To the editor:
Croton residents are being importuned to get behind legislation to rezone the Harmon area. Two-story mixed-use buildings are now permitted there. In essence, the change would permit three-story mixed-use with retail stores at street level and increased residential density on two stories above. The Democratic minority trustees are plumping for this plan, arguing that we will reap additional taxes from the change. But if anyone asks, “Why the hurry?” the answer is always the same: “The Committee has been working on this for three years.” I find this argument hollow. “The Committee” is an ad hoc group, mostly made up of Democrats who are also residents of Harmon. By way of disclosure, I live at the northern margins of Harmon. I am a registered Democrat. I cast my first vote in 1940 for FDR, having turned 21 the year before.
I was not aware that Harmon’s problems were unique or that its business climate was different from other retailing neighborhoods in Croton. I’m not a lawyer, but I do recall that under the law of New York (and other states) “spot zoning”—changing zoning to accommodate an individual or narrow group of individuals—is illegal. If spot zoning is illegal, “spot planning” that leads to an attempt at spot zoning should be discouraged. If we are going to spend taxpayers’ dollars for planning studies, as was done here, these should encompass all of Croton instead of addressing the problems of an individual neighborhood.
Moreover, if retail occupancy in Harmon is the most urgent problem requiring immediate resolution by the Village, then Croton is indeed in a bad way. I can think of a half-dozen more pressing problems that need attention. The truth is Croton’s residential taxpayers have been bearing a disproportionate share of the tax burden for almost 39 years. On June 21, 1970, Croton’s tax base became catastrophically unbalanced. I can identify the date so specifically because on that day Croton’s largest taxpayer, the Penn-Central Railroad, filed for bankruptcy protection. Croton residents have borne an unfair share of the tax burden ever since. Instead of chasing will-o’-the-wisp instant panaceas, we ought to be hunkering down to see how the current recession/depression plays out in Croton and how many businesses (and residents) survive. So I, too, ask, “Why the hurry?” (To be continued)
— Robert Scott