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Backing into Zoning Change, #7

February 10, 2009

My wife and I have lived in Croton for almost a half-century. In 1963, having returned from living in Turkey and tired of coping in a New York hotel, we bought the first house we were shown. It was in Harmon. We’re still in that house. Over the years I fell in love with Croton’s history and wrote extensively about it for The Gazette and in my own blog, “Postscripts.”

The Harmon Committee’s proposal has many faults. Chief among them is their intention to destroy a historic building. At the northeast corner of Benedict Boulevard and South Riverside Avenue stands a nondescript structure housing a nail salon. Under the Harmon Committee’s plan, it’s slated for destruction. How sad if that were to happen. What stories it could tell.

It was the very first building constructed in Harmon. It was the sales office from which Clifford Harmon peddled his lots to city dwellers seeking inexpensive homes in the country. It was once the Harmon post office. Some villages would have already restored it, and it would be serving as a visitors’ center. In the mistaken notion that a building spree during an economic downturn will cause customers and tenants to flock magically to Harmon, this committee that doesn’t give a damn about history wants to raze Harmon’s first building, erect a three-story monstrosity, pave the remaining area and make it a parking lot. What’s next? The Van Cortlandt Manor House?

The time has come to put a stop to this nonsense. Any village that forgets its past has not much of a future. I call on all who love Croton’s rich history to rise up in protest. I also have a message for the Harmon Committee. Its membership includes self-appointed chairman Kieran Murray, a developer hell-bent on remaking Harmon for his own purposes, and members Joe Biber, Jeremy Ezra, Julie Evans, Doug Wehrle, and Leo Wiegman. By their passivity and silence, members have given tacit approval to Mr. Murray’s frequent spontaneous outbursts of irrational rants and rages.

Those who love Croton’s history are not going to stand idly by and let this committee destroy Harmon’s oldest building through irresponsible planning. Our response is taken from the film “The Searchers,” now a classic in the Western genre. It’s John Wayne’s laconic line, “That’ll be the day.”

On February 16, 2009 5:22 PM, Ian Murtaugh said:

Thank you, Mr Scott. Ian

On February 15, 2009 7:44 PM, Anonymous said:

I have put my shirt back on.

I await your summation;indeed many people want to hear what you have to say. Please sir, for the sake of our village don’t wait too long. You have a great perspective and the village as a whole deserves to hear what your vision of the future is.

Believe it or not, and it sincerely matters little to me, I have never once submitted a post or a letter in anonymity. You may feel very clever to have made this discovery but like the prosecutor you reference, history has shown that many a mistake has been made. Be careful what you hang you hat on.

Like you sir, I am proud of my work, so I sign it. Since I sign it I’m careful not to call people names, or question their motives.

Yours truly, Ian Murtaugh

On February 15, 2009 8:10 PM, Anonymous said:

If you don’t put your name in when you leave a comment, you will show up as anonymous. This comment is an example of that.

Kevin W. Davis

On February 16, 2009 8:29 AM, Anonymous said:

Guess who I am?

On February 13, 2009 11:27 AM, Anonymous said:

Mr Scott is absolutely right!

What I should have written was, “If you don’t like the plan, vote for the Republicans, if you do like the plan, vote for the Democrats” I phrased it poorly originally, thank you for the critique. This is the very first piece of constructive criticism from Mr. Scott to date.

I have just reread his posts “Backing into Zoning Change” #3 through #7, and found not a single suggestion from him as to how he thinks we should move forward. Mr. Scott may be a wordsmith and a master of history, but what we need is fresh ideas to move into the future (keeping in mind the past of course). The South Riverside corridor needs help, and we as taxpayers need more revenue from sources other than existing homeowners.

Review of the HEDC recommendations by a formal,impartial SEQRA will address the concerns of the preservation of “a nondescript structure housing a nail salon” (Mr. Scott’s own words,post #7 2/10/09).

Let’s see what the SEQRA reveals. Let’s not stand idly by.

On February 13, 2009 12:31 PM, Ian Murtaugh said:

I neglected to sign my name to the last post

On February 15, 2009 3:26 PM, Robert Scott said:

CORRECTION: I have withdrawn my comment on the Crotonblog about Mr. Ian Murtaugh’s seeming use of the screen name “anonymous.” Apparently, neither he nor I realized that failure to sign a submission automatically generated the word “anonymous” in place of the name of the poster. I have taken action as quickly as my attention was called to this misunderstanding and error on my part. I apologize to Mr. Murtaugh for any pain this unfortunate incident may have caused.

— Robert Scott

On February 10, 2009 3:26 PM, Kieran Murray said:

Mr. Scott:

Again I feel the need to correct you on the ever increasing irresponsibility of your comments

1) To say our Committee has no respect for the history of the Clifford Harmon Sales Office is outrageous. You were not in attendance when we spent hours discussing this property. I have a deep appreciation for both the history of the area and local architecture that was inspired in me by a GREAT teacher I had in 7th grade. That teacher was none other than Croton’s own Mr. Carl Oeschner. That name is familiar to you correct? I walked the aquaduct with Mr. Oschner from the Croton Dam to NYS and repeat the very things I learned from him to my own kids. He inspired me then and that inspiration stays with me to this day. I have a deep appreciation for local history as I have grown up in the area, jumped into the Croton River from the Opera House and bowled every Saturday morning at Starlight Lanes. I remember the drive in movie theatre and went as a kid to Van Cortlandt Manor to watch re-enactments with my father.

2) You know NOTHING about me Mr. Scott, and your statements are irresponsible. I worked for 15 years at Texaco Corporate Headquarters as an Officer and Director of the Texaco Foundation and Texaco Global Fund. I was responsible for community and economic development projects worldwide. I have since started my own consulting firm where I have done similar work for over 50 of the largest companies and private foundations in the world. To pigeon hole me as a greedy developer when you have absolutely no first hand knowledge of who I am and what I do for a living is completely irresponsible. I AM NOT a developer who is hell bent on remaking Harmon for my own purposes. I simply had first hand experience with the Harmon Area in that I was the last person to gain approvals in the Harmon area and wanted to help. I think we can do better. I have divested ALL of my real estate holdings and have committed to NOT buying\developing anything in Harmon.

If defending unfounded attacks on the work of the Committee or me personally is what you call “spontaneous outbursts of irrational rants and rages” then I disagree whole heartedly.

Mr. Scott, this installment in particular has cheapened your credibility. You have drifted from the facts and got caught up in the emotions. You may not agree with me about Harmon, but that does not give you the right to make statements about my or any Comittee member’s intentions or character that have absolutely no truth to them.

On February 12, 2009 1:43 PM, Robert Scott said:

It is the measure of the man that in his comment Mr. Kieran Murray writes 385 words telling us how much he loves Croton, yet never once acknowledges or admits what I charged—namely, that the Harmon Committee’s plan would destroy a historic building—the first structure erected in 1907 in the new community of Harmon.

I registered as a Democrat in 1939 when I reached the age of 21. I have never changed my registration. With so many monumental problems facing Croton, I am dismayed that my party, which has been co-opted by a committee of Harmon residents, has made the keystone of the Democratic campaign a too-ambitious scheme for the redevelopment of Harmon. Their plan also calls for the destruction of Harmon’s oldest building.

Empty stores are everywhere in Croton. This week’s Pennysaver lists nine apartments for rent. What makes the Democrats think that tenants will flock to new stores and apartments whose rents must perforce be higher than those spaces that are empty and available right now? One consultant suggested that an ethnic restaurant would be an ideal tenant for one of the new stores. Fat chance that anyone other than a professional exterminator with no sense of smell would rent an apartment above such a restaurant with its pervasive cooking odors, and mice and cockroaches as uninvited guests.

What really sets my Scots-Irish blood to boiling, however, is Democratic candidate Ian Murtaugh’s advice to voters in a response on Crotonblog to a piece I submitted to both blogs, “If you don’t like the Harmon plan, vote Republican; if you do like the plan, vote Democrat.” (Yes, he used the word Democrat as an adjective, a practice Democrats howl about when Republicans do it.) An unskilled, single-issue ultimatum if I ever heard one.

The truth is I haven’t left the party; it has left me. I’ll vote for any candidate who will take a long, hard look at this ill-advised proposal. And I’ll tell others who want to see care and caution exercised at a crucial time like this to do the same. A word to the Democratic Party: So long as the destruction of Harmon’s first building and this benighted plan remain the centerpieces of your campaign, as melodramatic as this may sound, I’m going to be your worst nightmare.

On February 10, 2009 3:25 PM, Anonymous said:

This is what Mr Murray and the rest of the members have to deal with on daily basis from opponents of the plan.



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