Tuckahoe adds full-time village attorney

Deputy Village Attorney Gary Gjertsen will take over as village attorney from John Cavallaro, who recently stepped down to work in the private sector.  Photo courtesy Gary Gjertsen

Deputy Village Attorney Gary Gjertsen will take over as village attorney from John Cavallaro, who recently stepped down to work in the private sector.
Photo courtesy Gary Gjertsen

Gary Gjertsen has been promoted to Tuckahoe’s village attorney from his position as deputy village attorney, taking over for John Cavallaro, who left the job to work in the private sector.

Republican Mayor Steven Ecklond announced Cavallaro’s departure after 10 years in the part-time village attorney position at the May 12 Board of Trustees meeting.

Gjertsen said his 13 years of experience working for Tuckahoe are the biggest asset he brings to his new role as a full-time village attorney, a job that combines his old duties and Cavallaro’s.

“I’ve been doing it for so long. I know a tremendous amount of the families and the people of Tuckahoe, and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

Gjertsen, who started in the lead position on May 19, had been part-time deputy village attorney for 13 years, during which he handled all village court proceedings, which include some criminal matters, but mostly concern traffic, parking and building code violations, Ecklond said.

Now, Gjertsen takes on an expanded role in which he, in addition to overseeing the courts, provides legal advice for the village’s zoning and planning boards.

As head of the legal department, the village attorney is also legal advisor to the mayor, the Board of Trustees, department heads and all other village boards and commissions.

Born and raised in Tuckahoe, Gjertsen, 47, got his law degree from New York Law School after receiving a bachelor’s degree at Villanova University, where he was captain of the hockey team.

Before he began working for the village, Gjertsen, who is married with three children, was a member of the village’s Planning Board and the board of Tuckahoe’s Community Center.

When Gjertsen started with the village, his responsibilities included serving as counsel for the Planning and Zoning boards for around three years, he said, but he left when Cavallaro came on as village attorney and took over those responsibilities.

Since 1991, Gjertsen has  been a partner at Clair & Gjertsen, a general law practice in Scarsdale, where he works on foreclosure defense and bankruptcy matters. He became Tuckahoe’s part-time deputy village attorney in 2001.

Gjertsen said he is keeping his job in the private sector while working full-time as village attorney. He said he can manage the challenge handily, since Tuckahoe just created a new village administrator position, which will reduce some of his duties.

“Through my conversations with John Cavallaro, he was confident a village administrator would alleviate a lot of the work he was handling,” Gjertsen said.

Ecklond said the village has no plans to hire a new deputy village attorney, in part since it expects to see so much efficiency, including some re-distribution of labor to arise from the new position.

When the village was seeking to create an administrator position last year, Cavallaro expressed interest in such a position. The board decided to create a hybrid full-time village attorney/administrator position especially for him and set aside $110,000 in this year’s $11 million budget to supplement his salary.

“That, unfortunately for us, went by the wayside when somebody else found [out] how great he is,” Ecklond said.

On April 4, Cavallaro, who is a land use attorney, told the board he was leaving the Tuckahoe position to work at a private firm in Queens called Skanska, a highly respected international project development and construction company.

Ecklond praised Cavallaro’s work with the village, calling him an “extremely brilliant” man.

“What was great about John is our personalities are similar in that he doesn’t overreact,” Ecklond said. “He takes all things in stride, he measures both sides of the equation carefully before he gives his decision, and the decision he gives to us is always well researched.”

Gjertsen said working with Cavallaro has been fantastic.

“I’ve been in constant touch with John [Cavallaro] these days,” Gjertsen said. “I have tremendous respect for him as an attorney and as a friend.”

Recently, in his job as counsel to all the city’s land use boards, the Board of Trustees and the village building inspector, Cavallaro helped with the permitting process for the two major projects in which Tuckahoe is currently involved, the Glenmark luxury rental development planned for the corner of Main Street and Midland Place, and the Crestwood Station redesign project, at the other end of the village.

To pay Gjertsen, the village will combine Cavallaro’s salary for the part-time position, which is $54,754, with Gjertsen’s current part-time salary as deputy village attorney, which is $17,968.

The resulting final full-time salary will then be adjusted to slightly less than that total, Ecklond said, likely ending up in the $60,000 range.

The board will vote to officially approve Gjertsen’s hire at its June 9 meeting.

Cavallaro could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com