Town Supervisor, New Castle
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.
Thank you to the Beautification Advisory Board for our beautiful tree wraps in downtown Chappaqua. We also bought 20 new snowflakes this year so we could do all the poles in Millwood, go up King Street as much as possible and do every pole on the bridge.
A Better Budget Process
We adopted the 2017 budget last night. The formal budget presentation and 1st public hearing was held on November 22. It was televised live, live streamed, and taped for rebroadcast and for viewing on demand. The public hearing was held open and continued on December 6 and then held open for written comments. As well, for the past three years, we have presented the budget presentation to the public in conjunction with the League of Women Voters prior to or contemporaneously with the scheduled Town Board budget hearing to provide the public with yet another opportunity to hear the budget presentation. This gives the public another opportunity to discuss it with the Town Comptroller, Town Administrator and Town Supervisor, and have questions answered. This year, our LWV voter presentation was held on November 16 at 10 am. It was taped and has been available to the public on demand since November 17. A link has also been in the eNewsletter last week & this week.Another big improvement we’ve made under my tenure as Supervisor is creating our Fiscal Transparency Portal, which makes all of the Town’s revenue, expense and budget information available to the public online. The Town’s fiscal transparency portal is updated monthly. http://mynewcastle.org/departments/comptrollers-office/fiscal-transparency-portal/. The bottom line is that our budget process is more inclusive and transparent than ever before.
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. Over the past two years we have spent approximately $1.75 million dollars to reclaim our damaged roads. Once again, this Board reaffirms its commitment to our infrastructure. This year’s budget contains an additional $100,000 in funding for paving for a total of $822,452 up from $722,786 in 2016. 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.
I also want to say a few words about our legal budget. Our Fiscal Transparency Portal shows how total legal expenses hit an astronomical high of $1.5 million in 2012, but 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.
The Town Board is committed to finding more cost savings and efficiencies for residents, not just with legal services, but in all areas. 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. We will continue to pursue measures to reduce our costs as we try to increase the services our residents expect and continue our efforts to restore our infrastructure to conditions our residents deserve.
Last week, Summit Greenfield received site plan approval from the New Castle Planning Board for its retail development at Chappaqua Crossing. The Planning Board’s site plan approval, and the Town Board’s PDCP approval which was granted on November 9, 2016, both contemplate that Summit Greenfield will be constructing turning lanes at the intersection of Route 117 and Roaring Brook Road rather than a roundabout. 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. As far as The Wallace, the Town Board reviewed 5 applicants for a theater manager and approved to hire one. We are now working on the contract with counsel. This theater manager will be in charge of day to day operations, will help recruit events and will work closely with a marketing company to make The Wallace the incredible arts & culture venue that New Castle deserves!
New Castle Police Department
Last night we honored Det/Sgt. Estuardo Pazmino, Det. Noel Vargas, Sgt. Robert Chiappone, Officer Kraig Davenport, Officer Edison Gramajo, Officer Frank Hrotko, Officer Anthony Rotolo and Officer Richard Tolliver. On August 29, 2016 at about 7am the New Castle Police received a report of a man shot in front of Langes Little Store on King Street in Chappaqua. The person who had been shot was in the Little Store and the shooter was reportedly in the Walgreen’s parking lot across the street from the Little Store. Sergeant Chiappone} Officer Hrotko and Officer Dean were first on the scene. They took the alleged shooter into custody and secured the weapon that was used in the shooting. Officers Tolliver and Gramajo responded directly to Lange’s Little Store where they rendered first aid to the victim, secured the crime scene and provided security to the store occupants. Officer Davenport met the victim at the Westchester Medical Center where he interviewed him and collected additional evidence. He remained with the victim until he was transported to another medical facility. Detective Sergeant Estuardo Pazmino, Detective Noel Vargas and Officer Anthony Rotolo conducted an investigation which resulted in charges of attempted murder. This was far from a routine call but everyday our officers put their lives on the line to protect us and they deserve our thanks. Last night, we did just that!
Reusable Bag Initiative
Beginning January 1, 2017, we’ll be seeing more reusable bags around town. New Castle will become a leader in New York State in significantly reducing environmentally unfriendly plastic and paper shopping bags. 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. We are proud of New Castle being the first in New York, sending a message that our residents and merchants can make a difference. You can now see the lamp post banners around town. Like all their other initiatives, our Sustainability Advisory Board 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! Please remember to bring your reusable bags. More information can be found on the Town’s website.
Clean Energy Community
I’m proud to report that the Town of New Castle is working to be Designated by New York State as a Clean Energy Community. This will allow us to be eligible to apply for grants to fund additional clean energy projects, including a $100,000 grant. In order to be eligible we must complete at least 4 out of the 10 High Impact Actions. We have completed many of the required action items including a solarize program, Community Choice Aggregation, an energy benchmarking program & the acquisition of an electric vehicle. Last night we completed our 5th action item by adopting the Unified Solar Permit. We approved and submitted the application for the grant.
Comprehensive Plan Update
The document is being finalized. This includes a final read through for consistency, development of a glossary, web link identification, and finalizing the implementation. As well, the graphics, tables and maps will need to be inserted into the document. We will then workshopping the entire draft document (policies, goals and actions) with the Town Board starting mid-January. As part of the adoption process, the Town Board will undertake an environmental review. We recently approved the contract for Kevin Dwarka to undertake this environmental review. Kevin will be doing this environment review in January. We will then hold a second public hearing. The Town Board will then consider adoption.
Inclusion & Diversity Committee
We recently established the Inclusion and Diversity Committee. We had had a lot of interest in this committee, from a very diverse group of residents, which is great! Last night we appointed members to this committee. Thank you to Dawn Danker- Rosen, Kristen Browde, Nancy Chung, Natalia Wixom, Jennifer Klein, Elizabeth Fiegelson, Victor Flores, Cynthia Lynch, Ed Frank, Jenni Louis-Jennie, Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy and Rich Ma for volunteering to serve on the Inclusion & Diversity Committee.
Community Preparedness Committee
We recently established the Community Preparedness Committee. Last night we appointed members to this committee. Thank you to James P. McCauley, Jr., Rick Stein, Nancy Stein, Jason Goldberg, Bjorn Christian Edstrom, Susan Kavic and Elizabeth Brown for volunteering to serve on the Community Preparedness Committee .
Project Failing Grade
Immediately after the tragic train accident in Valhalla that took the lives of 3 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. I was very happy to hear the Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that will lead a review of all its at grade crossings, evaluating and prioritizing the most dangerous ones and exploring new safety measures. A bridge over the Roaring Brook Road grade crossing and the Saw Mill River Parkway would eliminate 2 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 and increased traffic expected from a new retail development. But, Federal funds would be needed. This past Sunday was the one year anniversary of the FAST Act, a five-year, $305 billion Federal highway bill. That was a good start. I hope President-Elect Trump’s would make good on his promise for a national infrastructure spending bill. We will continue to seek the support of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), get this back 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.
The developer has indicated that they are going to be working on a new concept plan and associated visuals which is more consistent with the Comprehensive Plan policies. They plan on discussing this with the Town Board in February (which is after the Town Board will be workshopping the Comp Plan in January).
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.