By CHRIS EBERHART
Taxes are the highest priority for the Republican candidates running for two contested Tuckahoe trustee positions in the March village elections.
Two attorneys, Steven Alfasi and Melba Caliano, were nominated by the village’s Republican Party to run against incumbent Democrat Steven Quigley and Democratic nominee Chris DiGiorgio, who will look to fill the seat vacated by outgoing Trustee Janette Hayes, a Republican.
“This election is about choosing who the trustees are going to be to move the village forward and in the direction the people want it to go,” Alfasi said.
The village budget is the focus, Alfasi said, while issues like the plastic bag ban proposal, which was legislation Quigley—the board’s lone Democrat, at present—proposed in March 2013 that would’ve done away with plastic bags in all retail stores in Tuckahoe, are topics the board shouldn’t have spent time and effort discussing.
“Plastic bags are not something the board should be spending [its] time on,” Alfasi said. “It’s about keeping taxes at a reasonable rate and staying below the 2-percent tax cap while keeping the services at a level the village residents have become accustomed to.”
Caliano echoed Alfasi’s sentiment by saying, in Tuckahoe, high taxes are the main issue, and efficient spending and smart development go hand-in-hand with keeping taxes at a reasonable rate.
“In a nutshell, my priorities would be to represent all residents of our village, keep taxes in check and continue to look for fiscal efficiencies,” Caliano said. She said she would also encourage “development of our Main Street storefronts by advertising on our village website and Facebook pages and continuing the condo/co-op group begun by Trustee Janette Hayes.”
While both Republican candidates are running for trustee for the first time, both are currently serving the village in other capacities.
While working full-time as an attorney with the New York State Education Department, Caliano has also served on the village’s Planning Board since 2004, and Alfasi, a private attorney with an office in Village Hall and is of counsel to the law firm Gaines, Novick, Ponzini, Cossu & Venditti, LLP, has been on Tuckahoe’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the past two years.
Caliano said her time on the Planning Board, coupled with her training as an urban planner, gives her “a bird’s-eye view of how thoughtful, strategic, long-range planning can improve our village, retain property values and help generate revenue.”
Specifically, she mentioned projects like the Broken Bow Brewery, Paws and Play Pet Resort and the soon-to-be-built ice rink on Marbledale Road.
As for Alfasi, he said he had the opportunity to see the upcoming development for Tuckahoe while he was part of the Zoning Board and the village is moving ahead with “smart development.”
“We’ve been able to do development by the Crestwood train station and the Broken Bow Brewery on Marbledale Road, which is part of diversifying the type of businesses in the area,” Alfasi said. “That area used to be called Gasoline Alley. Now there’s a brewery and an ice skating rink.”
He also alluded to his time spent over the past four years as part of a special legal counsel to the City Council in Yonkers, which advises the City Council on legislation and drafts and negotiates a $1 billion municipal budget. He said many of the challenges he faced with the Yonkers budget will be the same as the Tuckahoe budget.
“It’s the same exact issues, which are salaries and services such as DPW, fire and police. And we’ve provided the services while staying under the tax cap,” Alfasi said in reference to his work in Yonkers.
He also said he worked with military budgets as a chief of communications officer in the Air Force and served on the Board of Trustees for SUNY schools, which overlooked an $8 billion annual budget.
“When you’re dealing with budgets, you have to make some hard decisions and, if that means laying people off, you have to lay them off,” Alfasi said. “While I don’t see that being the case in Tuckahoe, I think my background allows me to do that.”
Elections for the Tuckahoe trustees, who are paid $5,000 per year for a two-year term, are held on March 18.