Letter: Lucille Held, our resident gadfly

To the Editor,

Anyone who has ever attended or watched a Harrison Town/Village board meeting is likely to have witnessed the sharp rebukes delivered to town officials by our resident gadfly, Ms. Lucille Held.

Council members typically react with indignation to what they perceive as her rather fantastical accusations. Our mayor was so exasperated by Ms. Held’s comments at the end of one recent Board meeting that he jabbed his forefinger in her direction and exclaimed, “Only you can make it great to live in Harrison.”

I was struck by the comic irony of that gesture, indicating as it did that the fate of Harrison rested in Ms. Held’s hands.

I admire Ms. Held, 89-years young, for her spunk and tenacity. I’m troubled by a sense that town officials aren’t giving her comments due consideration. After exploring several of the criticisms I witnessed her deliver at Town Council meetings, I found them to be warranted. Here are a few examples:

First, Ms. Held has complained about increased noise resulting from vehicular activity in town, especially during the early morning hours. Although the departments of Sanitation and Public Works have, in the past, adhered to a policy that town vehicles should not leave the town’s central lot until 7 a.m., nowadays town sanitation crews are performing curbside pickup as early as 6 a.m. The noise is enough to make walls tremble and is impossible to sleep through.

Second, Ms. Held has faulted the town for inadequate parking, including for commuters. According to the town clerk’s office, the town has a capacity of 392 spaces for commuter vehicles in the town lots immediately north and adjacent to the Metro North tracks and off Purdy Street. Yet the town issued 547 commuter parking permits through the end of October, amounting to 140 percent of capacity. Most other towns in the vicinity seem to have addressed circumstances such as these by selling permits up to capacity, with a commuter permit waiting list for the excess.

Third, Ms. Held has claimed that the Town Council places its own interests ahead of those of its constituents. One way for someone to refute this claim would be to highlight the council’s meager compensation, if such were the case. Alas, this is not the case. Longstanding members of the council are entitled to, among other benefits, an annual salary of $16,834, certain healthcare benefits for life and a pension upon retirement as members of the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System. Not bad for a part-time job.

Fourth, Ms. Held has opposed the full-time use of town vehicles by town officials, claiming waste of taxpayer money and diversion of town assets for personal use. A month ago, if you had walked by the Town Hall building, you might have noticed parked in front a white, late-model Ford SUV with the town logo imprinted on both sides and license plates indicating its status as an official town vehicle. If, by chance, you happened to glance at the car’s side window, you would have noticed in the rear seat an infant safety seat strapped in via seatbelt. It was hard to miss since infant car seats are so big these days. Was the precocious tot to whom this seat belongs tending to town business? Perhaps the toddler is assigned as a judge to the town’s juvenile court. I can’t think of any official town business that would entail a toddler in the backseat.

All this is to say God bless you, Ms. Held, and thank you.

Frank Gordon,
Harrison