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Letters-to-the-Editor & Commentary

Vote Based on the Facts

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October 31, 2023

To Whom It May Concern:

Whomever one votes for in Tarrytown’s contested elections for Mayor and Board of Trustees this coming Tuesday (or sooner, if they’re taking advantage of early voting), I feel like it’s important they arrive at the polls properly informed. Unfortunately, misinformation has flourished around the village for months concerning several core issues, and the only true democracy is one in which voters have been guided in good faith. In that spirit, I wanted to separate some fact from fiction, or at least add context and nuance to topics that have become needlessly and cynically politicized.

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First, ADUs, or accessory dwelling units (effectively casitas, or “granny flats”). Village First has allowed a perception to take hold that Tarrytown’s passage of legislation to permit a limited number of ADU proposals with very strict guardrails for approval amounted to a complete overhaul of local zoning laws—and that the process allowed for limited public input.  In actuality, the legislation was modeled on existing legislation both nationally in states like California and Connecticut and locally in neighboring Rivertowns including Irvington, Dobbs Ferry and Hastings-on-Hudson (not to mention other County municipalities like Ossining, Bedford and Pleasantville). Moreover, it was prompted by a 2019 Tarrytown housing assessment indicating an epidemic of cost-burdened homeowners and renters. The law was drafted after more than a year of research alongside the Village Attorney and Administrator and was revised multiple times to reflect public feedback.

Second, and not unrelated to the above, is the notion that the Board is obligated to put matters like passage of the ADU law up for public vote. The mechanism for that would be a referendum, but a trial-basis updating of local zoning laws concerning personal property cannot trigger a referendum in New York State. Simply put, the ADU legislation went through all due recourse: assessment as part of the village’s comprehensive plan, concerted drafting in consult with village officials, public feedback sessions and subsequent revisions and, ultimately, a vote by the Board. That is how representative governance works. Not everyone will be happy with the outcome, and they are free to express themselves with their vote at the polls, but mob rule isn’t the same as political organizing, and any effort to suggest the Board wasn’t transparent and inclusive in the process is disingenuous. (Also of note: Hastings-on-Hudson has permitted ADUs since 1997. Irvington has permitted them since 2016. As of 2020, there were 23 total ADU units in all of Hastings in that time, and two in all of Irvington. Since Tarrytown passed its legislation this February, not a single application has been brought before the Building Department for review.)

Third is Tarrytown’s decision in 2022 to contract Constellation Energy as a continuation of its work with Sustainable Westchester to transform Tarrytown into a greener community while still keeping costs down for customers. It hasn’t been without hiccups, but from the very beginning of the partnership, up through today, residents have always had the ability to opt out and choose ConEd or any other alternative provider. Guidance for opting out was always made explicitly clear through both digital communications and physical mailers. Can communication with constituents improve? Always. But residents have never been left in the dark or without recourse on issues that affect their lives and their bottom line.

Fourth: Tarrytown residents across the spectrum have made clear they want safer roads, intersections and crosswalks for pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike. That work is already well underway. The current Board and Mayor paved the way for the improved and repaved crosswalks spanning Route 9 and Main Street; installed visible, dynamic signage at said crosswalks; and just recently approved the removal of a parking space at Route 9 crosswalk near the CVS on North Broadway that was long an impediment to drivers’ view of pedestrians crossing and vice versa. They’ve accomplished this in part by working closely with officials at the State level, as Route 9 is entirely controlled by the State, not the village nor County. Similar intergovernmental efforts have allowed for crucial updating of infrastructure to mitigate the effects of severe weather and flooding that we have all seen with our own eyes (and felt in our wallets). That work can continue, and must continue. Disrupting it by installing a new administration averse to making smart investments in Tarrytown’s future – one that’s inclined to close ranks around an isolationist “Village First” approach to local governance — is both impractical and reckless.

On that last point, I hope Democrats and all other Tarrytown voters can appreciate that modeling a forward-thinking, inclusive community means rallying around leaders working to advance that cause beyond aspirational talking points and well-meaning sloganeering. And it certainly won’t happen if we succumb to willfully misleading, ideological rhetoric that lulls us into thinking we can be whimsical with our votes in a local election. The New York Republican State Committee knows otherwise. It’s why they paid for Village First’s mailers.

So, between now and Nov. 7, vote your preference and do so proudly. But vote based on the facts. And the facts are that Mayor Brown and the incumbent Trustees have put the needs of Tarrytown residents and the future of the village first, and deserve a second term together.

-Kenny Herzog, Tarrytown

Editorial note: The writer is  a district leader for the Village of Tarrytown Democratic Committee. He is also employed as an aide to the Westchester County Board of Legislators.

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