Op-Ed: Belmont rejects proposal to benefit library

By FRANK GORDON

Last week, I wrote about the status of negotiations with Con Edison over the amount the Town of Harrison will be paid for Con Ed’s use of a portion of the town’s commuter parking lot for about a month in October 2013. I described how the compensation from Con Ed has two components: a portion representing reimbursement for the town’s costs in accommodating Con Ed’s use of the commuter lot and the remainder, representing recompense to commuter permit holders for the inconveniences they faced.

I said the first portion should be paid to the town, but the latter portion rightfully belongs to commuter permit holders, not the town. I proposed that Con Ed should contribute the latter portion to the Harrison Public Library Foundation to support the downtown library’s planned renovation.

When I discussed this proposal with Mayor Ron Belmont, he rejected it outright. He claimed the inconvenience to commuters was difficult to quantify as some commuters, such as those who arrive at the train station in the early morning hours, were not inconvenienced at all. His position was the entire amount to be collected from Con Ed should be paid to the town. He would not disclose the exact amount requested from Con Ed as it is under negotiation, but indications are that it is in the high five figures or perhaps six figures.

For someone who emphasized during his re-election campaign that he would run the town like a business, Mayor Belmont’s position is disappointing.

When a commuter purchased an annual parking permit from the town for $600, he or she anticipated, among other things, a high likelihood of an available parking spot near the train station. As I described in detail last week, commuter parking permit holders were ill-served by the town’s substitution of parking on local streets for parking in the commuter lot.

When a business does not hold up its end of the bargain with its customers, it typically grants them a refund or a credit toward a future purchase. Belmont proposes to compensate commuter permit holders with an apology and nothing more.

Belmont’s claim the inconvenience to commuters is difficult to quantify does not excuse Con Ed or the town from its obligation to commuters. If the obligation is, in fact, hard to quantify, Con Ed or the town must either (a) incur the additional costs of surveying individual commuters to identify who specifically was harmed and to what extent or (b) devise an estimate that is intended to provide an acceptable level of compensation to all commuters.

As a commuter who was inconvenienced by these events, I feel strongly Con Ed bears responsibility and must provide compensation. I am willing to forgo compensation if it will otherwise be applied to charitable purposes, such as I propose. A donation by Con Ed to the library foundation to support the downtown library’s planned renovation is consistent with the spirit of generosity and helping others that was the basis for granting Con Ed permission to use the commuter lot in the first place.

Pressure from ordinary folks like you and me can often lead to significant change. In this case, we need to convince Mayor Belmont to do the right thing by embracing this proposal. If you agree, please contact him—by phone at 914-670-3005 or email:rbelmont@harrison-ny.gov—and let him know. If you were a commuter permit holder inconvenienced by the Con Ed episode, perhaps you can let him know that as well.

Together we can make a difference.

Frank Gordon is a Harrison resident. The views expressed are his.