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Robert Wintermeier: Crotonblog On The Take?

January 4, 2006


Option: Download and watch this video clip of “Robert Wintermeier: Crotonblog On The Take?” in Quicktime format (2:19 mins. | 3.2 mb).

Bob Wintermeier, 34 Radnor Avenue (live from the podium during the Board of Trustees meeting held on January 16, 2005)…

“The other thing that I am concerned about is the sudden influence of what I perceive to be money coming in on the blog.”

“If you take a look at the blog, you’ll find a lot of advertisements on there from C&D locations, ah, firms, construction and demolition firms that are located in Brooklyn, ah, New Jersey, California. I can’t believe and don’t understand why these entities are taking ads out on the Crotonblog. Ah, but if you want, I’d be glad to send you the emails. Ah, one of ‘em we were able to trace in California by doing a reverse phone-mail ah, check.”

“Ah, aside from that, we were not able to, ah, find them through an Internet search, given the name that is there. These guys are involved with ah, construction and demolition, C&D, and hazardous material. Ah, and as I said they are from New Jersey, Brooklyn and several other locations throughout the United States. Ah, (pause) I think I’ve said most of the main points. I says, I wanted to focus on Nicholai (Judge) and also this sudden attention that we’re getting in from these ah, ah, waste transfer firms here within Croton.”

“And uh, if there’s anything that you can perceive and look into. You can look at the blog anytime. It changes by the way. They never show more than four firms at a time. If you refresh ah, that screen (thingy), you’ll find three or four other firms suddenly showing up. There’s at least eight that I’ve identified. I’d be glad to give you copies of this information. I’ve saved that somewhere.”

To which Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt responds, “Actually, I just have to say one thing in reference to the blog and that is that it is, the blog is a private entity. Um, this board has no control over what the blog does and ah, the blog is what the blog is. And that’s true of any blog out there so ah. But.”

Then, Bob Wintermeier follows up with, “I understand Greg. As I said my concern is the funds. Why are these folks coming into Croton? Now there is one particular entity (inaudible). There are a number of them is what’s got me concerned. There’s nothing else in that one section.”

And finally, as Mayor Dr. Gregory Schmidt concludes, he says “Um, anyone else out there? Not seeing anyone at this point. We’re closing citizen participation and moving on to approval of minutes.”

Editorial response: Mr. Wintermeier, you must be unaware of the ad network that Crotonblog is part of…. Well, its Google! They have this new-fangled online advertising platform called AdSense… And guess what it does? It matches web content with Google’s ads, really fast like too. Maybe next time you and your “research assistant” will do a little homework before trying to “swiftboat” Crotonblog from the podium.

On February 17, 2006 2:49 PM, SSmith said:

It is regrettable, that the comments made at the Village Board meeting on January 03, 2006 by Robert Wintermeier in this post and on video, caused me to react passionately in statements I made here on February 06, 2006. My comments were completely out of character for me. I hold no malice towards Mr. Wintermeier. Therefore, I would like to withdraw those statements and apologize to Mr. Wintermeier.

Even more regrettable to me is that had Mr. Wintermeier—a frequent commenter on CrotonBlog—only reached out and asked about the nature of the Google advertisements in question instead of publicly seeking municipal assistance, I am sure both of us would not have had reason to be so upset. As far as I am concerned, this should end this controversy.

On February 12, 2006 9:32 PM, TeaDrinker said:

notorc; the link and comments you requested can be found here: “A Letter to All Who Voted for George W. Bush from Michael Moore”. There is also a link to the Police Blotter entry which you speak of too.

I wasn’t sure whether you were referring to this article; “A Lesson I Share…”, when you mention “glossing over”.

And really “notorc”, thanks for your readership. I am certainly glad you did not follow the advice of another and leave. Everyone is welcome here, even if you chose to criticize the blog staff. I assure you, none of us will be right all the time. We’ll make mistakes and when we do, we appreciate folks like you bringing it out into the open. I hope you feel the same way about what you may write…

On February 12, 2006 9:09 PM, notorc said:

I’m going to reluctantly throw my two cents in here. The last time I took a position, I was actually accused of being a racist, an “economic racist” to be precise… by a co-founder/editor/moderator of the blog.

Therefore, I took the advice of another poster by “going away” (for the most part). Perhaps Ross will provide a link to the post which was my reaction to crimes committed down by the Croton River by non-residents.

In any event, when I saw Mr W’s comments at the meeting, I was perplexed. As a regular lurker at this blog, I never made a connection. After that, I received a great education in google ads. I never realized they were tailored to the text of the page… nice! Not knowing Mr W, I thought and do think it was an honest mistake. I’m a generation younger than him and make my living as a software engineer but didn’t know the specifics of google ads.

To me, Bob’s comments were simply a concern grown from a misunderstanding. Perhaps past history fueled the fire but as an outsider, I was surprised to see the remarks posted above. Attempts to ruin his hobby, threats of legal action, name calling and actual “calling him out”. I’m not sure why I’m posting now. Perhaps it was the refreshing post from “crotonishome” or perhaps it was a nice serene day in the village where neighbor helped neighbor deal with the record snow storm. In any event, I expect to get pounced on again… sobeit!

In regards to: “It becomes clear that Crotonblog does not edit, judge or deny free speech in any way whatsoever. To the best of my knowledge only one blogger who blatantly abused the privilege was no longer allowed to participate.” First of all, as I mentioned, I had a moderator hand me my hat while another poster told me to leave if I didn’t like it here…. fine. In regards to duplicate IP addresses, this is often the case when a router/firewall acts as a NAT or if multiple people share the same computer. I don’t want to take sides on this issue because at the time, it did seem underhanded that an alias was being used. That is, someone was writing letters as one person and posting as others. What I find interesting is, that happened recently on this blog but was glossed over… things that make you go hmmm!

Having said that, the croton blog is a fantastic resource for the village. I just wish it wasn’t so poltically driven.

On February 12, 2006 11:28 AM, weewill said:

I don’t get the connection between Bob Wintermeiers comments on the blog and the writer’s conclusions. I will stay out of it because it’s not my argument. But then I also didn’t miss nor do I buy into Bob’s innuendos about the perceived connection between the Blog and waste haulers and organized crime. That, to me, is a real stretch.

Crotonblog provides a valuable service to all the residents of Croton who pride themselves on neighborliness, diversity and community. And so, too, I believe, does the Blog. We need only look back to the often heated and intense comments posted on the blog relative to the MetroEnviro fight. It becomes clear that Crotonblog does not edit, judge or deny free speech in any way whatsoever. To the best of my knowledge only one blogger who blatantly abused the privilege was no longer allowed to participate.

When a person or organization is attacked, either by innuendo or direct remarks, that person or organization has the right to respond. That’s the free speech intended by our forefathers. Bob Wintermeier has always exercised his rights to free speech and I’m relatively certain he will continue to do so.

On February 11, 2006 11:33 PM, crotonishome said:

I am extremely disappointed that this blog has launched such vicious personal attacks on Croton residents. One of the staff members accused a particular resident of supporting McCarthyism, but yet I am certain that the ongoing assaults launched by this blog have many concerned and intimidated. Doesn’t this attack and intimidation make the blog the purest form of McCarthyism?

This blog can provide some very useful community information and political perspectives. Undoubtedly there will be disagreements regarding issues.

However, a factual rebuttal would be the most appropriate and respectful response instead of insults and smear tactics. It would exemplify the spirit of free speech I believe is intended by our forefathers. It would garner respect by providing an intelligent and mature response. Instead, blog staff members have chosen a lesser path, and in doing so, severely damaged the credibility of the Croton blog by posting defamatory remarks.

The staff needs to maintain much higher journalistic standards than those shown in their recent reporting if they truly aspire to maintain a reputable forum.

In fact, if one reads the fine print regarding the Croton blog’s terms of use, it clearly and specifically states that bloggers cannot post anything harmful, threatening, abusive, degrading, or intimidating. Has the staff violated their own rules with their name-calling? Why hasn’t the vicious content of attacks against Croton residents been removed as clearly stated in the rules? Has the staff invoked their power of “editorial discretion” to allow abuse and harassment?

Despite political feuds, Croton is a wonderful place to live and I believe the residents do not want to be fearful of being smeared by their neighbors on the internet. Will prospective residents and businesses find this town the welcoming haven it has been long before most of the staff moved here? Perhaps the town board, or at least the residents, SHOULD be more cognizant of what is happening on the blog.

Who wants to live or do business in a town where they may be the next target of the Croton blog?

On January 20, 2006 10:49 AM, weewill said:

Believe me friends, that’s not all Mr. Wintermeier doesn’t understand! Try, truth, facts, veracity, integrity, respect, fair play and last but not least, democratic principles of equality for all, including democrats!

On January 19, 2006 8:45 PM, Josh said:

is he going against crotonblog.com? with all of those uh and ah’s he sounded oh-so-confident. i had no idea what he was saying… but he doesn’t seem to understand crotonblog, and how awesome it is…

On January 11, 2006 8:36 PM, theshadowknows said:

I stand by what I wrote about the illegality of Spillway Toy Soldiers. The intent of the framers of Croton’s zoning legislation is quite clear—the separation of Village properties into residential, commercial and industrial districts, with the obvious objective of protecting the character of residentially zoned districts.

The Code provisions are there for everyone to see, and the curious can google “Croton-on-Hudson” and go to the Village Code on the left side of the Village’s home page. Then type “Zoning” in the search box, and click. The pertinent text is at 230-10 (a) and (b).

The routinely permitted accessory uses of residential premises are defined in the Village Code and limited to “customary home occupations,” from which are excluded day care centers and bed-and-breakfast establishments. Certain restrictions pertaining to the percentage of floor area devoted to accessory use (30%) and prohibition of the employment of nonresidents of the premises are then briefly spelled out, but these have no bearing on what constitutes a permitted accessory use of residential premises.

The key phrase in Croton’s Village Code, of course, for permitted accessory uses is “customary home occupations.” Unfortunately, this phrase is not defined in the law, perhaps because the framers thought that customary home occupations was evidential enough. Most zoning ordinances that define the phrase limit customary home occupations to such language as “the production of goods and services on the premises by members of the immediate family with equipment customarily used for household purposes and requiring no more off-street parking facilities than would ordinarily be used by the household.”

Typical customary home occupations—dressmaking, home cooking, canning or baking—are what was intended. By extension, the phrase could also be said to include sewing, weaving, embroidery, crocheting and similar household arts, plus home computer usage and authorship, an occupation of many Crotonites. The phrase “customary home occupations” was certainly not intended to include any occupation that would affect the residential character of a neighborhood, such as a retail establishment. Many ordinances specifically prohibit “any occupation in connection with which a commodity or merchandise is sold or stored on the premises.” There can be no doubt that Mr. Wintermeier’s commercial retail enterprise, Spillway Toy Soldiers, is patently not a customary home occupation by any definition of the term.

To avoid future definitional conflicts, the Village Code then goes on to spell out and list as permitted accessory uses certain non-customary home occupations of a specialized or licensed nature that are permitted, even going so far as to specifically exclude veterinarians from the enumeration.

I repeat here the list of permitted non-customary home occupations, this time in alphabetical order, so that readers can clearly see that being a retailer of merchandise is not included as a permitted accessory use: “architect, artist, chiropractor, city planner, dentist, engineer, insurance broker, ladies’ hairdresser, lawyer, musician, optometrist, osteopath, physician, public accountant, real estate broker, teacher.”

There can be no doubt that Mr. Wintermeier’s Spillway Toy Soldiers business is not one of the enumerated non-customary home occupations that are specifically permitted as accessory uses under the Village Code as exceptions to the customary home-occupation designation. Therefore, since it is not a customary home occupation and not a specifically permitted accessory use, what is Spillway Toy Soldiers if not illegal?

No protestations or self-serving interpretations by anyone can change the clearly stated intent of the law. The only method by which a retail business in a residential district, such as the one Mr. Wintermeier is currently operating, can be made legal is to pass a local law to change the wording of the Village Code to specifically permit retail establishments in homes in residential districts—with the approval of Village residents, of course.

I daresay this would be a tough sell in any community in which median home sales are in the high six figures and especially in a RA-5 district—i.e., a residential district in which houses are cheek-by-jowl on small lots, measuring only 5,000 square feet in area, or 1/8th of an acre, off-street parking is scarce, and on-street parking is difficult because streets are narrow.

The sale of toys and other merchandise at retail also requires the prominent display on the premises of a certificate of authority to collect sales taxes, which then must be remitted to the State of New York. Furthermore, the attendant inflow and outflow of merchandise in packages via shipping services’ delivery trucks plus visits by retail customers to residence are—by no stretch of the imagination or language—activities that accompany a “customary home occupation.” Increased truck and automobile traffic have a potential for annoyance that could give Mr.Wintermeier’s neighbors cause for complaint, since these tend to affect the quality of life in a residential neighborhood.

If Mr. Wintermeier’s claim is that his business is conducted only on the Internet or that he discourages visits by customers, why does he feature his street address prominently in his extensive advertising?

There are other ramifications to the presence of such a retail business in a home. The company underwriting Mr. Wintermeier’s homeowner’s liability insurance would certainly not cover claims for accidents or injury to customers that happen on the premises at 43 Radnor Avenue if it learned that he was conducting such a business in his home without their knowledge. Instead, it would require a separate business liability policy (or a rider to his homeowner’s policy) to cover their potential exposure to claims resulting from customer or client traffic in what is officially declared to be a residential district.

On January 10, 2006 10:48 PM, Pat Barua said:

I encourage “theshadowknows” to reread the section of the Village Code he or she cited. It is perfectly legal to run a “customary home occupation” out of one’s home, provided one meets other restrictions related to employees, percentage of space used for business, and signage. “Customary home occupations” are NOT limited to professional or licensed occupations — that is another category under one can operate a business out of one’s home, subject to other restrictions.

On January 10, 2006 12:08 PM, theshadowknows said:

Re Mr. Otto Robert Wintermeier’s public defamatory attack on the Crotonblog. In the Gospel according to St. John, we read what Christ said to the crowd of men about to stone a woman (but not the guilty man—it was ever thus) taken in adultery: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I find it interesting that Mr. Wintermeier, who is quick to take others to task publicly with his overheated and unresearched imaginings about their deviations from civic rectitude, is someone who operates a business in his home at 43 Radnor Avenue.

His thriving business has been run (and continues to be run) as an illegal, unpermitted accessory home use without the knowledge of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson. I also find it interesting that neither the Westchester County Clerk’s office nor the office of the Secretary of State in Albany has a record of this business in their corporation or DBA files.

Why are you flying beneath governmental radar, Mr. Wintermeier?

The Village Code, Section 230-10-b, specifies that accessory home uses are limited to “customary home occupations”. It goes on to define a home occupation as “incidental to the residential use of the premises and is carried on by a resident thereon with no nonresident assistants.” The only legal accessory home uses permitted under Croton’s Village Code are those of professionals or of licensed occupations itemized specifically as “the professional office or studio of an architect, artist, dentist, engineer, lawyer, musician, teacher, physician, public accountant, chiropractor, city planner, insurance broker, optometrist, osteopath, real estate broker or ladies’ hairdresser, but not including veterinarians.” A business advertising and selling toys and other merchandise from a residence is not a permitted accessory home use in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson.

What do you say to that, Mr. “Holier-Than-Thou” Wintermeier? I guess it just proves the wisdom of the adage that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

On January 4, 2006 1:54 PM, weewill said:

And based on the history of this very small bunch of hate-filled people we can be sure this kind of twisting, suggestions, innuendo, rumor, accusations, finger-pointing, falsehoods and misrepresentation will continue to surface during the upcoming village political campaigns. Notwithstanding protestations that this is NOT a partisan issue, the facts speak for themselves.

Please taxpapyers and voters, don’t be swayed again by their underhanded and deliberately misleading statements. Get the facts from those who know them, i.e., the village manager, the Mayor and ALL the trustees, both republicans and democrats alike. Opinions don’t necessarily have to agree but our elected officials have sworn to serve all the people. And that’s done by correcting bad information (especially when stated at a public forum) when they hear it and sharing the correct facts with the electorate when legal sensitivities are not compromised.

Thanks to Crotonblog for bringing such an important issue forward. It allows for the give and take of both sides of any argument. Everyone has equal time and rights to comment. The only price one pays is to hear the opinion of others who might disagree with you and that’s a small price to pay for accurate information.

On January 4, 2006 1:29 PM, Seth Davis said:

Enough people took this crowd seriously last March to give us Schmidt, Brennan and Steinberg.

Wake up, Croton—March is coming again!

On January 4, 2006 1:13 PM, dors said:

No one can possibly take Robert Wintermeier seriously. His lack of understanding of weblogs is obvious. Sadly for him, he decided to take the mike for the band-of-big mouths (aka Cudequest, Pellicci, Minett, etc.) to attempt to discredit the reputation of the Crotonblog. Their brainstorm of an idea that Crotonblog is “on the take” could be funny if it weren’t so infuriating. Mr. Smith, I surely hope you seek damages for Wintermeier’s outrageous remarks. I don’t think a public apology is forthcoming or frankly, enough.

On January 4, 2006 12:47 PM, SSmith said:

Dear Mr. Wintermeier,

As one of the founders of CrotonBlog.com, I feel compelled to respond to your outrageous and slanderous comments made about our business venture at the January 03, 2006 Village Board Meeting. It is clear to me that your comments had the intention of damaging CrotonBlog.com as a going business concern and clouding our reputations.

As my colleague, Ross Weale, has already pointed out; your comments derive from your lack of understanding on the logic and functionality of weblogs (a.k.a. blogs) or perhaps from some bad advice you may have received to present this frivolous item to our busy Village Board. In particular, your lack of understanding on how Google’s Adsense program works is really quite easy to grasp: Google matches ad content with currently viewed content.

In other words, when one clicks around the Blog, they notice that the ads change based on the content being viewed by that blogger at that particular time. Since you mostly view articles about Metro-Enviro and garbage related posts, Google magically returns ads that interest you. Cool, huh? In fact it is ingenious, and definitely one of the reasons why Google is now a major driver of the technology side of our economy and one of the best performing stocks in the U.S. market since its IPO in August 2003. I suggest that maybe you refer to one of my articles for economic and market insight to help you understand what is going on in our dynamic economy.

I also respectfully suggest that the next time you attempt to slander one of the businesses in town you do your homework first. One thing I have learned in my 18 year career on Wall Street is that you have to do your homework – always!! And really do it too because when you don’t you invariably sound ignorant and uninformed when speaking. In fact, in some cases through ignorance you unknowingly invite havoc to reign down on you.

I can assure you that I am personally going to explore legal options in response to your comments. You see you have not only slandered me and my associates at CrotonBlog; but you have called our character into question. I CANNOT let that pass. How do I explain this to my family and friends if I do?

I can also assure all in town that no one on the Board of the Blog has any personal friendships or “cozy” relationships with any former Mayors or former Trustees. I have personally lived in the village since 1995 and do not even know former Mayor Elliott or former Trustee Grant. Nor do they know me. I have been a patient of Greg Schmidt’s since approximately 1998, however. What does that mean in people’s context of things?

I can also assure everyone in town that CrotonBlog is, was and continues to be funded by me and my partners. No political party or interest group of any kind will ever have any say in the operation or development of the Blog. We are not criminals, mafia sympathizers, garbage industry groupies, “on the take”, or “in bed with anyone”.

What we are is: parents of kids in our local schools, soccer coaches, baseball coaches, PTA members, neighbors, Cub Scout volunteers, church and synagogue members, and most of all forward thinking citizens who love living in Croton. The Blog is our outlet for issues and concerns to be heard as they are and not filtered through local email lists or any other self proclaimed “clearinghouses of information”. This is the future of news and resource media….and you get it for free from us already!!!!!!!!!

It troubles me that you have taken aim at me and my business associates. I unfortunately can assure you that you will hear from me again in response to these slanderous allegations.

Perhaps, a public apology at the next Board Meeting would be a prudent step for you!! Please consider it.

In the future, if you have anything to say about me or anything I am involved in around town, please contact me directly and we can discuss it like real men… face-to-face. I am in the book.

Best Regards,

Steve Smith Co-Founder Crotonblog.com

On January 4, 2006 8:37 AM, Mrs. Smith said:

Good response Mr. Weale, however it doesn’t quite fit in with the conspiracy theory that Mr. Wintermeier is so determined to espouse! I am actually surprised it is not Bob Elliott or Georgianna Grant who has been fronting these ads - are you sure you are right?!!!!???!!!

Seriously, this is an example of how this small group of people twist facts to suit their narrowminded perspective, then spout it in public as gospel. Readers should remember this when reading comments from the winermeier/cudaquest/peillicci/minett group.



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