| by Rick Pezzullo |
There are always two sides to every story, and the issue of leadership in the hotly contested race for mayor in the Village of Sleepy Hollow is certainly no exception.
Incumbent Ken Wray, who is seeking a fourth term as mayor in the March 18 election, running on the Unite Sleepy Hollow line, believes the village is in good hands under his watch.
“I will take a thoughtful, constructive approach to making decisions to bring this village forward,” Wray said. “My approach is to do the research and have the appropriate information in front of the board so we can have intelligent discussions. It takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work away from the meetings. Shooting from the hip may get some satisfaction, but it’s bad strategy.”
Trustee Karin Wompa, who is challenging Wray on the Democratic and Responsive Government Party lines, feels Wray’s lack of leadership has caused the clear friction on the Board of the Trustees and prevented many issues from being addressed.
“A lot of people feel it’s time for a change,” said Wompa, who has been a trustee for seven years. “A lot of people are unhappy. They feel nothing has happened in the village. He (Wray) dismisses the opinions of half of the board. He’s never been appreciative of any of the work we’ve done. He tends to make unilateral decisions, or indecisions actually. You shouldn’t confuse lack of progress and procrastination with thoughtfulness, there are projects, decisions and initiatives that have languished and come to a halt on my opponents desk, under his charge. With the opportunity to be mayor comes the ability to move things forward.”
Wray, who lives in Webber Park, first joined the board in 2007 as a trustee. He is executive director of the Parodneck Foundation, a New York City non-profit that provides affordable housing and services for people of low and moderate income. He has also worked on programs for disabled veterans, seniors, victims of domestic violence and populations in need.
He pointed proudly to his role in getting the former General Motors site back on the tax rolls after 29 years and helping to finalize the last minute negotiations with developer Lighthouse Landing.
“Not since Washington Irving penned the legend has there been such a singular event in our history,” Wray claimed in a letter sent to residents. “The village has truly shed a huge weight from its industrial past.”
“Just in December, when the GM sale was in danger of falling apart, we had a critical meeting to deal with some issues that GM put forward at the last minute. There was a lot of work to pull people together,” Wray explained later. “Obviously there should be a healthy concern about it going forward and being completed. Do I think it will be completed? Yes. I expect that actual construction will begin on the site in 2016.”
Wompa has lived in the village since 1996 and has been president of the Sleepy Hollow Downtown Revitalization Committee since 2009. She previously worked in project management at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
She said Wray disbanded the GM Committee after it negotiated the special permit for the village, neglected to appoint a design committee for the site as required and failed to address traffic issues that will likely worsen from the mixed-use project.
“It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen fast,” Wompa said of the development which thrust her into wanting to be an elected official. “GM will take care of GM. We need to take care of the rest of the village. You could have a situation like Atlantic City where people drive through just to get to the site, or the downtown gets revitalized and becomes an historic Sleepy Hollow and blends into the new development. Obviously we want the second scenario. We need to address the public/private partnership right now.”
Wompa noted she supported Wray in his previous runs for mayor but said their relationship began to sour after the 2013 campaign when Wray replaced her as deputy mayor without any advanced notice or reason.
“Ken decides he just doesn’t like somebody. The dynamics (on the board) were changing, and Ken was showing favoritism toward certain trustees. We weren’t getting our agenda items on the table,” Wompa said. “We were always a team but it was becoming very frustrating working with Ken. He wasn’t engaged or pro-active. Now he’s running again. It’s almost like desperation.”
Wray maintained replacing Wompa with Trustee Jennifer Lobato-Church as deputy mayor two years ago was simply a “routine” matter to give someone else a chance, but claimed Wompa was overstepping her boundaries as deputy mayor by trying to direct some village officials to do things she was not authorized to request.
“The way to get us back to smoothly functioning is clearly to put new people on the board,” Wray said. “It has gotten worse and worse. The childish behavior. Two weeks ago Karin and Bruce (Trustee Bruce Campbell) walked out of a meeting. That’s leadership? I guess she has to find an attack point. I didn’t want to see the campaign descend to that level.”
Wompa said she has the ability to lead a group of people to reach a consensus by valuing the input of everyone involved.
“It is my forte to pull together the right team and ensure you are addressing all the various goals and concerns,” she said. “This is evident by the projects I have already managed successfully in the village, with my creation of the Sleepy Hollow Development Committee, two significant properties have been purchased on Beekman Avenue and will be restored to the tax rolls; oversight of the renovation of Morse Playground, ensuring its completion by the new school year; the production of Halloween at Horan’s; and, as noted in the Village Board meeting minutes, bringing together the team and process for the tax in arrears collection process and lien sale (which generated $500,000) to name a few.”
Wray said he has worked to upgrade the professionalism of the village staff and Police Department, kept property tax increases to a minimum, secured a site with the help of the Rockefeller family for a new 1.4 million gallon water tank that will bring the village in compliance with a New York State requirement and is looking forward to when residents can freely access the Hudson River from Kingsland Point Park to Ichabod’s Landing.
“As a village, we have worked very hard to get to this place,” Wray said. “Many, many people have given an extraordinary amount of their time and energy, elected officials as well as private citizens. We should all be proud of what has been accomplished.”
Polls are open in the village on Wednesday, March 18 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.