What is Permissive Referendum and how does it work?

May 30, 2014
~ from Peter and Erin Chase, and Carla Gambescia

Chappaqua Station Permissive Referendum Fact Sheet:
You Have a Voice, You Have a Choice

Permissive Referendum is a powerful tool for citizens to directly participate in decisions that affect their day to day life.

It is a legal mechanism available for a community to contest and stop the sale or lease of Town property; an avenue for registered voters to directly challenge and overturn the decision of a town board.  It is a two stage process requiring: 1) that 5% of registered voters, in the Town of New Castle, who voted in last gubernatorial election sign petitions calling for the referendum and, 2) that a special election be held within 60 days to overturn or uphold the decision of the Board.

Why does this matter?

The station lease process and its lack of transparency is “the tip of the iceberg” of a Board that is not living up to its promise of openness and fair play in governance and its promise to foster a pro small business climate to help revitalize our struggling hamlet.

From start to finish the process that led to the selection of a food service provider for the station was highly irregular and neither fair nor open, including the initial decision not to honor the prior Town Board’s lease awarded following an earlier open and competitive process. 

The RFP (Request for Proposal) from the new Town Board was public for only a week and the lease was ultimately assigned to the one participant who had been personally invited by two of the newly elected Board members. 

The “winning” proposal is geared to commuters (take-out with limited table service) and offers less for the community at large AND less monetary value than the proposals by the Chases and Via Vanti!, when capital improvements are factored in.  Further, the assignment of a lease for 15 years (10 years with a 5 year option) is unusually long given the limited services offered and absence of any intended capital improvement to the Town’s property.  [Please make your own judgment: all three written proposals viewable at mynewcastle.org/index.php/helpful-links/bids-rfp.  Exercising such an action will serve as a wake-up call to our elected officials to listen more closely to the wants and needs of the voters who trusted them and put them in office.

How to make your voice heard now

A FaceBook page, Our Station, Our Town, www.facebook.com/OurStationOurTown has been established to provide information about the referendum process and how you can have your voice heard.  In the next three weeks petitions will be available at Kent Home (77 South Greeley Avenue) and other locations in Chappaqua, Millwood and at Via Vanti! Restaurant & Gelateria in the Mount Kisco train station building. 

Check our www.facebook.com/OurStationOurTown to learn where to find a petition to sign. 

To download your own copy of the petition. . .

To download a petition, go to: http://ourstationourtown.squarespace.com/.  In order to participate in the process, those signing the petition must be registered to vote in the Town of New Castle, NY.

Please drop off all petitions to Via Vanti! (Mt. Kisco train station) or Kent Home (77 South Greeley Avenue) by June 18th.  Even a petition with 1 signature and 1 witness will be collected.

Related: Ladle’s Leslie Lampert awarded train station lease for “Love at 10514,” NCNOW.org, 5/28/14

Open Letter to TB members: New Castle doesn’t deserve “good”—it deserves “great”—Applicants for train station lease gravely disappointed in the process and final decision, NCNOW.org, 5/19/14, by Peter and Erin Chase

In email exchange with Greenstein, Chases characterize town’s process as “no process,” NCNOW.org 5/28/14

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

Way to go, Erin, Peter and Carla. Our town board definitely needs a wake up call. Fingers crossed this does the job.

By Robin Murphy on 05/30/2014 at 7:28 pm

What will be the cost of holding this special election if the signatures are gathered?  Doesn’t running an election cost around $10,000?  Also, if it is successful, what is the next step?  Doesn’t the board just put out another rfp and make its decision then?

By Loves me some eats on 05/30/2014 at 9:52 pm

My guess is that very few people will vote in the referendum if one takes place. I wonder if a referendum in which almost no one is informed about ( or really cares about) the issue, and very few people vote, is really more democratic than permitting an elected town board to make the decision for us. Also, what happens if the referendum is approved? Does the town board then go through the same process of putting out an RFP? Can the town board, after reviewing the RFP then decide that the original proposal, possibly with some improvements, is the one that they think is best for the town? Didn’t we elect them to make these decisions?

By Geoff on 05/30/2014 at 10:38 pm

Geoff, actually we elected them to represent us and we certainly didn’t elect them to conduct the town’s business in the manner described in the Chases and Carla Gambescia’s article as “highly irregular and neither fair nor open, including the initial decision not to honor the prior Town Board’s lease awarded following an earlier open and competitive process.”


By loves me a referendum on 05/30/2014 at 11:13 pm


I beg to differ.  I believe that people will come out in droves for this referendum.

By resident on 05/30/2014 at 11:20 pm

This can only be good.

The Board we elected insults us with talk of “fair and open process” ; they made a mockery of process in this particular situation. I agree the issue is not important in isolation , but their conduct and all the sanctimous dissembling most certainly is.

As a community we all better wake-up and pay attention. Unless we can figure out how to recall them - this is our most power means to send a message.

By This can only be good. on 05/31/2014 at 9:50 am

to resident—If this gets on the ballot, I guess we’ll see. However, it is worth noting that only a little more than 1,000 people voted on the school budget. If this gets more votes (“droves”) of voters, it will be an interesting question as to whether the town’s residents regard the opportunity to dine at our railroad station as more important to them than the financing of our school system. While the school budget vote was pathetic in turnout, “droves” of voters coming out to vote on a restaurant lease would be hilarious.

By Geoff on 05/31/2014 at 10:14 am

we elected them to represent us:  wrong, we elected them to use their best judgement to represent our interests, the operative word being “our”, not narrow personal interests of individuals.

to conduct the town’s business in the manner described in the Chases and Carla Gambescia’s article as “highly irregular and neither fair nor open” 

Don’t take accusations as fact…the Chases and Gambescia are making accusations to promote their business interests.  Maybe it is true, maybe it isn’t but to assume it is true, a conspiracy, is not serious.

By SMS on 05/31/2014 at 11:01 am

This is way more controversial than the School Budget vote and controversy brings interest and voters

By Controversy on 05/31/2014 at 11:07 am


Perhaps there are many more people disgusted with this new town board who are just itching to show them how they feel.

Somehow your disdain and sarcasm remind me of Greenstein.

By another resident on 05/31/2014 at 12:12 pm

Droves of voters? Come on. All ten of you stomping your feet here on this site might vote.  Is the town going to have to spend the money to have polling places at multiple locations?  If those polling places are the schools, will the schools have to pay overtime and spend on security? Where is the town going to get the volunteers to man the voting booths?  This could potentially cost the town thousands of dollars for what?  For the losing bidders to get another shot at losing again? Lets be realistic, take a step back and do a little cost benefit analysis here.

By Realistic on 05/31/2014 at 12:30 pm

Realistic, SMS and Geoff,

Quit your BS.  The town’s actions in this have not been honorable.  More people than you realize have been disgusted by what this board has done.

I do not expect your argumentative posts to stop, because Rob, you are relentlessly argumentative .  It may suit you in your work, but it does not do credit to the town.

By enough on 05/31/2014 at 1:10 pm

“One of the many problems with government is not that power corrupts or even that it is magnetic to corruptible people; rather, it is that we have been conditioned to tolerate corruption in power, and so we don’t even try to hold our politicians accountable

By Yes for referendum on 05/31/2014 at 1:15 pm

The town board’s lack of integrity is causing this. They are free to rescind the resolution and start over again. Their doing it right is what will save the town the money.

By Let's be really real on 05/31/2014 at 1:31 pm

Peter and Erin Chase should be ashamed of themselves.  The town board was not impressed with their cookie cutter presentation.  They are wasting their time and money. 

Carla is also wasting her time and money but she is also putting her existing business at risk.  She is being encouraged by people who have nothing to lose but have an ax to grind with the town board. This move will alienate her customer base. It shows very poor business judgment.

By Hasta La Vista Via Vanti on 05/31/2014 at 8:50 pm

Are we HAPPY. Sing the song happy! This should be the theme song of New Castle, because it appears that we have too many conflicts taking place in town hall. I hope Team Green is happy that they won! Start singing Team Green and please start getting things done! I think when Town Hall opens in the morning, and every morning, they should start playing Happy, because the bull they have to put up with is going to a level I have not seen in decades.

By Happy! on 05/31/2014 at 11:01 pm

Susan Carpenter wanted Via Vanti.  Do you need to hear more?

By Mt Kisco can have Via Vanti on 06/01/2014 at 8:31 am

Just for the record, I didn’t vote for Greenstein and don’t know him. But I do think he was duly elected, that town boards are supposed to make these types of decisions, not voters, even if there is an obscure provision of the law that permits it, and that, although we can and should express our opinions to them, we should, in the end, stand back and let them do their work. If we don’t like the job they are doing, we can elect someone else next time. And, no, I don’t think they have done anything wrong.

By Geoff on 06/01/2014 at 8:35 am

Hasta, now that is absurd.  Carla’s business will thrive because it is a great restaurant.

Not sure what this stupid decision by the board to bring takeout to the train station shows, but it was not good sense in any way.

Jason is the only member left on the board with integrity.

Robs continuous, low insults show his character.  Rob is the bull.

By Rob, you are the bull on 06/01/2014 at 8:43 am

It is Lisa Katz, Elise Mottel and Adam Brodsky who should be ashamed of themselves.

Particularly Elise Mottel who, as a member of the previous board dragged out Carla’s lease.
She has not been honorable.



By bravo to Carla and to the Chase's on 06/01/2014 at 9:25 am

Why no dinner service ? 
Why the ten year lease ?
why no improvements to the space ?
Why the lowest bid ?
Why did Adam Brodsky broker such a sweetheart deal to Lambert and such a lousy deal for the town ?
Why would Lisa Katz and Elise Mottel support this lousy deal ?
Why, why, why ?
Why no answers to any of the above ??????
Why would anyone be Happy with any of this, Rob ? 

By Why ??????? on 06/01/2014 at 9:30 am

One more Why ?.
Why did it cost the town $10,000 in lawyer’s fees to negotiate this sweetheart deal ???

By another why ? on 06/01/2014 at 9:42 am

The ugliness coming from our elected officials isn’t anything new. This is how they got into office. They like to try and blame everyone else but themselves for their mistakes. Would be nice if they just let the town decide on this issue. What are they afraid of? Finding out they truly did make a bad decision and we won’t let them get away with it? We all know who is making the anonymous comments above. Can’t wait to see how this whole process works out. Should be interesting. There is a reason why the lease is subject to a permissive referendum - so we as citizens keep our government in check.

By Lay off the insults on 06/01/2014 at 11:06 am

The town will be saying Hasta La Vista Greenstein a little more than a year from now.

Editor’s Note: Part of this comment was “benched.”

By Exposing the anon on 06/01/2014 at 11:32 am

I live in Mt. Kisco and have been a big fan of Leslie Lampert for years.  I was referred to this web site to read about the referendum.  I must say I am shocked.  We teach our children not to use the internet to cyber bully.  We also teach our children to be gracious losers.  I sincerely hope your children do not follow the lead of those bringing this referendum and those posting these comments.

By Barbara Goldstein on 06/01/2014 at 3:05 pm

Barbara Goldstein,

While you are reading, why not take the time to read all 3 proposals.  After you see the paltry submission from Ms. Lampert you will really have a reason to be shocked.

I understand that she has been asking people to comment on her behalf and that is her right, and it is nice of you to come to her defense.  But it does not make her the better applicant, no amount of commenting will.

What is shocking and deserves attention is the bogus process that the town board carried out and the horrendous way that it treated Carla.

By resident on 06/01/2014 at 4:48 pm

To Barbara Goldstein,

I went back to read all the coverage and comments regarding the referendum and the selection.  What I saw were comments against Carla and the Chases.  I did not see a one that was in anyway unkind to Leslie Lambert.  True, there were many, strongly worded against the town board’s decision and the process and I would say, rightly so.  The process was a disgrace.  Even Ms. Lambert, were she asked would have to acknowledge that.


By say what ? on 06/01/2014 at 5:15 pm

What’s to stop countless referendums until Chase & Gambescia get their way?  They do not cost Chase & Gambesciasore any money.  It costs us, the taxpayers!  Will the next referendum be Chase against Gambescia or Gambescia against Chase?  This is ridiculous.

By Forget the restaurant on 06/01/2014 at 8:32 pm

This referendum will cost the residents of the Town of New Castle thousands of dollars.  The fact that the Chases and Carla Gambescia are leading this effort to benefit themselves is an obvious conflict of interest.  Shame on them for asking the residents of the Town of New Castle to foot their bill.

By Put up or shut up. on 06/01/2014 at 10:20 pm

@Put up or shut up

I was just wondering, was it OK for the property owners adjacent to Chappaqua Crossing to file a petition requiring a supermajority vote of the Town Board to approve a zoning change? Shouldn’t the Town Board have been able to act in what they viewed as the best interests of the town without a tiny minority of self-interested residents costing us time and money with their silly legal filings? How about the residents who took legal action about the Confier deal? Are they also sore losers who should just shut up? The one petition that seems to be making more and more sense is the one that gets the West End out of New Castle.

By West Ender on 06/02/2014 at 8:07 am

Nothing is stopping the town board from rescinding the resolution and doing the right thing by having a fair process.

Editor’s Note: Your comment has been partially “benched.” Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you want to know why.

By TB can always do the right thing. Any time it want on 06/02/2014 at 8:13 am

This sweetheart deal for Lampert is what cost the town $10,000.  The delay and process has cost the town thousands of dollars.

If money is your concern, I suggest that you address your concerns to the members of the town boards, this board and the previous one.  Elise Motell should be able to respond since she was on the previous one and still on this one.  Let us know what she tells you. 

BTW, this stupidity has already cost Carla thousands, which she spent in good faith with the town. Now the Chases and Carla are spending thousands more in lawyers to hold the town board accountable. I say thank you to them.

By resident on 06/02/2014 at 9:20 am

This is a statutory right of every qualified voter in NC to seek a referendum when it comes to the sale or lease of property owned by the town. The Chases and Gambescia are NC residents.  There is no conflict of interest here. While it is true that the referendum will cost the town something, residents must realize that the town board’s handling of the train station has already resulted in tens of thousands in expenditures and lost revenues for us.  That was not the fault of the Chases or Gambescia.  For reasons that are not clear the Board has also selected the tenant with the lowest overall compensation and is locking up that site for up to 15 years.  A very, very long time.  Think of other scenarios where the distorted process costs us or limits our potential but those stories are not known to the public.  Here we can see some rather concerning details and there is something we can do about it via the referendum Maybe you view this as typical messed up government and feel there is no point in sending a message If, however, you are concerned about what has happened either because of the train station itself or how this conduct if continued will impact other decisions or our community reputation, take this referendum effort seriously. 

By Anon on 06/02/2014 at 11:51 am

There is a big difference between a statutory right and doing the right thing just as there is a big difference between legal and ethical.

By Perplexed at this mess on 06/02/2014 at 3:50 pm


Carla Gambescia does not reside in New Castle.  She is not a “qualified voter in NC”  She is potentially a voter in Mt. Pleasant, but I don’t know if she ever registered there.

If Carla Gambescia was presented a lease by the prior Town Board, all she needs to do is show us all the signed lease.  It’s not rocket science.  She shouldn’t make this sound like “messed up government” If she was given the lease and she and the prior Town Board signed it that’s the end of the story.  If she didn’t return a signed lease to the town on time well then, that’s “messed up business.”

If Carla Gambescia misrepresented her status to you as a NC resident and “qualified voter” what else did she misrepresent to you?  It’s not really the “community reputation” at stake here is it?

By Tell The Truth on 06/02/2014 at 4:36 pm

West Ender,

Good bye and good luck.

By good bye, west Ender on 06/02/2014 at 5:18 pm

Does anyone really think the town board would make a different decision in light of the antics of the losers? I like the food at Via Vanti and Cafe of Love but Leslie is a pleasure to deal with.  Leslie is a class act.  I don’t know the Chases but get the impression they are used to getting what they want and cry foul when then don’t.

Yes,let’s keep an eye on the sour grapes. They are the ones putting their own interests over the interests of the town all in the name of process.  The only process they are concerned about are processing their bank deposits. How about processing a withdrawal and pay for the referendum and lost rental income to the town?

By Beth Shapiro on 06/02/2014 at 10:45 pm


Yes, the town certainly should make a different decision.  It is unfortunate that you chose to
malign the Chase’s and Carla.  Leslie may be a class act, but you are not.  In any case, I do not see what that has to do with what is best for the Chappaqua community or the inexplicable, dishonest process.  You may make light of the importance of an honest, honorable process, but that only shows the value of you judgement.

No one, not even you or your spin can dispute that.

By no thanx on 06/03/2014 at 12:21 pm

In case it was not clear from prior posts, my main concern in the integrity of the process (with added concern about decisions about finances thrown in).  “Process” protects us all, as individuals, voters, residents, business people, etc.  I have grown concerned that this Board at times does not adhere to the “process” of governance, particularly if that process does not suit a Board member.  The train station is just one example.  There are others.  More will arise.  I do not have a firm opinion on who should be at that train station (and if I get details wrong about those involved, it is probably because I mistakenly assumed something or misread something and not because something was “misrepresented” to me).  It could be Lampert, the Chases, or Gambescia.  What I am saying is it also might have been someone else but we cannot know that because the RFP process was not implemented properly.  Not a single candidate came out in response to the extremely short RFP period.  I think the community deserves having the greatest possible pool of candidates from which the Board would choose.  Not just the candidates that the Board members found on their own or already existed.  In the end, maybe there would be no one new.  Shouldn’t we know that the RFP was done properly though before a decision is made?  It would have been so simple to handle this differently.  I think it is very fair to question the Board’s handling.

By Anon on 06/03/2014 at 12:30 pm

The Board is aiming to lock up this site to one tenant for more than a decade.  That is a very long time especially when you take into account the tenant selected is not making capital improvements.  If someone was investing in the structure, I could understand the long term, but that is not what is happening.  The Board is also accepting a rent that is not even close to what it indicated the station should get.  I wonder why.  As a resident, I am quite concerned about the fiscal aspects of this matter and it makes me wonder about Board decisions on other situations on which I have less information.  Something is wrong in their approach and I personally feel they don’t understand they have to be more consistent, open and accountable.

By Anon on 06/03/2014 at 12:31 pm

The Supervisor has a year and half left in his term.  The other Board members have staggered durations.  While the train station is a small issue, it reflects an approach to governance that to me is unsatisfactory.  There are very few mechanisms for us to send a message to the Board that change has to happen.  There is no recall, for example.  Referendums are basically “it”.  I think there is time and opportunity for a change and we should send that message to the Board through this Referendum.  That was the message of Team NC when it ran, vote for change not the specific party or candidate.  I voted for them.  I wanted change.  That is essentially what I am saying again, vote for change in the style of governing this town.  Team NC is a big step up from the past, but it can do better.  They seem inexperienced and are learning along the way but they are headed down the wrong road.

By Anon on 06/03/2014 at 12:33 pm

As for what this will cost the town, I only brought up lost revenues and legal fees that came from the Board’s own decisions to illustrate that just about everything the Board does “costs” taxpayers something.  Most of the time we don’t know it though.  In this case, the lost rent and legal fees are the result of the Board’s choices so far not the Chases or Gambescia.  There are many, many instances of other residents taking steps to pursue something important to them; every major issue in this town has something generated by a resident going on.  These too “cost” taxpayers in one way or another.  Some of them I agree with, some I don’t, but I respect everyone’s right to pursue options to the extent they feel the need.  This petition effort is no different.  Are any of those people (CC, Conifer, and maybe what was the Spa, come to mind as current issues) “unethical” for doing what they think is right?  I guess some people will say they are because it is NIMBYism, etc.  I view it as, this is the process, let it play out.  I try not to judge when it comes to such things.  This is just my perspective and it is no better or worse than anyone else’s.  I only sought to raise some things for people to consider about this Referendum effort.  In the end, everyone has to decide on their own whether this is worthwhile or not.

By Anon on 06/03/2014 at 12:35 pm

Yes Beth,

Literally hundreds of people think that the town board should make a different decision.

I guess that you have not been paying enough attention.  This Permissive Referendum should clarify your confusion.

By old timer on 06/03/2014 at 12:37 pm

Not concerned with the “antics” of the town board, Beth Shapiro ? 

Let’s keep an eye on these sad attempts, like yours, to disparage Erin, Peter and Carla, shall we ? 

Speaking of money,how about questioning why the town’s lawyer cost the town over ten thousand dollars to achieve such a poor result for the town and yet a sweetheart for class act Leslie Lampert.

By Sam on 06/03/2014 at 1:04 pm

OK, Beth Shapiro, so you don’t care about “process”.  It doesn’t bother you that the process was all over the place. But why do you sound so sour?

By Process isn't a problem for you on 06/03/2014 at 1:09 pm

It’s not about the respective businesses,it’s about PROCESS. Enough with the personal attacks. Why our TB did such a ridiculously short RFP iis impossible to understand, assuming the goal was to bring out more contenders. Of course people object to a process that allowed insufficient time for others to put together proposals.  A lot more time was needed especially since we are talking about a 15 year lease! How many future boards does that cover?

By Joanie on 06/03/2014 at 8:02 pm

@ West Ender “How about the residents who took legal action about the Confier deal?”

There is no comparison to the decision making process for a food establishment to a miserable illogical decision by Carpenter, Mottel and Stout to provide a special permit to Conifer to build a massive four story building which was not in anybody’s best interests, not the town or the persons who might live in the isolated location between the parkway off-ramp, the railroad tracks, and the Route 120 bridge.

The blame for attorney fees incurred by you and every other town taxpayer falls right on the laps of those inept three and they knew a lawsuit was coming if they bowed to Conifer but they could care less about you and every other town taxpayer. Nor could the three care less about Conifer’s lawyer labeling the town residents not welcome to affordable housing. Nor could the three care less about dangerous fire safety and traffic safety conditions that would be created by the project. Nor could the three care less about how Conifer residents would feel about living in an unattractive stigmatized building that is scheduled to be fenced in along the bridge sidewalk for the entire length of the bridge all the way to Greeley Avenue.

By West Ender's Poor Comparison on 06/03/2014 at 8:18 pm

I don’t think there are any “antics” on the part of those “leading” the petition effort. They have comported themselves professionally and it sure seems there is reason for their questions about the process.

By Anonymous on 06/04/2014 at 11:06 am

@Poor Comparison

So suing the town about a “miserable illogical” decision that YOU think is significant is just fine but the new board’s miserable, illogical decision to award a decade-long lease based on what many in town seem to feel was a back-room deal just isn’t important enough for residents to exercise their legal rights?

By West Ender on 06/04/2014 at 11:54 am

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