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County Legislator candidate: John Verni

John Verni

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Age: 51

Status: Challenger

Political affiliation: Republican nominee

Party endorsements: Independence, Conservative and Green parties

Place of residence: Larchmont

Occupation: Attorney and real estate redeveloper

Family: Wife and four children: John, 22, Marielle, 21, Paul, 18, Charlie, 16

Community Involvement: Involved with Save the DeLancey House, past president of the county Habitat for Humanity, renovated the Mamaroneck train station, involved in stopping Ikea project in New Rochelle, lobbied for school bus safety laws.

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: I’ve taken up masters rowing in Pelham.


Q: What is your stance on the Sustainable Playland Inc. plan? Some concerned residents have cited traffic, parking and noise issues in connection with the 95,000 sq. foot indoor sports facility that SPI has proposed within its Playland improvement plan. The field house will be located in the Playland parking lot directly along Roosevelt Avenue.

A: In general, I support the concept of Sustainable Playland. To make it a sustainable, year-round use would be a benefit to the community. Right now, it’s losing $3 million to $5 million a year under county management. I think SPI, which is a locally-grown group of people who have brought in experts from the field, have brought in a very qualified team to redevelop Playland and make it appropriate both financially and environmentally. I believe I have the background to actually help it succeed, as a land use attorney and real estate redeveloper. I think SPI is going to be a great project, but I think it has to go through the appropriate review like all projects.


Q: Democratic challenger for county executive Noam Bramson has been using national issues, including gun control and abortion, as a platform for his campaign and, recently, Catherine Parker has taken a stance on some of these issues as well by saying she would eliminate county gun shows. What is your stance on these national issues and the decision to use them in a local campaign?

A: The gun shows I do differ from Rob [Astorino]. I don’t think we should have gun shows at the county center. My wife and I have four kids; we always asked the socially uncomfortable question when our kids were little before the places where they were having play dates if they had guns in the house. We were fearful that our kids would be playing in houses that had guns. I don’t think gun shows are appropriate to have in a suburban environment. After I fought Ikea and got involved with mothers there who were concerned with traffic in the Sound Shore area, I was probably the only man and one of the only Republicans who was asked to join the Million Moms March. I am concerned about guns in a suburban environment and to that extent I differ from [Astorino].


Q: What would you do to alleviate the tax burden on residents in Westchester?

A: That’s the biggest concern I hear when I go around is the tax burden. I think county government is too big and it needs to be downsized. County government has become too big and I think we need to look at ways to decrease the size of county government both at the Board of Legislator’s level and the county executive level. There needs to be a reform to the procurement policy. Right now, there are 21 exemptions to competitive bidding. I think we need to limit the number of exemptions so we really are getting the best competitive bidding and getting the best price for our taxpayers. Also, I would say going green and saving green.


Q: What letter grade would you give the current Westchester County administration and why?

A: I would give Rob [Astorino] a B or a B+ in the administration. I think they’ve kept the tax level flat while maintaining essential services. Prior to Rob coming in, we had a 17 percent increase in county taxes. I think Rob has done a good job with keeping taxes flat and we need to continue to do more of the same. So I think if we can do smart growth and actually make Playland sustainable and do some things that grow the economy a little bit we can keep our taxes flat without decreasing essential services. I think he has done a good job; there’s always room for improvements.


Q: Over the summer, Sound Shore communities were found to be allowing pollutants to run into Long Island Sound due to aging infrastructure, which in part caused local beaches to be closed frequently. How would you make sure that treatment plants are up to date and sewer lines are not mixing with storm water lines?

A: If there is one reason to have a strong county government, it’s to protect our infrastructure. There needs to be a regional plan to address our environmental infrastructure and that includes sewage treatment plants and upgrading pipes that would allow storm water to get into sewage lines and overload treatment plants. Also, where the Mamaroneck train station is, it’s ground zero for flooding in the county. On a regional basis, we have to work with the federal government, the state [Department of Environmental Conservation], the county and the local governments to address flooding and address infrastructure upgrades. I think aquatic restoration projects are also great at addressing our flooding in the Sound Shore area.


Q: Green space is very important to many county residents and perhaps especially to those in Mamaroneck. How would you preserve county green space while also allowing for smart development?

A: As a redeveloper, I am for right size development and against over-development, so I favor projects that preserve green space. I prefer historic preservation projects that take old buildings and re-purpose them for other uses over large big box developments. I’m opposed to things such as the proposal for [residential development at] Hampshire Country Club. As a resident of Orienta Point, I think that [area] should be preserved as green space and should not be overdeveloped, which would put further strain on our already taxed infrastructure.


Q: If elected, what are your three priorities?

A: It would be taxes, flooding and making sure that the [Department of Housing and Urban Development] settlement is handled properly. I think that the HUD settlement needs to be dealt with, but I think I have the background as a land use attorney to address this issue to the benefit of residents of the Sound Shore. I think that HUD has Mamaroneck Town wrong. I think it’s unfair to say that Mamaroneck Town is discriminating because it’s unfair to look at the Town of Mamaroneck without looking at the villages. The villages have multi-family housing by the train stations, which is smart, transit-oriented development. I would like to sit with the monitor and explain how Mamaroneck is not discriminating and we are working properly.


Q: Any specific plans on how to deal with flooding?

A: I’ve spoken with [Village of Mamaroneck] Mayor [Norman] Rosenblum about having a joint bond issue between the county, the [federal government] and locals to deal with it. I think flooding has to be addressed from the [Long Island Sound] on up to the reservoirs. We are going to have a comprehensive look at it. The flooding issue is not going to go away, so it would make sense economically, before doing an environmental bond, to try to address as many of the flood problems that we have and get that bond at the lowest interest rate possible and deal with it now. So, we need to address it now and do it in a regional and comprehensive way. Also, I was involved in the rezoning study done by the [Mamaroneck] train station to address transit-oriented development and flooding. I was a stakeholder in that as the owner of the train station and also to deal with the Washingtonville area.

-Reporting by Ashley Helms