Down in Wellington, Florida a few weeks ago, Irwin Katz wrote a $500 check to the Croton Repulican Commitee. A year ago, Floridian Mr. Katz did the same thing. So why would someone in Florida send $1000 to the Steinberg’s campaign coffers?
Mr. Katz owns land in Croton. In fact, he owns the land underneath the Croton Auto Park. He also owns a controversial parcel, the “Katz property,” between the Auto Park and Maple Street—opposite the Black Cow. Last year Mr. Katz sued the village over this parcel.
Why? According to the court papers, he claims that zoning changes prior to 2005 have hurt his ability to make a deal to sell the wooded lot on Maple for a big-box development.
Does Mr. Katz think his contributions will get him a favorable from the GOP—overturning years of careful zoning work? We don’t really know. The Village changed its zoning code—after a great deal of public input—to keep our gateway areas as compatible as possible with foot traffic, cyclists, strollers, and calmed cars.
Crotonites were emphatic in telling the trustees to preserve our village-like streetscapes. Put more bluntly, the zoning changes were crafted over several years’ time to impede strip mall expansion and tip the balance from the car-culture toward walkers and cyclists. In sum, to increase the local “park-and-walk” experience.
Is the Katz suit settled? No. His lawsuit is still pending. Is one of the GOP’s top donors trying to get the attention of the Republican board members in hopes of a favorable outcome for his property?
Why do the Republicans regularly accept these substantial donations from business owners with contested issues before the Village Board? Does accepting this money look like a conflict of interest to you?
Does Mr. Steinberg think that—if he is elected—these contributions will have zero influence on his decisions relating to Mr. Katz’s lawsuit?
Why do the Republicans also feel that they can plant campaign lawn signs (see the comment section in “Color Me RED or Color Me BLUE?”) on the very same Katz property on Maple Avenue? Did they get Mr. Katz’s permission for using his lot as advertising space?
Meanwhile, the village and its taxpayers—you, me, and Jim included—had to spend money to defend the village against Mr. Katz’s lawsuit. Maybe Jim doesn’t care how much we spend on lawyers.
The Katz money is not the only instance of the Steinberg/GOP coffers swelling with large donations from proprietors who are making demands on the village.
Other major GOP donors also seek changes in local laws. Mr. Lou Giordano of Yorktown Heights is a heavy GOP donor. In fact, Giordano donated $500 this month—the very same amount as Mr. Katz, who is coincidentally Giordano’s landlord. The Croton GOP received the Giordano and Katz checks on the very same day. Another coincidence?
Over the past few years, Giordano of Yorktown has created a monopoly, buying up all the car dealerships in Croton. He also owns strip malls near the biggest dealership.
Now GOP contributor Giordano wants the GOP majority on the Village Board to remove the village prohibition on new auto dealerships or expanding the size of existing dealerships.
Yet many residents who live near his dealerships have made it very plain that Croton already has enough automobile lots. They cited the glaring nighttime lights, the daytime visual blight, and tractor-trailer traffic. Does Giordano want to make Croton Commons an auto mall too?
In sum, every year the GOP takes big money from business owners whose permit applications, zoning appeals or municipal service demands come before the village board. Since Steinberg has been a candidate in 2005 and 2006, these donors now also include a non-resident business owner suing the village.
In the 2006 campaign so far, half of the GOP’s itemized monetary contributions have come from non-residents property owners. In 2005, three out of every ten dollars of the GOP’s itemized monetary contributions came from non-residents or local businesses with claims against the village (see: Croton Republican Committee NYS Board of Election Statement for 02/22/06 to 03/10/06).
The GOP campaigns get more expensive each year—$2600 so far this year for the GOP’s TV spot. The GOP solution seems to be to lean more heavily on outsiders whose corporate interests may not mesh with those of village’s families.
What is next? Is the village for sale?
— Leo A. W. Wiegman, Trustee, Village of Croton-on-Hudson