Author Archives: news

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

 
The property along Theodore Fremd Avenue in Rye, where a senior affordable housing project is being proposed, remains somewhat stalled as city officials await additional readings assuring no contamination on-site exists. File photo

North St. project site plan approved

By JACKSON CHEN
The senior citizen affordable housing project on 150 North St. was finally approved by the Rye City Planning Commission during its last meeting on June 9.

The project, proposed for the corner of North Street and Theodore Fremd Avenue, has been in front of the city’s Planning Commission for more than four months after being granted a rezoning approval from the Rye City Council in November 2014. The project includes 41 units of housing for senior citizens that would be split into 28 one-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units, and a single unit for the building’s super. Twenty-seven of the 41 units would count towards Rye’s contribution to Westchester’s 2009 affordable housing settlement with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. As part of that settlement, the county was required to build 750 units of affordable housing within a seven-year period.

The rezoning change allowed the developer, Lou Larizza of Lazz Development, to move forward on the affordable housing complex.

“When we went in front of the Planning [Commission], we worked on the height of the building, the location, making sure there was adequate parking…making sure that the landscape was designed to their specifications,” Larizza said.

According to Deputy Mayor Laura Brett, a Republican who also serves as the council’s liaison to the Planning Commission, one of the last things the commission worked on was adjusting the lighting of the building. Brett said that the lighting review was a standard step in making sure the lights were adequate for safety and not too overwhelming in brightness. She added that some of the items the commission asked Larizza to come back with were more information on parking, drainage and nearby tree removal.

“It took a lot of hard work from the applicant and the Planning Commission, but in the end, I think the process was very thorough in evaluating the issues on the site,” Brett said.

Larizza said the project will now go before the city’s Board of Architectural Review, BAR. The developer said in working with the structural engineer and architect on the project, it’ll be approximately another month before they’re ready to appear before the board.

After the project gets approval from the BAR, Brett said the City Council would rely on advice from City Attorney Kristen Wilson and City Planner Christian Miller as to how to move forward with the project, before Larizza actually begins the construction process.

“At the end of the day, both boards will be proud of the project that they approve,”
Larizza said.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
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

County finalizes Playland deal

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

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

 
Tuckahoe’s Zoning Board of Appeals reconvened for a special meeting on June 10, after postponing a vote on the 100 Main St., pictured, project last week due to a member’s absence. Photo/James Pero

Zoning board OK’s 100 Main St. variances

Tuckahoe’s Zoning Board of Appeals reconvened for a special meeting on June 10, after postponing a vote on the 100 Main St., pictured, project last week due to a member’s absence. Photo/James Pero

Tuckahoe’s Zoning Board of Appeals reconvened for a special meeting on June 10, after postponing a vote on the 100 Main St., pictured, project last week due to a member’s absence. Photo/James Pero

By JOHN BRANDI
Tuckahoe’s Zoning Board of Appeals narrowly approved a four-story development’s variances and special exception use at its June 10 special meeting, giving the project new life after eight years of uncertainty.

In a contentious vote, the board voted three-to-two in favor of the proposal thus returning it to the village’s Planning Board for final site plan approval.

The special meeting was called due to board member Janice Barandes’ absence from the regularly scheduled June 3 meeting. Barandes, who voted in favor of the project, thanked the board for allowing her input on what she called “a very important project.”

“This is not an easy decision or process for this board,” Barandes said. “I vote yes, but the applicant must honor the decision of this board by building an architecturally beautiful building that will grace Main Street and will be something we can all be proud of.”

Barandes said she relied on the comprehensive data provided by the applicant, MC Equities, LLC, and by the work done in tandem with the village’s consultant, BFJ Planning, to reach her decision.

The applicant is now that much closer to constructing a four-story, mixed-use building on the site of a current vacant lot. The building would have 2,642 square feet of retail on the ground level along with 37 open air parking spaces. In total, the structure proposes 19 units.

As part of the project, five variances are being requested including a side yard setback, 37 parking spaces where 52 are permitted, a variance for an additional fourth story, where only three are permitted and a floor area ratio variance. The applicant also wants to use 77 percent of the lot, but as per the village code, allowable lot
coverage is 50 percent.

Board member John Paladino, who was the second no vote, criticized the project for its inconsistency over the years—the project has been before the land use boards since 2008 and has evolved from a three story project to four stories over the course of its lifespan—and said the applicant’s problems are self-created with the fourth story.

“If there is no fourth floor, the variances, although not perfect, move toward being reasonable and acceptable,” Paladino said. “Because the necessity was totally self-created due to changes and lapses in previous requested and accepted variances that were permitted to expire by the applicant, I vote no.”

Tom Ringwald and David Scalzo had previously voted on the project at the board’s June 3 meeting, before Chairman Ronald Gallo halted the meeting and entered into executive session to later emerge with a plan to continue at special meeting with Barandes present. Village Attorney Gary Gjertsen said the two votes cast by Ringwald and Scalzo, voting in favor and against respectively, would stand.

To break the tie, Gallo voted in favor of approving the variances and special exception use.

The applicant can now appear before the village’s Planning Board which is scheduled to meet on July 21; the June meeting has been canceled.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
Construction projects like the ones on Highland Road, pictured, will be subject to a new rock chipping moratorium that places a temporary ban for chipping that lasts more than 30 calendar days. 
Photo/Jackson Chen

Chipping moratorium set in stone

Construction projects like the ones on Highland Road, pictured, will be subject to a new rock chipping moratorium that places a temporary ban for chipping that lasts more than 30 calendar days.  Photo/Jackson Chen

Construction projects like the ones on Highland Road, pictured, will be subject to a new rock chipping moratorium that places a temporary ban for chipping that lasts more than 30 calendar days.
Photo/Jackson Chen

By JACKSON CHEN
The dust settles for now as the Rye City Council put into effect a six-month long moratorium on the widely controversial construction method of rock chipping.

Rock chipping, a common construction practice that steadily breaks large chunks of rocks through mechanical tools, began to disturb residents near 135 Highland Road, where a single family home construction project began almost a year ago. In response to the noise, vibrations and environmental concerns that neighbors of these projects were dealing with, the complaints landed at the council’s immediate attention for new restrictive legislation.

To assist them in formulating a rock chipping law, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, created a citizen group in November 2014 to study the effects and possible solutions to the rock chipping problem throughout the city.

With months of research into other communities and industry professionals, the study group is just about ready to send its recommendations to the council.

According to Councilman Richard Slack, unaffiliated, who is a member of the study group, the group is preparing to submit its final reports to the council before its next regularly scheduled meeting on July 8.

Although the report is not complete, Slack said the group will recommend several restrictions on chipping, including limiting hours from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and also requiring a permit and 10 days of given notice to neighbors. According to the councilman, the study group also wants to recommend a durational limit of 30 calendar days, much like the moratorium.

Slack explained that the 30 calendar days will most likely only amount to approximately 22 days due to the restrictions of chipping on weekends and certain holidays.

“We’ve had a lot of community requests that we exclude two particular holiday periods … the Thanksgiving weekend and also the time between Christmas and New Year’s,” Slack said of the additional holiday restrictions the group is recommending.

As of now, current city code don’t have extensive restrictions on rock chipping—developers currently can chip rock for an unlimited duration and require no permit or given notice—Slack wanted to make a comprehensive package of recommendations that acts to restrict chipping.

“When you look at the 30 days and you look at the other elements, you actually have one of the most restrictive, durational laws,” the councilman said. “I think it’s going to be the most restrictive durational law in Westchester.”

While the study group works on finalizing its recommendations, they’ve unanimously decided to instate a temporary ban on rock chipping for up to six months.

According to the moratorium, no developer or property owner is allowed to chip rock for more than 30 calendar days or they would face a fine of up to $1,000, a stop-work order, 15 days in jail, or any combination of the three punishments. The moratorium would go into effect on June 17.

With a temporary buffer in place to stop developers from preemptively starting their construction project before the council has a finalized law, the study group can submit its report and findings to the council, which will hash out a polished rock chipping law.

The council plans to revisit the rock chipping issue at its July 8 meeting.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
In Eastchester, traffic on the busy Mill Road going towards the town’s business district was tied up for an extended period of time as police, SWAT teams and hostage negotiators from Eastchester and surrounding areas responded to the Joyce Road swatting incident.

Schumer looks to crackdown on swatting

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer proposed a bill that would create harsher penalties for those convicted of swatting attacks, like this April incident in Eastchester, pictured, when a man called the Eastchester Police Department claiming to have stabbed his girlfriend and was holding her family hostage in a Joyce Road home. File Photos

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer proposed a bill that would create harsher penalties for those convicted of swatting attacks, like this April incident in Eastchester, pictured, when a man called the Eastchester Police Department claiming to have stabbed his girlfriend and was holding her family hostage in a Joyce Road home. File Photos

By CHRIS EBERHART
Two months after a high-profile case in which the Eastchester Police Department received a hoax call from a man in a Joyce Road home claiming to have killed his girlfriend and tied up her family in what turned out to be a “swatting” incident, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, proposed a bill that would establish harsher penalties for those convicted of such crimes.

“Swatting” is an incident in which a fake phone call is made in an effort to have police SWAT teams respond to an unsuspecting resident’s home and has been on the rise in Westchester County and the Lower Hudson Valley area, Schumer said.

“These dangerous actions are not ‘pranks’ at all—these ‘swatting’ attacks are serious incidents in which our emergency responders use up their time, energy, and resources responding to false threats,” Schumer said. “What the perpetrators of these calls see as a practical joke is actually a terrifying experience for innocent bystanders, a business-detractor for local commerce, and a costly crime that forces our local emergency responders to use up thousands of taxpayer dollars on fake alerts.”

Schumer’s bill would increase the maximum prison sentence of those convicted of swatting from five years to eight years, force convicted offenders to pay restitution to police and make it illegal for perpetrators to evade police by disguising caller ID over Skype or internet calls. Currently, it is illegal for people to disguise their voices on calls placed via traditional phone lines, but there is no such prohibition on calls placed via internet phone services, so Schumer said he’s looking to close the loophole with his bill.

“We need to stop this disturbing trend before it is too late, and someone gets seriously hurt,” Schumer said regarding the emergence of swatting cases.

In Eastchester, traffic on the busy Mill Road going towards the town’s business district was tied up for an extended period of time as police, SWAT teams and hostage negotiators from Eastchester and surrounding areas responded to the Joyce Road swatting incident.

In Eastchester, traffic on the busy Mill Road going towards the town’s business district was tied up for an extended period of time as police, SWAT teams and hostage negotiators from Eastchester and surrounding areas responded to the Joyce Road swatting incident.

The incident in Eastchester was just one of four swatting incidents seen over the last few years, including a May incident in Garrison, N.J., that forced the Garrison Union Free School District and nearby Haldane schools in Cold Spring, N.Y., to order precautionary lock-downs while police and SWAT teams responded to a scene where the caller claimed that a woman and her son were being held hostage at gunpoint.

In a July 2014 incident in Rye, police and SWAT teams were dispatched from Rye, Harrison and Westchester County when a report of an armed man invading a nearby suburban home was called in through Skype. Responders found no one home.

And in March 2011, fake 911 calls were made to the Rockland County Sheriff’s office claiming a shooting at Mercy College was being planned. Police reported that they believed the caller was using a voice-alteration device in order to make this false report.

Eastchester Police Chief Timothy Bonci could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com