By ASHLEY HELMS
For the first time in a decade, Eastchester has a contested supervisor’s race. At an Oct. 2 candidates forum, the two opponents sparred over concerns with affairs in the town as they took questions from a full room of attendees.
Eastchester Town Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Michael Denning, a retired Eastchester police officer. The race is the first time Colavita has faced opposition in his five terms in office.
Denning said his decision to seek the town’s’ highest elected position started simply as a rumor that some friends spread about him. Now, a legitimate candidacy, Denning is looking to bring a system of “checks and balances” back to a full five-member Republican town board with the addition of a Democratic voice.
“I’ve always had an eye for politics, so I thought I’d give it a chance,” Denning said.
Supervisor Colavita said that he wants to continue to make Eastchester better with the community’s help. “My administration has been extraordinarily open and transparent,” he said to attendees at the Garth Woods Community Room, located at 235 Garth Road.
Resident William Landin asked if there would be any way to synchronize streetlights on White Plains Road in order to make traffic run smoother, especially during peak travel hours.
Colavita said the problem was that White Plains Road is owned by Westchester County instead of Eastchester. Unfortunately, he said, there are a lot of traffic lights lining the road. “Once in a while [our workers] will tune the lights, but they’re synced by the [county Department of Transportation],” he said.
Richard Abelson, a resident of Garth Road, said that when cars are double-parked in his neighborhood, it’s a hazard for pedestrians who are walking nearby and getting in and out of their vehicles. Abelson said he has witnessed police officers drive by without ticketing double-parked cars and is worried that someone will eventually be hit and injured.
“What can the candidates do to make sure Eastchester enforces this?” Abelson said.
As a former police officer, Denning said that ticketing the vehicles may have been withheld in order to give residents a chance to move materials from their cars and into their homes. While safety is very important, the police must consider why and for how long the cars will be double-parked.
“They’re giving a courtesy in case someone was unloading packages,” Denning said.
Colavita admitted that parking is tight on Garth Road, but said, unfortunately the town is not able to legislate courtesy. “You can’t deploy an officer here all day everyday, but I agree with you; they shouldn’t be getting a free pass and I’ll speak to the [police] chief,” the supervisor said.
Madeline Landin, 19, wanted to know if the town board would be open to the idea of funding competitions like a four-day swim tournament at Lake Isle between the Eastchester High School swim team and other local swim teams. The Eastchester team often has trouble finding practice time at the country club.
Having swim meets at Lake Isle would be a great idea, Denning said, but noted that a timeline would have to be set up to accommodate the club members and the swim teams cohesively. “I’d be happy to have a meet in a good schedule,” the Democratic candidate said.
Supervisor Colavita said the Eastchester swim team is terrific and it’s something the town could make work. He said the construction of an indoor pool, which is expected to be built in the next two to three years, could help with coordinating the event. “They’re all important things we want to do at Lake Isle,” Colavita said.
In June, Denning received a nomination from Democrats to run against Colavita in the November election. The party did not find candidates to oppose Republican councilmen Fred Salanitro and Luigi Marcoccia, who are also up for re-election this year.
Denning faces an uphill battle to try and snag the longtime Republican supervisor’s seat.
According to data provided by the county Board of Elections, there are 8,167 registered Republicans in Eastchester compared to 6,732 Democrats. The town is considered one of only a handful of GOP strongholds within Westchester County.
On Sept. 30, all political candidates in New York State were required to submit financial disclosure reports to the state Board of Elections. According to those filings, Supervisor Colavita’s campaign has more than $62,000 in the bank, while Denning’s filings are yet to be listed, as of press time.
The Eastchester Town supervisor serves a two-year term that comes with an annual salary of $98,000.