Tarrytown Mayoral Candidates Face Off in League of Women Voters Debate
By Barrett Seaman —
Though there are issues in Tarrytown that are subject to earnest, sometimes heated public debate — development, affordable housing, the environment, cannabis legalization, traffic and taxes, Sunday’s League of Women Voters/Mothers Out Front forum for the village’s open seat for mayor did not reveal sharply contrasting views, at least among the three candidates vying to be mayor.
Still, the opportunity to flesh out policy positions after a string of uncontested elections offered village voters an opportunity to learn. “It’s exciting that this is the first time in many, many years that there is a full slate of candidates,” observed Paul Janos, who served three terms as mayor before losing to Drew Fixell — and then losing to him again six years ago in a bid to regain his seat. “It really is a representation of the village.”
Like Janos, the other two candidates, Karen Brown, running on the Democratic and Tarrytown United party lines, and Doug Zollo on the Village Alliance ticket, stressed their qualifications. Both are incumbent trustees, with Zollo racking up 20 years in elected office while Brown has served for 16 years — three terms on the board and 10 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The questions, posed by Northern Westchester League of Women Voters (LWV) official Susan Polos, were submitted by the public and reviewed by LWV officials. Only a few questions managed to tease out important differences among the three candidates. The webinar, presented on Zoom, devoted the first hour to the three mayoral hopefuls and the second to the nine trustee candidates.
Asked whether TEAC, the semi-official Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council, shouldn’t have more of a say in the village’s zoning decisions, all three agreed that TEAC should have a seat at the table, which they already do in a non-voting capacity, but both Brown and Zollo held back from endorsing a voting membership. “I would hesitate to put on another layer of rules,” said Brown.
All three avoided getting dragged into a smoldering, albeit parochial debate over whether Stiloski Towing, which has a repair contract with the village, is abusing parking privileges in the area of the H-Bridge and Wildey Street. All three acknowledged that the company has a special permit; all three said they thought Stiloski was paying its violation summonses.
All three saw diversity as a village asset, though Brown and Zollo were more explicit in citing the challenges to diversity posed by affordability and availability of less costly housing stock. Janos quickly mentioned high density development and “way too high” taxes as primary challenges.
A question about potential conflict of interest drew an immediate acknowledgement by Paul Janos that he used to work for the developer of Hudson Harbor. “I think if you are working for a developer, for someone who is potentially getting a job through the village, they’re going to have to recuse themselves.”
Brown said that her initiation into Tarrytown politics was sparked by the sale of what is now Wilson Park to a developer and the threat of building dozens of large houses adjacent to her property. She became involved in efforts to save open space but was accused of NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard). Since then, she stated, she has been involved in efforts to make Wilson Park more accessible to the public. “I think I can separate the two.”
Doug Zollo responded succinctly: “I have no conflict of interest; never have… I don’t owe anybody anything.”
All three endorsed New York State and Tarrytown goals to reduce emissions but chose to mention specific examples of their own positions. Karen Brown cited cooperative energy-saving agreements with neighboring villages. Doug Zollo said he favors electric police cars and cited his vote in favor of making the village 100 percent reliant on renewable energy. Paul Janos endorsed a trolley to shuttle people from the station area up to Main Street. “I do support having as much green as possible,” he said, “as long as it doesn’t impact businesses in a harmful way.”
“Smart development,” said Brown, “means looking at every project that comes before the village and making sure that it has definable public benefit and that it respects the character of our village and that it takes into account our problems with mobility, and how we can grow without over-inundating our infrastructure.”
Zollo went right to the since-withdrawn proposal to build a 300-foot long, 85-unit apartment building at 29 South Depot Plaza, which he cited as “an example of what I would describe as development gone wrong.” Invoking her right to a 30-second rebuttal, trustee Brown noted that each of the projects Zollo mentioned were subsequently voted down by the board and that “there are no developments on the horizon. That is how responsible development should work.”
Janos was more generic in his response to the development question: “This is a village. We should be very, very careful with development,” he said. “Traffic is terrible. We have to look at the traffic. At some point, with too much development, it’s not going to be the Village of Tarrytown.” Janos also pointed out that while the project at 29 South Depot Plaza was ultimately voted down, it was endorsed by the Planning Board, which, he said, “shouldn’t have happened.”
That drew a terse rebuttal from Doug Zollo, who reminded his opponent that “all the developers have pulled their proposals back, and all the developers are hoping that I will not win.”
The final question on the future of the waterfront drew broad support for the continued existence of the Washington Irving Boat Club (WIBC), though no candidate had time to explain how that would work, given the other expectations the village has for other improvements on the site. Far less support was offered for the “boatel” proposed for the Tarrytown Marina.
View the entire forum below: