Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, members of the Town Council Abby Katz and Tom Murphy, Town Clerk Christina Battalia and Town Justice Jean Marie Brescia.

“We’ve managed to accomplish many good things for Mamaroneck that have been fiscally responsible and improved the overall quality of the town,” said Seligson, who first transitioned from a councilwoman to supervisor in 2012. During her tenure as supervisor, the town has been able to focus their efforts on sustainability and energy reduction methods, including renovations of the Hommocks Ice Rink and the installation of LED light bulbs in street lamps. Seligson, with a background in environmental  advocacy, said that the green initiatives have saved the town a total of $190,000 in energy costs.

Murphy, who was first appointed in February 2014 to fill a vacancy left by the retiring Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner, a Democrat, will be running for his first full four-year term on council.

“I am honored that the Town [Democrats] have nominated me to a full term on the council,” Murphy said. “I will continue to work hard to fairly represent all areas of the town and all of our diverse population.”

Katz has been on the council since 2012 and is now seeking her second term. Over that time, she has been able to overhaul and modernize the town’s website.

“Local government is supposed to be a place for people to turn to [to] deliver a service and I’m proud of the comprehensive and inclusive approach we have taken to running the town government,” she said.

While Katz and Murphy look to secure another term, the endorsements of the town’s Democrats this year have followed the pattern of barely any political opposition in recent memory.

Seligson replaced longtime Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe, a Republican, in January 2012. During her 15 years on the Town Council, she has never been opposed by a Republican.

Before taking over as the supervisor in 1999, O’Keeffe served as a councilwoman for six years. But O’Keeffe’s success was an anomaly in town politics serving as the only Republican on the Democratic-led for board for years. According to Donald Derrico, chairman of the town’s Republican Party, O’Keefe is the only Republican to serve on the Town Council in recent decades.

Derrico said the party has been unable to find any candidates for this year because he said it’s very difficult to run as a Republican in the town. With no Republicans in elected office, Derrico said a system without checks and balances forms and the sole party runs the town government.

“It’s gone on long enough that it’s just one voice, one party,” Derrico said. “It’s not fair and it’s not good for the community and the residents have to realize that.”

Despite not having anyone for this year, Derrico said the party was actively trying to put together some viable candidates for the 2017 election season when Democratic councilmembers Ernie Odierna and Jaine Elkind Eney’s terms are are up.

According to 2015 Westchester County records, there are 8,335 registered active Democrats in the town compared to just 4,211 registered active Republicans.

Town councilmembers serve four-year terms with an annual salary of $6,060, while the supervisor serves a two-year term with an annual salary of $37,875.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
A new five-month extension will allow for Westchester County to co-manage Playland with Standard Amusements before the private company takes over operations at the amusement park. File photos

County finalizes Playland deal

On June 15, the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the Playland management agreement with Standard Amusements by a 17-0 vote. Standard will now co-manage the park with the county this summer season before taking over the park’s operations fully next year.  File Photo

On June 15, the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the Playland management agreement with Standard Amusements by a 17-0 vote. Standard will now co-manage the park with the county this summer season before taking over the park’s operations fully next year. File Photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
Finally, Playland has a new operator. That is for now, at least.

A private-public partnership with Standard Amusements to run the county-owned amusement park was approved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators in a somewhat surprising unanimous vote on June 15.

As part of the approved 15-year Playland management agreement between the county and Standard Amusements, Standard will invest $25 million—$2.25 million in upfront costs to the county and invest $22.75 million directly into the 87-year-old amusement park—and pay annual rising payments to the county starting at $300,000. The county will receive 7.5 percent of the profits once Standard recoups its initial investment.

“With this vote, we have saved Playland and given rebirth to Playland for the next 87 years,” Board of Legislators Chairman Mike Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, said.

But there is a provision in the management agreement that includes an opt-out clause for Standard that allows the group to walk away before Nov. 1, 2015. But by doing so, it would leave its initial payments of $500,000 on the table.

Kaplowitz compared the agreement to a marriage and said, “The wedding is on Nov. 1 and hopefully the groom shows up.”

If the wedding is on Nov. 1, the engagement period is the time between now and the end of October, during which Standard and the county will enter into a co-management period, where the county will remain the sole decision maker but Standard will study Playland’s operations.

Ned McCormack, spokesperson for Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, told the Review he’s confident Standard Amusements will still be around come Nov. 1.

Throughout the process geared toward enhancing the appeal of Playland, Standard Amusements has said it will work to preserve the history of the Westchester amusement park, such as the iconic Dragon Coaster ride, pictured. File photo

Throughout the process geared toward enhancing the appeal of Playland, Standard Amusements has said it will work to preserve the history of the Westchester amusement park, such as the iconic Dragon Coaster ride, pictured. File photo

“We wouldn’t have gotten to this stage if it wasn’t a good deal, and I don’t think they would’ve come this far to back out,” McCormack said.

Just hours before the final, full legislative board vote on June 15, legislators were working with the executive branch and county attorneys to finalize language in three memorandums of understanding that were attached to the Playland management agreement and essentially memorialize the legislative review over the past two months.

The promise of no inclusion of fields into the plan by Nick Singer, who heads Standard Amusements, was included in one memorandum, and the county’s promise to retain all 29 of Playland’s full-time workers as county employees to preserve their state pensions was included in the second one. The third memorandum was a list of capital projects for Playland that the county must pay for, which includes the colonnades, fixing the lights on Playland Parkway and the Playland pathway, among other projects.

County Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat, pushed the county executive’s office to specifically include which projects the county would be responsible for financing.

“Until the specific capital improvements were memorialized in writing, I could not have supported this proposal,” Parker said. “But I was satisfied with the MOU, and my colleagues were satisfied. And it’s a great position that the county is putting some skin in the game like Standard is.”

Just to get to this point was five years in the making with more twists and turns than Playland’s iconic Dragon Coaster.

Before Astorino was elected county executive, he blazed the 2009 campaign trail with promises of revitalizing a Playland that had become stale and dated. Soon after taking office in 2010, he sent out a request for proposals to potential bidders and received 12 responses by March 2011 with varying versions of how to reinvent the park for the 21st century.

Standard Amusements submitted its proposal but ended up runner up to Astorino’s preferred choice, a Rye-based non-profit startup called Sustainable Playland, Inc., but the SPI vision quickly came under fire after it was realized that the biggest component of the plan was to construct a 95,000-square-foot field house in Playland’s main parking lot shrinking the size of the amusement park.

The result was an attack from all sides.

Rye residents of the Ryan Park neighborhood abutting Playland spent nearly a year contesting SPI’s proposal. County legislators asked questions during the legislative review process that SPI couldn’t answer. And the City of Rye was preparing for a legal battle with Astorino’s administration over land use jurisdiction.

The non-profit ultimately decided to pull its proposal in June 2014, which opened the door for the county to reconsider Standard Amusements. But not before Astorino hired Dan Biederman, a renowned developer who is best known for redeveloping Bryant Park in New York City, for $100,000 to serve as a consultant on Playland. The report was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014 but wasn’t released until April 2015.

In the meantime, as the Review reported in February 2015, the Astorino administration had begun negotiating with Standard Amusements behind closed doors, as was the recommendation in the withheld Biederman’s report.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Rye Dems to run 3 for council

The Rye City Democratic Committee announced its three candidates vying for City Council seats this election cycle. The slate includes Danielle Tagger-Epstein, left, Jeffrey Taylor and Emily Proskine Hurd. Photo courtesy Meg Cameron

The Rye City Democratic Committee announced its three candidates vying for City Council seats this election cycle. The slate includes Danielle Tagger-Epstein, left, Jeffrey Taylor and Emily Proskine Hurd. Photo courtesy Meg Cameron

By JACKSON CHEN
After years of little success in garnering candidates and winning seats, the Rye City Democratic Committee has nominated a full ticket of three hopefuls for City Council this year.

City Democrats have put up Emily Proskine Hurd, Danielle Tagger-Epstein and Jeffrey Taylor as candidates to hopefully shake up the current Republican majority on the seven-member City Council.

“We really looked for fresh faces and candidates that were somewhat younger than our candidates have been,” said Meg Cameron, chairwoman of Rye’s Democratic Committee. “We thought outside the usual box of people who served on city boards and commissions and looked at people who were active in the communities in other ways.”

What the party found was Hurd, 38, a former Fulbright scholar and an international policy and corporate lawyer, serves on the board of the Rye Nature Center and has served as the board secretary for Voluntravel, a Rye-based non-profit organization that helps high school students travel abroad. Hurd is in favor of adopting a new master plan for the city, which would address major infrastructure and development concerns.

“If we’re talking about a master plan, we need to get a more balanced approach on the council in terms of demographics and age,” Hurd said. The candidate added that her legal background would fit right into how the council looks at certain city laws, but that her policy background would help shepherd the council and residents into consensus and “create change that everybody could agree on.”

Equipped with an extensive background in volunteer work, Tagger-Epstein, 41, said she would look to address the deer overpopulation problem, as well as focus on issues like flood control, energy efficiencies and infrastructure maintenance. Adding on to her professional experience in marketing and human resources, Tagger-Epstein’s background varies from serving on the board of the Community Synagogue in Rye to chairing the Health and Wellness Committee in the Rye Neck School District.

For Taylor, 47, his background in cultural management offers a “unique perspective and has prepared me to contribute on matters ranging from the city budget to Rye Town Park.” Taylor also works as the founder and chief executive officer of Taylor Art Advisors, which specializes in the Central European Art market, and as an assistant professor of Arts Management at SUNY Purchase.

Cameron said that the three candidates would be able to find a working balance that contrasts “the previous council’s quarreling and the current council’s rubber-stamping.”

“We have three outstanding candidates—smart, energetic public-spirited people who would help represent the interests of the entire community,” Cameron said, adding that each candidate has a true zeal to serve the Rye community.

While the party is optimistic and has a full slate this year, Democrats have had trouble in recent elections. In 2005, the Democrats swept a four-seat race with a ticket that was headlined by former Mayor Steve Otis’ re-election to a third term in office. However, the party has not had much luck since and has only secured one win through Catherine Parker, when she sought a second term as councilwoman in 2011.

The Democratic candidates will be facing off in November against Rye’s recently announced Republican slate. The Republicans have put forward incumbent Councilman Richard Mecca, and added Jim Culyer and Leon Sculti to their ticket.

Those elected to the Rye City Council serve four-year terms with no annual compensation.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

City GOP nominate familiar faces for upcoming race

The Rye Republican Party announced its City Council ticket on June 15 after holding its caucus at the Rye Recreation Center. The slate of candidates includes incumbent Councilman Richard Mecca, center, former school board president Jim Culyer, left, and Leon Sculti, chairman of the Rye Golf Club Commission. File Photos

The Rye Republican Party announced its City Council ticket on June 15 after holding its caucus at the Rye Recreation Center. The slate of candidates includes incumbent Councilman Richard Mecca, center, former school board president Jim Culyer, left, and Leon Sculti, chairman of the Rye Golf Club Commission. File Photos

By CHRIS EBERHART
The Rye Republicans will go to battle this election season with three names that most residents will be familiar with. 

During its nominating caucus on June 15, the Rye City Republican Committee finalized its slate of three candidates for City Council that included incumbent Councilman Richard Mecca, who will be running for his first full term in office. Mecca will be joined on the GOP ticket by Jim Culyer, a former Rye City Board of Education president, and Leon Sculti, current chairman of the Rye Golf Club Commission.

“We got a good ticket this year,” said Tony Piscionere, chairman of the Rye City Republican Committee. “What we have is three people with a real sense of service to the community and really want to help the community. And that’s what you want.”

Piscionere said, recently, times are changing in Rye for the better, and Culyer said he wants to continue to usher in a new period in Rye’s history.

“I’m hopeful a lot of the issues are behind us,” Culyer said. “I’m looking to move forward and hopefully work with the board to put together long-range plans. I understand there are capital plans, but maybe a more strategic plan that includes input from the community might be in order.”

Culyer, 65, had a hand in developing the Rye City School District’s five-year strategic plan, which serves as a detailed guideline to implement and follow that takes into account community input, during the second of his two stints on the school board. He joined the school board in 1991 and served two, three-year terms. He then rejoined the board in 2002 and served as the president for four years until retiring in 2008.

Culyer said he’d be going in with a “clean slate” if he’s elected to the City Council.

“I read the newspapers. I probably have a reasonable handle on the issues, but I certainly don’t have the detail that I think is going to be required of me to become knowledgeable and an active participant on the City Council,” Culyer said. “But I’d like to involve the community more in participation, whether that’s on committees or ad hoc committees, because you need to know what’s going on; you need to know what the people in Rye are looking for.”

There are three seats up for election this year with Mecca the only incumbent choosing to seek re-election. Earlier this year Councilwoman Laura Brett, a Republican, decided she would not seek a second term in office citing the four-year time commitment as an issue. And Councilman Richard Slack, unaffiliated, also decided against a re-election run.

Slack said he joined the City Council in 2014 to help stabilize a city government that was losing the confidence of the community and to help resolve looming issues relating to its city manager, Playland and the Rye Golf Club scandal. The councilman told the Review he is proud of the accomplishments of the council over the past year and a half, including hiring a new city manager, protecting Rye’s interests at Playland, and addressing the aftermath of the golf club scandal. Given those accomplishments, and with his work and family obligations, Slack felt it was a good time to step down.

“It takes a lot of time to properly prepare for the work of the council,” he said. “I determined that at this point it was best not to run this fall.”

Although the Republicans were able to field three candidates this year, it again proved to be a struggle.

Piscionere said “there’s always a struggle to find candidates.” He said this is in part due to the time commitment and energy needed to do the job and in part because of the “antagonistic atmosphere” that surrounded the Rye City Council during the heated Hen Island debates and Rye Golf Club financial scandal that left a sour taste in the mouths of potential candidates.

“Politics has become a blood sport,” Piscionere told the Review following the June 15 caucus. “For a period of time, Rye was in the newspapers in very negative ways that, I think, hurt the city and make people ask, ‘Why do I want to sit up in that seat?’…No one wants to have their families exposed because of something that might come out in the press or someone might take a shot at you for a job that pays zero and sucks a lot of your time.”

Mecca and Sculti could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
Hampshire Country Club has filed a lawsuit against the Village of Mamaroneck, the Board of Trustees and the Zoning Board of Appeals seeking $55 million. The club cites illegal, closed-door meetings by village officials and a violation of rights as its rationale for the suit. Photo courtesy Hampshire Country Club

Coalition to appeal Hampshire court decision

New York State Supreme Court recently dismissed a lawsuit against Hampshire Country Club located on the Village of Mamaroneck’s waterfront. But, the coalition who filed the article 78 will soon appeal the court decision. File photo

New York State Supreme Court recently dismissed a lawsuit against Hampshire Country Club located on the Village of Mamaroneck’s waterfront. But, the coalition who filed the article 78 will soon appeal the court decision. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
After a New York State Supreme Court lawsuit against the Village of Mamaroneck’s controversial Hampshire Country Club was dismissed recently, a neighborhood coalition is staying vigilant by intending to file an appeal.

Enveloped in a few lawsuits, Hampshire Country Club, located on 1107 Cove Road, was served with an Article 78 proceeding in June 2014 by the Mamaroneck Coastal Environment Coalition, a group of neighboring residents who aim to halt the development proposals of the country club.

According to Celia Felsher, president of the coalition, the Article 78 was filed to appeal the decision of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals that granted the country club a special permit that allowed them to run non-member events. Felsher said their case was that the board was acting in an “arbitrary and capricious manner in granting the special permit.”

The zoning board’s special permit for Hampshire allowed them to run several non-member events, like fundraisers for other non-profit organizations, weddings or bar mitzvahs, according to Thomas Nappi, the club’s senior project manager. Unhappy with the decision, the coalition moved to annul the permit from the zoning board.

After moving slowly through the legal system, state Supreme Court Judge Linda Jamieson decided not to grant the petition on May 18 and dismissed the coalition’s lawsuit mostly on the basis that the claims of the coalition were largely unsupported by facts. The coalition claimed that the non-member operations of the club were not benefitting the members and shouldn’t be held.

“This is a victory for Hampshire, its members and for the wider community because this small group should not hold sway over the future of the club and how the club operates,” Nappi said of the court decision.

On the other hand, Felsher said that the dismissal was just a lower court’s opinion and that the Article 78 was based solely on the zoning board’s granting of the special permit. The coalition president added that the dismissal had no bearing or effect on whether or not Hampshire was acting appropriately. Felsher said the coalition is planning to file an appeal of the state Supreme Court’s decision.

Keeping involved in the legal matters that surrounded the country club, the coalition also wanted to intervene in a hefty $55 million lawsuit between the club and the village in late 2014. The coalition sought to provide opinions supporting the defense of the village’s claims, but was ultimately turned down.

Nappi said that it seems the coalition’s goal is to prevent development in the waterfront area. However, in regards to the Article 78 against the zoning board’s granting of a special permit, he said he couldn’t see the link of how that affects development.

The controversy with Hampshire Country Club began as far back as 2010 when the majority of neighbor complaints revolved around the argument that the club has hosted numerous non-member events like wedding receptions, golf outings and dinners. Since Hampshire operates as a non-profit club in the village’s marine recreation zone, certain impositions were in place due to the village code.

Similar to not being able to run non-member events, the controversy’s blaze grew stronger as the club proposed the construction of 121 condominium units on its 116-acre property. To be able to hold non-member events and move forward with development, the club requested a rezoning which was denied by the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees in February 2014. Shortly after, the village also filed two injunctions on the country club that prohibited them from holding non-member events. The rebuttal from Hampshire and its team of lawyers was a $55 million lawsuit, which is still currently moving through the federal court system.

However, with the most recent dismissal of the coalition’s Article 78, Felsher said the coalition has 60 days to file their appeal, which would eventually come before the New York Court of Appeals.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

GOP primary seems inevitable

By JOHN BRANDI
A fight for the right to represent the Republican Party in November’s mayoral race is in full swing, as Philip Marraccini is nearing the required number of signatures needed to primary the current mayor in September. 

Marraccini, who served as mayor for two terms from 1994 to 1998, said he is frustrated with the status quo and lack of “creativity or vision” from current Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, and the all-Republican town board. He said the effort to collect 264 signatures by the July 9 deadline has so far been positive.

“There’s a general consensus that it’s time for a change,” Marraccini said.

However, Marraccini, 64, declined to disclose the exact number of signatures he’s collected to the Review, only saying he has a few more to authenticate before surpassing the 264 threshold. 

The former mayor said the trouble with collecting signatures is how time consuming the process can be, but that he appreciates getting his feet on the ground and meeting residents of the community.

Meanwhile, the Republican slate is busy collecting their own signatures ahead of the July deadline and Republican Committee Chairman Bob Amelio said it’s too soon to say if there is a plan in the works to challenge Marraccini’s petition efforts, assuming he passes the necessary signature threshold triggering the GOP primary election.

According to a representative with the Westchester County Board of Elections, a candidate can be challenged on their signatures if the person is not a registered Republican and is seeking those voters that see red on Election Day. Another technicality a candidate can be cited on is if names of voters appear on the roll and they no longer live in the area.

The Board of Elections representative said matters such as exact spelling can even be taken into consideration, but this, they say, is picky.

Marraccini previously told the Review that, if elected, he wants to take a more business-like approach to the town and re-energize the chamber of commerce in Silver Lake. He also said he’d create a financial advisory committee to assist in long range financial planning, a goal he achieved under his tenure.

Marraccini is also hoping to land the Westchester County Conservative Party endorsement, but has not received word back, as of press time. The former mayor has already received the endorsement from the Westchester County Independence Party and will appear on that line in the general election.

The Board of Elections didn’t return phone calls regarding if Marraccini had submitted any signature lists to their offices, as of press time.

There are 5,270 registered Republicans in Harrison, according to figures provided by the Board of Elections.

The primary is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 10. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com 

 
The applicant, Verco Properties, LLC, who’s behind the redevelopment efforts of Harrison Avenue’s abandoned movie theater is now making a few changes to the roof and floor level garage ahead of a final vote on the project’s variances by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. File photo

Minor alterations to Playhouse Lofts proposal

The applicant, Verco Properties, LLC, who’s behind the redevelopment efforts of Harrison Avenue’s abandoned movie theater is now making a few changes to the roof and floor level garage ahead of a final vote on the project’s variances by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. File photo

The applicant, Verco Properties, LLC, who’s behind the redevelopment efforts of Harrison Avenue’s abandoned movie theater is now making a few changes to the roof and floor level garage ahead of a final vote on the project’s variances by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
The applicant behind the redesign of Harrison’s Playhouse is not done making alterations to the site plan, even as the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals is ready to vote on requested variances for the project.

The applicant, Verco Properties, LLC, was before the zoning board for a fifth time on June 11 hoping for approval of five variances associated with a vision for a 42-unit, six-story, mixed-use building.

The applicant is altering the site plan slightly before his next visit to the Planning Board in July, marking the first time John Verni, co-owner of Verco, has been back before that board in a year.

Verni said there was a request from the land use boards to have an additional top floor, communal terrace, which will be flat and won’t add any additional dimension to the otherwise height-stressed project. The applicant told the Review that it would be 3,690 square feet and residents can gain access through two different staircases and an elevator.

Verni said the elevator is not required to go to the terrace according to the town code, but he’s making that adjustment regardless. The final count for terraces for the project, Verni said, is now six.

The second alteration is a 25-foot curb cut to the sole point of entrance and exit to and from the garage off of Purdy Street. The 22-foot-wide garage will lead to underground parking spaces. Verni said the curb cut will ensure that any standard vehicle can safely use the garage.

Beyond the additional material the zoning board has requested—such as an economic analysis of a six-story building versus a permitted four-story building—the applicant is also requesting five other variances in terms of height, square footage, parking and the width of the structure’s proposed entrance/exit garage off of Purdy Street.

Still, Verni has been making the case that the survival of his proposal, located at 227-239 Harrison Ave., depends on six stories, as it’s economically unfeasible to not have an underground floor-and-a-half dedicated to the 52 parking spaces for residents who may soon call the lofts home.

Following the June 11 meeting, Verni said that the height of his project wouldn’t be out of character with the downtown area since there are already three similar buildings in the nearby neighborhood, all with six stories.

“[Six stories] would be less of a visual impact for the downtown, but the cost of building that parking is expensive and that’s why we need an additional story to pay for that,” Verni previously told the Review.

Two of the buildings Verni pointed to are just residential, The Harrison Executive House, a 36-unit mid-rise built in 1975 at 244 Halstead Ave., and the Newport Towers complex, two cooperative buildings with 27 and 30 units, respectively, built in 1968 at 470-480 Halstead Ave., which marks the beginning of the downtown area coming from Country Road.

However, the executive house and the towers are located in the multi-family retail and the multi-family districts, respectively, and each zone would have their own height requirements apart from the Central Business District, CBD.

According to Bob FitzSimmons, the town’s building and plumbing inspector, these mid-rise buildings were brokered through a deal between the town board and Planning Board in the late 60’s and the law firms representing the projects.

Changes to the zoning code for the CBD, and limiting structures to four stories, went into effect in 1974, around the same time as construction was getting started on the executive house, and was inspired by these projects, according to FitzSimmons.

Another rather iconic building in town is the six-story, mixed-use space at the intersection of Calvert Street and Harrison Avenue, known locally as the Calvert Street apartments. It’s located in the Professional Business zone and technically has two more stories below street level, the building inspector said, but it’s classified as six stories in the town’s records. The building represents the genesis for maximum height ambitions, as it was originally built in 1929, according to the town’s assessment office.

FitzSimmons said the applicant for the lofts would have an easier time if it were just residential, like the mid-rise buildings built before it, but the CBD has a stipulation in place where commercial space on the street level is required on any project.

Though scattered among three zones, each are centrally located to the downtown area.

The next Planning Board meeting is June 23 and the next zoning board meeting is scheduled for July 9.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 

 

 

 

With unanimous town board approval, a two-story, mixed-use project can now move forward to the construction phase on a vacant lot that abuts Halstead Avenue. File photo

Halstead development granted special exception

With unanimous town board approval, a two-story, mixed-use project can now move forward to the construction phase on a vacant lot that abuts Halstead Avenue. File photo

With unanimous town board approval, a two-story, mixed-use project can now move forward to the construction phase on a vacant lot that abuts Halstead Avenue. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
Development of the downtown area in Harrison continues as the town board, at its June 4 meeting, approved a special exception use which will push a two-story, mixed-use structure forward. 

With the approval, construction can now begin on the vacant lot at 249 Halstead Ave., where the applicant is mixing retail with residential. The first floor will house three stores, and according to the architect Tom Haynes, Jr., each will be in the range from 2,000 to 2,200 square feet. Each storefront will share a hallway leading to the parking lot in the rear. To get upstairs, tenants will share a common stairwell and hallway, but there is also access from an elevator.

Above the retail will sit two, three bedroom apartments next to one another, the left unit is 2,467 square feet and the right, which is slightly larger, is 2,534 square feet.

The Town Council did require certain stipulations in place before the applicant, Alex D’Onofrio, gets the appropriate building permits. The council took issue with an electric gate in the parking lot that prevented deliveries and parking of unauthorized vehicles that was suggested in the design plan by the land use boards. The council asked the applicant to remove that feature as they felt it would present a hazard to the fire department in case of an emergency, as it’s in front of the only exit/entrance to the parking lot.

Councilman Joseph Cannella, a Republican, also took issue with a “stockade fence,” or wooden plank fence, that will act as a buffer to block the parking lot’s view from the neighboring building. Haynes said it’s more like a vinyl fence with elevation changes, and the term “stockade” isn’t used correctly.

Haynes said there wasn’t much flexibility with what he could use to block the view of the parking lot because of its unique shape, which is like a triangle and isn’t the same size as the front section where the building will go.

However, Bob FitzSimmons, the town’s building and plumbing inspector, said the town code requires a suitable means of separation from lot to lot in this area.

The parking lot included in the plan will have seven spaces and three are designated for the residents above the retail and the remaining four are for street-level merchants. The unique aspect for this space is that the parking lot will share 22 feet with Fremont Street.

This aspect has caused the most frustration with neighboring residents. The applicant sought to expand the Central Business District designation for the entire lot to include the site of the commercial parking spaces in order to move that rear lot out of the two family residential, or B-zone, designation.

The zoning board cleared this back in May 2014, thus effectively rezoning the property allowing for the commercial parking lot to be included in the development plans. Since that zone change, the ground level has been set for construction after receiving final approval from the Planning Board in July 2014, which includes the three retail storefronts. The applicant then revised his plan to incorporate residential units, which brought him back to the Planning Board in April 2015 for final site plan approval.

Some in the neighboring community felt the rezoning opened the door to an illegal process known as spot zoning. Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning effort is at odds with what is already in place in the town code.

A longtime critic of the plan, Emil Toso, who lives on Fremont Street, spoke before the board one last time to halt the project’s trajectory. Since sanitation will be placed in the rear and be picked up on Fremont Street, Toso said that this could double the number of days the garbage truck comes down the street to four, and it could create problems on the narrow street. He also expressed concern with the volume of garbage which depends on which retail moves into the building. As of press time tenants of the retail storefronts remain undetermined.

The appeal fell on deaf ears though with the project’s
approval.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The Tuckahoe Village Board of Trustees adopted a Feb. 9 resolution that would establish home rule legislation to implement a villagewide hotel occupancy tax. But the village needs state approval, and the Senate and governor have been unwilling in recent years to sign off on any new taxes.  File Photo

Tuckahoe village board tables vote on 4-year terms

By CHRIS EBERHART
The Tuckahoe Village Bo-ard of Trustees has discussed extending the terms of trustees and mayor from two years to four in a cost-saving effort for the village but tabled the scheduled June vote.

Due to the village board operating under staggered terms, by adding two years to the terms, Tuckahoe would host elections every two years—instead of the current annual election—which would save the village approximately $6,000 a year on voting machines, poll workers and other expenses associated with elections.

Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond, a Republican, said in addition to the cost-saving reasons behind the move, there are pragmatic reasons to extending the board members’ terms.

“This job comes with a learning curve,” Ecklond said. “When you get on the board, it takes you a solid year to a year and a half just to navigate the waters as to what you should be doing and how the process works.”

Deputy Mayor Tom Giordano, a Republican, felt the move was a reasonable direction to go in.

“I think we are all concerned about not wanting to promote our own self interests,” Giordano said, “but we are doing what is best for the community and the process.”

The idea was first introduced publicly during the April Board of Trustees meeting, and since then there has been bipartisan support going back to before Trustee Stephen Quigley, the lone Democrat on the board, died unexpectedly. Due to Quigley’s passing at the end of May, Ecklond and the village board felt it best to table the vote and take up this discussion later in the year.

“Although this had bipartisan support, and everyone saw Mr. Quigley was in favor of this, no one is going to speak on his behalf,” Ecklond said.

Instead the Tuckahoe mayor said the resolution could be included on next March’s ballot during the village’s elections.

If the resolution had passed during the June board meeting, 2020 would’ve been the first year Tuckahoe would have been without an election.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com