Rob Greenstein Statement: 2015 IN REVIEW

Rob Greenstein Statement: 2015 IN REVIEW

It is again time to reflect on our accomplishments over the past year.  As always, we have been busy this year with ongoing projects and new projects that will help to improve the town.  I’ve said it again and again; it is truly an honor to serve the citizens of New Castle. Over the past year, I have brought residents into the process and engaged them, listened to your concerns and ideas, and governed in a transparent fashion. I have tried to bring vision and fresh ideas to the table; even if those ideas come from others. And, most important, I have acted in the best interests of the entire community. I am very proud of the progress made throughout the year, and I will mention a few highlights:

 

Comprehensive Plan update (a/k/a Master Plan)

Revitalization of Downtown Chappaqua and Millwood

Downtown Streetscape / Infrastructure Improvements

Downtown Beautification

Chappaqua Crossing

ChapLine

Sewage Diversion Project

Roaring Brook Road Railway and Parkway Overpass

Hunts Place – Conifer

Road Paving

Distracted Driving

Millwood Pedestrian and Safety Improvements

Millwood A&P

2016 Budget

Mandate Relief Committee

Commuter Parking Lot

Environment/Sustainability

Gedney Park

Coyotes

New Castle ranked as the 2nd safest town in New York State.

New Restaurants

New Castle Arts & Culture Committee

Inside My New Castle: Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Welcome Email

New web site

Roundtable Discussions

Unlicensed Massage Parlors

Do Not Knock

It’s Too Hot!

Exceptional People of New Castle

Town of New Castle Exceptional People Committee

Emergency Services Table Top Exercises

New Castle Mobile Application

S.T.O.P. Gun Violence

New Castle Community Calendar

One on One with Supervisor Greenstein

 

 

Comprehensive Plan update (a/k/a Master Plan)

Early in the year, the Town Board hired Pace Land Use Law Center to facilitate the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. The Draft Comprehensive Plan Update was released. If you’re interested in learning more about the Comprehensive Plan update, check out https://mynewcastle.org/master-plan/about-the-project/

 

Revitalization of Downtown Chappaqua and Millwood

Concurrent with the Comprehensive Plan Update, the Town is also generating revitalization strategies for the Hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood. These area studies are designed to augment the Comprehensive Plan and establish a long-term strategy for enhancing the quality of life in New Castle’s commercial centers.  On November 19th, Pace’s Land Use Law Center presented an exciting variety of land use and circulation scenarios for transforming both hamlets into truly vibrant civic centers while retaining their historic character. If you’re interested in learning more about the Chappaqua and Millwood Revitalization Strategies, check out https://mynewcastle.org/downtown-chappaqua-revitalization-strategy/.

I would encourage everyone to check out the below links, and send feedback to Feedback@MyNewCastle.org

 

Downtown Streetscape / Infrastructure Improvements

Earlier in the year, WSP Sells presented their preliminary designs for the sewer, water, stormwater and streetscape improvements for downtown Chappaqua. WSP identified improvements that reduce flooding, improve pedestrian safety and improve traffic circulation.  They are proposing that the Town undertake interim traffic improvements such as installing a stop sign at the intersection of King Street and Greeley Avenue.  We have put in a request to the New York State Department of Transportation to allow us to install that stop sign and are awaiting their approval. WSP is also examining options to reduce the visual impact of the power lines downtown, through burial of power lines and increasing the pole height.  The Town Board approved interim traffic improvements such as installing a stop sign at the intersection of King Street and Greeley Avenue, removing the existing north bound “slip lane” on Greeley Avenue and studying the impacts associated with turning the triangle into a modified round-about. Our Streetscape Committee has been working hard to develop specific recommendations for the Town Board to consider. Their recommendations have been incorporated into picture boards that are currently displayed throughout Town.  Residents can provide feedback by emailing: Feedback@MyNewCastle.org.  Go to www.DowntownStrong.com to see the activity for the Downtown Revitalization project.

 

Downtown Beautification

In my first budget, we increased the Beautification Advisory Board to $25,000 from a mere $500.  With the increased funding, almost one hundred hanging flower baskets have been installed in the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood. This represents an increase of 46 baskets from 2014. A total of 54 planters/containers of variable sizes have also been spread throughout the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood. The flowers were replaced with winter greens.  There are also new plantings in Millwood by the community sign and in front of Millwood Park. We hired a full-time caretaker whose job it is to make sure our downtown business hamlets are clean and maintained!

 

Chappaqua Crossing

Last year, the Board adopted a Retail Local Law that will allow a grocer, health/fitness uses, restaurants and other retail stores to be built at Chappaqua Crossing.  This year, we settled a series of tax certiorari proceedings which spanned several years and included the Chappaqua Central School District.   We held several joint public meeting with the Planning Board and Architectural Review Board.   Lifetime Fitness signed a Letter of Intent with Chappaqua Crossing. We amended the residential PDCP to eliminate the two, previously approved multi-family condominium buildings, and instead to permit 91 market-rate town homes to be built in the East Village at Chappaqua Crossing.  We also amended the retail PDCP to create a roundabout at the Route 117 and Roaring Brook Road intersection.  The Town Board adopted a Local Law that will allow Summit Greenfield to relocate its affordable housing units to the Cupola Building, and to build additional workforce and market rate units in the Cupola Building as well.  The Town has already issued a building permit for the affordable housing units in the Cupola Building, and work is expected to begin next year.  The Town Board approved a Lease Agreement for the Wallace Auditorium. The Lease allows the Town to use the Wallace Auditorium as an arts and cultural center, and for other public purposes. In 2016, the Town also will have the right to accept ownership of the Wallace Auditorium as a donation.  The Town will not pay rent or other charges for its use of the Wallace Auditorium.  Summit Greenfield and Chappaqua Central School District entered into an agreement to implement improvements to the Horace Greeley driveway entrance.  We hope that work will begin on the driveway next summer.  On December 16th, the Planning Board approved – via a unanimous vote – Summit Greenfield’s site plan application for retail development at Chappaqua Crossing.  Summit Greenfield still needs additional permits from New York State and other regulatory agencies for its retail development.  We expect site work to begin this year.

 

ChapLine

We are exploring the feasibility and costs associated for the ChapLine, a functional recreation path which would connect downtown Chappaqua to Horace Greeley High School and to Chappaqua Crossing.  Summit Greenfield was persuaded that ChapLine is sufficiently important that they agreed to contribute $1.5 million, and land if necessary.  We have asked Westchester County to conduct a feasibility study on this recreational initiative.   The feasibility study will help us explore alternative sources of funding and make informed decisions about the project.

 

Sewage Diversion Project

On November 23, the Westchester Board of Legislators voted 12-5 to enter into an Inter-Municipal Agreement with New Castle and New York City Department of Environmental Protection to distribute $16 million in East of Hudson funds for sewer diversion. The legislation was promptly signed by County Executive Rob Astorino’s office.  The Town of New Castle has been working on this much-needed capital improvement project since 1997.

 

Although $16 million is an impressive sum, it does not cover the entire cost of this major infrastructure project. The Town is actively seeking funding for the up to $10 million gap between the secured funding and the estimated cost of the project. We applied for additional funds through the $200 million Clean Water Infrastructure grants (sewers) to municipalities included in the New York State 2015-2016 budget. Our application was accompanied by letters of from Senator Murphy, Assemblyman Buchwald and Westchester County Board Chairman Kaplowitz. Unfortunately, we were not awarded any additional funding in 2015, but we will continue to work hard to secure the additional funding that is needed to finally implement this critical  project.

 

Roaring Brook Road Railway and Parkway Overpass

On the evening of February 3, 2015, a commuter train on Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line struck a passenger car at a grade crossing near Valhalla.  We lost three members of the community in that tragic accident.  Since then, we have worked tirelessly to improving safety at rail crossings, including efforts to secure federal funding for the construction of a railway and roadway overpass at the junction of the Metro-North Harlem Line’s Roaring Brook Road grade crossing and the Saw Mill River Parkway. We are also working on short-term improvements to help residents and non-residents alike stay safe.   Besides increased enforcement of our railroad crossing safety laws, both sides of Metro-North tracks were milled and repaved, improved pavement markings and new signs.  We are working with Senator Terrence Murphy on legislation in the New York State Senate to allow traffic cameras at railroad crossings.  The legislation passed the NYS Senate with a 63-0 unanimous vote!!

 

Hunts Place – Conifer- – A Work in Progress

As we all know, on September 10, 2013, the prior Town Board adopted (via a 3-2 vote) a resolution granting the application of Conifer for a special use permit to allow for the construction of a 4-story residential building with 28 units of workforce housing on Hunts Place.   On January 22, 2015, a majority of the NYS Board of Review decided to issue Conifer the building and fire code variances it had requested.  We asked the Board of Review to reconsider their variance decision, but they declined to do so.

 

For two years, the Town Board expressed our concerns that this project reflects unfavorably upon the values and goals of our community insofar as creating a diverse range of housing opportunities.  We will continue to do so.  For two years, we expressed safety concerns about the project site and the risk that its location will tend to stigmatize and isolate any future residents.  We will continue to do so.  The Town Board is united in its desire to persuade Conifer to relocate the project to the Washington Avenue Property and build affordable housing that all parties can be proud of.

 

Road Paving

In my first budget, we increased the paving budget 50% to $600,000.  We then authorized an increase by another $400,000.  With that increase, we are at $1,000,000 for the 2015 budget.  This is the same amount as 2012, 2013 & 2014 combined! We will continue to work on a 10 year plan to repave most roads in New Castle.  Remember to report potholes pothole@MyNewCastle.org

 

Distracted Driving

New Castle has zero tolerance for distracted driving!  In our first year of the distracted driving campaign, New Castle police have issued over 700 tickets for Distracted Driving!  I am very proud of our Town’s leadership role in fighting this national epidemic. Chief Ferry and his traffic officers have done an incredible job. It’s now time to take the Hands Off the Phone initiative to the next level. We need to train officers on techniques to enforce texting laws on municipal roadways, and raise officer awareness that mobile devices should be investigated as a contributing factor as part of crash investigations.  We will be working on a video for use by our police department, as well as a separate video to educate residents. I am also pleased to report that at the suggestion of Ben Lieberman and I, Felix W. Ortiz, Assistant Speaker of the New York State Assembly, and Senator Terrence Murphy will be co-sponsoring legislation to permit law enforcement to inspect cell phones at car accident sites.

 

Millwood Pedestrian and Safety Improvements

The Town of New Castle received a $500,000.00 Multi-Modal Capital Project Grant Award from the NYS DOT to install sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements in Millwood. Increasing pedestrian improvements will certainly support economic development and enhance community vitality and quality of life.  This grant will be used to fund pedestrian safety improvements (along Route 100) in Millwood. We are planning 600’ of sidewalk, two crosswalks, decorative lighting and relocating utility poles. We now need to put together formal design plans to obtain NYS DOT approval.   We hope work will begin on the new sidewalks in Millwood this year.

 

Millwood A&P

Many residents are understandably concerned about losing our only supermarket in New Castle – the A&P in Millwood.  As has been widely reported, A&P has filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy.  Acme initially submitted a bid for the A&P in Millwood as part of a 76-store package but the Millwood A&P Supermarket was taken out of the Acme bankruptcy bundle.  The Millwood lease went up for auction. The Millwood A&P lease was purchased by Millwood Merchant, a company owned by Ruben & Jamie Luna, who owns several supermarkets in the tristate area. Luna brothers bid 2.4 million for the Millwood lease. However, the deal did not close, and A&P filed a lawsuit against Millwood Merchant alleging breach of contract. The litigation is pending. A&P can still reject the lease anytime between now and February 15th.  It would be best scenario for the community if it goes back to the landlord.  The motivation for A&P to give back the lease to the landlord is to relieve A&P of their obligations to pay rent pursuant to the lease.  On the other hand, A&P, won’t give back the lease if they feel it’s a valuable asset that can still be sold.   We are in contact with the landlord of the A&P, as well as his attorney.  The landlord is committed to having a supermarket in that location.  We will continue to monitor the situation.

 

2016 Budget

We continue to save money!  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 provided to our residents.  In my second budget – the 2016 budget – we put together a budget that essentially has no tax increase.  The budget represents a balance between providing the services that resident’s desire and keeping tax increases to a minimum. The tax increase for my first budget was $9 for the average taxpayer.   For this budget, we are looking at $20.  As it has for the previous four years, this year’s budget once again complies with the State mandated tax cap, which allowed for an increase of only $285,000 or 1.41% over last year’s tax levy. Here are some highlights from the 2016 budget:

 

  • $25,000 for the Beautification Advisory Board
  • $10,000 for Boards and Commissions
  • $50,000 for the Comprehensive Plan.
  • $25,000 for Town Board Special Projects
  • Creation of a full time Hamlet Caretaker
  • Hiring of an additional Building Inspector
  • Increases funding for road paving, an additional 20% over 2015 to $722,786.

 

Mandate Relief Committee

The New Castle Mandate Relief Committee, which the Town Board created in April of 2014, presented a detailed formal report to the Town Board. The Committee’s report capped a year-long effort of gathering data, conducting interviews with Town officials, reviewing contracts and researching applicable legislative and regulatory materials.  The Town Board established the Mandate Relief Committee based on the current administration’s belief that certain New York State fiscal mandates have and continue to impose significant financial burdens on the Town and other municipalities.  Year after year, these burdens strain our ability to provide sustained levels of service to Town residents. The Committee was tasked with identifying significant mandates, assessing their impact, and developing strategies to effectuate appropriate reforms.  We are grateful for the Committee’s hard work.

 

Commuter Parking Lot

The Town Board is making changes to the permitting for the Town commuter lots.  During the public hearing process, we heard many concerns from residents in regard to the proposed amendments to the Town Code.  After listening to those concerns, we adopted the following changes:

 

  • Overnight parking from November 1 through April 1 shall not exceed 48 hours, unless vehicle is parked in metered lots where a permit is required or in designated overnight parking areas.
  • The fine for first time parking violations is $30.
  • Failure to pay a fine for a parking violation within 30 days after the issuance date or after a conviction will result in the fine being doubled. If the fine is not paid within 60 days, the fine will be tripled.
  • Only one license plate is authorized for each metered permit.
  • Up to three license plates are authorized for each Annual Restricted Parking Permit, but only one vehicle per permit may be parked at a time.
  • The penalty for an expired meter or parking in restricted areas shall be a fine of $30.
  • The fine for violations under this Article shall be doubled if not paid within 30 days of the date of issuance or conviction, and tripled if not paid within 60 days from the date of issuance or conviction.
  • The penalty for an expired meter shall be reduced by $10 if paid in person by the close of business on the next day.
  • The Town will establish a Scofflaw List with vehicles with 3 or more outstanding parking summonses.

 

Environment/Sustainability

With our incredible Sustainability Advisory Board, we continue to work on initiatives to reduce energy waste and promote renewable energy sources.  The Town of New Castle adopted new legislation to create a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Program. CCA allows local governments to pool (or aggregate) their electricity load in order to purchase and/or develop power on behalf of their residents, businesses and municipal accounts. We are working on Solarize New Castle, an initiative to provide solar panel installation for residential and small business properties at reduced pricing.  We continue to study a Reusable Bag Initiative (RBI) to promote the use of eco-friendly, multi-use, reusable shopping bags and limit the number of single-use plastic and paper bags when shopping.

 

Gedney Park

Earlier this year, the Town Board approved an amendment to our Park and Recreation rule that now requires minor children to wear a helmet when sledding at Gedney Park. We also re-graded the big hill at Gedney Park so it no longer slopes towards the woods.  As well, the Town Board approved funding for new playground equipment at Gedney Park.  We also approved funding for fencing around the playground.  This will keep our kids safer!  The specifications for the new equipment are being developed now and installation is scheduled for Spring of this year.

 

Coyotes

Two committees were asked to study and make recommendations to the Town Board on ways to increase community awareness about coyotes and minimize the risk of coyote attacks on pets.  Both committees were asked to develop strategies and information relating to coyote hazing, conflict deterrents, behavior modification, what to do when sightings occur, and when trapping may be necessary.  Both committees produced tremendously helpful and extensive reports to the Town Board. Relying upon these reports, the Town’s Environmental Coordinator and Chief of Police drafted a Coyote Response Plan that was unanimously approved by the Town Board.  As well, to report sightings there is now a Coyote Sightings Map on the home page of the Town’s web site. https://mynewcastle.org/

 

New Castle ranked as the 2nd safest town in New York State.

New Castle was ranked second on the list of 25 safest cities.  The SafeWise Report, a report created by an independent safety ranking team reviewed recent FBI Crime Report statistics from 2013, along with population data, eliminating cities with fewer than 8,000 residents.  Kudos to the New Castle Police Department!

 

New Restaurants

The Town Board approved a 10-year lease for Erin and Peter Chase to operate a food establishment at the train station building.  As well, the Little Thai Kitchen opened.  Mario’s Pizza Station took over the prior Auntie Penny space and is undergoing extensive renovations.

 

New Castle Arts & Culture Committee

The Town Board created an Arts & Culture Committee. As part of the approval of retail at Chappaqua Crossing, the DeWitt Wallace Auditorium, named after the co-founder of Reader’s Digest, will be donated to the Town of New Castle. The historic DeWitt Wallace Auditorium will be a priceless cultural resource. It was previously slated to be demolished. The mission of the NCACC shall be to develop, propose and raise awareness of events and programs on art, music, dance, theatre, film and all other cultural art forms taking place in and around the Town of New Castle. Events and programs of interest shall include arts series, art auctions, concerts and shows, art exhibits, children’s art programs and community creative festivals.

 

Inside My New Castle: Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Our brand new Welcome Guide was mailed to 6,700 homes in the area, 4,000 were delivered to our real estate brokers and 1,300 are being distributed locally.  This attractive, full color, glossy guide, which has 48 pages of Town and relevant information, captures the essence and opportunities of New Castle living.   The pages of this guide are full of examples of the strong sense of community that we share here, and will be updated annually.

 

Welcome Email

Inspired by our Welcome Guide, we now have a Welcome Email. This welcome email provides important contact info and necessary information for new residents such as information re: school registration, parking permits, garbage, alarm registration, dog licenses, etc. We want to encourage communication and give new residents all the information they’ll need as early as possible.  By opening the lines of communication, they will feel more comfortable and willing to email or call with questions. An open line means everyone is informed and knows what’s going on. And extending a warm welcome to new residents is the first step in encouraging them to become actively involved in their new community.

 

New web site

Our new website is live! Our new website allows residents to pay taxes on-line, easily report problems and contact a town employee or board member, has an events calendar and provides emergency information. In order to “Stay Connected” go to the Stay Connected section of the Town website and sign up for The New Castle Community eNewsletter, CodeRED & Nixle Alerts.  As well, in an effort to provide a more inclusive and transparent budget, we have introduced the ‘Fiscal Transparency Portal”.   Residents can use this portal to have access to, and a better understanding of, the Town of New Castle’s budgets, revenues and expenses.  https://mynewcastle.org/departments/comptrollers-office/fiscal-transparency-portal/

 

Roundtable Discussions

On June 11th, I hosted the first of many roundtable discussions to discuss topics of interest. These discussions will provide an opportunity for participants to share their views about important issues facing New Castle.   To date, the topics have been:

 

  • What Prospective Home buyers are Looking for
  • How to keep empty nesters in the community
  • Volunteer Opportunities in New Castle
  • Enhancing Our Business Districts

 

Unlicensed Massage Parlors

We amended Chapter 60 of the Town Code of the Town of New Castle concerning regulation of massage parlors offering customers more than just a massage. From a health and safety standpoint, unlicensed massage businesses can pose a significant risks to the public. Worse, in some cases, these businesses are fronts for prostitution rings and involve human sex trafficking. Our law would require massage establishments to obtain a special permit, which will help ensure that the businesses operating in our Town are legitimate and complying with all New York State licensing requirements.

 

Do Not Knock

You spoke – We listened! At the request of residents, we are establishing a Do Not Knock registry. The goal is to provide residents relief from unwanted disruptions at home.  In the near future, residents will be able to sign up for the list via the town web site, eNewsletter or in person at Town Hall.  We will also provide residents with free “Do Not Knock” decals to display on the front door or window of their homes. The Do Not Knock list is intended to provide another, hopefully better and more modern way for residents to keep unwanted commercial solicitors from bothering them..

 

It’s Too Hot!

The Town of New Castle started an educational campaign to increase awareness about never leaving pets in a parked car. Not even for a minute. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. We are committed to protecting our pets! Leaving a pet in a hot vehicle will put your pet at risk of serious illness or death, We are providing 3 easy steps for residents to take if they you see a pet left in a hot car:

 

  • Call the New Castle Police Department at (914) 238-4422.
  • Take down the car’s make, model and license plate number.
  • If there are businesses, notify their managers or security and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner.

 

Town of New Castle Exceptional People Committee

We formed the New Castle Exceptional People Committee. This Committee shall report and make recommendations to the Town Board on the concerns of the Town’s special needs residents, provide updates on the Americans with Disabilities Act, and disseminate information on the Town’s recreational, educational and social programming for all age groups of residents with special needs.  The Committee will focus its efforts on organized recreational, educational, social and skill-building activities and work to raise general awareness about the needs and rights of persons with disabilities.  The committee would also work to provide educational, employment & theatrical opportunities at the Wallace Auditorium.

 

Emergency Services Table Top Exercises

We held an Emergency Services Table Top Exercise in November. The process involved key personnel from the emergency management community taking part in a table top exercise to discuss a simulated disaster scenario. The following agencies participated: New Castle Police Department, Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Chappaqua Fire Department, Millwood Fire Department, Department of Public Works, Chappaqua Central School District, Town Administrator and Town Supervisor.

 

New Castle Mobile Application

The Town contracted with a vendor to create a new mobile app, but the vendor failed to perform up to our expectations.  The Town Board terminated the contract, and we are looking into other providers.

 

S.T.O.P. Gun Violence

With the 3 year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy this year, and after the terrible mass shootings that have occurred recently, I have reached out to several local and nearby residents who have been very involved with this issue. Together, we are exploring the possibility of starting a local organization called “S.T.O.P. Gun Violence.”  S.T.O.P. stands for Small Towns Organized to Prevent (Gun Violence). The goal is to launch a national, grass roots campaign enlisting local town supervisors, selectmen & women, mayors, and police chiefs across the country – much like the Mayors Against Gun Violence – but on a more local level.  Gun violence is local. We feel it too often in our small towns and we cannot ignore its impact on all of us. We have a role to play and a responsibility to do more to prevent these tragedies. So much good starts on the local level. Many of us may remember the days before strict drunk driving laws. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other local groups joined with legislators and, together, they made it unacceptable and illegal to drive drunk or without buckling up. They made a difference!  As a result, countless lives have been saved. Similar movements are starting with distracted driving. We have such a movement here in New Castle. All communities are vulnerable. No one thinks these things can happen in their little town – but, unfortunately, it does, and too often! We all need to do what we can, and I intend to do just that.

 

New Castle Community Calendar

We also have a community calendar on our website. This community calendar is a tool for the public to promote community events and activities. In order to raise its profile, it will soon be added to the eNewsletter. In order to provide clarity about what can and cannot be posted, I have asked our legal counsel to draft some guidelines for the Town Board’s consideration.

 

One on One with Supervisor Greenstein

I am happy to introduce “One on One” office hours on Tuesdays, one hour before all Town Board meetings.  All are welcome!

 

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 doesn’t dictate the agenda, it listens, responds and plans. As we look ahead, there remains much work to be done, and I will continue to work hard for the entire community.

 

While we accomplished a lot, there is no doubt that much of this could not be accomplished without our dedicated full time employees.  As we look ahead to the New Year, let’s look forward not as individuals, but as a community. Together we can make New Castle an even better place to live, work and raise a family. Progress means that with each turn, more needs to be done, and I will continue to work hard for the community. I look forward to another year of progress ahead of us.

 

Have a healthy and happy 2016.  And a great thank you for the town employees and the selfless, committed volunteers who all helped make 2015 a successful year.

 

Rob Greenstein

Town Supervisor, New Castle