New Castle Supervisor Quarterly Update – 4th Quarter – 2016

New Castle Supervisor Quarterly Update – 4th Quarter – 2016

The New Castle eNewsletter
Rob Greenstein
Town Supervisor, New Castle
I have said it again and again: it is truly an honor to serve the citizens of New Castle. From the start, I have believed that your Town Supervisor should be guided by rights and obligations. The rights of the community to be heard and to be informed are critical to a responsive Town Government. And we must always be conscious of our obligations to listen and communicate effectively as we work to address current concerns and problems while at the same time improving our Town and planning for the future. I also recognize that while town-wide issues are my focus, no individual matter is too small for a responsive town government. I welcome those opportunities for more personal contact with residents. As we look ahead, there remains much work to be done, and I will continue to work hard for the entire community. It is my pleasure, then, as Supervisor to provide a quarterly report – 4th Quarter of 2016 – to the community about current Town projects and initiatives.

DeCicco & Sons
Downtown Chappaqua Infrastructure & Streetscape
Beautification
Chappaqua Crossing
Wallace Auditorium – Arts & Culture Committee
2017 Budget
Sustainability – Reusable Bag Initiative
Recreation
My New Castle 311
Comprehensive Plan
Railroad Crossing Safety
Distracted Driving
Diversion
Millwood Sewers
Conifer
Exceptional People Committee
Community Preparedness Committee
Community Inclusion & Diversity Committee
First Volunteer Appreciation Dinner
Rosehill
Seniors
Vacant House Check
Hudson Valley Greenway Grant Award
Ban the Barges

DeCicco & Sons

The new DeCicco & Sons, located on the site of the former A&P in the Millwood Plaza, is set to open on December 30th! A few weeks back, Deputy Supervisor Adam Brodsky, Steve Wolk, Chair of our Sustainability Advisory Board, and myself met with DeCicco’s family to discuss implementation of our new Reusable Bag Initiative, which starts January 1, 2017. They have agreed to sponsor 2,000 reusable bags. Our reusable bag initiative is 100% consistent with their long-standing commitment to the environment. In fact, their store will incorporate intelligent, energy-efficiency, clean and green renewable energy. This zero-ozone, state-of-the-art equipment systematically takes all of the wasted heat that’s generated from the refrigeration system and transfers it to reusable energy to power machines to chill water, and provide heat and hot water for the entire store! Simple, clean, reusable energy. cost efficient, and ultimately, less reliance on fossil fuels. Their 20,000 square ft. store will be a sparkling beauty, with a wide selection of the very best quality food and products, complete with a beer & wine tasting bar, a multi-level Cafe, rotating selections of world-renowned craft beers on tap, a full-service sushi counter, hot seafood selections …and more! DeCicco’s will be a real community partner! Their commitment to the communities they serve is very impressive. They are already establishing partnerships with our schools and the Millwood Community Garden. Their café will be another community-gathering place. Like I said when this deal was announced, DeCicco’s will be incredible for the Millwood Plaza, incredible for Millwood and incredible for our entire community! For more information, visit their website. Also, be sure to follow them on their new Facebook page.

Downtown Chappaqua Infrastructure & Streetscape

WSP, the Town’s engineering firm for our downtown Chappaqua Infrastructure & Streetscape project, has finalized our proposed water and sewer plans. Town staff is currently reviewing the plans, which will then be submitted to the Westchester County Department of Health. Some of the roads in our downtown are owned New York State and Westchester County, and therefore they need to be included in the approval process. Town staff and WSP is working with the New York State Department of Transportation and Westchester County Department of Public Works to obtain approval for our construction drawings. We hope to go out to bid in March 2017 and award contracts in April 2017, which is the preferred time to get the best pricing from vendors. Some work in the downtown will begin as early as March 2017, as Con Ed starts replacing gas mains. We are preparing a RFP to hire a project manager. I want to thank Deputy Supervisor Adam Brodsky and the Downtown Streetscape Committee for their work on this massive and complex project.

Beautification

Thank you to Beth Hungden from Whispering Pines for our Fall decorations – in both Chappaqua & Millwood. Thank you to the Beautification Advisory Board for our beautiful tree wraps in downtown Chappaqua. We also purchased 20 new snowflakes this year so we could decorate all of the poles in Millwood, go up King Street as much as possible, and do every pole on the Quaker Street bridge.

Chappaqua Crossing

We reapproved the T-intersection – with two turning lanes – at the intersection of Route 117 and Roaring Brook Road. The T-intersection was previously approved in the October 2013 Findings Statement issued by a prior Town Board. However, the NYS Department of Transportation (“DOT”) decided that it wanted Summit Greenfield to build a roundabout (“RAB”) at that intersection. Summit Greenfield spent a year designing a RAB, but the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) would not grant the necessary variance for the RAB. The Town tried to persuade DEP to reconsider its position because the RAB could have worked better than the T-intersection, but we were not successful. So, one year later, we’re back to the T-intersection. Earlier this month, Summit Greenfield received the necessary approval from the New Castle Planning Board for the T-intersection.Looking ahead, Summit Greenfield is expected to receive permits and approvals from various regulatory agencies over the upcoming months. A firm start date for construction has not been established yet, but residents may start to see some preparatory activity on the site as Summit Greenfield gets ready. I know that many residents are looking forward to having Whole Foods, Lifetime Fitness, and new restaurants at Chappaqua Crossing.

 

Wallace Auditorium – Arts & Culture Committee

The transformation of the Wallace Auditorium continues. The Town is acquiring additional stage lighting and a video projector has been installed that can show movies. We have created a virtual tour of Wallace so that those wanting to rent the space will be able to see all aspects of the building on the internet. Our goal remains the same – to provide residents with a new cultural amenity offering performing arts, concerts, films and more.The Town also issued an RFP to hire a theatre manager for the facility, and we are currently negotiating a contract with one of the five applicants. The theater manager will handle day to day operations at Wallace, including booking events, marketing and promotion. Friends of the Arts in New Castle is forming a 501(c)(3) corporation to support the arts in our Town, including at the Wallace Auditorium. The Arts & Culture Committee continues its work, and not just at the Wallace Auditorium. They sponsored LawnChair Theater, Movies in Millwood, “SCREENAGERS: Growing Up in the Digital Age”, Hamilton’s America and the Chappaqua Orchestra’s children’s concert with Paul Schaffer.

I would like to thank Councilwoman Lisa Katz and the Arts & Culture Committee for bringing more arts and culture to New Castle and working hard to make the Wallace the incredible venue that New Castle deserves! Check out their new Facebook page.

2017 Budget

We approved the budget on December 13th. Once again, New Castle will stay within the 2% tax cap. For the 3rd straight year, we’ve put together a budget that essentially has no tax increase. This budget proposes a $28 annual increase for the average homeowner. The tax increase for 2015 was $9 increase. The tax increase for 2016 was $14.For the 3rd straight year, the Town Board has reaffirmed our commitment to critical infrastructure projects. Over the past two years, we have spent approximately $1.75 million dollars to reclaim our damaged roads. This year’s budget contains an additional $100,000 in funding for paving for a total of $822,452, which is up from $722,786 in 2016. This amount does not include paving the commuter lot, which is being funded from the increased parking permit fees. For the 3rd straight year, we have allocated $25,000 for downtown beautification of our hamlets. We also hired a hamlets caretaker.

Over the past 3 years, Comptroller Rob Deary has replenished our depleted fund balance. On December 31, 2012, our fund balance had dropped to 7%. Under his stewardship, the Town was able to retain its AAA bond rating and restore its fund balance to a very healthy 31%. The standard benchmark is typically around 15%. A significant component of funding for our infrastructure & streetscape improvements will come from this fund balance.

We continue to save money! Our legal expenses, which hit an astronomical high of $1.5 million in 2012, have been kept under control during my administrations. For the past 3 years, we froze the rates that the Town pays for legal services. Next year, we are allowing a 2% increase in the amount we pay for general legal services, and a 6% increase for hourly rates on specialized work, such as litigation and land use review. At the same time, however, we also negotiated a very favorable retainer arrangement for legal services on labor matters, where the Town will pay a discounted rate and is expected to save money. We’ve been proactive and smart in terms of dealing with employment matters, so we’ve avoided the kind of costly and embarrassing lawsuits that the Town was hit with under prior administrations. Since 2014, we have saved $3,500,000 in our garbage contract (over 7 years), almost $500,000 on our workers compensation renewal, and $40,000 in liability insurance renewal.

I believe this budget sets forth a fiscally responsible road map for the Town for 2017 and beyond. It anticipates and provides for contingencies with an eye to the bottom line and holding tax increases to modest levels without exceeding the tax cap. It provides the services our residents expect and continues our efforts to restore our infrastructure to conditions our residents deserve. Please remember to check out our Fiscal Transparency Portal, introduced last year, which makes all of the Town’s revenue, expense and budget information available to the public online and makes our budget process more transparent than ever before.

Sustainability – Reusable Bag Initiative

Beginning January 1, 2017, we’ll be seeing more reusable bags around Town when our Reusable Bag Law goes into effect. The Reusable Bag Law eliminates distribution of single-use plastic carryout bags at all stores and requires a 10-cent charge for paper shopping bags at the types of stores that use the most bags —grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies. Like all their other initiatives, our Sustainability Advisory Board (“SAB”) has done an incredible job getting this done. Not a small feat considering we’re the 1st town in New York State to implement a real, comprehensive Reusable Bag law! Our SAB also did an incredible job with the business transition issues, reusable bag sponsorships and communication pieces for residents. You can now see the lamp post banners around town. For additional information, please go here.We also recently completed four High Impact Actions under NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities program. We were named a Clean Energy Community by the State of New York and will receive a $100,000 grant!

Recreation

I’m happy to report that the Town of New Castle received a $50,000 grant to be used for a basketball court &/or new playground at Town Hall. Thank you to Senator Terrence Murphy! Our brand new event Sunday Scramble was a big success! So many kids came out and had fun while exercising with their family and friends. Check out some photos. Please remember helmets are now required for minor children when sledding in our parks.

Comprehensive Plan Update

We’re on track to complete our updated Comprehensive Plan during the second quarter of 2017. Our Comprehensive Plan, which dates back to 1989, guides the Town’s long range land use and development policies and goals. The draft update will be finalized in the upcoming weeks. Next month, the Town Board plans to discuss the draft at a work session. Public hearings will follow. I encourage residents to follow the Town’s e-Newsletter and website for upcoming announcements, as well as links to the draft document and other important information.

My New Castle 311

We released our new mobile app – My New Castle 311. This mobile app allows residents to report community issues such as potholes, downed trees, streetlights in need of repair, etc. Residents can pinpoint the location of the issue with GPS and attach photos right from their mobile device. Residents will receive status updates as the issues are resolved. Residents can visit the Town’s website and Facebook page, view the Town’s News & Calendar of Events, and even view local points of interest. Residents can also use the App to sign-up for CodeRED and Nixle alerts, and receive the Town’s e-Newsletter. We also established one number to reach all departments: 914-238-4311.
iTunes
Google Play

Railroad Crossing Safety

Immediately after the tragic train accident in Valhalla that took the lives of three members of New Castle’s community, I stated that we will never stop working to protect and preserve the safety of our residents. Since that time we have strongly advocated for a bridge over the Roaring Brook Road grade crossing and the Saw Mill River Parkway. WSP made a presentation to the Town Board which included preliminary layout and circulation designs for a bridge. We discussed feasibility, public safety, environmental benefits and traffic issues. We also discussed working with WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff, a national bridge consulting firm that handles all major NYSDOT contracts and specializes in obtaining federal appropriations for state projects. We are looking to have the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) support a bridge project, have the proposal reinstated on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) list, and obtain funding from the Federal Transportation Authority, Metro North, Federal Highway Administration Money and NYS DOT. I was very happy to hear that Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that will lead to a review of all grade crossings and prioritizing the most dangerous ones for new safety measures. Roaring Brook Road should be a priority! A bridge over the Roaring Brook Road grade crossing and the Saw Mill River Parkway would be the best safety measure since it would eliminate two dangerous conditions – an on-grade railroad crossing and a traffic light on a busy highway. This is especially important due to the proximity to our high school with young drivers. In the meantime, residents will notice new lights, signage and pavement markings at the Roaring Brook Road grade crossing.

Distracted Driving

The New Castle Police Department was asked to do a presentation about our “Hands Off the Phone and On the Wheel” initiative at the NY Safety Highway Symposium. We also received an award for our work on this critical safety initiative. Based on the success of our program, other communities were encouraged to implement similar programs – and many will be doing just that! As well, the United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expressed their support for our distracted driving initiative, and our “demonstrated leadership on this critical highway safety issue”. They plan on highlighting our activities to other jurisdictions as a “Promising Practice”. I continue to work with Ben Lieberman, Governor Cuomo’s office, Senator Terrence Murphy and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz on “Evan’s Law. The legislation allows for the use of technology that is similar to a breathalyzer, but for distracted driving. It protects privacy while helping to combat a dangerous epidemic on our roads. We’re hoping for passage during the next legislative session.

Diversion

We continue to pursue additional funding for the diversion project. We are also pursuing opportunities to reduce the cost of the diversion project. As planned, the $26 million dollar project would pipe effluent to a Westchester County sewer manhole located in the Town of Ossining. The Town currently has a $16 million commitment from NYC DEP and Westchester County to make this project happen. We are left with a $10 million shortfall, which is not a realistic number to require the homeowners that would benefit from the project to pay. We are working with the Village of Mount Kisco to discuss an opportunity for our governments to work together to reduce the $10 million gap by an estimated $3 to $4 million by sending the through the Village of Mt. Kisco’s pumping station. While we know that there are legal agreements and other limitations that will need to be addressed, the Town received a solid commitment from both NYC DEP and Westchester County to explore the possibility of the “new” route.

Millwood Sewers

The Request For Proposals was sent out and three (3) responses have been received.

Conifer

As we all know, in 2013, a prior Town Board granted a Special Permit for the construction of a 4-story residential building with 28 units of workforce housing on Hunts Place. As I’ve said many times before, we cannot rewrite history. The Special Permit has numerous conditions that must be met before a building permit can be issued. Conifer has been complying with those conditions. We expect the building permit will be issued soon.

Exceptional People Committee

The Exceptional People Committee hosted a Safety Meet and Greet with the New Castle Police, Fire and EMS Departments. As well, the New Castle Police Department is now offering residents an “Occupant With Autism” static cling decals that can be placed on a car, window, door, or inside of an autistic person’s home to make police aware of the individual’s communication needs in case of an emergency. Individuals who feel the decal can be helpful can get one at the New Castle Police Department. We also now have a new handicap playground swing at Gedney. They also have a new Facebook page.

Community Preparedness Committee

The Town Board is committed to ensuring that the community is prepared for any community emergency. We had a very successful meeting on October 27th with Chief Ferry, Police Officer Frank Horoko & myself. About 25 representatives from various homeowners & neighborhoods associations attended. Following this meeting, we established a Community Preparedness Committee. The members of this committee will assist with emergency preparedness at the Town, neighborhood and individual level. We interviewed and appointed seven residents to this committee.

Community Inclusion & Diversity Committee

New Castle is committed to fostering welcoming communities and an equitable, diverse, and inclusive society. We established the Inclusion and Diversity Committee. The Committee will work to effectively create community awareness about differences in others as related to race, religion, cultural differences, sexual preferences and gender identity. The Committee will work to develop and implement programs designed to create a spirit of diversity and inclusion of all that live and work in the Town of New Castle as part of “one” unified community. We interviewed and appointed twelve residents to this committee. We have a very diverse committee, which is great!

First Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

We held our 1st Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner! The goal of this new tradition is very simple: To say thank you to all our volunteers. We also recognized the work of Gabriel “Gabby” Rosenfeld (1925-2014) who served on the Zoning Board of Appeals for 34 years, serving as chairman for 30. His legacy is an inspiration to all of us.

Rosehill

The developer has indicated that he is working on a new concept plan and associated visuals that will be more consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan policies. The developer plans to introduce its new plan to the Town Board in February (which is after the Town Board will be workshopping the draft Comp Plan update in January).

Seniors

It’s now easier to find the senior programs on the town’s web site. For those New Castle seniors out there, don’t forget to like the New Castle Seniors Facebook page and use it as another way to stay informed.

New Castle Police Department – Vacant House Check

Another service offered by our Police Department. Request to have the New Castle Police check on your home while you are away.

Hudson Valley Greenway Grant Award

Both Ossining and New Castle secured funding to establish new trailway linkages between our communities. The Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley, Inc. voted to award the partnership of the Town of Ossining, Westchester County, Village of Ossining, and Town of New Castle $30,000 for planning and design of an open space/bike lane/commerce connectivity corridor in the Ossining and New Castle community. Thank you to Town Board member Hala Makowska for her work on this initiative.

Ban the Barges

New Castle has joined the numerous other municipalities who are fighting to Ban the Barges on the Hudson River. New information released by the Pace University Environmental Clinic has revealed the U.S. Coast Guard violated its own protocol by proposing the establishment of 43 special anchorages in 10 locations on the Hudson River between Yonkers and Kingston. Communities along the Hudson River deserve a transparent process. We stand with those communities who are working to preserve our beautiful Hudson River waterfront. I would hope that the Coast Guard will scrap the current plan, listen to the numerous concerns raised and work with the waterfront communities to find an acceptable solution.These are the highlights of the matters of Town-wide concern that we have been addressing recently. As I noted at the beginning, a responsive Town government listens, responds and communicates. We work for you, our fellow residents! As we look ahead, I will continue to work hard and get things done that benefit our entire community.

 

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