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Updating Crotonblog's 'Album of Shame': Another Croton Business Bites the Dust

October 30, 2007

Tutto is apparently not so Bene at Croton’s Italian restaurant Tutto Bene. Located on South Riverside Avenue just north of the intersection with Croton Point Avenue, classic Italian eatery Tutto Bene appears to have closed its doors.

tutto-bene-ristorante-croton-on-hudson.jpg

Nearly three weeks ago, Crotonblog noticed that the restaurant was dark on a Friday night. A sign on the front door said the restaurant had no power. The sign has since been replaced with a new one that simply states, “Closed.” Numerous phone calls to Tutto Bene have also gone unanswered. So Crotonblog says, “Ciao. Non so quando ci revedremo.”

With the shuttering of this restaurant in the Harmon Gateway district, there are now eight vacated commercial locations in the immediate area. Is this any way to treat a gateway? We thought a gateway was where the village of Croton was supposed to put its best foot forward.

Related: “Croton’s Commercial Real Estate ‘Album of Shame’,” August 23, 2007

On December 4, 2008 9:30 PM, Johnny said:

Well it’s been one year since I left Croton. I am the owner of Tutto Bene. If you want my coment on this let me know

On November 24, 2007 7:46 PM, TeaDrinker said:

To “Just the Facts” (and other interested readers)

On the basis of your statement that your previous comment was your last comment on this issue, to satisfy your curiosity I hereby declare that I am indeed a businessperson and that I have never had a pecuniary interest in, nor have I been a party to any proceeding before the Planning Board. My objections to the 2004 amendment to the zoning law stem entirely from the restrictive, fundamentally anti-business conditions instituted by that change.

Before the discussion ends, however, I must also correct certain attitudes you have mistakenly ascribed to me, particularly that I am “against zoning.” I am not and never have been against zoning, if by zoning you mean a system or plan for developing a community in which various geographic areas (zones) are restricted to certain uses and development, such as industrial, light industrial, commercial, single-family residential, multi-family residential, parks and schools. Such a system has been in force in Croton for a long time.

What I am against is the 2004 amendment to the then-existing zoning law that made the unsupported assumption that Croton’s commercial ills resulted because certain “gateways” were not attractive enough—but they could be made attractive and bring new businesses by enforcing new and tighter requirements on any businesses desiring to come to Croton. The logic of this escapes me, since it did nothing to change the drab existing commercial buildings in these same gateway areas. Only someone who thinks that a propeller-beanie and brown shoes are the proper accouterments to a tuxedo could have proposed this kind of solution to Croton’s economic problems.

This amendment to the existing zoning ordinance makes two statements that are virtually meaningless. One states that the purpose of the drastic changes is “to strengthen the visual identity of the village,” whatever “visual identity” means—as if Croton’s economic problems stemmed from poor visual identity of its retail establishments. Another meaningless statement, this time one that would confound a grammarian, is, “Each of the gateway areas should have a special character” whatever “special character” means, In the second statement, everything also depends on, as Bill Clinton would say, what the meaning of “should” is. And nowhere does the amendment spell that out—or how “special character” would have a bearing on business profitability. Of course, there is always the frightening thought that all this amendment was intended to do was make these parts of Croton fit someone’s idea of making it “prettier,” without regard for whether it helped or hurt a business’s profitability.

Moreover, this amendment made the arbitrary decision that certain business activities should suddenly be forbidden in Croton—namely automobile dealerships, parking lots, fast-food restaurants, and establishments with drive-through windows—without offering reasons for these condemnations. Yet such prohibitions are inimical to the best interests of Croton residents, since they limit the operation of businesses that could relieve the high tax burden borne by residents.

Why does the business-unfriendly amendment forbid parking lots in a village that sorely need adequate parking space? I venture to suggest that it is to avoid competition with the village’s own water-soaked station parking lot. Incidentally, why does Croton spend public funds to police three private parking lots, ticketing Croton residents to enforce the owners’ arbitrary parking regulations, thus giving, at taxpayers’ expense, an economic advantage to those businesses that are tenants in these shopping centers? Why doesn’t the village automatically ticket the on-street parkers I find blocking my driveway when I return from a trip?

When a community sets up zones specifically for retail operation and makes an arbitrary decision targeting certain legitimate businesses as undesirable, it invites bringing economic trouble upon itself. The marketplace is always its own best regulator of the retailing mix; Sam Walton started an unprepossessing little dime store in Benton, Arkansas. He didn’t try to make it fancy; his only formula was to undersell his competitors. Look at the size of his retail empire today, based on this precept.

Proponents of the amendment crowed that it had kept out big-box stores like Eckerd Drugs, perverting the truth. By no definition is Eckerd Drugs a big-box store. With Eckerd, CVS and Save Mor competing, you can bet that the cost of over the counter drugs and prescriptions would come down quickly. What the village did to Eckerd was the antithesis of planning; it actually forestalled competition, and it did it by impulsively buying the lot Eckerd was interested in for a cool million, thus taking it off the tax rolls.

To paraphrase the famous quotation ascribed to Senator Everett Dirksen, “A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” Heaven help us if village policy is now to go into competition with investors for every piece of real property that comes on the market. This might be understandable if the purpose were to keep such properties forever green as conservation land or parkland. What’s so strange is the village doesn’t know what it wants to do with the lot it so impulsively bought.

Among the forbidden-in-Croton businesses singled out in the 2004 law are “fast-food restaurants.” Isn’t a pizzeria, of which Croton has several, a “fast-food restaurant”? But the 2004 legislation neglects to explain what qualities of fast-food restaurants make them pariahs in Croton in the eyes of those who wrote the law. Such looseness and lack of definition would ordinarily attract a lawsuit by such restaurants claiming that the exclusion was based on lack of definition. The reason that hasn’t happened is simply that Croton isn’t exactly an economic prize worth contesting for or fighting over. Until Croton planners wake up and learn that Croton isn’t the highly desirable market they think it is, its economy can only get worse. The $64,000 question is how long will Croton wait to discover that, like the children of Hamlin, it may have been following a pied piper.

A healthy mix of thriving retail and quiet residential zones is good for every village. In a village like Croton, off the beaten path as it is, it can be shown that Croton residents alone are not sufficiently numerous or loyal to support the total number of commercially zoned spaces of available. Croton should make the inevitable choice of encouraging retail businesses that will attract customers from a wider geographic area. That failing, the realistic alternative would be to accept reality and reduce the considerable area that is now zoned for commercial use, rezoning it to residential use. Of course, Croton could make significant changes in the 2004 amendment—something it may have to do to attract developers to the Harmon area.

Can any business attract more customers to come to it from a wider geographic area than an automobile dealership? I doubt it. Croton at one time had three automobile dealerships (The building occupied by E/T Equipment on South Riverside Avenue was once a Volkswagen dealership and later an Oldsmobile dealership; Croton Dodge was Heckman Plymouth/Dodge of happy memory, a place where my wife bought a new Plymouth Duster for $2,500; the village next sold the Municipal Garage –its location there is the reason it is called Municipal Place—to Irwin Katz for his Chevrolet dealership.)

Drawing customers from a broader geographic range has been suggested as crucial to business success in Croton. Automobile dealerships also have a symbiotic relationship with other businesses in a community. Potential customers may eat in local restaurants; they may buy gasoline in local gas stations. A car owner bringing a car to a dealership for service or repairs will call a local taxi service for transport to the railroad station.

Strategically located, a MacDonald’s or Burger King could draw a lot of automobiles off the expressway and into Croton. But would one such establishment be more unattractive than a half-dozen nail salons or umpteen delicatessens? Croton’s many delicatessens and sandwich shops can be easily explained: The high school no longer has a cafeteria serving nutritious hot lunches, leaving the student body to forage for lunch on its own in the village. The unusual practice of releasing young people from the jurisdiction of the high school will probably continue until an untoward incident happens, after which all hell will break loose and a cafeteria will hastily be added to the building.

Some of the exclusionary changes in the zoning ordinance might be understandable if Croton were some picture-postcard New England village wanting to keep its idyllic image of itself. But it is not. It is an nineteenth-century hamlet with a layout dictated by river and railroad commerce now wedded to a twentieth-century planned community laid out by a developer interested in extracting the greatest number of lots from a given area. An old proverb says, “You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” The concept of the 2004 amendment reads like an off-the shelf package conceived for a new community starting from scratch. Trying to overlay such a plan on tired old higgledy-piggledy Croton is ridiculous.

This is not to diminish my own love for Croton. I was born here (actually in Ossining Hospital—yes, a hospital was on Spring Street where the Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church is now) and off and on I have lived here quietly and out of the public eye for a half-century; my children were educated in Croton schools, and I have always loved returning to it from business trips. But I have no illusions about it. A picture-postcard New England village Croton isn’t, and never will be.

It has never been clear to me what beautification of gateway areas was achieved by the 2004 amendment to Croton’s existing zoning ordinance, Other than branding Croton as a community unfriendly to business, nothing was accomplished since no new businesses have found Croton to be anything but inhospitable and many exiting businesses have failed or closed. To add to this unfriendly impression, are Croton’s laws limiting access to Croton’s parks solely to Croton residents, regulations that I also oppose. Croton certainly could never erect a sign at any of its “gateways” reading, “Welcome to Croton, The Friendly Village.”

Setting up zones in which various kinds of businesses can operate makes good sense. But once a community designates zones and then targets legitimate, tax revenue-producing businesses and keeps them from coming into these zones or keeps nonresidents from enjoying its parks, I become uncomfortable. To me, it ceases to be America, but begins to resemble the Soviet Union, where the state dictated everything arbitrarily under the guise of planning.

You may wonder why I object so forcefully to restrictive legislation like these exclusionary laws. I can only quote for you the words of German Pastor Martin Niemuller, who said: “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

If you want to break your vow about terminating your part of the exchange and have a meaningful discussion, I should be happy to learn what specific aspects of the 2004 amendment you support as being in the best interests if Croton and why. I am genuinely interested in your point of view. But if you are going to ignore the several detailed presentations I have made in an orderly fashion and resort to calling me an ass again, this time I shall be forced to agree with you.

On November 21, 2007 7:31 PM, Devil's Advocate said:

Just No Facts,

I cannot believe you just wrote to BP saying:

“I do not intend to open this thread again as you have succeded in degrading this conversation into pure ridiculousness.”

This is from the person who wrote:

On Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 4:39 PM, “Just The Facts” wrote: Devil’s Advocate,

Once again you are full of crap. Hey, I got it, why don’t you bet me $50,000 that you are not made of crap? We will retain a board certified proctologist who can acertain wheter your body is full of crap or not.

I am glad you and BP agree with each other, go have a celebration…

On Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 4:37 PM, “Just The Facts” wrote: Devil’s Advocate,

You are full of crap.

WHAT A JOKE!

On November 21, 2007 7:24 PM, Just The Facts said:

BP,

You are just a plain old pompous a$$. Support from Devil’s Advocate hardly substantiates your point. He/she is as often wrong as you are. Further your riduclous proposal doesn’t prove anything. Whether you were prepared to put money down or not is not the point. The only thing that was requested of you was for you to indicate whether or not you had a vested interest in getting rid of the Gateway laws. Something that to this day you still refuse to do — let the reader (not just Devil’s Advocate) be the judge of what to make of that. Your refusal to make such a statement is worthy of the current administration in D.C.

At any rate, I have become tired of this discussion with you — it is clearly pointless. Lets just agree that you are against the Gateway Legislation and most other zoning restrictions. I, on the other hand (along with what I believe to a majority of Crotonites) am in favor of zoning (perhaps not all elements of the Gateway rules though). In any event, good luck in your effort to rid our community of zoning, you face an uphill battle.

Feel free to respond as you like, however, you will not see a response from me as I do not intend to open this thread again as you have succeded in degrading this conversation into pure ridiculousness. Feel free to turn this thread into whatever tirade you want against how stupid you think I am. While doing so, know that I will be sitting comfortable at home secure in my knowledge that zoning laws are here to stay in Croton to protect our community against those that are out to just make a quick buck.

Happy Thanksgiving all.

On November 21, 2007 2:27 PM, weewill said:

Everyone needs to go to his or her respective corners and take a few deep breaths. Then come out and play nice in the sandbox!

And by the way … Perhaps everyone should check his or her facts. It was NOT the Mayor who formed a Commercial Development Committee. It was proaction on the part of Ann Gallelli, who initiated the committee and organized their meetings. The Mayor congratulated the initial work they’ve done and then commissioned them as a “formal” committee.

I don’t believe they’ve “concluded” that the Gateway laws are hampering business development. It’s my understanding that they are working within the gateway laws, tweaking and improving what might need to be updated or changed. This is not unusual at all since the who concept of the Comprensive Plan has always been viewed as a guide to assist the village in consistent and appropriate zoning. Developers and redevelopers of course need to receive ample return on their investments.

On November 21, 2007 11:47 AM, TeaDrinker said:

I want to acknowledge the several messages of support for my calling of “Just the Facts” hand—to use an expression from poker. Apparently he has rubbed other people’s fur the wrong way.

In all honesty, mine was not an empty wager; I was quite prepared to post a substantial amount of money. The proposition “Just the Facts” foolishly offered to bet money on is known in gambling circles as a “sucker bet,” much like betting me that I am not married to my wife, when all I have to do to win is to produce a marriage certificate. The party certain to lose does not usually proffer such bets.

There was no substance to his charge that I “proposed a business before the Planning Board and got rejected.” The truth is, of course, that “Just the Facts” simply does not know the functions and duties of the Planning Board, which are narrowly defined in the Village Code. An applicant does not “propose” a business before the Planning Board, nor does the Planning Board pass judgment on whether a business may come into the village.

With the exception of those businesses specifically banned by the 2004 Law, any legitimate business would be welcomed, providing the nature of the business matches the particular zone in which it is to be located (i.e., commercial, industrial, etc.). So, the entire affair turns out to have been based on false assumptions by “Just the Facts.”

In August I offered a rather long screed detailing and analyzing the cascade of events and circumstances that have combined to create Croton’s economic troubles. It is interesting to note that “Just the Facts” never saw fit to comment on this presentation but chose to speculate on my identity and motives, Commentary on any blog serves a useful purpose when it is regarded as a place for the exchange of ideas. That purpose is perverted when a few resort to attacking the messenger instead of debating the message.

This is exemplified by “Just the Facts” latest spluttering attacks on individuals who ventured to call attention to his past personal attacks on them. One can only wonder what the next level of his anger may be. The vehemence of his outbursts leads to the conclusion that he is an unstable individual, and points up the wisdom of anonymity in small-town blogging.

I am aware of attacks on the property of individuals in the past in Croton. One resulted in severe damage to automobiles in which the perpetrator was caught. She paid restitution and was served with a permanent order of protection keeping her away from the victimized family. In another case, the tires of an individual’s car were slashed but the culprit was never caught. Good neighborliness is always devoutly to be desired. Regrettably, it is not always exhibited in Croton.

On November 21, 2007 10:39 AM, Devil's Advocate said:

Just No Facts:

It is clear that you are just upset because Businessperson called you out and your rediculous assumptions about people on this blog are wrong again.

If you were informed in the least, you would know that the mayor himself has commissioned a Commercial Development Committee in July to study the gateway laws. The committee concluded that the gateway laws are hampering business development as they have been found too restrictive to enable developers, redevelopers and business owners to get am ample return on investment.

If you had simply read the Gazette and the Journal News you would have seen asubstantial number of articles on the subject over the last 6 months. Even appearing on the front page of both papers more than once.

I look forward to your uninformed, kindergarten like response.

On November 20, 2007 4:39 PM, Just The Facts said:

Devil’s Advocate,

Once again you are full of crap. Hey, I got it, why don’t you bet me $50,000 that you are not made of crap? We will retain a board certified proctologist who can acertain wheter your body is full of crap or not.

I am glad you and BP agree with each other, go have a celebration…

On November 20, 2007 4:37 PM, Just The Facts said:

Devil’s Advocate,

You are full of crap.

On November 20, 2007 10:05 AM, Devil's Advocate said:

Just the Facts:

You have plaqued this blog with your unsubstantiated nonsense for far to long. Businessperson called you on it and challenged you to “put up or shut up” but you dont seem willing to do either.

If you call people out, you should be prepared for them to take you up on it. You have done the same thing to me in the past and when called out, you backpeddle and make excuses.

You should be embarrassed. You continually make yourself look uninformed.

Businessperson: Congratulations! You certainly win this one.

On November 19, 2007 10:02 PM, Just The Facts said:

BP,

Since you are so prone to quoting research to support your point (see, ABC and Usury posts), I will do the same. Wager is defined as “something risked or staked on an uncertain event” (see http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wager). Clearly, you know whether you made such an application, so such would be a one sided wager.

It was a freakin expression. I don’t know whether you made an application or had plans/hopes to do something but Gateway won’t allow you. In fact, someone willing to research the ins and outs of usury and ABC law is likely to have not wasted their time making an application for a business that is clearly prohibited. The point is that there is no way to know what you or others with your views would have done in the absence of the Gateway laws?

I will go back to my original point, despite your clear dissaproval of the Gateway laws, you have done nothing to prove your point that in the absence of the gateway law, the business climate in Croton would be better. I suspect that the owner of Tutto Bene was able to hang on longer in Croton by not having to compete against the Olive Garden (again, just an example, please don’t take this as an invitation to give me a market analysis of minimum community sizes required for Olive Garden). I enjoy the fact that Croton has businesses like the Black Cow, the Croton Dinner, the Blue Pig, Ocean House, etc. I, and what I believe to be a majority of our neighbors prefer these over Starbucks, McDonalds, Hagen Daz or Legal Seafood.

Finally, I don’t care what your identity is, but I do think it is fair to question/speculate on your motives. I note for the record that you have still yet to make the statement that “you have not been personally affected by the Gateway legislation”. Make the statement, don’t make the statement, at this point I don’t personally care. But, to think that I am going to actually pay you to go on record is ludicrous.

As I ended my last post, BP, I wish you the best of luck on your campaign to get rid of zoning in Croton. You will need it.

P.S. Notorc, note that this differs from your experience as I am not calling Businessperson a liar or disputing his/her claim. All that is needed is for him/her to disagree with my speculation. This is an anonymous internet blog, people make their statements and the reader gets to decide for themselves if it has any merit.

On November 19, 2007 9:49 PM, merecatherine said:

Wow, Tutto Bene closed! I am not surprised. We always take our family to local restaurants, but if they are bad, then we do not return. Tutto Bene’s food was not good and their ambience was depressing. These restaurants close because they are bad! Good (or at least decent) food establishments survive -and thrive- in Croton, e.g. the bagel place, Justin Thyme, Umami Cafe, Sofia’s, Capriccio’s, the Croton Colonial Diner, Ocean House, etc. Yes, we could use more restaurants that serve good food in happy, clean establishments owned by local residents. It is clear that Westchester people and families like to eat out. It is a shame that we cannot turn this into a mutually beneficial situation.

On November 19, 2007 3:19 PM, notorc said:

Yikes, BusinessPerson is putting his money where his mouth is. I doubt you’ll see the likes of $25,000 or even $10,000 though.

Croton Blog is a place where anonymous people form an opinion of and make false accusations regarding other anonymous people. There is little or no effort by the moderator to identify fact vs fiction.

This happened to me today (again). All I asked for was an apology in exchange for a hug. My gut feeling is, that ain’t happening.

You really are a businessperson aren’t you. Good luck with your wager but you won’t see a nickle.

On November 19, 2007 1:06 PM, TeaDrinker said:

To “Just the Facts”:

Of course, there are strip clubs in Nyack and Yonkers. As I explained in my comment, the SLA takes local attitudes into account. But if a community takes the position that it does not want a liquor license issued to a strip club, no license will be issued. What was the argument about if not the content of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Law?

For the life of me, I cannot understand why you persist in psychoanalyzing my motives for expressing opinions on the reasons for the sad state of Croton’s economy, while at the same time ignoring the facts I presented. After a long disquisition again speculating on my identity and my motives in your comment immediately below, you repeat the challenge you made previously. For the record, I note here and now what you wrote:

“In fact, as I have stated in the past and will state again, I will bet good money that you proposed a business before the planning board and got rejected. I have made this charge in the past, and you have yet to refute it.”

I’m a gambling man, and twenty-five thousand dollars is certainly more than enough to be considered “good money.” I therefore accept your challenge to bet with you on this issue. This Internet wager made publicly will probably be novel enough for the Associated Press to do a story on.

On Saturday, November 24, at 12 Noon, I propose that we each deliver to the editor of Crotonblog a certified check or bank cashier’s check in the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00). I understand that he is an honorable person of excellent reputation and an appropriate stakeholder for the money being wagered.

That will give each of us the weekend to sweat out the outcome, which can be determined on Monday morning, November 26, by an examination of the minutes of Planning Board meetings and any other pertinent records.

The terms of the bet as set by you in the italicized statement above are that at some time in the past I, the person using the screen name of Businessperson, “proposed a business before the Planning Board of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson and got rejected.” If that statement is true, you take possession of both checks. If it is untrue, they are mine. It’s as simple as that.

If twenty-five thousand dollars is too steep for your pocketbook, I am agreeable to reducing the size of the bet, but in no case can the amount wagered be less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00). I should appreciate your stating publicly the exact amount being wagered by you so that I can have a check in a matching amount in the stakeholder’s hands by Saturday.

Mr. “Just the Facts,” you threw down the gauntlet before and repeated it in the preceding comment. Suspecting it to be a figure of speech, I ignored it initially. But you insisted on repeating it. Therefore, I have publicly accepted your challenge and have agreed to wager “good money” over this issue. Now we shall see whether you have the bollocks to, as the well-known expression says, put your money where your mouth is. Well, do you? Or are you, as they say in Texas, “All hat and no cattle”?

On November 19, 2007 11:16 AM, notorc said:

On a positive note, the new “forty four” tapas place next to Cappriccios is great. A few friends recommended it so we stopped by and were not disappointed. I congratulated the owner and warned him about failing restaurants in that spot. Apparently they have owned several restaurants so they think they have the formula down. From what I saw, I couldn’t agree more. I still remember having an $80 taco at the last place…yikes, not good, never went back!

On another positive note, a different friend recommended “Bella Paula”. He said it was family owned, the service was great and the pasta is made on site.

I heard Tutto Bene moved to White Plains. Too bad, I liked their food.

On November 18, 2007 8:45 PM, Just The Facts said:

Businessperson,

How dare you call me ignorant, you self serving pompuous boob. There are in fact strip clubs in areas outside of NY. I believe there is one in Nyack and there have been others in Yonkers and other areas. The fact of the matter is the whole talk of Strip Clubs and Pawn shops, are but examples of the kinds of establishments that I, and I believe most of our neighbors, don’t want in Croton. There are others, including waste transfer stations, junk yards, heavy industry, business that deal with chemicals and dangerous materials, etc. I want zoning, and I believe a majority of our neighbors want it too. We moved to Croton, not Yonkers or even Peekskill. Most of us want this town to stay small scale, even if it means those out to make a buck make only one buck instead of two.

Your posts, not just the one in this chain, but for well over a year, indicate that you have a personal vendetta against the Gateway regulations. In fact, as I have stated in the past and will state again, I will bet good money that you proposed a business before the planning board and got rejected. I have made this charge in the past, and you have yet to refute it. Instead you spend your time and ink going through the ABC laws.

Face it Businesperson, your laissez-faire notions of zoning are out of touch with what the populace of Croton believes in. Keep trying and stir up and rabble rouse for getting rid of zoning, but it just isn’t going to happen in a town that spends millions to get rid of businesses that are already here (Metro Enviro).

Similarly, you indicated in the past that you believe that land developers ought to be able to maximize their profits and build basically anything they want on their property. Again, this is out of touch with main stream Croton views as no one whats these McMansions next to their house.

Make your buck elsewhere business person, I moved to Croton for a reason, and I and what I believe to be a majority of our neighbors intend to keep it that way.

On November 18, 2007 2:26 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Having just returned from a business trip, I cannot allow the misinformation promulgated by “Just the Facts” about strip clubs and pawnshops to stand. Despite his name, he seems less interested in the facts and more interested in attacking the messenger. I assure the residents of Croton that there is absolutely no chance of either kind of enterprise coming to their village. The Alcoholic Beverages Control Law was written in 1934. Although it made provision for local option, New York City’s mayor at that time was Fiorello H. LaGuardia, who was so straitlaced he wouldn’t even allow burlesque theatres to operate.

The mandate of the State Liquor Authority does not include control of the mores of a community. While it is true, as “Just the Facts” points out, that strip clubs now operate in New York City, these are in commercial and waterfront districts and always have the approval of neighborhood boards, which are consulted first by the SLA. The few total nudity clubs that operate do not have liquor licenses and are therefore outside the jurisdiction of the SLA.

As for pawnshops, which are more frequently found in southern and western states that are more generous in setting interest rates that can be charged, New York State’s cap on interest rates makes them decidedly unprofitable in any but the poorest areas where default on the loan is more likely. New York criminal law prohibits charging interest of more than 25 percent annually, and its civil banking law restricts unlicensed lenders further to just 16 percent. The state also bars check cashers, an even more undesirable industry than pawnshops, from making loans and from accepting post-dated checks. This has effectively kept the payday lending industry out, as the most a store can legally charge is 95 cents for every $100 loaned.

I do not mind jousting with others whose opinions differ from mine. I do object to having to do it with someone so ignorant of and oblivious to the facts, especially someone who enters the contest under the banner of “Just the Facts.”

On November 5, 2007 9:49 PM, crotonres said:

To notorc:

Why would you want Starbucks, bitter coffee and overpirced? We have a fine coffee place in the Black Cow and if you want average coffee there is a Dunkin Donuts in this town already.

On November 5, 2007 11:14 AM, Just The Facts said:

Business person,

Even assuming you are correct regarding the NYS ABC laws — and I have reason to doubt it because as we both know there are plenty of alcohol serving strip clubs in NY — the point once again is that you believe (perhaps for your own monetary interests) that business should be completely unchecked in Croton. Good ‘ole supply and demand will take care of it.

I, along with what I believe to be a majority of our Croton neighbors do not believe that business (including local real estate developers) should be left unchecked in Croton. I do not want pawn shops, strip clubs, junk yards, waste hauling businesses, etc. in Croton. It is my strong belief that littered in the minutes of the planning board is some permit that you applied for Mr./Mrs. Businessperson. You were undoubtedly rejected and now you have a personal vendetta against zoning regulation in Croton. Well, too bad. Good luck getting this town who has spent millions of dollars fighting an unwanted business over the past three years to take up your cause of eliminating zoning. Good luck in deed.

Respond as you like business person, but I am done trying to make you understand. It is pointless anyway as you are clearly in the minority and will remain as such for the forseeable future.

On November 4, 2007 8:12 PM, TeaDrinker said:

I grow tired of having to explain what I wrote in my initial comment to people who make no effort to read what I wrote. I never said that the 2004 law caused Tutto Bene’s closing. What I said, and I invite critics to read it again, was that despite the 2004 law’s exclusion of competition from franchised fast-food restaurants, a local restaurant was unable to establish itself largely because Croton residents traditionally make no effort to support local businesses.

As for “Just the Facts” raising the specter of strip clubs and pawnshops and creating an elaborate business model for a strip club, I have to say that I do not suffer fools gladly. This is nothing more than ignorant fear mongering. The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) would never grant a liquor license to such an establishment in Croton under clause 6a of the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Law, which prohibits issuing a license to any Establishment in which a lewd or obscene performance takes place.

For those unfamiliar with the ABC Law, clause 6a states: “No retail licensee for on-premises consumption shall suffer or permit any person to appear on licensed premises in such manner or attire as to expose to view any portion of the pubic area, anus, vulva or genitals, or any simulation thereof, nor shall suffer or permit any female to appear on licensed premises in such manner or attire as to expose to view any portion of the breast below the top of the areola, or any simulation thereof.

Unless “Just the Facts” envisions a strip club in which patrons imbibe nothing more potent than carrot juice, I cannot imagine a Croton strip club as very likely. I have already addressed phony fears about pawnshops, more properly called pawnbrokers. There is only one such establishment in all of Westchester County, the New Rochelle Coin & Jewelry Exchange. Readers can draw their own assumptions about the significant lack of a factual basis in the arguments advanced by the self-denominated “Just the Facts.” I accept the existence of stupidity but I draw the line at aggressive stupidity.

If residents are worried about an invasion of Croton by undesirable businesses because of its mythical low rents, I suggest that Croton hurry and pass another law specifically designating all the legitimate—but undesirable—businesses that are not wanted in Croton. But I would remind then that an enlarged commercial blacklist will only succeed in discouraging more businesses from coming here.

Whenever a community starts to tinker with the mix of its businesses trouble ensues. The 2004 law was a foolish attempt to impose capricious standards reflecting personal prejudices against certain legitimate businesses. For example, it specifically prohibited parking lots (probably to prevent the possibility of competition with the Village’s own monopoly on parking). I doubt that anyone could be found who does not feel that the parking situation in Croton is anything but abysmal, and who would welcome additional parking. Other unreasonably banned adjuncts to business include drive-through windows, even though studies have shown that they speed commerce and reduce the need for parking slots.

“Just the Facts” accuses me of not understanding Croton’s commercial problems, apparently unaware of the exhaustive analytical study by me published in these pages on August 31, 2007, under the rubric of “A Baker’s Dozen: Thirteen Reasons for Croton’s Business Recession.” I recommend that readers interested in learning the realities of Croton’s very real commercial real estate crisis could profitably start there.

On November 2, 2007 9:53 AM, Just The Facts said:

Businessperson,

It is shockingly clear that you just dont get it when you state if someone is dumb enough to open a strip club in Croton, “a community whose tastes lean more toward beer, the old lady and television, more power to them”. This shortsighted and ill informed assessment clearly demonstrates that you are completely missing what is wrong with Croton business, namely, very few of our businesses are unique or special enough to act as a magnet to draw people in. Your comment quoted above clearly indicates that you believe that Croton is in a bubble and that the only patrons for Croton businesses are the people who have a 10520 zip code. You are clearly niave if you think that in the absence of zoning restrictions that an enterprising person won’t take advantage of Croton’s depressed commercial real estate (i.e. low rents) and open such establishments (like strip clubs) that will draw people in from other neighboring communities that are smart enough to have zoning laws. In fact, if I didn’t have to live here and if Croton didn’t have zoning laws, I would invest in a strip club in Croton because quite frankly it would make tons of money. Assuming you are correct and that all Crotonites are prudes, there would be plenty of patrons between metro north workers, the hard working lower socio economic neigboring communities of Ossining and Peekskill, Pace and other local university “frat” boys, and the occassional Briarcliff family guy looking for an occassional diversion. Further competition would be close to non-existant (unless more clubs open in Croton) as virtually all other local communities restrict the operation of such establishments.

As far as pawn shops go, do you really want to see those on Riverside or Grand Street? Do you really think that actual local shop owners want those types of stores as their neighbors? I don’t know for sure, but my money is on the answer being “no”.

With a name of “business person”, it is quite surprising that you make countless assumptions in your argument without a shred of proof. Chief among them is that the gateway law resulted in the closing of the restaurant in question without offering one fact to support such assumption, other then your historical personal bias against the gateway law.

The gateway law is nothing more than a zoning law. Basically, all zoning laws are hated by developers and some business people who are out to make a quick buck and do not care about the long term effects on the community. The prime example of this is the city of Houston which has close to no zoning laws and is now paying the price. But clearly “businessperson” believes that business should run completely unchecked and that market forces always lead to good things. If this is the case, why is Croton spending tons of $$$ fighting Metro Enviro/Buffalo Southern and whoever else at A1A CPA?

On November 2, 2007 9:07 AM, notorc said:

JTF, I agree with some of your recent post. In particular, Tuto Benne did not close because of gateway laws and Croton is off the beaten track. Also, Perhaps there are not enough residents to support commercial space. However, somehow I doubt it.

Personally, I’d like to see two businesses: a starbucks and a car wash! I wonder if anyone has a case study with opening up either one of these? A nationally recognized eatery would probably also attract outsiders. Someone earlier mentioned opening a cell phone store, I like that idea too. When I needed a phone, I had to drive to the JV mall.

Anyway, I digress. What I do take exception to is your original quote: <” In fact, if anything, recent actions of Croton are down right inhospitable to our neighbors — such as restricting access to perhaps the only thing that may attract outsiders, our natural resources and beauty (our parks and recreation). In fact, I believe that these inhospitable policies regarding sharing our parks with our neighbors is just as much to blame if not more so then the gateway law.”>

Sorry but, I disagree we restrict our natural resources and beauty. I provided examples of where we don’t.

Please remember, the places we do restrict access is only in response to PROBLEMS and COMPLAINTS from residents. Even though signs are posted “Residents Only”, those signs were ignored and problems of noise, polution and sometimes crime ensued. With that one restriction being enforced, our fellow RESIDENTS are much happier. This I can live with.

Croton and the surrounding area has it’s fair share of open parks such as 528 acres of Croton Point Park, Miles of river walk, Croton Landing, Croton Gorge Park, The Aquaduct, Teatown, The Sailing School, Half Moon Bay, Croton Yacht Club, and dare I say Hudson National, etc, etc, etc.

On November 1, 2007 7:37 PM, TeaDrinker said:

To “Just the Facts”: What part of my comment’s first paragraph didn’t you understand? The framers of the 2004 zoning changes made the case that keeping out McDonald’s or Burger King would keep Croton safe for establishments like Tutto Bene, who would not have to worry about competition from a McDonald’s or a Burger King. Only someone forgot to get the message to the residents of Croton that they then had to patronize the restaurants that opened here under that guarantee of diminished competition.

And please don’t try to scare me or other readers with your local version of Al Quaida. A strip club? A pawnshop? Yes, strip clubs and pawn shops. If anyone is stupid enough to want to open a strip club offering wine, women and song in Croton, a community whose tastes lean more toward beer, the old lady and television, then more power to them. A strip club in a community where they take up the sidewalks at night? Don’t make me laugh. And what have you got against pawnshops? During the Depression, they saved many a family from having its possessions put out on the sidewalk by allowing a family member to pawn a watch or a ring or a guitar. But, not to worry. Pawnshops only make sense in a community with a lot of families at or below the poverty line. We’re proud that our high taxes keep the riffraff out.

In your follow-up comment you seem to have me mixed up with someone signing in as Notorc, who also doesn’t agree with you. It is not for you or anyone to say that there are too many commercial properties here for Croton’s small population. That’s for the market to decide. You would have loved living in the former Soviet Union. Anyway, a surplus of available retail space causes rents to go down, a tradeoff that should make properties more attractive to tenants. With oil nudging $100 a barrel, shopping close to home may become necessary as in the old days. Then there won’t be too many properties. I reject your suggestion that because I am consistent in my characterization of the 2004 law as the problem that I am engaged in a vendetta.

The 2004 law is the principal culprit. Where is it ordained that a nail salon is good and an automobile dealership or parking lot is bad—especially in a hypocritical community that operates a 2,000-space automobile parking lot eyesore? Where is it ordained that a fast food restaurant named Subway is good and one named McDonald’s is bad? The business life of a small community is not something that should be tinkered with on the basis of a questionnaire sent to a small slice of the community. It was Henry David Thoreau or maybe it was Thomas Jefferson who said, “That government governs best that governs least.” It was true when they said it, and it is even more true today.

On November 1, 2007 2:23 PM, Just The Facts said:

Notorc,

I can’t make you understand it, but I guess I can try one more time in a far simpler fashion. The problem with Croton business is that: (i) Croton unfortunately is plagued (from a business point of view at least) geographically as relatively “out of the way”, (ii) there are not enough Croton residents to support all the retail space that Croton has, and (iii) Croton’s regulations (i.e. the park policies) are not welcomming of outsiders. I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t like being told that I am unwanted in a “public place”. If I am told so, I am unlikely to want to get in my car and go to that community to buy products there.

Further, you “observations” about hispanics, not only has tones of racial prejudice, but is also short sighted. Don’t you think that people fishing stop at deli’s to but a coke? Or people playing soccor may gather over a couple of pizzas after the game? The point is that we need to attact outsiders, not exclude them. By attracting the outsiders, we get them off the highway and through our commercial districts.

As far as your point regarding the gateway legislation, how exactly did that result in the closing ot Tutto Bene? They already had their sign? They were not a restricted business. In fact, perhaps but for gateway legislation they may have had to contend with an Olive Garden or a Pizza Hut.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. But to me it is clear by your posts over the last few months that you have a vendetta, perhaps personal (i.e. “business person”) against the gateway legislation. And as such it is in view the sole and only cause of the poor business climate in Croton. Personally, I think such view is myopic and does not represent the views of all of your neighbors.

On November 1, 2007 8:39 AM, notorc said:

Oh please, give me a break, as if opening parks will encourage businesses to re-locate to Croton. The fact of the matter is, the parks were open by default. However, fellow Croton Residents have complained about behaviour at the parks located in residential neighborhoods. Therefore, a park ranger was hired (a joint effort between the police and the parks department). In order to “clean up” the parks, the ranger enforced the “residents only” rule at Black Rock, Mayos and Duck Pond. Senasqua and Silver Lake are manned during the summer. You know what….IT WORKED!! No more complaints of trespassing, noise, litter, etc.

I went to Senasqua two Sundays this month. Both times, it was filled with hispanic looking men fishing the river and playing soccer. I didn’t recognize any of them as fellow residents but hey, that’s OK, who cares? It’s off season and another popular fishing spot, croton landing is closed. Personally, I have no problem with this. I’ve never witnessed a mess or rude behavior from fishermen up at Croton Landing either. I wonder though, do the fisherment patronize Croton stores and restaurants? I seriously doubt a fisherman gets his nails done!

And here’s the flaw in your logic: Croton Landing, Croton Point Park, Croton Gorge Park and Cortlandt Manor are all not resident restrictive. As is Half Moon Bay, the Sailing School, Croton Yacht Club and even Hudson National. Therefore, I really don’t see how we’re limiting access to our natural resources.

Be honest, it’s not the parks, it’s the restrictive gateway laws, zoning laws, visual environment board, etc, etc, etc.

Also, I really wish all residents would make a conscious effort to shop locally when possible. Croton Hardware, Wonderous things, misc restaurants, garages, auto dealerships, catering, deli’s, coffee shops, pharmacy, etc. The job you save may be your neighbor’s.

On October 31, 2007 11:47 PM, Just The Facts said:

Business Person,

Explain exactly how the gateway laws resulted in this restaurant closing? The relationship is indirect at best.

While you may be in favor of a complete lack of control over business in Croton, I do not think that this view is shared by everyone. Do you really mean that “any legitimate business interested in coming here” should be welcomed? How about strip clubs? Massage parlors? Pawn Shops?

The truth is that one of the basic facts about Croton is that it not exactly “in the center of things”. There is very little “through” traffic — other than on 9, which is basically a bypass. What exactly do we have to offer to members of other communities who have their own local italian restaurants to support? In fact, if anything, recent actions of Croton are down right inhospitable to our neighbors — such as restricting access to perhaps the only thing that may attract outsiders, our natural resources and beauty (our parks and recreation). In fact, I believe that these inhospitable policies regarding sharing our parks with our neighbors is just as much to blame if not more so then the gateway law.

On October 31, 2007 3:55 PM, TeaDrinker said:

The only comment to this addition to your Album of Shame and to Crotonblog’s farewell in Italian (“So long. I don’t know when we’ll ever meet again.”) can be, “Don’t hold your breath. Tutto Bene has gone to that big eatery heaven in the sky for unsuccessful Croton restaurants killed by residents’ failure to patronize them.”

Why am I not surprised? This is another example of Croton’s famous lie to justify its meddling micromanagement of commercial establishments. I speak of its claim that its 2004 zoning changes keep out fast-food restaurants so that locally owned and operated restaurants can prosper—only Croton invariably fails to support one when it opens.

The 2004 changes also ban other commercial establishments with similar restrictive rules. And Croton now wonders why the unbalanced anti-free enterprise climate it has created is so unattractive to new ventures. Your growing album is a testimonial to the hazards of planning by amateurs.

Nobody has had the courage to use the word, but your album of empty storefronts and vacant buildings is also proof positive that Croton is already in a recession with a capital R. The first step to reinvigorating Croton’s business climate should be repeal of the law passed in 2004 that dictates the kinds of businesses allowed to operate in Croton. We should be welcoming any legitimate business interested in coming here, and turning none away for the frivolous reasons advanced to justify the 2004 changes.

The most remarkable aspect of the current problem is that the persons responsible for this un-American attempt at government control of the local economy refuse to acknowledge that they had anything to do with what has happened. And so the village blithely goes on pretending that it is a bastion of free enterprise and the American Way as the empty storefronts continue to multiply and give the lie to them.

On October 31, 2007 8:38 AM, Mr. Red said:

It is a sad state of affairs. As I was walking home from the train station last night, I was hankering for some gnocchi and artichoke salad from Tutti Bene only to find that it was closed.

This was a little gem that served fantastic Italian fare.

My stomach aches.



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