croton blog for croton-on-hudson new york

Section: Village Elections



Mayor Schmidt's Lazy Hazy Summer

March 6, 2009

* SPECIAL POST *

During the summer of 2008, Croton was broke down all-over-the-place. See also: “Schmidt’s Croton.”

No one was mindin’ the store. No one was mayoring or deputy-mayoring. So bad was it that Crotonblog created a category called On Our Own Watch.

And to those who lurk on the dark-side at the NCN Forum: that’s right, we took pictures.

So, here’s to mayor do-nothing and his trusty trustees: some posts from the archive.

Thanks for the memories.

PS. To meet the candiates responsible for Croton’s state of disrepair, please visit http://www.schmidtbrennankonig.com.

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"hey bob w- hows tom brennan's lawsuit against that poor old lady doing."

March 5, 2009

…says Croton2009 on the ol’ NCN forum.

We know what he/she means:

Croton trustee sues resident over access road, raising conflict-of-interest charge

Robert Marchant
The Journal News
December 10, 2008 12:53 PM

CROTON-ON-HUDSON - Efforts by a local elected official to create a buildable piece of land are being snared in litigation and claims that his role as a public official is at odds with his position as a real estate developer.

Thomas Brennan, a member of the village Board of Trustees, is suing a local resident to gain access to a piece of land he owns off North Riverside Avenue based on using legal records dating to the early 1900s to make his case. The lawsuit would force Maria Salkow, 81, a widow, to grant an easement for a driveway to reach the small “landlocked” parcel he owns. The wooded parcel lies in the rear of the home where Brennan used to live, 121 N. Riverside. He has since moved to another neighborhood in Croton.

MORE

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Souper Weekend for Croton Democrats

March 3, 2009

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Photo: (l to r) Leo Wiegman, Congressman John Hall, Ian Murtaugh, Demetra Restuccia

While the snow kept local residents home and children out of school on Monday, the local Democrats were recovering from a busy double-event weekend.

The Croton Democratic Committee hosted a public presentation of the Recommendations of Harmon Economic Development Committee (HEDC) for zoning adjustments in that business district at the Croton Free Library on Saturday afternoon. The forum drew a capacity crowd estimated at 140 residents for the two-hour presentation and question and answer session. Most of the presentation was devoted to the details of the committee’s rationale and process. The key speaker was Kieran Murray, chair of the HEDC. Mr. Murray stated at the outset, “Unlike most planning committees, we started our work with an economic analysis as to why no redevelopment was happening, rather than a strictly land-use basis. Any changes we would end up suggesting had to make economic sense for the land owner, the village, and the local residents, as well as the businesses who would be potential tenants in Harmon.”

democratic-cupcakes.jpg

The Croton Democratic Committee also hosted its annual Soup Supper fundraiser on Sunday late afternoon at the Croton Yacht Club. Treasurer Holly Anzani pointed out, “Yesterday’s Soup Supper raised 20 percent more than we did a year ago! Everyone seemed to be rounding up their checks!” A capacity crowd of 150 people turned out for fresh home-made soups, delicious desserts, family style dining and chatting. A larger than usual contingent of visiting dignitaries also stopped by to express their support for Democratic mayoral candidate Leo Wiegman, and village trustee candidates, Demetra Restuccia and Ian Murtaugh.

Croton residents were able to meet and interact with Congressman John Hall and members of his staff, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, County Legislator Bill Burton, Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi, Cortlandt Council members Frank Farrell, John Sloan, and Ann Lindau, Ossining Town Supervisor Catherine Borgia, Ossining Councilman Michael Tawil, Ossining Village Mayor Bill Hanauer, former Buchanan Mayor Dan O’Niell, Ossining Village Justice Frank Connolly, Ossining Democratic Committee Chair Thomasina Laidley, Cortlandt Receiver of Taxes Mary Breining, Cortlandt Town Clerk Joann Dyckman, and Deputy Secretary of State and former Croton Mayor Bob Elliott.

Mr. Murtaugh, a lifelong resident of Croton, talked about his concern over the decline of many parts of the Village that he holds near and dear to his heart. “I grew up here and had many ‘Tom Sawyer’ moments. I’d like this new generation of kids to have the same experience.” Ms. Restuccia echoed that sentiment, “I’m doing this for my kids. I moved here when my oldest was three weeks old. We came because the school system was great and Croton was thriving. Croton has greater potential and it isn’t being pursued. We need to get Croton back on track.” Leo Wiegman, candidate for Mayor summed up the issues by saying, “Croton used to be the little Village that could” citing the many initiatives that Croton had taken on over the years. He continued, “In the past four years, we have sadly become the little Village that won’t.”

Village elections will be held at the Municipal Building, Wednesday, March 18th, from 6AM to 9PM.

Contact: Paul Rolnick, Chair, Croton Democratic Committee
Email: chair@crotondems.org
Web: http://crotondems.org

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Croton Dems Nominate Wiegman for Mayor, Murtaugh and Restuccia for Trustees

January 28, 2009

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Demetra Restuccia, Leo Wiegman, and Ian Murtaugh (l-r) January 2009.
Photo courtesy of Rick Sammon

On Monday evening, January 29, over forty villagers convened at the Croton Free Library’s Ottinger Room in the local Democratic Committee’s Nomination Caucus to select candidates for the upcoming Village elections. The mayoral seat and two Trustee seats held currently by board’s Republican majority will be on the ballot on March 18,2008.

The caucus, chaired by Paul Rolnick, nominated former Village Trustee Leo Wiegman as Democratic candidate for Mayor. The caucus also nominated political newcomers, Demetra Restuccia and Ian Murtauch, for the two Village Trustee slots.

Ian Murtaugh of Young Avenue placed Wiegman’s name in nomination for mayor, “Leo has the intellect experience, and calm demeanor to bring progress to the village.”

Demetra Restuccia seconded the nomination of Wiegman, saying, “When we were new in town, Leo’s openness and suggestions couldn’t help with raising me a one year old, but as a trustee, he did help me find compost and lots of other things.”

“The village is on a collision course with the new economy, regardless of the rose-colored projections we will hear from our mayor in the next few weeks. The current board majority is not interested in true innovation, and not capable of true cooperation and collaboration,” stated Wiegman, “The value of tax rolls in Croton peaked in 2004 and has not recovered since. We have not done nearly enough to address that underlying reality. We cannot nickel-and-dime our way out of this. My goal for our village is simple. I know it is your goal as well. Croton will emerge from this downturn into the new economy, not only unscathed, but as a leader in creative thinking and problem solving in Westchester County. We need a willingness to experiment and innovate and we need a capacity to cooperate and collaborate with dot-gov, dot-org, and dot-com partners.”

Leo Wiegman nominated Mr. Murtaugh nomination saying, “I have been Ian’s neighbor for almost 15 years. Long before I knew anything about Ian’s politics, I knew from our walks down the commuter station, that Ian belonged the group I call the Party of Common Sense.” Adam Rothberg of Old Post Road seconded Ian Murtaugh for Trustee.

“While I’m new to the local political process, I’m not new to the village,” explained Murtaugh, “I’ve become politically energized as I saw the hard work of the talented people who volunteered on the Harmon Economic Development Committee. We can promote a scenario where merchants can count on patronage by empty nesters and young commuters living in the immediate neighborhood.”

Lisa Cohen of Old Post Road North nominated Demetra Restuccia, “I know in Croton, words without works are useless. If Demetra says she will do something, you can bet it will get done!.”

David Lally of Cedar Lane seconded the nomination with “She is thoughtful as well as decisive and can make tough decisions. Anyone that knows her will attest to these facts, and just for the record-I have heard it stated that “everyone knows Demetra.”

“Within the village I know doctors, lawyers, stay at home moms, stay at home dads, graphic artists, social workers, teachers, hedge fund managers, firefighters, lighting designers, foodies, mountain bikers, wine-makers, stained glass artists, Broadway musicians, actors, judges, plumbers, contractors, designers, entrepreneurs, artists, people of all stripes,” noted Restuccia, “And yet when I see struggling businesses and empty storefronts and for sale signs, I can’t help but think we are not reaching our potential.”

The year’s Village Elections occur on a Wednesday this year, March 18, 2009.

Further information will be posted in coming days at the Croton Dems’ website: www.crotondems.org.

Candidate Biographies

Leo A. W. Wiegman

Leo, 50, and his wife, Julie Evans, have one child at CHHS and have lived in Croton since 1994. Leo is owner and founder of an environmental communications firm, author of forthcoming book on solutions for climate change, and a former Village Trustee (2001-2007). Leo has volunteered on various local boards from AYSO to nature preserves. Email: dutchbike@etothefourth.com

Demetra Restuccia

Demetra, 42, and her husband, Sal, have a child at CET and a child at Childrenspace and have lived in Croton since 2001. Demetra is a Croton Harmon Education Foundation Board Member, Brownie Girl Scout Leader, and member of the Village’s Advisory Board on the Visual Environment. Demetra is also owner and founder of Gardens by Demetra, an organic landscape design company. Email: demetra@restuccia.com

Ian W. Murtaugh

Ian, 51, have been a resident of Croton since 1958. He and his partner Peggy raised and educated four children here in the village. Ian is in the advertising specialty business, selling logo merchandise and promotional products to corporate clients in New York. Email: ian.murt@hotmail.com


Leo Wiegman’s Acceptance Statement for the Nomination as Mayoral candidate.

January 27, 2009

Thank you, my dear friends and fellow Democrats, for your trust in me. I am honored and humbled to stand before you as your candidate for mayor of our lovely village. When we succeed-and we will-I will count on working closely with you to lead our Village.

As a country, we face uncertain times ahead. Our future as a small village is no different. The new, emerging economy will be different from the one that we have known and that created the challenges we face. But, I believe these challenges are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to forge a better, more sustainable community.

As we heard from Sandy Galef and Tom Suozzi a few nights ago, we cannot expect the State to toss us a lifeline-and we cannot remain passive until the national scene settles down. Yet, that is essentially the plan of the board’s Republican majority.

We are residents of the most heavily taxed region in the nation. The rising costs of Village services will continue to fall disproportionately on the homeowner.

We will drive away the young couples shopping for first homes and drive out the seniors who have long been the backbone of the village-unless we begin to shift that tax burden away from households. There are many potential opportunities to do something about this issue. But make no mistake about it. The current board majority is not interested in true innovation, and not capable of true cooperation and collaboration.

Did you know that-since 2004-the value of the property tax rolls in the town of Cortlandt-including Croton and Buchanan-has grown modestly, but definitely, by about 1%. That seems like good news. Now here is the kicker. In that same period, the value of Croton’s tax rolls has shrunk by almost 3%.

If Croton had simply remained flat under the current mayor, the town’s rolls would have increased half again as much as they did without Croton’s dragging the town values down. In other words, even as the town around is heading in the right direction on alleviating the tax burden for the homeowner, Croton has gone in the opposite and wrong direction. Since the current mayor first took office, the village budgets have ballooned by 30%. The tax rates have climbed 25%-and would have been even higher, were it not for some internal budget shell games.

We are getting nickled-and-dimed to death on all kinds of other fees to make up for the property value decline. The value of tax rolls in Croton peaked in 2004 and has not recovered since. We have not done nearly enough to address that underlying reality.

That paralysis is why the village is on a collision course with the new economy-regardless of the rose-colored projections we will hear from our mayor during this campaign.

I do believe the village has done a pretty job of managing the small slice of costs over which it had some control. But the village has done a completely inadequate job of managing the revenue side of the ledger.

Two out of every three dollars used to run the village come from property taxes. And the vast majority of that comes from homeowners. You solve big problems by looking for solutions that are just as big or bigger.

For the past four years, the mayor has obsessed over that last dollar and not the first two dollars of income. The village raised water rates 33%, invented a new sewer rent under false pretenses, jacked up parking rates 20%-none of which was earmarked for parking lot improvements-and bumped up recreation fees 20%.

But service fee increases only get you so far. Sooner or later, our customers will decide to park elsewhere.

We cannot nickel-and-dime our way of this. We can and must create great opportunities for Croton by helping our community revitalize itself—especially the business districts. The best way to do that is to push back some of the barriers that keep property value from rising—especially if we can do that in ways the benefit all.

The triple win I am talking about is (1) relieving the home owner’s tax burden, (2) revitalizing the business districts, and (3) rehabilitating the Village’s reputation and fiscal footing.

My goal for our village is simple. Croton will emerge in the new economy, not only unscathed, but as a leader in creative thinking and problem solving in Westchester. It is a reputation we used to have and have squandered of late.

The communities best situated to take advantage of the new economy are those that act early, that innovate as many ways as they can, that make full use of their intellectual capital, and that build bridges to other stakeholders.

For example, I will wager that we have several hundred small business owners in Croton - many more than you might think. My wife, Julie, and I run two of those small businesses from our home. Yet, the village has not even scratched the surface in exploring ways to help support and incubate small business here in Croton.

Imagine if we had buildings with good small business spaces are so well designed and constructed that they don’t even need an oil furnace and are so efficient your utility bill is less than half what you pay now.

Community leaders elsewhere, who have created such revitalizations, tell me we need just two things to get started: We need a willingness to experiment and innovate. And we need a capacity to cooperate and collaborate-with dot-gov, dot-org, and dot-com partners.

I do not claim to have all the answers. But I do intend to restore dignity to the office of the Mayor. I do intend to restore the capacity to generate practical ideas. I do intend to restore respect for the opinions of all our citizens and volunteers. I will return civil discourse to the Board meetings and transparency to our local governance.

I was at a meeting in Washington last month at which Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island summed up our theme tonight pretty well, “Governance matters. Relying on the facts to make policy decisions is where we are headed.” He was of course speaking about the Obama administration. That is not yet true in Croton today, but can be after March 18th.

We are at a crossroads with a fundamental choice: Croton can continue to drift on the Hudson tides, crippling our homeowners with additional taxes, waiting for the rescue boat. Or we can all begin to paddle together to innovate and cooperate.

We can remove barriers to progress, promote economic development, increase tax revenue, and restore our underlying values. I believe the choice is clear. We can return to being the well-respected “little village that could.” To paraphrase a fellow writer, Bill McKibben, “Change your leaders, not just your light bulbs.”

This is a great time to be a Democrat. It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated the election of Rick Olver and Ann Gallelli as trustees. We just re-elected Congressman John Hall. Barack Obama is now our President.

By April-in just a few months-the economic stimulus package will begin to hit the nation’s economy in a thousand different ways. We can expect a price on all carbon emissions to follow shortly. All this is part of the new economy. We had better get ready!

We cannot simply assume that the dice will roll our way on March 18. We face three incumbents and incumbents win 95% of the time. Last fall’s election taught us that, if we work hard, listen to the people, and speak from our hearts, we will prevail.

Where the current mayor sees problems, I see opportunities. I believe you do too. We have great potential before us. I ask that you join me, Demetra, and Ian in guaranteeing that we will all be ready to innovate and cooperate to form a new, more perfect Croton.


Ian Murtaugh’s Acceptance Statement for the Nomination as Village Trustee candidate

January 27, 2009

Dear Friends and fellow Croton residents,

Thank you for expressing your confidence by nominating me to run for the Village Board of Trustees. It will be a humbling and a daunting task.

While I’m new to the local political process, I’m not new to the village. I remember a time when virtually every need could be met right here within our village. Class pictures tomorrow? Not a problem, head to Elliott’s for a white shirt, new slacks and a decent pair of shoes. A friend sick from school? Pop Berger’s had models, games and comic books. Need a birthday gift for mom? The Import Corner or Gallimaufry probably had something which would fit the bill. As a youngster one of my first big purchases with lawn mowing money was a watch from the Croton Watch Company’s open house. Times sure have changed.

More recently, I’ve become politically energized as I saw the hard work of the talented people who volunteered on the Harmon Economic Development Committee. Their efforts to address the problems and provide some solution to the Harmon area are laudable. I became alarmed and further energized when the majority on the current board discounted the problems and called for another new study at a cost to the community rather than taking the next logical and non binding step which is SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review A). This is stifling and delaying any positive changes in Harmon, and perhaps even promoting negative change.

By maintaining the status quo, the majority on the board is undermining the wise cost controls already in place. Watching carefully the outflow of money is fine but it must be complemented by inflow or new tax revenue. We can gain that new revenue by creating an environment where wise development can occur. We can control that growth with appropriate zoning restrictions. We must shift the tax burden from the backs of current residents to new businesses and new residential units. We can do this wisely. We can promote a scenario where merchants can count on patronage by empty nesters and young commuters living in the immediate neighborhood.

Good zoning coupled with a proactive marketing strategy and networking with other Hudson River towns will allow us revitalize this prominent part of our village. For us to attract those with the capital and the will to undertake new projects in Croton we need to polish up our product. Dust away the restrictions which are holding back potential development, streamline the approval process and generally make this a hospitable place to invest.

With the proper checks and balances in place all of Croton would directly benefit from the visual improvements, the fresh amenities and new and diverse businesses and residents it would naturally attract. More revenue streaming into the village, more shops, more restaurants and an upbeat neighborhood seem to be a smart goal.

I humbly accept your nomination, and promise to keep the mantra of more revenue, continued cost containment and an eye on the future in mind. I believe that if we stick with smart changes, keep an open mind and accepting that new development will bring the village much needed income we will be well poised for the future. Any changes will take time, but the longer we wait the further the decline and the deeper the hole. Let’s act now and we can begin by ensuring that Leo, Demetra and I are elected on Wednesday March the 18th.


Demetra Restuccia’s Acceptance Statement for the Nomination as Village Trustee candidate

January 27, 2009

Thank you all very much. I am very proud to accept your nomination and am very excited to be part of the next wave of change in Croton.

Lisa Cohen and David Lally, thank you for your kind and inspiring remarks in nominating me.

Many of you may know that this past summer, my husband Sal and I explored moving from Croton-the taxes are killing us and we’d love to live in a village with a vibrant town center. Croton’s decline is very discouraging to us. So we looked for a community with a great school system, interesting people and a downtown with a lively mix of restaurants and retail shops. We found what we were looking for in Red Hook and in Rhinebeck: great schools that rivaled ours, great town centers with lots going on, clean air, the river (they only had one), interesting people. Both towns have strong local governments that are committed to outreach and to planning. They were clearly focused on the big picture as well as the day-to-day running of a town. So why are we still here?

Well, we ran the numbers. All the math worked out, except the emotional math. Turns out we have put down roots here. We love our friends, our neighbors, our schools. We love the proximity to NYC, we love our two rivers. I love my clients. So despite very compelling reasons to leave, we decided to stay in Croton. To raise our children here. But in making that decision we also pledged to each other that we would work harder to change Croton so it could become a village we would be proud of.

There is a lot to do. We need a mayor who doesn’t govern by yelling. We need trustees who don’t pander to people who use fear and lies to serve their agenda. More crosswalks need to be added so more of our kids can walk safely to school. The parking structure proposed years ago for the train parking lot needs to be moved toward reality so we can make room for some of the 300 people on the waiting list and raise more revenue. I think we need to freeze hiring in anticipation of the state’s financial situation so we don’t find ourselves in a real fiscal mess. We need to give incentives to landlords to fill their empty stores and maybe we need to impose a vacancy tax when they don’t. We need to work with the Planning Board and the Zoning Board to streamline processes in order to make Croton a more business friendly place. We need to create a permanent Economic Development Committee to do for the whole village what the Harmon Economic Development Committee has done for Harmon. We need to make government open and accessible. We need to take the mean the ugly and the uninformed out of local politics.

But here is the real issue. Taxes are killing us and if we don’t get this village up and running and raising revenue we will be in big trouble. We need a commercial base. We need retail. We need offices. We need business.

When you go to the polls this March 18 to vote for a Mayor and two more trustees, please keep one simple question in mind. Simple because it is straightforward. Do you want a downtown? Or not?

I do. I believe that Croton can and should reflect, in its structures, the wide, interesting array of people who live within its borders. Within the village I know doctors, lawyers, stay at home moms, stay at home dads, graphic artists, social workers, teachers, hedge fund managers, firefighters, lighting designers, foodies, mountain bikers, wine-makers, stained glass artists, Broadway musicians, actors, judges, plumbers, contractors, designers, entrepreneurs, artists, people of all stripes. And yet when I look at the town itself and I see struggling businesses and empty storefronts and for sale signs I can’t help but think we are not reaching our potential.

The current administration has done an ok job of the day to day. Our leaves are removed, our snow is removed, our potholes are filled. But there is little or no sense of that big picture. That ability to inspire, to work from a place of confidence instead of fear. I have heard only negative responses from the current majority to the Harmon Economic Development Committee’s recommendations on how we might transform Harmon. I have heard the Mayor say he doesn’t want a mini city. (no one does) I have heard Tom Brennan say he doesn’t want a housing development. (It isn’t.) I have heard Susan Konig wish that the recommendations weren’t available “ad nauseum” on the village website for the public to hear and read and understand.

But here’s the good news. I have heard the committee report that change is possible if we update zoning in Harmon. I have heard Trustees Olver and Galleli say they want to move forward in exploring the recommendations. I have heard countless friends and neighbors and strangers say that Harmon needs to change and that the recommendations are a great start. By removing zoning roadblocks from the property owners in Harmon, they will be able to afford to improve their properties if they choose to. They can build multiuse, human scaled buildings that will earn them money, bring a higher quality of life to all of us, and raise revenue in order to spare us, the homeowner, some of this tax burden. Think of the jobs residents, teenagers could have if we had a downtown. Think of the options empty nesters could have if they could downsize and stay in Croton. Think of the grandmothers and grandfathers who want to be near their children and grandchildren but don’t want the burdens of a large house anymore. Think of the jobs for our contractors and plumbers and electricians created by this revitalization.

Harmon could be amazing.

Might it impact the schools? Yes, it will help us pay for them. We need to start raising revenue from a business base not just our homes.

I know change won’t happen overnight. I know we are in a heck of time in the country economically. But now is not the time to “hunker down” and wait it out but rather to use this time wisely in order to be ready when our country and our village is ready to move forward. I am confident that with aggressive leadership, a strong commitment to existing businesses and an equally strong outreach to possible new ones, Croton will change for the better.

Change is the only thing we can count on. I want a change for the better, not the worse. A vote for Leo and for Ian and for me is a vote for the better. I ask for your vote and your support.

Thank you.

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Croton Democrats Seek Candidates For Village Office

January 11, 2009

The Croton Democratic Committee invites village residents interested in running on the Democratic ticket to serve as mayor or village trustee to contact Paul Rolnick, committee chair by e-mail, chair@crotondems.org or by phone, 271-3423.

The Village election is March 18, 2009. Village voters will be electing a Mayor and two Trustees. The specific seats on the ballot include those currently held by village board’s Republican majority: Mayor Greg Schmidt, Trustee and Deputy Mayor Tom Brennan, and Trustee Susan Konig.

The Croton Democratic Committee is looking for individuals with great energy, strong problem solving skills, and a passion for active involvement in community affairs. Democratic Party registration is not required. Interested individuals should contact members of the Nomination Committee, which is chaired by Paul Rolnick, and also includes Trustee Ann Gallelli and Trustee Rick Olver, both elected in March 2008 for a two-year term.

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2008 Village Election Results

March 19, 2008

In the village election, held March 18, 2008, for two trustee seats, the following number of votes were cast—making Democrats Ann Gallelli and Rick Olver the winners:

Ann Gallelli (D): 1,104
Joann Minett (R): 612
Rick Olver (D): 1,119
Joseph Streany (R): 698

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Get Out and Vote Today

March 18, 2008

Residents can vote in the village election today from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM at the Stanley H. Kellerhouse Municipal Building, located at 1 Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, New York (map).

On the ballot for two trustee seats are Democrats Ann Gallelli, Rick Olver (also Croton Taxpayers) and Republicans Joann Minett and Joe Streany (also Alliance Party).

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Joe Streany, Environmentalist?

March 6, 2008

Joseph Streany, Croton-on-HudsonJoe Streany, Environmentalist? We think not. Joe Streany, an employee of the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, is running in the upcoming election for the post of Trustee of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson. He is basing his campaign on no other qualification than his record of self-promoting volunteerism, as if that dubious criterion entitled him to take an active role in the governance of the village. Voters have a right to know the real Joe Streany.

Crotonblog has already shown Joe Streany to be ethically challenged and willing to violate the State Ethics Law governing the actions of public officers. He has admitted to seeking to enrich an organization officered by him—namely, his local sports booster club—by making illegal demands on contractors to the railroad for graft under the guise of being “contributions.” This official blackmail went on for five long years. The whole sordid story of the Joe Streany who does not obey the law can be read in a recent post titled, “Will the Real Joe Streany Please Stand Up?

The Metro-North Commuter Railroad could hardly be called a paragon of environmental virtue or a good neighbor to this village. It pollutes Croton’s atmosphere by allowing its large diesel locomotives to run endlessly to keep them warm in cold weather. It pollutes the shores and river waters of the village of Croton by dumping carcinogenic materials. And it has polluted its own rail yards so thoroughly as to create a hazardous waste site right under the windows of Half Moon Bay.

Almost twenty years ago, in April of 1989, the railroad was cited by the DEC for pumping pollutants into the Croton Marsh, a tidal arm of the Hudson and Croton Rivers.

Joe Streany, in his capacity as deputy director of safety, can hardly claim ignorance of the Croton Marsh violation. The polluting stream of foul liquid issued from a pipe installed by the railroad, and was plainly visible to everyone from employees and commuters to shore walkers—but not to Croton’s Joe Streany.

The railroad’s deliberate defiance is reminiscent of the days when “robber baron” Cornelius Vanderbilt and his New York Central rode roughshod over competitors and government. His son, William H. Vanderbilt, president of the railroad, is famous for having uttered the phrase “The public be damned” to a reporter.

Crotonblog has uncovered incontrovertible evidence that Joe Streany has little regard for Croton or the health of its citizens. When the chips were down in August of that same year, Mr. Streany revealed his true colors and showed himself to have little desire to protect Croton. The occasion was the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s reversal of its decision to remove railroad ties that had been dumped in the waters of Croton Marsh.

Seen from above on Earthlink, the marsh at low tide looks like some giant had spilled a box of huge toothpicks into this once-pristine haunt of wildlife. The toxic oily sheen on the marsh discourages wildlife and surely killed any unfortunate creatures that made their home there.

Expressing relief at the DEC’s decision, an obviously relieved Joe Streany told a New York Times reporter, “removal of the ties would cost millions and pose a tremendous economic problem for the railroad.” His position, of course, totally overlooks the environmental cost to the village of Croton-on-Hudson of the failure to remove the ties, which are impregnated with creosote made from coal tar.

Pooh-poohing the dangers of creosote, Mr. Streany added that the railroad’s own analysis of the effects of creosote showed that the preservative is not a hazard in the environment. He claimed, with his own peculiar brand of logic, “the ties are old and therefore they have absorbed the creosote.” This completely ignores the fact that in the creosoting process, the ties are forced to absorb the creosote under pressure. Contrary to Mr. Streany’s ridiculous claim, over time the abandoned ties literally release the absorbed water-soluble toxic components and allow them to leach into the surrounding river waters.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer both consider creosote to be a carcinogen. In 2003, the European Union restricted creosote only to professional use, noting that the risk of skin cancer had probably been underestimated previously.

“A witch’s brew of toxic chemicals.” That’s how an angry John Cronin, then the riverkeeper for the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, described creosote. He told a New York Times reporter that his organization was considering legal action against Metro-North to force it to remove the ties and that the association planned to file notice of its intent this week.

“The state will not, it cannot, stand up to the railroad,” Mr. Cronin said. He added, “the quasi-governmental transportation industry is the most powerful in the state.” Despite what he described as “the railroad’s poor environmental record,” he noted in the same New York Times story dating from August 13, 1989, that the state has taken little action.

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and a plan for removal of the ties is now in place. Croton owes no debt of gratitude for this change to turncoat Joe Streany, who unrelentingly fought tie removal tooth and nail all the way. We all know now where his allegiance lies. Even so-called “dumb animals” have the basic good sense not to foul their own nests. But not Croton’s Joe Streany.

Joe Streany, environmentalist? We think not.

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Will the Real Joe Streany Please Stand Up?

February 29, 2008

Joseph Streany, Croton-on-HudsonOne of the consequences—and costs of doing business with the Metro-North Railroad until not very long ago—was being hit up by Joe Streany for a sizable contribution to his favorite charitable institution, the Croton-Harmon High School Booster Club. Contractors doing business with Metro-North who thought the railroad was free of graft found this out to their sorrow.

Having the squeeze put on you for his Booster Club by Croton resident Streany would be understandable if your business were Deprez Wines & Spirits or one of the Capriccio Pizzerias here in Croton—but Joe Streany’s victims were companies scattered in various parts of the U.S. and that had nothing to do with Croton-on-Hudson. They just happened to be unlucky enough to have been awarded a contract with the Metro-North Railroad. Even so, they were in no position to say no or even to hesitate to whip out a checkbook. As Deputy Director of Safety for Metro-North, it was Joe Streany who managed their contracts with the railroad.

We leave to your imagination what power that gave him over them. We don’t picture that his approach was as blatant as one of Humphrey Bogart’s early movies in which he approaches a saloon owner with one hand in his pocket and asks, “Who you getting your beer from?” Whatever Joe Streany’s approach was, it was persuasive enough to convince five different contractors to part with coin of the realm over a period of five years. No doubt it would have continued to this day if some whistleblower had not revealed Joe Streany’s illegal scam. An investigation into the affair began when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s inspector general got the anonymous tip suspected to have come from the co-worker who had warned him about the illegality of what he was doing. This tip was passed on to the state Ethics Commission.

Ethics is defined as the rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession. Graft is defined as unscrupulous use of one’s position to derive profit or advantage. It is unethical behavior. Joe Streany is now a Republican candidate for Trustee. He and the Republicans are asking the citizens of Croton-on-Hudson to vote him into an office of public trust requiring the utmost in ethical behavior.

The word “booster” has two definitions. One is someone who vigorously supports a cause. The second definition, in criminal slang, is someone who engages in unlawful activity, such as shoplifting or picking pockets. The five contractors for Metro-North Railroad surely must have felt that their pockets were being picked repeatedly for five years by booster Joe Streany, who apparently has his own peculiar definition of ethics more suited to Boss Tweed and the old Tammany Hall than suburban Westchester. He also had no objection to being entertained with expensive steakhouse lunches.

We can imagine the word getting around among contractors along these lines: “If you are bidding on a Metro-North contract that might come under Joe Streany’s jurisdiction, be sure to add some vigorish to cover the regular payments he will ask you to make to his favorite charity.” Lest we be accused of leveling charges without providing details in full about this sordid affair, here they are. Read them and weep for the good name of your fair village, Croton-on-Hudson.

Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Leadcare, Inc., an environment testing facility in Long Island City, N.Y. They made five payments totaling $5,380.00.

Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Waste Technology Services, Inc., of Lewiston, N.Y., specialists in waste management and recycling. They made four payments totaling $4,790.00.

Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Safeway Environmental Services, a waste management consulting and disposal company in Glencoe, Alabama. They made six payment totaling $2,640.00.

Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Day Engineering, P.C., of Rochester, N.Y., environmental engineering consultants. They made four payments totaling $2,050.00.

Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from York Analytical Laboratories, of Stratford, Connecticut, which provides analyses to establish conformity with environmental legislation. They made five payments totaling $1,990.00.

According to the state’s Ethics Commission, such solicitations are illegal. A co-worker had warned Streany that he was violating the ethics law. Nevertheless, in each of five years, Streany solicited and received donations to the club from the five contractors he dealt with as a railroad employee. In addition to these donations, one of the contractors treated him to a $105.50 lunch at The Palm, a Third Avenue steakhouse in New York City noted for its giant steaks, surly waiters and expensive tabs.

Brought up on charges by the Ethics Commission, Streany admitted to violating the state ethics law by soliciting a total of $16,850 between 1998 and 2002 from five companies with Metro-North contracts. According to a settlement agreement reached in Albany on Nov. 10, 2004, he agreed to pay $2,250 to settle the charges, a mere slap on the wrist, according to The New York Post.

joseph-streany-ny-post.jpg
RAIL BIG’S BAD BOO$T,” Nov 10, 2004 (Click image to enlarge.)

Persons who violate the Public Officers Law can be fined, suspended or removed from employment. Walter Ayres, a state Ethics Commission spokesman, said Streany could have been slapped with fines totaling a quarter of a million dollars, since he could have been fined $10,000 for each of his 25 violations.

Streany earned $107,000 a year, or $2,057.69 a week, making his fine the equivalent of little more than a week’s salary. Dan Brucker, Metro-North spokesman, said no other action would be taken against Streany, who had worked for the railroad more than 30 years.

Readers may remember a famous contest in which the first prize was a one-week stay in the exciting city of Philadelphia with all expenses paid. The second prize in the contest was two weeks in Philadelphia. Crotonblog can imagine a similar contest among contractors. First prize: A contract with Metro-North Railroad. Second prize: A contract with Metro-North Railroad managed by Joe Streany.

As we noted, Joe Streany is now a Republican candidate for Trustee. He is asking the citizens of Croton-on-Hudson to vote him into an office of public trust requiring the utmost in ethical behavior. Do the voters want to elect a person who has violated the law and has shown repeated inability to recognize the difference between right and wrong? We hope not.

Editor’s Note: For readers who want all the gory details, we include the findings of the New York State Ethics Commission dated November 4, 2004 below. To view a full-size version of this document, please follow this link: NYS Ethics Commission In The Matter of Joseph Streany.

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Croton Dems Nominate Ann Gallelli, Richard Olver for Trustees in March Election

January 30, 2008

On Tuesday evening, January 29, 2008, over two dozen village Democrats convened at the Croton Free Library’s Ottinger Room in the local Democratic Committee’s Nomination Caucus to select candidates for the upcoming Village elections. The two Trustee seats held currently by Ann Gallelli and Charles Kane will be on the ballot on March 18, 2008.

Trustee Ann Gallelli received the nomination to seek a re-election. Attorney and former UN official Richard Olver received the nomination for the Trustee slot now held by Mr. Kane.

The surprise of the evening was Mr. Kane’s decision to retire from the Village Board and not seek a third term. A popular incumbent and life long resident, Mr. Kane remarked, “I enjoyed working on the Village Board with Leo and with Ann.” Mr. Kane thanked the Croton Democrats for the opportunity to represent the Village on their slate.” Mr. Kane received a standing ovation following his brief remarks which were eloquent in their support of Ms. Gallelli and Richard Olver.

Continue reading "Croton Dems Nominate Ann Gallelli, Richard Olver for Trustees in March Election."

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