As town and school boards meet, annoyed residents shout out for bigger meeting space

Inside, see 34 readers’ comments since April 13
Click “Read more” to see YouTube clips of Tuesday’s meeting
August 13, 2010
by Christine Yeres

About 25 spectators squeezed into conference room A-B for Tuesday night’s joint Town Board-School Board work session to discuss Chappaqua Crossing.  At 7:00 p.m., with ten board members and their consultants in chairs around one large table and residents taking up every available space around them, Jules Buxbaum, a resident, burst into the room to complain hotly that there were people outside the doors who couldn’t fit into the room and wouldn’t be able to hear the public meeting. He asked that the meeting be moved to the larger hearing room across the hall.  Other audience members in the conference room joined in, asking too that the meeting be moved to the larger assembly room.

At first, Supervisor Barbara Gerrard told Buxbaum that the meeting would take place “here or not at all.” Soon afterwards, perhaps realizing that by then 40 or more people were crowded at both doorways to the conference room, Gerrard asked Town Clerk Jill Shapiro to check to see whether the larger room could be made ready quickly enough for the boards to keep to their 8:00 p.m. stop time, since each board was scheduled to conduct its own, regular meeting after the joint session.  The move was made, the assembly room filled up, and still residents spilled over into the outer hall.  By then about 100 people were present.

Since the latest proposal from the developer of the Reader’s Digest site to construct fewer condominium units (199 rather than 278) and maintain more of the existing 700,000 square feet of office space (642,000 rather than 520,000) board of education members have worried publicly that the developer has interpreted the school district’s projected future decline in student enrollment as proof that the proposed condo development will have no adverse impact on the school district’s finances.  The joint meeting was devoted to a tutorial by the town board on the status of the proposal for redevelopment of the site and to understand the differences in their views of the risks the proposed development poses to the school district.
________________________________________ filmed the 55-minute meeting, and has set up seven short consecutive YouTube links, between five and ten minutes in length, below. 

Part 1 begins in the conference room and follows the meeting into the assembly room.

In Parts 2 and 3, the town board’s F.P. Clark planning consultant, Joanne Meder, gives a succinct summary of the five-year history of the application by developer Summit Greenfield to redevelop the Reader’s Digest property.

In Part 4 Janet Benton and Jeffrey Mester speak.

In Part 5 Gregg Bresner and Alyson Gardner Kiesel speak.

In Part 6 Randy Katchis speaks, then Clinton Smith in a discussion of tax revenues of the development

Part 7: A general discussion of the developer’s rights and the town board’s obligations as lead agency

Once settled, the discussion begins

Supervisor Barbara Gerrard reiterates the board’s intent to reject the proposal unless the developer makes the town houses, at least, (60 of them in the latest Modified Project, Alternative I) “fee simple,” that is, assessed at the same rate as single family houses.  For the board, she said, “this is carved in stone, since town houses [by fitting more people and, presumably, children] would have more impact on the schools.”

Clinton Smith informed school board members that although town board members have seen the projected number of school children in the developer’s FEIS, the town board had by no means yet accepted those numbers.  If board of education members had different numbers and calculations, Smith told them, “that’s the type of information the town board needs in order to evaluate the impacts of the project.  Don’t keep your opinions secret.” 

Board of Ed members weigh in

Although the meeting was designed so that the town board could inform the school board of their thinking on the project overall and, specifically, on the newest Modified Project revealed only three weeks ago today, board of ed members took the occasion to reveal some information of their own.  Some had done mathematical analyses, others described a Big Picture in which more students issuing from low-taxed condominium dwellings could cost the district more to educate than it will ever see in revenue.

President Janet Benton

Board of education President Janet Benton spoke for first for her board.  She listed two concerns: First, to understand how, by using the board of education’s BOCES report, the developer arrived at 58 as the projected number of children from the project; second, to learn more about how tax revenue from the project might help defray the cost of educating students, as well as how the units might be assessed and priced.

“That’s important to us, too,” responded Gerrard.

Jeffrey Mester

“I don’t really care how many students this project brings,” said Mester.  “What matters is that the risk is being shifted from the developer to district taxpayers.  I have a lot of concerns about the BOCES projections.  My concern is that the revenue [from the project] does not exceed the cost of education, around $25,000 per student.”

Mester’s second point – one that he has made before as board president during the DEIS comment period last September LINK?—was that the district’s excess capacity, or predicted decrease in student population, “is an asset of the district that should not be given away.  Assuming our expenses are variable, we can reduce our expenses as population goes down.” Another concern, stated Mester, “is traffic outside the high school.”

Mester was prepared, he said, to offer solutions to the risks he had described:

1. tax all units “fee simple;”

2. perform a town-wide revaluation and tax all dwellings at the same rate;

3. approve the commercial variance the developer is seeking and leave the residential as it is [26 single-family lots, zoned one-acre].

Mester later added a fourth solution: “Let the developer guarantee the risk to the school district by setting some amount of money in escrow for ten to 20 years.”

Gerrard picked up the subject of revaluation, telling members of both boards that on September 7 the town board was due to hear from its consultant on revaluation, Thomas Frey, on the cost-benefits and logistics of a town-wise revaluation.  She admitted that the town board found it a difficult decision, since if the board were to decide to invoke a “Homestead Exemption” in the course of a revaluation, all dwellings within the town’s borders would be taxed at 100% of value.  She was concerned that condominiums within New Castle would suffer by comparison with lower-taxed condos of neighboring towns that would, presumably, still be taxed as condos.

Gerrard remained firm in her demand to the developer that the 60 townhouses of the new Modified Project be taxed “fee simple.”

Gregg Bresner

Next, board of education member Gregg Bresner offered his analysis of enrollment projections and tax projections.  “I come up with a shortfall initially of $6.4 million, and the present value of that in perpetuity, because these things grow, is between $320 million and $640 million.  That’s what we’re talking about.  This could be the most important issue this town has ever faced.  I think it’s imperative, to help you [town board members], that the school board retain its own consultant, an expert.”

“No disrespect to BOCES [which did the enrollment projections for the board of education],” continued Bresner, “but BOCES is a non-profit organization that figures out how to share services among school districts.  Three-quarters of their analysis is null, because they assumed age restriction [which the newest proposal, Modified Project does not].  But when you look at their numbers, between the number of people moving into Chappaqua Crossing and the number of people moving out of houses to move into Chappaqua Crossing, my analysis of BOCES report shows 261 school children, a $5.5 million shortfall, with a $500 million present value.”  Bresner concluded, “As a school board, we need to give you a better analysis [than the BOCES report].”

Clinton Smith interjected, “The consultant the town board acquired [for the DEIS] was the school board’s consultant [BOCES] hired by the school board to do its enrollment projections, was it not?  But the more information, the better.”

Bresner responded that BOCES simply measures the districts’ enrollment capacity for the purpose of advising school districts on whether they need to construct additional school buildings.  But even that information, Bresner explained, had a 4% standard of error and was valid over only five years.

Alyson Gardner Kiesel

Describing herself as a 40-year resident of the town, Alyson Gardner Kiesel read a prepared statement.  She noted that while the district spends $26,000 per student, the anticipated tax revenue from each unit is around $4,600, “and current taxpayers will be asked to make up the difference.”  The board’s options, she continued, will be to raise taxes or alter programs and cut services, “and sacrifice the quality of education we currently provide.”

“Over the past few years,” Gardner Kiesel said, “American taxpayers have been asked to fund the bailout of unprofitable automakers, reckless insurance companies, and banks that took excessive risks.  Are you now going to tell the New Castle taxpayer that they need to bail out a developer whose property investment has not achieved the profitability they desired?”

“I’m sure every member of this community has something that they bought or invested in five years ago that is worth less than they expected it to be,” said Gardner-Kiesel. “The economic reality is that no matter how much research you do or projections you analyze, not all investments work out.  It is not the responsibility of this community to take on unknowable risk to accommodate the profit-and-loss of a real estate developer.” 

“Hiding behind ‘available physical capacity’ is an obfuscation of the real issue,” said Gardner Kiesel.  The developer might have chosen to approach the school district to work with the board, she commented, but instead had “shown little or no concern for this school system that has been the hallmark of this community for decades.”

“We teach our students,” concluded Gardner Kiesel, “that bullying is not tolerated in our schools; if we do not protect our taxpayers and students, then we are allowing ourselves to be bullied.  As it stands, this project is completely one-sided: they get what they want, and we bear an unquantifiable risk.  I believe there is a way for this project to meet both the goals of the developer while insulating our taxpayers from undue risk.  This proposal does not accomplish this.”

Randy Katchis

“Having been in the business for some time,” said Katchis, “I can see with present financial conditions there’s clearly a flight to value, and we’re blessed in that this town has tremendous value, that our school system and community have tremendous value.  But with things like affordable housing that are dictated by federal government and the state, that will need to be put in typically in the form of apartments or condominiums, with the existing condominiums that Barbara [Gerrard] mentioned—and there are quite a few of them—and that the density of children there is fairly low, it could be that a revaluation drives 50 or 60 percent of our empty nesters out of those and brings in potential new students, ‘helping’ with our capacity issue.”

“I think there’s just tremendous risk out there,” continued Katchis, “in terms of exposure on non-fee-simple-taxed units.  I understand the developer wants to make money, I understand he’s in business to be profitable.  But to put additional risk on the present system we have is just not responsible.  We’re smarter than that; we’re a better community than that.  We need to buckle down, get the work done and find a solution.”
From NCNOW’s archives: For coverage of Chappaqua Crossing from June 2010 to present, with commentary from readers, click HERE.

For NCNOW’s complete coverage of Chappaqua Crossing, dating from 2007, click HERE.

Part 1 begins in the conference room and follows the meeting into the assembly room:

Part 2:  The town board’s F.P. Clark planning consultant, Joanne Meder, gives a succinct summary of the five-year history of the application by developer Summit Greenfield to redevelop the Reader’s Digest property (first half):

Part 3:  The town board’s F.P. Clark planning consultant, Joanne Meder, gives a succinct summary of the five-year history of the application by developer Summit Greenfield to redevelop the Reader’s Digest property (second half):

Part 4: Janet Benton and Jeffrey Mester speak:

Part 5: Gregg Bresner and Alyson Gardner Kiesel speak:

Part 6: Randy Katchis speaks, then Clinton Smith in a discussion of projected tax revenues from the development:

Part 7: A general discussion of the developer’s rights and the town board’s obligations as lead agency:

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

And pretty well organized.  Thanks for putting up the YouTube pieces. I was away and have been dying to see what happened. I’ll study this piece and the one about Clinton Smith.  This is good info.

By Good idea. on 08/13/2010 at 7:07 am

Since it ended up in the assembly room, why couldn’t this session have been brought to us live?  What’s so touchy about a work session?  Is it public or not?  Then why not live?  Why aren’t ALL of them live?

By Why not live? on 08/13/2010 at 7:08 am

Is the town board, then, negotiating with the developer?  How could they be negotiating without asking broadly what residents want?  They’re taking a very big chance doing it this way.  We won’t like to be unpleasantly surprised.  Even for this meeting, although the town board called it “public,” the town board seemed to do everything possible to keep it not-very-public.  This is not right.  That meeting should have been televised live.

By Negotiating with the developer? on 08/13/2010 at 9:40 am

Well, well, finally the board of ed is awake. They’ve acted until now as though this is a lowly concern and their interests were somehow above all this.  And now, it seems, the board of ed is the really big reason this proposal is bottom-line hurtful to the town of New Castle.  How ironic. This project has got to remain commercial. Everyone sees that now. Let’s hear those numbers now from Bresner.

By Hot and bothered on 08/13/2010 at 4:38 pm

Ms. Gerrard and the developer both tell us that including a residential component in the project is beneficial to the town because it will result in much LESS traffic than all-commercial, which will be a real killer.  But I understand too that New Castle also has parking ratio regulations and that RD (and SG) no longer comply with CURRENT ratios the town requires.  The solution?  Don’t try to control the commercial through number-of-tenants—that’s meaningless.  But we DO care about amount-of-parking, which controls amount-of-traffic.  Enforce New Castle parking ratios.  If the developer nears the limits, he can stop adding tenants.  Make it HIS look-out to control the traffic.  He will seek out less dense uses than medical uses, which are particularly heavy.  I see that he is sounding the “jitney” note again.  And now a “valet parking” note.  Come on.  You might be able to do that with commercial tenants, but not with PEOPLE who LIVE there with CARS. KEEP THE DEVELOPER’S MIND ON COMMERCIAL.

By Wait a Second! on 08/13/2010 at 4:47 pm

I’m really glad that the meeting was moved to a larger room.  But it should be noted that this is not simply an issue of the town board having good manners.  Both town and school board meeting sessions are, by state law, open to the public.  As such, they are required to provide reasonable accommodations to the public to hear the working session.  All except executive session meetings (mostly for discussion of personnel) are open to the public.  This meeting was well publicized and for town employees to act as though it’s just a shame that there wasn’t enough room is not only poor governance, but it is illegal.

And speaking of governance, hasn’t it been made very clear that zoning for residences is not wanted in this town?  I don’t frequently quote Nancy Reagan, but here goes: Town Board: “Just Say NO.” 

One more thing, please: The number of students in a school is not only about funding.  I agree that the proposed residences do not seem to adequately fund the proposed students that may result from them, but schools do something even more important than crunch money numbers.  They educate children.  Most recent research on schools show that small schools are more effective.  This is, in part, why so many new SMALL high schools are being built in NYC.  I realize that part of this issue is about the money it takes to educate children, but I would appreciate it if the Board of Education members could help focus this issue on what a larger student body will mean for the students and faculty in the schools. 

A groundswell of research indicates the small schools are more effective. Reasonable people can agree or disagree about the research.  But shouldn’t we, at least, have the conversation about what is best from an educational point of view?

By Kym Vanderbilt on 08/13/2010 at 4:53 pm

Thank you for this fantastic report from the scene. I had hoped to attend but was unable to, so this is tremendous service to the community.

By John C Abell on 08/13/2010 at 4:58 pm

Mr. Mester,

The Aug. 10 meeting was a fiasco!  Ms.Gerrard tried to limit public attendance by scheduling this important meeting in a small conference room, untelevised and unrecorded, in a blatant attempt to avoid public scrutiny.

The corridors were packed with people who had come to witness the proceedings whom she blithely dismissed.  They could not get in and despite the protests of those inside and outside, she refused, time and again, to move the venue to the main meeting room which was empty.

She told the attendees, “Either we’re going to have the meeting here or we’re not going to have a meeting.”  She was obdurate in her refusal to move the meeting to accommodate the majority of residents who could not enter. Finally, after the impatience of the crowd had reached a boiling point and one attendee stood up, calling it a “compromise,” and reiterated, yet again, that the meeting should be moved into the empty assembly room, she reluctantly yielded.  The move took all of five minutes.  Her attempt to avoid transparency is an old political ploy.

It was certainly not HER idea to move the venue and she certainly did not assent graciously to the move until the crowd became infuriated with her. 

She needs to apologize to the residents who worked hard all day and still made it their civic duty to attend this significant meeting.  She has no right to deprive these citizens access to a meeting open to the public, which in actuality is what she did, in a venue they pay for with their tax dollars.  Her cavalier “Let them eat cake!” attitude (I don’t care if they cannot get in to see and hear) will not be allowed to prevail in this town.  We elected her to serve not to dictate. We expect her to follow democratic protocol and not to abuse her power; Chappaqua is not her “realm.” 

By the way, for the record, we clearly see your arrival in the midst of the “fireworks” on NCNOW’s video, not after they concluded.

By Let's Set the Record Straight, Mr. Mester on 08/13/2010 at 6:37 pm

Don’t you guys get it?  There has not been a competitive election in this town in 20 years.  TheTtown Board is totally non responsive on this and many other issues.  How about the bridge fiasco?  How about our filthy and pot holed filled roads?  How about the scores of empty stores in downtown (and don’t blame this on the economy—take a look at downtown Armonk and Kotanah).  How about the long talked about downtown master plan which will never see the light of day.  Anyone know how much we spend on Dodge Chargers and SUVs ever other year for our bloated police force?  Our Town Board is a joke.  The are a bunch of half qualified hacks who dont see the voters of this town as their “constituents” because they know year after year as long as the get the Democratic party nod for nomination they will never be defeated in an election.  Send them an email asking about a local issue or raising a concern and you will surely not get a timely response.

The voters in this town have no one to blame for this but themselves.  The non-partisan Purple Party tried to change this a few years back and voters turned them away.  Wake up!  It shouldn’t matter whether a candidate is a democrat or a republican when running locally (do we really think our town board will vote to overturn Roe v Wade?).  Stop voting lock step and throw these jokers out.  I just hope its not too late.

By Wake Up on 08/14/2010 at 10:46 am

Right on “Wake-Up”! 

When we moved to this town there was a two-party system.  We all know what happens when a one-party system prevails, it becomes an autocracy and worse. 

Look what happened at the meeting on Aug. 10.  Clinton Smith said:  “If the Supervisor says it is going to be in this room, then it is going to be in this room [even if that means that a public meeting is closed to the public]!” He challenged the man requesting the move to a larger room to accommodate the people closed out of the meeting:  “What is your name?”  What is he going to do? Put him on an “enemies” list? 

How close to a totalitarian government do we want to go?  Barbara Gerrard dismisses the rights of residents to attend a public meeting with a wave of her arm. 

It is time to form a second party in this town—-a reform party called “Citizens for Democracy in New Castle” under an established party line to shortcut getting on the ballot.  We need a party that will challenge the status quo, one that will truly represent the citizens of this town, especially in the Summit Greenfield affair.  The way to go is to set a date to meet in one of our schools or public spaces in the evening.  If someone will suggest a time and a place, WE WILL BE THERE.

No, Barbara Gerrard you will not close down the democratic process in this town.

By Democracy Now! on 08/14/2010 at 12:53 pm

I so agree that there has long been a non-responsive leaning and significant ineffectiveness to the town board.  CC is just the latest example.  Of course people are interested but the board reacts with significant surprise at the outpouring and an overall hostile attitude.  We wouldn’t be at these meetings if it wasn’t extremely important.  Putting that aside, the downtown remains as it is even after all these years of a call for change.  Yes, look at Katonah to show you how it is done.  The bridge funding should have been clearly dedicated before the process started, but to the surprise of the board, it wasn’t.  How did that happen, shouldn’t they know for sure?

By Townee on 08/14/2010 at 3:20 pm

Democracy now,

You have the right idea.  I have lived through this frustration far too long.  I cannot tell you how many polite and thoughtful emails I have sent to the town board regarding crumbling and filthy roads, empty stores, the bridge, etc.  These were letters that offered suggestions and solutions not complaints.  My emails were either ignored entirely or I received a terse “we will look into it” - and then I never heard a peep again.

I don’t understand why the residents of this town put up with it.  Or taxes go up every year and the quality of life and the efficacy of our town government go down.  Maybe this latest event will be the catalyst for change.

In any event, I would love to join you, but I gave up on this town 6 months ago.  My family and I are moving to a lovely and thriving town in Fairfield County ct.  I just couldn’t stand to watch this town deteriorate any longer.  So after 13 years in Chappaqua we are saying goodbye and good luck.

By Wake up on 08/14/2010 at 6:23 pm

Your mention of what a two party system meant to New Castle brought back memories of how constructive and beneficial those years of a two party system were to the community, before the automatic, single line voters became residents.  The current turmoil should be an education to one line voters of any party who pay no attention to issues, as to what misbehavior can result from Cuban style one party government.

The arrogance of the Town Board supervisor, abetted by the counsel to the Board, could not have existed those 20 plus years ago, when the party that was out of office, be it Democrat or Republican, kept the party that was in power honest and responsible.  The party that was out always kept careful tabs on the opinions and demands of residents in order to get back into office at the next election.  There is no longer that political balance that New Castle had back then, and the question is how can we get it back?

The answer to me is obvious; residents must get together to solicit the re-entry of another established political party, let’s say either Liberal or Republican, into the New Castle political scene in time for next year’s Town Board election.  Let us ask the professional residents of the town with the political connections that could get this accomplished, to get the ball rolling. In my opinion, if the vote were held tomorrow, either of those parties would be a “shoo- in!”

By Get a second party NOW on 08/14/2010 at 7:32 pm

Yes, Wake-Up, you are right on point!

By Joanie on 08/14/2010 at 8:44 pm

There does seem to be a real lack of transparency and responsiveness from the Board.  I know that there is a committee working on the downtown with one board member. I for one am quite disappointed with what they have wrought. The Citi pocket park, in my opinion is uninviting as well as ugly. The plantings only make it more so. I know that it won an award for it’s green design. It certainly could not have been for its’ esthetics. Now I understand that the Town has hired this designer for continued work on the downtown. I have heard from many other residents who feel as I do and who have made their views known to the Board as have I. What hope is there, if after all these years we do not get the downtown right?

By Bob on 08/15/2010 at 9:15 am

Great Report NEWCASTLENOW! Thanks for keeping us informed. A few thoughts…I find Janet Benton’s comments and concerns about student projections and tax ramifications of Chapp Crossing. It is interesting to me why she cares about expert projections when during the Seven Bridges Middle School debate she totally ignored projections that indicated (and rightly so) that student enrollemnt would decline and we would be left with a second very expensive and underutilized school.

Just think if the CCSD board had listened back then and come up with an appropriate expansion to accommodate the temporary student population bubble and not built Seven Bridges not only would our taxes be less but Chapp Crossing and the developer would not have a prayer of getting residential zoning. Now with excess capaicity in our schools thanks to J Benton & Co. it is on the table. It should have been a non starter.

Another thought….MS Gerrard does not represent our interests in this matter and she ought to be scrutinized and pressured. She was behind the attempt to keep this meeting in a small cramped room and to keep the goings on from public scrutiny. Something is terribly wrong when a Town Supervisor works to keep important information about the town from the town!!!

No RESIDENTIAL - PERIOD! Bravo Alyson Gardner Kiesel

By right on!!!! on 08/15/2010 at 9:32 am

I am surprised at the very arrogant and completely put off attitude of the board and their counsel.  Call me naive, but I was quite shocked.  Yey maybe there is significant good to come out of all this upset.  Perhaps it will be an incentive to residents to shock this board, or elect a new one, into a different approach to the community in general.  I don’t exactly know how to get that across short of an election.  Ideas anyone?  E-mails, letters, etc. don’t seem to work.

By Long timer on 08/15/2010 at 12:50 pm

To “Wake Up Now”:

Congratulations for having the foresight to make your move in anticipation of a possible decision by the Town Board to approve the zoning change.  We have delayed our decision to move, gambling that the Town Supervisor may finally come to realize that if approval is granted, this town will never be the same.  If she does not have that needed epiphany, we will put up our house for sale next May.

We anticipate that in that situation, we will be only one of an empty-nester exodus, and the competition will be more intense.  However, we want to stay in Chappaqua, despite its minor problems, but the eventual destruction of the school system as we now know it, will be too much to take. (Only 58 new Chappaqua Crossing students, HUMBUG!  Town Board: Please tack on the additional 200 that will come, so you show us you have some sense of rational thinking in making your decision…)

I’m afraid that I hope you have made a premature move, but after attending the August 10 meeting, I fear that you have not.  Either way, the best of luck to you in your new home.

By We May in May on 08/15/2010 at 1:06 pm

Look at our Town Board!

Supposing we asked Barbara Gerrard to step down, since she no longer has the confidence of the community (especially after the Aug.10 meeting in her attempt to avoid public scrutiny).

Elise Kessler Mottel, as deputy chair, cannot succeed her on the Summit Greenfield issue—she has recused herself because of a possible conflict of interest since Summit Greenfield is a client of the law firm to which she is a real estate consultant. 

What about Robin Stout?  Well, he has just announced that he has an indirect connection with Summit Greenfield.

Then there is John Buckley, his professional interest as a real estate broker has been rightfully questioned by many.   

That leaves one individual, Michael Wolfensohn, and no one knows where he stands.  He hardly speaks.

This is some Town Board we have!  And they are the ones deciding the future of Chappaqua with this crucial issue on the table!

How do we get a referendum to replace this Board before it is too late?

By What a Town Board! on 08/15/2010 at 2:35 pm

We need candidates to challenge the board in the next election. Only then will they listen. It can’t be that difficult. Set up an email account or a website. Even word of mouth. If the board has no fear of being out on the street after the next election, what incentive (other than personal) do they have to do the correct thing for the town and not themselves? We should look at ourselves - Democrat, Republican, Independent or Unaffiliated - and recognize that there is a common bond between all of us. That common bond has nothing to do with whether we voted for Obama or McCain, our view of the Fourth Amendment, the invasion of Iraq or if we think “Trickle Down Economics” has merits. That common bond is maintaining the health and success of New Castle. Let’s work together to find candidates of any party, elect those candidates, and have them serve FOR the people of New Castle.

By Elect a New Board and Supervisor on 08/15/2010 at 8:17 pm

Let’s get past the board’s misstep at the August 10 joint town-school board meeting.  They can’t have missed the point that even the appearance of excluding the public is disastrous to their credibility (not to mention the democratic process).  What we need to be looking at is how open they will be going forward.  How long will we have to wait before the final environmental impact statement is posted on the town website so that the public can make informed comments on or before the September 28th meeting on Chappaqua Crossing that the board has promised us?

And will the board actually answer questions and make transparent their thought process on that night?  And when will the experts on whom the board has relied be available to be queried in public by the board, other interested boards and residents?  Anyone with professional experience knows that without thoughtful, well-prepared questioning, expert advice often falls short and can even be misleading.

The town’s outside planning consultant, Joanne Meder, seems to have a handle on the overall picture of Chappaqua Crossing.  If the town board wishes to reestablish public confidence in this proceeding, they should make her available on the 28th to answer questions from residents.  To that end, let the board mount the FEIS online on the town website at least a month before the September 28th meeting.

By Let's get past this. on 08/15/2010 at 8:43 pm


Can’t tell you how happy I am that people in this town are finally waking up to the mismanagement and non-responsiveness of the Town Board.  CC is just one of many issues that have been mismanaged.  Look at downtown and compare it to Armonk and Katonah.  Look at our crumbling roads, broken curbs, piles of trash along Rt. 120 and 133, and constant tax increases.  Think back to the ridiculous debate the town put is through to determine if we should have garbage pick up once or twice a week.  How about the horrible condition of our athletic fields.

Its time we all WAKE UP and realize that a town government who has no serious chance of not being reelected is not going to be responsive and not attract the “best and the brightest” our town has to offer.

I seem to recall that many local towns no longer employ the Democrat or Republic two party system—after all what do the national parties and their policies have to do with how our town is run.  Towns have developed “non-partisan” elections where the residents chose from a slate of candidates not those selected by the local political parties.  This would be especially useful in Chappaqua where for whatever reason residents simply vote for whomever has a (D) next to their name.

In any event, as I said, after growing frustrated with the way this town has deteriorated over the last 5 or so years, my family and I are moving.  Hopefully those of you who have chosen to stick it our will find a way to fix this problem.  It goes way beyond Chappaqua Crossing but certainly the Town Board’s behavior around this issue generally and their behavior at last week’s work session specifically have cast a very bright light on their incompetence and disdain for the viewpoints of the residents of this town.

Good luck.  Now is the time for change.

By Wake Up on 08/15/2010 at 11:25 pm

To Wake Up:

Please calm yourself.  Sure it would be great to have enough people actually interested in government to have more choices in elections than we usually seem to turn up, but frankly, as I watch this Chappaqua Crossing debate, the town board is doing exactly what it should: painstakingly considering everything the developer is asking for and the impacts that might result from granting his request for rezoning.  Doesn’t a board have to do that, by law, according to New York’s environmental review laws? 

I agree with “Let’s get past this.” We should look to the September 28 town board meeting and the town board should make its final environmental impact statement available well before that date, so that the public can see it before commenting and, therefore, have its comments informed by actual information.  Yes too to having the experts on whom our town board has relied present and able to be questioned also.

By The process is working on 08/16/2010 at 2:57 am

To The Process is Working….How can you say the process is working when the timely and accurate information that effects us almost never made it out for public scrutiny. Our Town Supervisor would have preferred and almost got a “closed door” meeting. You are incorrect in assessing the Board’s action as appropriate because they are “painstakingly considering everything the developer is asking for”. Those are your exact words. It is a total waste of time to painstakingly evaluate such things. Certain requests by the developer have no merit and should be non-starters. Why waste valuable time reviewing them?

Summit Greenfield made an investment in commercial property. The market turned and his investment is less valuable. Now New Castle residents are being asked to soften the blow. The NC board should not waste its time. We all have investments (stocks, bonds, real estate - our houses) that have declined in value. We have all made some bad investments. Why should our town board waste valuable time and resources bailing out this developer? Perhaps I should submit my mortgage and assessment of the value of my home to our board so that they can painstakingly review and offer me some relief, too. The environmental impact study is irrelevant. This was purchased as commercial property. There are and will be plenty of potential tenants that fit this criterion.

By Empty Nester on 08/16/2010 at 7:58 am

Where will the 9/28 public “information session” be held? Clearly the Town Hall facilities will not be adequate.  Perhaps one of the school auditoriums can be set up in advance?

By N.B. on 08/16/2010 at 11:06 am

We absolutely agree with “N.B.”  We had the same thoughts! 

The town hall assembly room will not hold the crowd.  It must be held in the H.S auditorium.

Will Barbara Gerrard listen this time?

By We Agree on 08/16/2010 at 1:21 pm

To The Process is Working,

Calm myself?  I simply suggested that the residents of this town should do everything they can to ensure that there are competitive elections in the town going forward.  Its pretty clear i suggested this so that we are afforded the opportunity to have responsive and competent town officials running the town of new castle.  Not sure what “calm yourself” means but it certain appears to be condescending and unnecessary.

Perhaps when i start quoting Thomas Paine you can tell me to “calm myself.”  Until then I say ......inform yourself!


By Wake Up on 08/16/2010 at 9:14 pm

I am very curious to know if the CCSD School Board speaks with one voice on this issue. What is exactly their position? As previously discussed on this comments section (this and other articles), it was the school board several years ago that ignored the data that suggested a decline in student enrollment thus making the new Middle School unnecessary. Some would say that it is old news and not relevant to today. The hard truth is that if the school board back then listened to the experts and the significant opposition from the community we would not have overcapacity in our school system today. Without that overcapacity this Chapp Crossing debate would not and could not include residential. All of us, including the Town Board and School Board would be telling the developer “you can not build residential because our school system can not handle more students”. That is a position impossible to take because we do have capacity.

I know the CCSD School Board turns over and many are new on the board. That is why I think we are all entitled to know what the school board’s position is on Chapp Crossing. I like what I have heard/read from a few of them but there is still some legacy opinion and blame on this school board. As far as the Town Board- Ms. Gerrard and Clinton Smith already sound aligned with the developer. Perhaps they need to be reminded they are public employees, that they work for us, and that it is our interests they are here to serve. Their tone and behavior during these meetings were reprehensible!!

By a little help from my friends on 08/17/2010 at 8:27 am

Unfortunately the High School is not set up to have a live feed.  This will leave many in the dark.  Standing room only will have to be the word of the day at town hall, but at least it will be recorded and played many times after the meeting.  We should get as many people as possible to come so that this town board knows we are extremely unhappy with the lack of correct information and their fear of a black hole.  Has any one run the numbers to see what tax impact we would have if we keep the zoning as is and give them a few more commercial tenants?  Many of us are not impressed with people living around a parking lot.  Also, if I read the County plan on affordable housing correctly, any current plan in the works will not be counted.  This could give us a double whammy!

By NJH on 08/17/2010 at 9:12 am

I moved here 4 years ago unaware of the questionable qualifications and abilities of members of the town board and school board.  Both boards seem to be long on hubris and short on being open to the advice of professionals. I’ve attended a few meetings of both boards and feel that they are both arrogant and unresponsive in the way that they behave toward us. The latest joint meeting certainly proves that point.

Why is the town attorney more sympathetic toward the developer of CC than toward we who shoulder the tax burden? With their “let em eat cake” attitude it feels like their lack of experience and ability is about to ruin our town. Let’s hope that it doesn’t leak out to other communities that we have a bunch of dunderheads running our town. Let’s get rid of them!

By disillusioned homeowner on 08/17/2010 at 2:40 pm

I am in full agreement with,what each one these individuals had to say.
Wake Up
Democracy Now
What a Town Board!
Empty Nester
By right on!!!!

It is time to form a second party in this town—-a reform party called “Citizens for Democracy in New Castle” under an established party line to shortcut getting on the ballot.  We need a party that will challenge the status quo, one that will truly represent the citizens of this town, Period.

The way to go is to set a date to meet in one of our schools or public spaces in the evening.  If someone will suggest a time and a place, WE WILL BE THERE.

Set the Date and Meeting place, WE have the right to be heard and Know the Truth.

Remember one thing here folks, No matter what the outcome of this whole mess is, This Town Board MUST GO….
Vote to make a Change for the betterment of Your Community…….
“Citizens for Democracy in New Castle”

By Justice Seeker on 08/17/2010 at 7:59 pm

This can be done.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Purple Party got on the ballot a few years back.  This group was comprised of some long time residents, many of them local professionals and merchants.  They were upset with the Town Board lack of regard for citizen input on the bridge design and they decided to run.  I seem to recall they got about 30% of the vote and then became discouraged.  I think this time it’s different.  No longer are residents complacent when they see our crumbling and vacant downtown, filthy roads and the absolutely disgraceful process relating to Chappaqua Crossing.  And let’s not forget our ever increasing taxes.  The timing might be right to really get organized and finally have a competitive election.  There is no chance the town board would have the attitude they had and this recent meeting if they were subject to competitive elections on a regular basis.  Right now they have no regard for meaningful citizen input because they have jobs for life.

It’s time for newly elected officials to take a fresh look at Chappaqua Crossing as well as the entire town budget and management process.  I suspect we will be appalled by what we find.

Let’s get organized and make this happen.


By Wake Up on 08/18/2010 at 12:40 am

I agree with Justice Seeker and many others that are angry at our Town Board and School Board. The boards are not connected to the community and seem to think that once “in office” they can promote their own idealism and agendas. Vote the

By Right ON! on 08/18/2010 at 8:56 am

Since I wasn’t a resident 5 years ago, could someone answer my question? Were any attempts made by our town board to seek corporate ownership of Readers Digest when it was announced that RD was leaving Chappaqua or did this developer just show up?  Are there attempts to attract new businesses to vacancies downtown? Boards in other towns have a committe devoted to these activities exclusively to keep their downtown viable. Our board seems disinterested. It’s probably above them!

By disillusioned homeowner on 08/18/2010 at 2:55 pm

I would like to say Thank You to the Town Board and to the Board of Education for all their hard work on this important issue.  Let’s keep in mind that both the School Board and Town Board Members are either volunteers or are paid paltry amounts for their services.  You may not agree with their decisions, but remember that they dedicate enormous amounts of time to try to make the town a better place. Given the way the people in town treat them I, for one, would not want to take any of their places. It is really thankless work. Let’s try to be civil.

By Thank you to the Board Members on 08/24/2010 at 3:29 pm

Perhaps “Thank You” points out the problem.

The task appears to be too burdensome for this town board.  The issues are too much for them and they have been there too long. 

True, it is “voluntary” service, but it must be a responsible choice for those who stand for election and even for those who choose to remain in that position.  It is a public trust.

There is never an excuse for ignoring democratic principles.

Voluntary or public service is not necessarily noble. That
August 10 town board meeting is a case in point.

(Castro also gave public service.  Looks as if he wants to serve some more.)

There are others who are willing and eager to offer their not inconsiderable professional acumen and to serve us in that capacity.

Perhaps, we should give them the opportunity to leave and say thanks and farewell to this town board.

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