Category Archives: News

Due to wear and tear on local roadways like Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, the Town Council is considering contracting with an engineering consultant to create a pavement management system, which would aid in the prioritization of road repairs. Photo/Phil Noble

Town considers road study

By CHRIS EBERHART

In order to address deteriorating roadways within Harrison’s municipal boundaries, town officials are considering a proposal aimed at prioritizing road repairs through a pavement management system. 

Due to wear and tear on local roadways like Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, the Town Council is considering contracting with an engineering consultant to create a pavement management system, which would aid in the prioritization of road repairs. Photo/Phil Noble

Due to wear and tear on local roadways like Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, the Town Council is considering contracting with an engineering consultant to create a pavement management system, which would aid in the prioritization of road repairs. Photo/Phil Noble

A town-wide road resurfacing project, which includes about 100 miles of roadway, would cost Harrison approximately $2 million, according to Town Engineer Michael Amodeo. In a March 7 letter to the Harrison Town Council, he said, each mile of work costs roughly $200,000.

Capital resurfacing allowances for the past five years average roughly $500,000 per year, which in theory would allow the town to resurface 2.5 miles of roadway per year, spreading the cost out over 40 years.

“There’s a lot of traffic on these roadways and the population is increasing and the funds that we have to maintain them are not in abundance,” Amodeo said.

In addition to the high volume of stress placed on the roadways from increased use, Councilman Fred Sciliano, a Republican, said this past winter also took its toll on the roads.

“No matter where you drive—and not just in Harrison; it’s all over—you see the amount of potholes and that’s because of the winter and the rain and the freezing temperatures from this past winter,” Sciliano said.

In order to prioritize which roadways to work on, the Engineering Department  recommended the Town Council enter into an agreement with Vannasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., a planning, designing and engineering consultant, at the council’s March 20 meeting. The $39,150 contract, if approved, would allow for the development of a pavement management system, which would create a database of the town’s roadways as well as an analysis of the road conditions to help implement a repair strategy moving forward.

Councilman Sciliano believes the database would be a good tool for the town to have.

“I think it could be a good tool for us only because it gives a total evaluation of all our roadways,” Sciliano said. “And it would help us with our capital plan when we repair our roadways especially after this past winter.”

Because municipal funds are limited, Amodeo said municipalities are using pavement management systems.

A pavement management system is already in place in neighboring communities like Rye City, as of 2005, and Rye Brook, as of 2007. Rye City’s study was conducted by the same Vannasse Hangen Brustlin.

According to Rye City’s study, the pavement management system requires a four-step process.

The first of which is to identify accepted streets, which would exclude any county-owned streets, and create a roadway network. That roadway network is then broken down into pavement management sections which are then categorized, measured and recorded to determine the individual pavement distress within each section. Finally, the consulting firm customizes the repair costs through discussions with the municipality’s officials.

The town engineer said the results of the analysis will be incorporated into the town’s Graphic Information System GIS which stores geographical data that allows a municipality to visualize, question, analyze, interpret and understand data to reveal relationships, patterns and trends.

Amodeo said, Vannasse Hangen Brustlin would also teach members of the Engineering Department  how to use the software so the town can then manage the database on its own moving forward.

“By using the pavement management system, we will come away with a plan and prioritization of roadways that need work,” Amodeo said. “It won’t just be each year we pick a few roads and resurface them. It’s always hard to pick which roads to resurface—the ones with the most traffic or the ones in the worst shape.”

The proposal has yet to be voted on by the Town Council.

Councilman Joseph Cannella, a Republican, and Rye City Manager Scott Pickup could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
This year’s village budget proposes no changes to the village staffing. An assistant village planner position will be expanded to full-time. File Photo

Village budget proposes 2.4% tax increase

By PHIL NOBILE

The tentative budget for the next fiscal year was presented to the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees, bringing with it possible property tax and spending increases, if approved.

This year’s village budget proposes no changes to the village staffing. An assistant village planner position will be expanded to full-time. File Photo

This year’s village budget proposes no changes to the village staffing. An assistant village planner position will be expanded to full-time. File Photo

Village Manager Richard Slingerland presented the first iteration of the 2014-2015 budget at the March 24 Board of Trustees meeting. The proposal calls for a tax rate increase of 2.4 percent, a spending increase of $826,288, and a tax levy increase of 2.3 percent over last year’s adopted budget. The proposed budget also comes in over the state tax levy cap limit of 1.48 percent. The rate of increase equates to a $106 increase in village homeowners’ taxes, according to Slingerland.

In terms of spending increasing by more than $800,000, Slingerland described it as nominal, when compared to the total $33.5 million budget, saying that salaries and collective bargaining agreements yet to be finished were the primary cause of the increase. By comparison, last year’s budget was adopted at $32.6 million. The village operates its budget on a fiscal calendar which begins on May 31 each year.

“In an overall spending scenario, the increase is very low,” the village manager said. “We’re most happy about trying to make a lot of things happen, and maintaining services with a very tight projected increase to the taxpayers.”

However, as it stands, the budget overrides the property tax levy increase limit set by the state.

In 2011, at the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, New York mandated all local governments and communities abide by a tax levy increase limit of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Increases in the levy, however; have lessened in the past few village budgets, with the 2014 to 2015 budget, having the smallest increase in four years.

According to the legislation, exclusions may be factored in, and local governments can override the cap under certain circumstances, such as growth in the retirement systems, supporting capital expenditures in a school district and more. Ultimately, however; approving a budget in excess of the state tax cap limit requires a 60 percent majority vote of the municipality’s governing body.

The Board of Trustees prepared for the possibility of exceeding the cap when it approved a local law last December allowing for an override come budget time, according to Slingerland, who said it was decided on then “to not risk missing the necessary deadlines for proposing and adopting local laws” if the village eventually needed to do so.

“We have to maintain the services to the municipality between police, fire, public works, parks and all the support services and performing capital projects like improving roads and infrastructure,” Slingerland said. “So, to maintain those costs including increases in purchases it’s extremely difficult to stay under [the] state cap.”

For village employees, not much change will come in the new fiscal year, with the overall staff headcount remaining the same. The only staffing change is the proposed conversion of a multi-departmental assistant planner position to a full-time position, at a salary of $44,850. The village plans to accommodate this move by using funds derived from changing a full-time secretary position in the attorney’s office to part-time.

One of the larger areas of concern comes from pension payments, which have increased astronomically since the turn of the century. According to numbers provided to the Mamaroneck Review, the actual amount paid for village employee pensions in 2000 was $8,261 while this year’s budget calls for $2.9 million, or 9 percent of the entire village budget, to be paid out toward pensions.

Slingerland attributed the economic crash in 2007 and 2008 to pension problems.

“Once we had the crash in the economy, it caused the loss of a lot of value from the pension system,” Slingerland said, adding that the provision in the state’s pension system ensuring payment despite economic downturns is a large factor. “The state has one of the best funded systems in the country because it prevents any huge one hit to pensions at one time.”

Assessed value of homes and property throughout the village continues to decrease, although this year’s loss of $69,534 of assessed value is a smaller decline than years prior. Since 2007, the village has lost $4 million in assessed value, or 5 percent in a seven-year period. Slingerland described the difference this fiscal year as an “extremely limited change in comparison to years prior.”

When presenting the budget to the Board of Trustees at the March 24 meeting, Slingerland described the village’s fund balance as remaining strong, and said that he expected the balance to be $6.9 million at the end of the current fiscal year on May 31. The village manager further recommended the board to use $560,000 of the fund balance to “offset and reduce our reliance on property taxes.”

“Our goal continues to be to maintain a fund balance in cash of approximately 15 to 20 percent of annual operations,” Slingerland said.

As for goals within the upcoming year, the village hopes to complete a few lingering projects that have been under consistent criticism for the past few months. Slingerland cited the update to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and completion of the Jefferson Avenue Bridge as projects to be completed within the upcoming year.

The village also plans to complete a parking analysis at a cost of $40,000 to look at effective and efficient uses of existing parking as possible sources of revenue; and a “Space Needs” study costing $30,000 to look at the village’s needs in terms of expansion and consolidation of offices for “more efficient operation and utilization of municipal space.” Both studies are funded through previous commitments or reservation of funds from last fiscal year, according to Slingerland.

Contact: phil@hometwn.com

Jim Buonaiuto

New manager has eye for hospitality

By LIZ BUTTON

As the Rye Golf Club’s new permanent general manager, Jim Buonaiuto told the Rye City Review that he hopes to use his strong background in golf club operations and commitment to hospitality to burnish the club’s reputation and turn its fortunes around following the years-long financial scheme allegedly masterminded by the club’s previous manager, Scott Yandrasevich.

Jim Buonaiuto

Jim Buonaiuto

The 27-year-old Buonaiuto brings 10 years of golf club experience to the table, coming to Rye from his position as general manager of The Courses at Pelham Bay and Split Rock in the Bronx, a 36-hole spread which holds the title of biggest golf course in New York City.

Buonaiuto is expected to join Rye Golf Club on April 14.

Being young, Buonaiuto said, is not an issue when it comes to his potential for success in the city-run club’s top position. For him, this April would have been a decade of employment with American Golf Corp., a national golf club franchise that has placed him at different golf courses in various managerial positions since 2008, when he graduated from St. John’s University in Queens.

“There are a couple of things I want to make it my priority to accomplish in the first 100 days,” he said.

Buonaiuto, who lives in Tuckahoe, said he plans on making himself a visible presence to the staff and club members, and starting the club on the path toward more transparent financial management in order to shuck off the legacy of member mistrust the former manager left behind. He said he will make it his standard practice to personally provide more frequent and detailed updates on financial and operational matters to club members at Rye Golf Club Commission meetings, and to mandate that the commission present such information to the general public at City Council meetings, Buonaiuto said.

In his capacity as manager, Yandrasevich was not regarded as a people person by many golf club members and staff. According to sources within the club, he was known to sometimes sequester himself in his office for long periods of time to the point of inaccessibility.

Rye’s new manager said that this mode of interaction runs completely counter to his managerial philosophy of hospitality above all.

“I really enjoy making sure members enjoy their day,” he said.

And,  at the end of the day, while profitability and cash flow are paramount, the club won’t take in the desired revenue without providing an exceptional member experience, Buonaiuto said.

After a lengthy search process, the city announced the hiring of Buonaiuto on March 20 to replace Yandrasevich, who is currently facing charges of defrauding members of hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership dues. Yandrasevich, who resigned in January 2013, deflated the club’s reputation by allegedly using shell companies he created to steal years’ worth of membership dues. The city has since submitted a claim to its insurance carrier for $2.1 million in the hopes of recovering losses city officials believe rightfully owed to the golf club as a result of the scandal.

Buonaiuto told the Review he is up to the task before him.

Golf commission chairman Mack Cunningham, said that during his interview, Buonaiuto answered some very pointed questions relative to Yandrasevich’s notorious history with the club. He is well aware of the gravity of the task he faces and the hopes and expectations of the members, Cunningham said.

“To him this is a career opportunity. He wants to build the membership back up and turn the club back into what he really believes is a crown jewel that just needs some polishing,” Cunningham, a former city councilman, said. “I think the golf club is looking for someone new with creativity and who has fresh eyes.”

Buonaiuto is also confident he can help restore the club’s financial fortunes.

In his previous positions, Buonaiuto has managed clubs with a much larger budget than Rye’s, which currently sits at $5.5 million. As general manager of the Bronx’s Pelham Bay and Split Rock club, he supervised 100 employees on a daily basis and helped increase revenue in non-traditional ways, like by developing a popular Oktoberfest celebration and redeveloping the club’s operational plan for its traditional spring and summer club nights, which attract 700 to 1500 guests weekly.

When he is not managing golf courses, he is playing  on them; he is an avid golfer and bowls with St. John’s University competitive teams, he said.

To start his tenure off right, Buonaiuto said he has begun networking within the area and will work with the Westchester Business Council in addition to local chambers of commerce, rotary clubs, lions clubs, or anywhere local leaders of business congregate.

When it comes to other new business strategies to supplement membership, Buonaiuto said that the best way to boost membership is retention: the club has to first and foremost provide an excellent member experience.

“That, in turn, will result in members bringing guests or speaking highly of the club within their social or business area of life, which is the best way to advertise,” he said.

Prior to interviewing with Rye, Buonaiuto played a round of golf at the city club and absolutely loved the property, calling it “one of the most unique facilities in Westchester,” due to its incredible beauty and oceanside status.

Buonaiuto’s new position will pay $120,000 including benefits and health insurance.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com

 
The Rye Town Park Commission adopted its 2014 budget on March 18, which carries a shortfall of $6,750. File photo

Rye Town Park Commission hopes for break-even year

By KATIE HOOS

The Rye Town Park Commission adopted the 2014 operating budget, carrying a shortfall of $6,750. 

The Rye Town Park Commission adopted its 2014 budget on March 18, which carries a shortfall of $6,750. File photo

The Rye Town Park Commission adopted its 2014 budget on March 18, which carries a shortfall of $6,750. File photo

Rye Town Park—a 62-acre recreational park and beach located off Forest Avenue in Rye City—is owned and operated by both the city and Rye Town, which is wholly comprised of the villages of Rye Brook, Port Chester and the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck.

On March 18, the Rye Town Park Commission adopted its 2014 budget, which calculates $891,777 in revenue and $898,527 in expenditures, a 5.4 percent spending increase over last year’s budget. The adopted budget includes an increase in buildings and ground maintenance expenditures from a proposed budget which was balanced, thus creating a deficit of $6,750.

When asked about the difficulties of balancing the park’s budget in recent years, Rye Town Park commissioner and City Councilwoman Laura Brett, a Republican, said, “In today’s environment, when we have a tax cap, municipalities have to do everything they can to manage their expenses carefully.”

The Rye Town Park Commission, a cross-jurisdiction governing body consisting of Republican Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin, Councilwoman Brett, Republican Rye City Mayor Joe Sack, Republican Village of Port Chester Mayor Neil Pagano unaffiliated Village of Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg and appointed Rye Neck representative Benedict Salanitro, is tasked with setting policy at the park and developing its annual budget.

The commission factored in expected revenues from beach admission fees, parking fees and permit sales, which are projected to increase by 3 percent over last year’s sales due to the commission’s targeted mailing campaign.

Brett said a flyer was mailed to previous permit holders encouraging them to reapply.

“In the commission’s experience, we’ve had good responses to the mailings and the earlier we’ve mailed them out, the better,” she said.

Residents of Port Chester, Rye Brook, Rye City and Rye Neck can purchase seasonal permits that provide access to the beach and parking for a discounted price. Seasonal resident permits cost $110 for an individual, $300 for a family and $20 for a senior. Non-resident permit fees are slightly higher.

Brett said the commission is hoping for favorable holiday weekend weather, which would increase park visitors and bring in more revenue. She said last year’s cool and stormy weather on July 4 and Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends delivered a hit to the park’s revenue.

The commission foresees a $43,017 increase in total revenue from 2013 to 2014.

Budgeting $898,527 in total expenses, the park’s biggest anticipated expense is $106,750 for building and ground maintenance, which Bishop Nowotnik, confidential secretary to Carvin, said during the March 3 commission meeting includes the removal of four trees in the park. Nowotnik also said a 12 percent increase in Con Edison energy service led to a $4,600 increase in utilities from last year, prompting the commission to budget $50,000 for utilities this year.

A tax certiorari case to dispute a 2011 decision by Rye City Assessor Noreen Whitty—in which she declared Seaside Johnnie’s restaurant, a tax exempt parcel located within the park, should be subject to property taxes beginning in 2012—is ongoing. While the park commission won the case, knocking the restaurant back off the tax rolls, Rye City has decided to appeal the decision.

If the case is upheld, Rye City will be ordered to return nearly $20,000 in back taxes to the Rye Town Park Commission. The proposed budget also includes $62,000 to be spent in professional fees affiliated with the tax certiorari case and appeal.

Rye Town Park capital improvement expenses, which have yet to be approved by the commission, are projected at $131,700, largely due to the addition of two Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant foot ramps in the middle and south gates of the park. The commission anticipates the ramps to cost $64,000 and the subsequent replacement of the middle park entrance booth to cost an additional $16,000.

A $25,000 security camera system, $27,500 for lighting repairs on the left side of the duck pond and $7,000 for 10 new park benches are also part of this year’s capital projects. The city pays 40 percent toward any capital expense at the park, while the town contributes 60 percent to the total cost.

Previously, Rye Town Park has operated in a deficit on average of $100,000 each year up until 2012, when the park ended the year with a net operating surplus of $1,346. In 2013, the park had an unaudited deficit of just $3,160, signaling a drastic change in park management.

When asked about balancing the budget, Brett said that it has been something the commission has been striving for for several years.

“The business of running a park is uncertain,” she said. “Income is inherent on the weather; essentially the park will have a good year when we have good weather on weekends.”

Carvin could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: katie@hometwn.com

 
Twining Properties, the runner-up from a 2006 request for proposals to develop the city’s waterfront, will re-submit a new development proposal. Twining’s original design proposal, pictured, included 70,000 square-feet of retail, 270,000 square-feet of residential and a hotel, encompassing 26 acres. 
Rendering courtesy twiningproperties.com

City Council to review old Echo Bay, Armory proposals

By Katie Hoos

The future of the city’s waterfront may now be decided as early as July.

Twining Properties, the runner-up from a 2006 request for proposals to develop the city’s waterfront, will re-submit a new development proposal. Twining’s original design proposal, pictured, included 70,000 square-feet of retail, 270,000 square-feet of residential and a hotel, encompassing 26 acres.  Rendering courtesy twiningproperties.com

Twining Properties, the runner-up from a 2006 request for proposals to develop the city’s waterfront, will re-submit a new development proposal. Twining’s original design proposal, pictured, included 70,000 square-feet of retail, 270,000 square-feet of residential and a hotel, encompassing 26 acres.
Rendering courtesy twiningproperties.com

Looking to speed up the development process and possibly save from losing out on a $1.5 million grant awarded by the state, the New Rochelle City Council is entertaining development proposals for the former Echo Bay project site from developers and design teams, four of which were first selected in August 2013 and one in 2006.

The five eligible competitors that will submit new proposals include Arch Techtonics, CDR Studio, Hariri and Hariri Architects, and SHOP Architects—the four finalists from last year’s Armory re-design competition, which aimed at rehabilitating and preserving the former Naval Militia building located on the waterfront—and Twining Properties, the runner-up in the 2006 request for proposals that the city issued to develop the waterfront.

The scope of the new project the city is soliciting proposals for encompasses approximately 12 acres of land and includes the City Yard—New Rochelle’s Department of Public Works site—the Armory—the former training facility for the Naval Militia—and the former Nelstad Materials Corp., Mancuso boat yard and Con Edison sites. The former Echo Bay project, which encompassed 10.8 acres of land, included only a parcel of the Armory property.

Mayor Noam Bramson, a Democrat, said the group of five would be able to produce proposals quicker than other companies unfamiliar with the location.

Republican Councilman Al Tarantino, District 2, said the option to start out with the five pre-selected competitors is something worth exploring.

“If we take this route, we can see what comes back over the next two months,” he said. “In the short term, this was a way of either finding someone in that group or eliminating the groups and moving forward.”

The proposals will be submitted to the council within 60 days of the competition’s start, which is likely to begin this week. If the City Council is pleased with the proposals, it can choose to move forward with selecting a winning design. If the design submissions do not live up to the city’s criteria, then New Rochelle officials can send out a new request for proposals, RFP, open to anyone.

The two-month turnaround is an effort to not only expedite the process, but to save a $1.5 million grant from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council that was intended for the former Forest City Echo Bay project. According to City Manager Chuck Strome, the grant can only be used if the city chooses to move forward with one of the five competitors; if the city decided to seek new proposals in launching a new RFP, they would lose out on the grant.

Democratic Councilwoman Shari Rackman, District 6, supports the decision to move forward with the five competitors’ revised proposals and thinks the city should make every effort to save the development grant.

“If something comes out of this that we’re happy with, it gives us the bonus of saving the $1.5 million,” Rackman said. “I don’t think 60 days is a long time to invest to possibly have a win-win in two months.”

But not all members of the City Council think the grant is worth saving.

Democratic Councilman Jared Rice, District 3, thinks the best route would be to start from scratch and invite all developers and designers to submit new proposals for the 12-acre site.

“As much as I want to save the grant, I’d hate to make the rash decision to move forward with the grant and possibly incur greater financial losses,” Rice said. “The city has changed, conditions have changed. I don’t want to be limited to five contestants. If we chose a different approach, we could have different competing visions.”

Mayor Bramson also said choosing to proceed with the five competitors was not the way he would have liked to go forward. “I would probably proceed somewhat differently, but I understand and appreciate the council’s decision,” said Bramson. The mayor declined to elaborate on what he sees as the best approach for going forward when asked by the City Review this week.

The council’s decision to re-engage the five finalists from the 2013 design competition and 2006 request for proposals comes just one month after an agreement to rebuild the waterfront between the city and developer Forest City came to an end.

In 2006, Forest City was selected to develop the waterfront in a project known as Echo Bay, which originally proposed 150,000 square feet of retail space, 2 hotels, luxury condos, townhouses and apartments, and a 5-acre park encompassing 26-acres. But by 2011, and thanks in large part to the economic recession, the project was immensely scaled down to include 25,000 square feet of retail and 285 apartments on 10.8 acres of land, instigating a firestorm of criticism from the public and generating opposition within the City Council.

This February, the developer terminated the agreement with the city after a Nov. 26, 2013 bipartisan vote in which a near unanimous vote of the City Council—Bramson was the lone dissenting vote—ended the deal.

Contact: katie@hometwn.com

 
VillageMunicipalBuilding2

Tiekert awarded $27K over lawsuit

By PHIL NOBILE

The Village of Mamaroneck has settled a lawsuit with resident and activist Stuart Tiekert after being advised to do so by its legal counsel and insurance company, who will foot a $27,000 bill.

At the village’s March 24 Board of Trustees meeting, the board was nearly unanimous in its vote to settle the lawsuit after Village Attorney Charles Goldberger advised doing so “solely because of economic reasons,” citing the potential costs of legal fees if the case continued. Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, was the lone vote in opposition of settling the suit.

Tiekert, a former village Democratic committee chairman, said he was pleased with the settlement.

“I understand that I can be persistent, but I do believe in participatory democracy, and that it is important that people understand public meetings should be a safe place for people to express their views,” Tiekert said. “It doesn’t have to be in a hostile atmosphere.”

Pull QuoteTiekert filed his lawsuit against the village, Republican Mayor Norman Rosenblum and Village Manager Richard Slingerland on Nov. 7, 2012, alleging that his First Amendment rights at a July 2012 Board of Trustees meeting were violated when Rosenblum directed a police officer to remove Tiekert from the podium during a public comment period. The lawsuit alleged that Rosenblum and Slingerland “engaged in a campaign of vindictiveness and retaliation” towards Tiekert, and that his constitutional rights were interfered with and prevented as a result.

The resident sought monetary damages and declaratory and injunctive relief, according to the lawsuit filing.

Terry Grainger, an attorney representing the village’s insurance company in the matter said the settlement was agreed to because the village would admit no liability and not have to cover the $27,000 cost to Tiekert; a cost instead picked up by Traveler’s.

“This is a pragmatic approach to ending the lawsuit,” Rosenblum said, describing the process as enlightening and educational.

According to Goldberger, the village’s insurance rates would “not necessarily” be affected as a result of the settlement.

In his vote against settling, Bermudez Hallstrom issued a scathing statement towards Tiekert at the board meeting, alleging that Tiekert, over the years, has cost the village more than $215,000 in taxpayers’ money through various legal challenges.

“It’s clear his goal is to embarrass us, and I think we face a bigger risk by settling,” Bermudez Hallstrom said in reference to the money spent over the years on lawsuits by Tiekert. “I think if someone robbed Village Hall and set it on fire, it would have more use because at least it would have kept someone warm.”

The trustee challenged the public to view the July 16, 2012 Board of Trustees meeting where Tiekert was removed from the podium to determine whether or not any settlement was warranted.

“If you think he deserves $27,000, let us know,” Bermudez Hallstrom said.

When asked about the trustee’s comments, Tiekert disagreed, saying he couldn’t vouch for Bermudez Hallstrom’s numbers about costing the village taxpayers money over the years, and added that his claims were “way off.”

“I don’t think he should be characterizing my motivations,” Tiekert said. “I was trying to bring some light to the fact that people in a democratic society have the right and the obligation to participate in government; and that is a protected right.”

Tiekert’s attorney, Debra Cohen of the firm Newman Ferrara, also has her own history with the village, as she is the attorney for David and Kinuyo Witt, who sued the village after they were flooded out of their First Street home, and the Shore Acres Property Owners Association, a consistent opponent of Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht, and Hampshire Country clubs.

Contact: phil@hometwn.com

 
Bronxville Village Administrator Harold Porr, left, retired after 10 years on March 27. Donald Marra the former five-term mayor of Dobbs Ferry, will be Bronxville’s interim administrator and is also assisting in the search to find a new full-time replacement.
Courtesy Donald Marra; Courtesy ICMA

Bronxville administrator retires; interim appointed

By LIZ BUTTON

Harold Porr III, Bronxville’s village administrator, retired on March 27 after 10 years on the job, and his departure commences the search for a permanent replacement. 

Bronxville Village Administrator Harold Porr, left, retired after 10 years on March 27. Donald Marra the former five-term mayor of Dobbs Ferry, will be Bronxville’s interim administrator and is also assisting in the search to find a new full-time replacement. Courtesy Donald Marra; Courtesy ICMA

Bronxville Village Administrator Harold Porr, left, retired after 10 years on March 27. Donald Marra the former five-term mayor of Dobbs Ferry, will be Bronxville’s interim administrator and is also assisting in the search to find a new full-time replacement. Courtesy Donald Marra; Courtesy ICMA

In the meantime, Donald P. Marra, the former mayor of Dobbs Ferry, has been appointed interim village administrator and is assisting in the personnel search to find a new full-time administrator to take Porr’s place.

Before his tenure in Bronxville, Porr, 62, served as executive assistant to the Orange County executive for 10 years. That was followed by stints as city manager of Long Beach in Nassau County, city manager of Newburgh and as city administrator in Poughkeepsie.

”I’m retiring because I’ve reached a crossroads in terms of age and years of service where I believe it’s time to move on,” said Porr, who lives in Yonkers, less than a mile from Village Hall.

Porr, who has been married to his wife Joan for 42 years and has three children and three grandchildren, said he has another job to go to but is not ready to announce his next move quite yet.

Being a village administrator in Bronxville means being in charge of all department heads, so on a daily basis, Porr said his schedule involves reviewing all police, public works, financial and personnel matters. And, he is also the village’s point person in an emergency. When natural disasters hit, like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, he coordinates with utilities, the public works department and public safety officials to keep the roads open and people’s lights on.

Some of his accomplishments serving at the helm in Bronxville include renovating Village Hall in 2007, a project that came in on time and on budget, Porr said, as well as participating in the 2010 reevaluation of all properties in the village and the updating of all home assessments.

During his tenure, Porr also negotiated various contracts with unions including the teamsters, the police and the library workers’ CSEA collective bargaining unit. In addition, Porr made an effort over those 10 years to improve the village’s local business economy.

“I got involved in a lot of economic development to keep the downtown vibrant,” he said.

Naming the village’s most recent successful project, Porr said he is proud Bronxville has concluded the sale of the Kensington Road property to a developer that will go on to turn it from a parking lot into a residential housing development.

When it comes to providing guidance to Bronxville’s next administrator, Porr advises that he or she take good advantage of the community, as there are a lot of residents with talent who are willing to lend their time and expertise as volunteers on the village’s behalf.

Looking back as he steps down from his position, he said he is happy to leave the village in a strong financial position with a AAA bond rating and a healthy budget of approximately $13 million. Porr also points to efforts throughout his tenure to raise the professionalism of the village’s staff of 65 by instituting more training and encouraging a better understanding and use of technology.

Although he didn’t initially set out with this specific goal in mind, Marra will step into Porr’s administrative role until a permanent replacement is found.

Marra, who became a municipal management consultant after serving in numerous consecutive public service positions including village administrator of Irvington, said that when he heard that Bronxville was looking for a new village administrator, he wrote to Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, to ask if she and the board needed any assistance with the search. The Board of Trustees hired him as a search consultant for a fee of $10,000 and voted to make him interim administrator on March 18 after making the determination that a temporary replacement was needed to keep the village running smoothly while the search proceeded. Marra, 66, will be paid an hourly salary of $100 in his role as administrator, but will not be  a village employee.
Marra will carry out the two job functions simultaneously.

The search for a successor is about two-thirds complete, according to Marra. As a management consultant, something he started in 2007, he has also been involved in six other searches for village managers and administrators previously in the communities of Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, among others.

“The period of time [I will remain interim manager] depends on when we hire someone and how long that person would need to leave their job if they are already working for a municipality when they are hired,” said Marra, who accepted Bronxville administrator candidate applications until a cut-off date of March 21.

The task before Marra, who lives in Dobbs Ferry, is to “keep the boat afloat” until a new village administrator is selected, while providing good leadership and administrative support  just as the village is used to with Porr, he said.

Marra, who ran for elected office as a Republican, was a Dobbs Ferry trustee from 1982 to 1989 and went on to serve five terms as mayor of Dobbs Ferry from 1989 to 1997, but resigned during his fifth term to serve as the assistant superintendent of Irvington schools from 1997 to 2001. After that, he worked as Irvington’s village administrator from 2001 to 2007.

Before working in a municipal capacity, he taught technical education and woodworking at Irvington High School for more than 20 years.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com

 
Veterans in the Town of Eastchester are lobbying the Eastchester and Tuckahoe school boards to pass Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s amendment to the property tax law that would give them a break on school taxes. Photo/Chris Eberhart

School districts weigh tax breaks for vets

By CHRIS EBERHART

War veterans in Eastchester and Tuckahoe lobbied school boards to adopt the amended state property tax law that would provide them with tax breaks by shifting a portion of the tax burden to non-veterans.

Veterans in the Town of Eastchester are lobbying the Eastchester and Tuckahoe school boards to pass Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s amendment to the property tax law that would give them a break on school taxes. Photo/Chris Eberhart

Veterans in the Town of Eastchester are lobbying the Eastchester and Tuckahoe school boards to pass Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s amendment to the property tax law that would give them a break on school taxes. Photo/Chris Eberhart

The property tax law has provided real estate tax relief for veterans through the municipal budget for the past couple of decades, but this new amendment, which was passed by the state in December 2013, will extend the law to include school taxes, which is a separate entity from the municipal budget.

As part of the bill, the state left the decision to extend this benefit to the veterans up to each individual school district.

Michael Fix, an Eastchester veteran, said this is an opportunity for each school district to say thank you to the veterans.

“Most men and women that are veterans have never really been thanked. So the fact the governor and Legislature in Albany wants to give them some relief is a genuine gesture to say thank you,” Fix said. “And now each school district has the opportunity to extend their hand to say thank you.”

According to the bill, those eligible for the school tax break include wartime veterans, who would receive a 15 percent reduction on school tax plus an additional 10 percent reduction for veterans serving in combat zones, which includes expeditionary medal recipients.

Veterans that were inflicted with service-time disabilities would be entitled to receive additional compensation that would be equal to 50 percent of their disability rating.

The added expenses incurred by the school district, if it were to pass this resolution, would not count against the school’s state mandated tax cap, nor would the school lose money. Instead, the district would be compensated for added expenses by the non-veteran taxpayers in the community.

In Eastchester, there are 394 eligible veterans who would save, on average, $1,224 per year, which would cost the average non-veteran taxpayer an extra $101 on their annual school tax bill.

In Tuckahoe, there are 134 eligible veterans who would save approximately $1,221, which equates to an extra $74 per year for non-veteran taxpayers.

One reservation school administrators have about adopting the tax exemption is the inability to withdraw from the exemption after it’s passed by the district’s Board of Education, which is an option the municipalities have.

Eastchester Schools Superintendent Dr. Walter Moran said Eastchester’s Board of Education is still waiting for advice from the district’s legal advisors so “the board has a complete understanding of the impact of any action that it may take.”

“The decision has to take into account the fact that, while granting tax exemptions to veterans is an honorable idea, the burden of the tax break will be shifted to other taxpayers,” Moran said. “The governor put forth this proposal, but did not offer state funds to pay for it.”

While it receives legal advice on the bill, Moran said the district will not solicit advice from the community.

But the Tuckahoe school district will.

On the Tuckahoe school district website is a link to an email address, feedback@tuckahoe.lhric.org, to which the community can send opinions on the tax exemption amendment.

Neither district has made a decision on the proposed reduction, but both are considering it. That’s not the case in Bronxville.

The Bronxville school district is taking a wait-and-see approach, according to Dan Carlin, the district’s assistant superintendent of business.

Moving forward, each school board decides if it will hold a public hearing, which is something Fix and a group of other veterans from the LeRoy Gregory Veteran’s Post in Eastchester were lobbying their Board of Education to do during the Feb. 25 school board meeting.

Tuckahoe veterans made a cameo at the March 10 Tuckahoe school board meeting.

If a school district approves the resolution by May 1, the tax break for the veterans takes effect for the 2015-2016 school year. If the district approves the bill after the May 1 cutoff, the tax exemption becomes active during the 2016-2017 school year.

The only school district in the area to adopt the amendment is New Rochelle, which did so during a March 25 school board meeting by a unanimous 7-0 vote.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
If approved by the Town Council, a 230-foot pipe will be placed underneath two private properties, connecting Pilgrim Road to Puritan Road’s drainage system. One of the homeowners has consented to the plan, while the other homeowner has voiced concerns about possible negative impacts. Photo courtesy Town of Harrison

Pilgrim Road residents plead for flood help

By CHRIS EBERHART and PHIL NOBILE

Harrison residents stated their case to the Town Council last week for speedy assistance with major flooding in a 12-home neighborhood, which has led to safety concerns from residents and public safety officials alike. 

If approved by the Town Council, a 230-foot pipe will be placed underneath two private properties, connecting Pilgrim Road to Puritan Road’s drainage system. One of the homeowners has consented to the plan, while the other homeowner has voiced concerns about possible negative impacts. Photo courtesy Town of Harrison

If approved by the Town Council, a 230-foot pipe will be placed underneath two private properties, connecting Pilgrim Road to Puritan Road’s drainage system. One of the homeowners has consented to the plan, while the other homeowner has voiced concerns about possible negative impacts. Photo courtesy Town of Harrison

At the March 20 Town Council meeting, a public hearing was held for a potential utility easement for the private property of 4 Puritan Road to aid neighbors of the adjacent Pilgrim Road with flooding issues, which are believed to span a decade, according to homeowners in the area. The Pilgrim Road residents pleaded for swift action in remedying flooding issues, which have been a problem due to a lack of sufficient drainage at a low spot on the road.

Pilgrim Road Association President Steve Hash said the area’s residents have “been waiting a long time” for the town’s help and have tried to self-remedy the issue in the meantime by clearing floodwaters manually and installing undeground pumps to push the water out to Polly Park Road, which proved to be too small and inadequate.

“The road is a disaster,” Hash said. “You can’t pass it, it looks horrible, property values are hurt and, more than anything else, there’s a huge safety issue. We really have to take care of this, so I urge the [Town Council] to not only address this, but address it now.”

Town Engineer Michael Amodeo presented a plan to lay a 230-foot underground pipe that would connect from the low spot on Pilgrim Road, which lies about 300 feet from Polly Park Road, to an existing pipe under Puritan Road and then out to the intersection of Puritan and Polly Park roads.

But in order to implement the plan, the proposed pipe would have to run under two private properties—5 Pilgrim Road and 4 Puritan Road—and require shallow dredging on each of the properties to bury the pipe.  According to the town engineer, the project would allow for “relatively minimal disturbance” to the properties involved but still require an easement—authority to access private property for a specified purpose such as flood mitigation—from each of the homeowners to complete.

William Null, an attorney who represents the 5 Pilgrim Road homeowners, said that his clients  would grant the town the requested easement in spite of “minimal” potential impacts to their property as a result.

Susan Yubus Benenson, who owns the property at 5 Pilgrim Road, said, “Literally the water goes through our house, not just through our driveway. There have been fish swimming down our driveway.”

Null, on behalf of his clients, urged the Town Council to find a solution to the issue before someone in the area gets hurt.

“There are no other ways to address this problem,” Null said. “We ask that the town board move swiftly on implementing this because so far we’ve avoided any serious injury to person, although there’s been substantial damage to property, and we don’t want to be in a situation where an injury occurs.”

But the town has not been granted the second easement by the homeowner at 4 Puritan Road, Richard Smithline, who voiced his concerns about potential damage to his property as a result the proposed project.

“I have sympathy for the Pilgrim Road neighbors, but I want to make sure my property is not pillaged,” Smithline said.

The Town Council closed the public hearing on March 20 and now has a 90-day window to decide the project’s fate.

According to Republican Councilman Stephen Malfitano, major rains in 2007 “brought it to the forefront.”

“In a couple of instances, the roadway was completely impassable,” said Malfitano, who was mayor at the time. “It’s the type of thing that doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it presents a very dangerous situation to the community.”

Malfitano, however; said he couldn’t answer questions as to why there was inactivity with addressing the problem in that area of the town, which was a key issue of criticism from homeowners in the area.

“We’ve been at this for more than 10 years now, and we’ve put a lot of money and sweat into this,” said Wendy Maskowitz, who lives at 11 Pilgrim Road. “I think it’s time the town really gave us some assistance.”

Not only have neighbors in the area complained about the corresponding safety issue as it relates to flooding, but the highest ranking public safety officer in the town voiced his concerns as well.

Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said the issue “needs to remedied as soon as possible,” citing an instance in November 2013 when a police vehicle was damaged after getting caught in the flooded area during an ordinary rainstorm.

“It poses a tremendous issue for emergency vehicles to access the area,” Marraccini said. “It has gone on too long.”

Contact: christopher@hometwn.com; phil@hometwn.com

 
The village’s flood mitigation project will include installing a new synthetic turf sports field at Hayes Field on the campus of the Bronxville School. The school district hired KG&D Architects to install the new field in coordination with new piping and a pumping station. Courtesy KG&D Architects

Timeline set for flood mitigation plan

By LIZ BUTTON

Construction on the joint flood mitigation project between the school district and the Village of Bronxville will begin in mid-October, according to the village’s engineering firm J. Robert Folchetti & Associates. 

The village’s flood mitigation project will include installing a new synthetic turf sports field at Hayes Field on the campus of the Bronxville School. The school district hired KG&D Architects to install the new field in coordination with new piping and a pumping station. Courtesy KG&D Architects

The village’s flood mitigation project will include installing a new synthetic turf sports field at Hayes Field on the campus of the Bronxville School. The school district hired KG&D Architects to install the new field in coordination with new piping and a pumping station. Courtesy KG&D Architects

The project design will install a series of pipes under the school’s playing fields to catch floodwater so that it does not back up onto the school’s campus, the firm told the Board of Education members at its March 20 meeting. Folchetti & Associates estimate the project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

The mitigation plan, which began in the aftermath of the April 2007 Nor’easter that caused $20 million worth of flood damage to the school when it took on four to six feet of water, will also establish a stormwater pumping station on the building’s Midland Avenue side to pump water into the Bronx River during flood events.

In coordination with these flood mitigation measures Fol-chetti has developed, the school’s arc-itects will also redesign the school’s field layout to maximize student athletes’ game and practice space, taking advantage of the time the field will be out of commission due to construction work.

The timetable calls  to start digging up the field right after [the 2014] fall sports season. Students would not be able to use Hayes Field again until the 2015 spring sports season begins.

The field project also entails installing a new multi-purpose synthetic turf field. The redesign will cost $1.2 to $1.5 million, which does not include the underground drainage system to be paid for with $6.8 million in flood mitigation project funding secured through FEMA by the village in cooperation with the school district. The FEMA grant has been in the works since 2007. The federal agency will pay 75 percent of the cost of the project, or $5.1 million, and the village will cover the remaining 25 percent, which comes to $1.7 million.

Installing the new field and reconfiguring the sports fields’ design involves rearranging parking. Representatives from KG&D Architects explained that the plan involves creating an additional lot on Meadow Road, which will create more parking spaces once the project is done. Board of Education members noted the field plan would increase sports team scheduling flexibility, but board president David Brashear noted that the architectural firm should adapt the plan to increase the number of parking spaces from the preliminary number presented that night.

The preliminary plan should be finished in April and will be presented to the school and village boards for review. After the firm receives feedback, it will finalize the construction plan over the months of April to August.

The permitting and environmental impact review process should begin  in April.

Folchetti & Associates has been developing plans to mitigate flooding in the area since April 2007, in the aftermath of the floods that devastated the Sound Shore region and closed the Bronxville School for several weeks due to high water encroaching on the campus’ buildings. In August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused an additional $8 million in damage to the school, further enforcing the need to protect the campus from the perils of flooding.

The field redesign project will be done in two parts: first, the flood mitigation measures will be put in place to prevent water from flooding the fields, and then the new synthetic turf field will be installed at Hayes Field.

“Federal priorities have really shifted since Super Storm Sandy, and the grant of $6.8 million that we got for this purpose would probably not be funded again today. So this is a window of opportunity for the district to make significant inroads on our flood mitigation efforts at minimal cost to the district,” said Brashear.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com