OP-ED: There was a coup in town; I now live in a colony

By BARRY S. GEDAN
It’s an odd feeling to awake one morning, after 31 years as a resident of the unincorporated area of the Town of Mamaroneck, to find that I, my spouse and the 12,000 other souls residing in the unincorporated area have been colonized and are being ruled from the near abroad.

It’s not quite as bad as it sounds as our colonizers are our friends from the neighboring villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck, but losing the ability to govern ourselves stings sharply nevertheless.

It is an anomaly of state law that, except in the case of cities, towns must exist and incorporated villages must lie within towns. The Village of Mamaroneck, for example, lies within two towns: Mamaroneck and Rye. Areas of a town located outside of its incorporated villages are, considered unincorporated areas.

Villages such as the villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck are self-governing entities, governed by their elected mayors and elected village boards. Residents of unincorporated areas cannot, of course, vote in elections held in villages in which they do not reside.

For that reason, neither I nor any of the other 12,000 residents in the unincorporated area of the Town of Mamaroneck have any say in the elections for the mayors and boards in Larchmont or Mamaroneck villages. Our 6,500 friends in the Village of Larchmont and our 10,000 friends in the portion of the Village of Mamaroneck that lies within the Town of Mamaroneck, however; can vote in elections for town supervisor and for members of the Town Council. Yet, the Mamaroneck town supervisor and town board provide almost no services to and have almost no authority over the villages, and the residents of the villages pay almost no taxes to the town, which is supported almost entirely by the taxes of those in the unincorporated area.

Therein springs the problem, by which our local Democratic Party—I am a lifelong registered Democrat—taking advantage of the anomaly and using “democratic” means, has abrogated a long-standing gentleperson’s agreement, under which voting control of the town board remained with residents of the unincorporated area.

The coup commenced with the nomination and uncontested election of Village of Larchmont resident Nancy Seligson as town supervisor. It progressed with the appointment of a Village of Larchmont resident, rather than someone from the unincorporated area, to take Seligson’s place on the town board.

The coup de grace was the recent appointment of former Village of Mamaroneck trustee Tom Murphy, a resident of that village, to fill the seat of a retiring town board member from the unincorporated area. This appointment gave village residents a three to two majority on the town board with the town supervisor position in their hands as part of that package.

The Town of Mamaroneck board has now become a playground and steppingstone for Village of Larchmont politicos who could not find places of their own in their village. It also acts as a consolation prize awarded to Murphy for his unsuccessful primary bid for the county legislature in an effort to keep that seat with our Democratic club rather than that of Rye. Those goings-on must surely intimidate the two remaining non-villagers on the board as their seats, which include a salary, health insurance and pension benefits, would be lost if they displease the local Democratic club and lose their generally uncontested lines on the next election’s ballot.

As a result, a majority of the board voting on whether to bust the budget cap or on other matters greatly affecting the property tax rates in the unincorporated area, will only pay pennies to our dollars as a result of their vote.

Furthermore, if the town’s Highway Department has trouble filling this winter’s potholes, the streets of that board majority will be unaffected and if the town’s police department or fire department is slow in responding, there will be no effect upon that majority’s lives and property. I am not suggesting that the “Village People,” though out of touch with life in the town, will intentionally perform poorly, but “noblesse oblige” has gone out with colonialism, and when the interests of the town and the villages do not coincide, who will be advocating for us townies?

I urge all those who are civic-minded, including our friends in the villages, to join in a non-partisan manner, in exploring options to restore representative government to the currently colonized 12,000 of us who surely deserve better.

Barry S. Gedan is a Town of Mamaroneck resident. The views expressed are his.