Every moment of my nearly 30-year tenure as the Town Supervisor of Greenburgh has been an absolute joy and it has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the exceptional people, who reside, or have resided, in what I truly, believe to be a most extraordinary Town.
I believe that in order to be a responsible elected official, my primary focus must be to constantly identify ways to make the lives of every resident better. Innovation and creativity are requirements for administering a great Town and the ability to utilize the resources and relationships gained over a long tenure, are critical components of ensuring the success of such an effort. I have found that regardless of the amount of time I have spent in Government, I never stop learning and I trust this process will continue.
Being open to new ideas and change is extremely important, and most interestingly, this year, I know that I have learned more than in any prior year and feel more secure and comfortable in my job than ever before. We are blessed to live in a community with individuals who care about each other and the Town. Within our community we have a deep wealth of expertise and experience which we have been able to tap, with great success. Being able to listen to, and learn from others, provides extraordinary resources and builds a sense of “one community.
Knowledge is gained through the intelligent use of experiences. There is no substitute for experience and no better opportunity to gain access to such knowledge than by experiencing it as I have:
- The knowledge of the physical infrastructure of the community.
- The ability to comprehend and manage extremely complicated budgets and funding sources.
- The relationships formed with local municipalities, elected officials, National, State, County and Local elected officials and community leaders.
- And, most important the trust and support of Greenburgh supervisory and line workers, those who ensure the smooth and businesslike operation of a large and involved system of service providers.
- Again, there is no substitute for experience!!!
The Covid Pandemic and the associated fiscal, social and emotional pain it has wrought on our community has been painful. Finding ways to acknowledge such pain and the difficulties foist upon our residents has been my number one goal this past year. Quick action was needed, and quick action was taken! The accomplishments listed below happened because all the members of the Town Board (Francis Sheehan, Gina Jackson, Ken Jones, Diana Juettner and in 2019 Ellen Hendrickx) worked together trying to make life in Greenburgh better for all of us.
NO PROPERTY TAX INCREASES FOR THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR
During the past two years the town approved two budgets with no Property Tax hikes or Levy increases. We recognized that many people were out of work and we responded with sensitivity and action. Even with the fiscal pressures generated by the Pandemic, we have been able to maintain the Town’s “Bond Rating” at AAA.
We have received national attention for our “Covid Volunteer Vaccine Angels Initiative,” generating a program where 150 volunteers are in the process of reaching out to Senior Citizens and those with limited computer skills, assisting them to navigate the Covid vaccination, registration and appointment process. Last Sunday Lester Holt’s NBC National News mentioned our Greenburgh program on the news. Have received calls from people across the nation looking to replicate this program and the Town has been recognized for its compassion and innovation.
EARLY PAYMENT OF 2021 PROPERTY TAXES
After President Trump for the most part eliminated the Federal Property Tax deduction, Greenburgh was the first community in NYS to respond by organizing an effort, which also received national acclaim, setting up a system where residents could prepay their 2018 property taxes in 2017, providing significant Income Tax savings for those taxpayers who decided to utilize this opportunity.
ENSURING ACCESS TO EARLY VOTING
All elections are important, but it was clear that this election was critical and that any individual who wished to cast a vote, should not be limited by fear or inconvenience, a goal shared by all of you in the Democratic Party.
I applaud our local Party representatives for their hard work in this regard and greatly appreciate the expertise required to bring this successful outcome to fruition. Thank you.
We tried hard and succeeded in making early voting easier for residents. Recognizing there were long lines, in some cases in excess of three hours at early voting locations, the Town provided residents with live streaming of the Greenburgh Town Hall polling location so they could arrange their voting time when the lines were shortest. We provided an on-screen update of the wait times in “real time” on our “YouTube stream.” We established special lines for Senior Citizens to reduce waiting time and provided the frail elderly and disabled with the ability to avoid waiting on lines, to vote. We worked with the Greenburgh Health Center offering flu vaccines at the polling site, during early voting hours. We arranged for food trucks to be at the parking lot and outdoor musical entertainment to make the wait more enjoyable. The outcome, record numbers of voters expressing their Constitutional right to be part of the decision-making process, a Democratic tenet we all strongly believe in.
REMOTE TOWN MEETINGS WITH RESIDENT PARTICIPATION
Greenburgh was the first community to ask NYS to authorize members of the Town Board to hold meetings remotely. Before we even heard of Zoom, we asked NYS to allow our Town Government to vote via “Skype.” By March 2020, our meetings were conducted via “Zoom” and broadcast to our residents over our Town Cable TV channel. Although some communities in NYS have restricted public participation, the Greenburgh Town Board encouraged citizen involvement. I have a strong belief that residents have the right and the ability to speak at public hearings and should be encouraged to comment at Town meetings.
RELIEF FOR LATE PAYMENT OF PROPERTY TAXES
In the spring I actively lobbied the NYS Governor and Westchester County to pass legislation that would enable the town to offer residents facing hardships, the opportunity to pay their Town, County and School taxes late. The Governor issued an Executive Order and Westchester County approved legislation authorizing the hardship late payments and the Town Board approved a resolution authorizing County, Town and Fire District taxes to be paid without penalty by mid-July. It should be noted, our residents were extremely responsible and by years end, the Town received nearly 100% of all property tax billed.
FORMATION OF A MEDICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The Town of Greenburgh is extremely fortunate to be a community replete with highly qualified, active and caring individuals. A recently formed Medical Advisory Committee, comprised of local medical professionals, “pressed” NYS to establish regulations to address guidelines for safe supermarket shopping and to help residents who have no option but to enter stores, avoid having to stand shoulder to shoulder on lines. The committee recommended limiting the number of people who might shop inside stores, advocated having supermarkets provide hand sanitizers and provide for “6 ft. distance” limitations. The NYS Health department issued guidelines endorsing these recommendations.
At the beginning of the pandemic there was a serious shortage of masks for first responders. We organized an effort to obtain donations and were successful in obtaining significant donations from Greenburgh residents. Again, this was another example of our neighbors “being there” for the community.
INTERVENING ON BEHALF OF RESIDENTS WITH THE NYS DEPT. OF LABOR
Because so many residents were out of work, NYS was inundated with requests for unemployment benefits. I received numerous requests for assistance from many of our residents who were unable to effectively navigate the NYS UI system as so many of the residents were unable to connect with the NYS Department of Labor. Phones were busy and calls unanswered. NYS responded to the concerns by creating a special form for elected officials to utilize. I was gratified to be able to intervene and help most of the residents who called seeking assistance.
PROTECTING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF OUR DEDICATED EMPLOYEES
Thankfully, none of our staff lost their lives due to COVID-19. Sadly, some residents did. Many of our employees were directed to work remotely from their homes during the pandemic. To keep those employees safe who continue to work in our municipal buildings, the Town implemented an action plan that includes:
1- Plexiglas partitions have been installed in workplace areas less than six feet apart. These Plexiglas shields have been installed between office cubicles and at public reception areas.
2- Air filters in the ventilation systems have been upgraded to MERV 13 standards, or better, depending on the ability of the individual system to accept the higher rated filtration.
3- Signage has been installed as reminders to wash hands, maintain separation, and inform about COVID-19 symptoms, in a format as published by the CDC.
4- Disinfecting agents have been made available at all office work stations and public lobby areas.
5- We have purchased advanced fogger disinfectant equipment used by our Building Maintenance Department as appropriate along with outer disinfection techniques.
6- In Town Hall, public access beyond the Lobby area has been restricted.
7- High-touch surfaces are wiped by Building Maintenance staff at greater frequency.
8- The Town Hall Cafeteria and other meeting areas now have reduced seating and greater separation.
9- I have arranged that the Town will be working with the Greenburgh Health Center, which will be setting up a mobile van to vaccinate employees who qualify for the vaccine.
SUPPORTING OUR LOCAL RETAIL CORRIDORS
In partnership with the local community and our store owners, we were able to create outdoor seating opportunities at some area restaurants. The Parking Authority created additional outdoor space for restaurants on East Hartsdale Avenue as well.
ADAPTING TO ENSURE ACCESS TO PARKS AND RECREATION DURING THE PANDEMIC
This pandemic has demonstrated just how essential our parks are for our residents and the people who work in our communities. Record crowds have visited our parks this year to walk, jog, hike, meditate or exercise, using our tennis courts, ball fields, swimming pools or playgrounds.
UNABATED “MEALS ON WHEELS” SUPPORT
Throughout the crisis the drivers and staff of the Greenburgh Nutrition Program continued to deliver meals (over 5000 each month) to at risk Senior Citizens who were unable or fearful to leave their homes and were sheltering in place. Volunteers helped deliver these critical meals to seniors just unable to shop or enter a supermarket.
PROMOTING PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
Between late 2019 and early 2020 there were very unfortunately, nine pedestrian accidents, some involving fatalities. We created a Traffic Safety Committee which made several recommendations to the Town Board. We were able to finally install a new traffic signal at the intersection of Sprain and Ardsley Roads. The Commissioner of Public Works and the Commissioner of Planning and Community Development issued a report prioritizing sidewalks that needed to be built in the Town. We worked with the NYS Department of Transportation to address safety issues on Central Avenue, near Sacred Heart Church, where a child was very seriously injured. NYS will allow the Town to construct a “Hawk Traffic Control Device” designed to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely at the crosswalk. We are currently designing two sidewalks, on Hillside Avenue and North Washington Avenue. We are also taking steps to build a sidewalk on Fort Hill Road from Ardsley Road to Longview. A permanent resident Traffic Safety Committee will be appointed by the Town Board with representation from different neighborhoods. A new sidewalk is also currently under construction on Old Tarrytown Road.
NYS REPAVES ROADS THEY OWN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER FIVE YEARS
For the first time in more than five years, NYS has begun repaving roads under their control, which are located within Greenburgh. Dobbs Ferry Road, Hillside Avenue and Saw Mill River Road in Ardsley have all seen excellent upgraded paving. In 2018 student interns successfully lobbied NYS to address road conditions and we thank them for their effective work.
MARIO CUOMO BRIDGE BIKE PATH
A long-awaited bike/pedestrian path has been opened across the Mario Cuomo Bridge, enabling cyclists and pedestrians to bike/walk from Tarrytown to Nyack. I had pressed for this for many years and expressed concern about the narrow width of the shared walkway. I am also pushing for a bike lane to be built from the South/North County trail on Route 119 to the Cuomo Bridge. Such a path would make it safer for cyclists to bike from the Yonkers/Bronx border and from Putnam to the bridge without having to worry about street traffic.
ODELL HOUSE IS NOW OWNED BY THE TOWN, ITS HISTORY WILL BE PRESERVED
Odell house was finally turned over to the Town by the “Sons of the American Revolution.” It was a long process. A private foundation, “Friends of the Odell House Rochambeau” was formed to work with the Town, to provide assistance and direction as we proceed with efforts to restore this important national landmark and to make it a museum.
CON ED ISSUES REFUNDS FOR FIRST TIME FOR POWER OUTAGES
After far too many power outages, we were able to lobby Con Ed to issue refunds to customers who experienced losses due to outages and partial refunds were issued for the first time. Con Ed was fined by NYS for being unprepared to address power outages during this summer. It is my hope that Con Ed has learned from these unacceptable experiences. On Christmas day there were outages around the town and Con Ed responded quickly and efficiently to these issues. We are pressing Con Ed to create a joint plan with Verizon and Optimum to coordinate initiatives to avoid such service disruptions.
Site Approvals: Shoprite will replace the movie theater in North Elmsford. Brightview Assisted Living has been approved at Metropolis Golf Club. Amazon to open a last mile distribution facility in Elmsford. Proposed assisted living at Maplewood has been abandoned. The Town has committed to hiring an Economic Development Coordinator. A new Self-Storage Facility opens on White Plains Road. Chelsea Assisted Living opens in Greenburgh at the former Frank’s Nursery. Carlson’s to remain a nursery at 625 Dobbs Ferry Road. Westchester Broadway Theater closes. Tesla Dealership construction almost completed on Route 119.
EXCESS SUPERMARKET FOOD TO THE NEEDY
The Governor signed a law that was developed by the Greenburgh Conservation Advisory Board and Councilman Ken Jones, providing that large supermarkets should make available excess edible food, that is otherwise being carted away for disposal, to religious or other non- profit organization which provide food for free to the needy. The Town Board passed a resolution supporting this initiative. The bill was overwhelming passed by the NYS Senate and Assembly, and the Town Board urged the Governor to sign this legislation into law. It becomes effective in June 2021.
KNOLLWOOD/RUMBROOK INTERCONNECTION PIPELINE INSTALLATION UNDERWAY
Construction of the critically important Knollwood-Rumbrook interconnection pipeline project began in 2020. The interconnection is needed from the Rumbrook Pump station to the Knollwood Pump station to provide the Town with a second (redundant) water source, in the event that the NYC Delaware Aqueduct System is shut down, or one of our pump stations is out of service.
SUMMER INTERNSHIP STUDENTS MET WITH NATIONALLY KNOWN LEADERS
During a Town sponsored Virtual Internship, comprised of 42 Greenburgh student interns, Hillary Clinton, Ed and Randi Zuckerberg, (father and sister of Mark of Facebook fame) former White House correspondent for TIME Magazine, Barrett Seaman, Newsweek columnist David Kaplan and others were interviewed. PSAs were produced by these bright and remarkable students. The internship program was overseen by Town Clerk Judith Beville with assistance from Commissioner of Planning Garrett Duquesne, Town Attorney Tim Lewis and me.
ZUCKERBERG INSTITUTE AND GREENBURGH CREATE PARTNERSHIP TO HELP SMALL LOCAL BUSINESSES
After hearing Randi Zuckerberg, former marketing director for Facebook speak to Greenburgh student interns about the Zuckerberg Institute, the Town became one of only two communities in the nation to partner with the Institute to assist local retail businesses. Students will have access to Silicon Valley business leaders and work with them to develop creative ideas to assist local businesses. We anticipate that the program will be launched in March. Over 60 brilliant students from all over Greenburgh have already expressed interest in participating.
The Appellate Division of the NYS Supreme Court is reviewing an appeal to determine the sufficiency of an incorporation petition filed by Edgemont residents. Two years ago, the Appellate Division overturned a lower court ruling and determined that the first petition filed was insufficient. A second petition was subsequently filed and the same Judge who issued the first ruling issued a similar decision which is the subject of the new appeal. I hope that the State Legislature will change the law to enable every voter in the unincorporated section of town to vote- since everyone will be impacted.
Our Town joins 27 communities in participating in an ESCO (Energy Service Company), with Sustainable Westchester, to provide residents with “Green Energy.” Residents who wish to opt out of the ESCO may opt out without penalty. The Town Board will provide residents with comparisons of Con Ed rates and the rates the ESCO are charging. The Sustainable Westchester rates can’t go up or down for the life of the contract. Con Ed rates can. We were the first community in the Hudson Valley to put solar panels on the roof of town hall and geothermal at our library.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE GOVERNMENT MORE EFFICIENT
The Town provided residents with the ability to request bulk trash pickups online utilizing a new system. In 2021 residents who have complaints about Town service-related matters will be able to utilize a new automated system to memorialize their complaints online.
Greenburgh was the first community in Westchester County to create a cricket field, which is now at Richard Presser Park in Hartsdale. An extremely popular sport with many of our new residents, this year the Westchester Board of Legislators approved a one million dollar capital expenditure to create a cricket field in Yonkers. As is often the case, Greenburgh led by example. County Executive Latimer and Legislator Shimsky were instrumental in obtaining the funding.
FOOD SCRAP RECYCLING
We were the 2nd community in Westchester to place organic food scrap recycling bins at a town facility (AF Veteran Park), promoting food scrap recycling.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
The Town Board appointed a committee headed by Councilwoman Gina Jackson to identify systemic racism (housing, health, police, employment, etc.). The committee members have been meeting and will issue a report with recommendations early in 2021. The Governor had directed (after the horrific murder of George Floyd) all local governments in NYS to create committees and provide recommendations for change. The Town Board continues to promote more diversity in our Police Department and recently elevated the Sergeant of Community Affairs to Lieutenant as well as promoted the first Hispanic officer to the position of Lieutenant. We were the first community in Westchester to outfit our police officers with body cameras. And, shortly after being elected Supervisor started our Police Summer Youth Camp, community policing and created a Police Community Advisory Committee—years before other communities initiated programs to encourage better community/police interaction.
Former WestHELP Affordable Housing site under construction in the Mayfair-Knollwood section of Town for 74 apartments for seniors which will replace 108 homeless shelter units.
The Greenburgh Housing Authority is demolishing 30 Senior Housing units on Manhattan Ave to build 70 new units of Affordable Housing for seniors. The Town Board approved both agreements. We have turned foreclosed properties into affordable housing in Hastings and Ardsley.
NEW AMBULANCE TO HELP ARDSLEY SECOR AMBULANCE CORP
A new ambulance arrived in Ardsley, thanks to a NYS grant secured by Senator Andrea Steward Cousins, to help the Ardsley Secor Ambulance Corp continue to provide high level ambulance services to residents.
Over 50 Senior Citizens and disabled residents were helped by Greenburgh Snow Angels, shoveling driveways and stairs, without charge, this December. The Snow Angel program is headed by Miles Cooperman, a senior at Ardsley High School.
Despite the pandemic, we have continued our focus on improving efficiency and effectiveness in delivering services to our community. With many staff working from home, and limited direct contact with others, we nevertheless were able to come up with initiatives that will help make the lives of our residents better.
For example, during the week of January 11th the DPW will, for the first time, pick up from homes old TVs, computers, printers and e-waste. Because of the demand for bulk pickup, we placed temporary bins at key locations around Town last December, so our residents do not have to wait for pickups.
RENEWAL OF EXEMPTIONS FOR SENIORS AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES MADE EASIER
The Town Board also voted to waive the renewal requirements for seniors and persons with disabilities who previously received STAR exemptions.
I remain extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Town of Greenburgh, under my leadership and promise to move aggressively forward in the future to continue working my hardest and smartest on behalf of my constituency. I love my job, always have and remain honored to serve the people of Greenburgh.
On a personal note, after many years of public service, I have realized that removing the “political factor” in my decision-making process is critical. This year, I believe I have functioned more efficiently and effectively than in any prior period as an elected official, while accomplishing more for my constituency. I have done my best to look to the needs of the community and move forward in the most equitable way I can, always understanding that my only goal must be to “do the right thing” for the residents of our Town. I ask with humility and appreciation, for the support of the Democratic Party of Westchester, in continuing to accomplish this goal.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor