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Section: Just Askin'



Here We Go Again...

January 8, 2008

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Have you ever wondered what happens to those leaves you so laboriously rake up and carefully bag and seal for collection by the village of Croton-on-Hudson?

Crotonblog has wondered about their fate, too. Are they trucked to Peekskill to be fed into the hungry may of the giant incinerator there? Do they go to an elaborate county-run composting operation? Or does the village sell them to some gardening enterprise as mulch? Nah, none of the above.

The truth is they never leave Croton. This village is so wedded to these precious leaves, Croton’s own, that it won’t let go of them. Instead of disposing of them, it keeps them in a place where everybody can look at them and admire them. We say, “admire them” advisedly. One would have to be a leaf lover of the highest order to appreciate what the village of Croton-on-Hudson does with its leaves.

Croton seems to regard its leaves almost reverentially. Like some primitive tribe in New Guinea worshiping at pyramids of bleached enemy skulls, it has placed its leaves in two towering mounds so everyone can worship them. These are centrally located and prominently displayed where they can be seen and appreciated by all.

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Croton-on-Hudson apparently takes its title as Tree City U.S.A. so much to heart that Croton’s Department of Public Works, in its infinite wisdom, has erected two giant conical piles at the site of the former skate park of bitter memory. One might be tempted to look on these gigantic piles of wet leaves reverentially if that same department had not scattered around the site a number of ugly machines, seasonally rendered useless by the turning of the planet.

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No Contest

January 1, 2008

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There’ll be no surprises for voters this year when Croton Democrats nominate Ann Gallelli and Charlie Kane. As former CIA Director George Tenet might say, “It’s a slam dunk.”

But for Croton’s Republicans, or the mysterious Alliance party as they were forced to call themselves last year after losing the GOP line on the ballot, Crotonblog wonders who the Republicans will persuade to be the sacrificial lambs this year.

Will it be Charles Trendell, the former one-term trustee who gained notoriety earlier this year by accusing Trustees Gallelli, Kane and Wiegman of taking bribes from the solid waste industry? Mr. Trendell also successfully cashed in a political chit last year by getting Mayor Schmidt and his cohorts to block an already approved subdivision for a 10-acre parcel bordering his property on Batten Road.

The other possibility is none other than Joann Minett, who has been soliciting friends for advice on whether she should take the plunge and run for Trustee. Ms. Minett is best remembered for her theatrical performances and her frequent complaints—Rodney Dangerfield style—that she “got no respect from Mr. Herbek,” the village manager. But is that a reason for wanting to be his boss?

If Mr. Trendell and Ms. Minett decide to be the sacrificial victims this year, Crotonblog is forced to ask, “Are these the best candidates the Republicans can dredge up?” Just askin’…

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The Schmidt Open-Government Edict: 'We've Already Decided But We'll Listen Anyway'

November 4, 2007

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In one printed news account, Mayor Schmidt was described as “fit to be tied,” after twice encountering ongoing public outcry from concerned residents and dissension within his own ranks over his “come hell or high water” plan to add the chemical additive zinc orthophosphate to Croton’s highly praised water supply.

One thing is for sure, Mayor Schmidt really blew it. Instead of being “pro-active,” as he described his proposal, he found himself being forced into a hasty public retreat. And so the Republican-led Schmidt administration is now working its way backwards—despite their ad nauseam claims of “moving Croton forward.” After unsuccessfully trying to pass the same resolution at two successive village board meetings, a public information session has finally been scheduled—but on short notice.

In an e-mail to residents who have opted in to receive announcements, the village sent the following brief text with no information on the agenda of the meeting:

“There will be a public information meeting held by the Village Board of Trustees on the proposed corrosion control program for the Village’s water distribution system. This meeting will be held in the Meeting Room of the Stanley H. Kellerhouse Municipal Building at 7:30pm on November 7, 2007.”

However, since the public was thus “notified” about this meeting only five days before the event, and no mention was made that the session will be televised, Crotonblog wonders if the mayor and his cohorts truly seek genuine openness on an issue that has sparked concern among worried residents and attracted the attention of four newspapers, including The New York Times. Just askin’…

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The Quality of Croton Water is Not Strained

October 6, 2007

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Each year the Village publishes a colorful and detailed Water Quality Report (.pdf). Circulated to Village residents in 2007, the 2006 Report proclaims on its cover, “Proudly Presented by the Village of Croton-on-Hudson.” Also on the cover, in large boldface capital letters, it says, “AWARDED BEST TASTING WATER IN WESTCHESTER!

And here’s what the text says about the quality of Croton’s water:

Continuing Our Commitment

“Once again we proudly present our annual water quality report. This edition covers all testing completed from January 1, 2006, to December 31, 2006. We are pleased to tell you that our compliance with all state and federal drinking water regulations remains exemplary. We are committed to meeting the challenges of water source protection, water conservation, and community education, while continuing to serve the needs of all our water users.”

The included table of regulated substances shows consistently low concentrations. If Croton’s drinking water “achieved or exceeded state and federal regulations,” as the report claims, Crotonblog wants to know why would anyone want to mess around with Croton’s perfect water by adding chemical additives?

Just askin’.

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Croton Caught Doing What It Won't Let Others Do

September 13, 2007

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Once again the Village of Croton-on-Hudson is playing the game of “If you do it, you’re breaking the law. But if we do it, it’s perfectly legal.” On Sept. 12, 2007, cars parked at the Croton-Harmon train station were decorated with forbidden flyers placed on their windshields by the Village. In a sneaky move, the flyers were inserted under wiper blades with the printed side face-down. The flyers notified parkers of upcoming lot restrictions by the village—but carried no caution about littering.

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Crotonblog urges Messrs Schmidt, Herbek and Zambrano to keep their mitts off parked cars lest they damage windshileld wiper arms and invite damage suits by parkers. Why do they insist on using flyers to communicate with parking lot customers? A flyer is a flyer no matter where it originates. All are equally wasteful and pollute the environment.

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So Crotonblog is impelled to ask: Why doesn’t this trio use the Village’s expensive new toy, the solar-powered electric billboard—or contact parkers by mail or electronic means? Just askin’.

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Why Is Croton So Selectively Enforcing Its Laws, Mr. Mayor?

July 8, 2007

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After Crotonblog posted the latest in the Just Askin’ series in which we questioned the propriety of the village enforcing parking rules established by the owners of the Van Wyck shopping center, we received a tip from a loyal reader that the village was performing the same service at the privately owned parking lot at Croton Commons. Accordingly, on Saturday morning we decided to bike down to Croton Commons to check out the tip. Sure enough, our informant was correct. Croton’s traffic officer is indeed ticketing the cars of motorists who violate parking rules set by the owners of Croton Commons.

On the way to Croton Commons, Crotonblog passed the nearby strip mall whose nightmarish parking was the subject of an earlier Just Askin’ feature. This time around we found a large, maroon-colored pickup truck straddling the sidewalk. It is even common to find cars and trucks parked on the strip mall’s sidewalk when parking spaces are open—forcing pedestrians into traffic. Later, a large gray pickup truck and a small white SUV blocked the sidewalk although parking spaces were available.

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At Croton Commons we questioned Croton’s traffic officer and asked her why she was not ticketing violators of the village law that forbids parking on sidewalks. She responded that tickets she had written in the past for parking on the strip mall’s sidewalk “had been thrown out.”

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Yoo Hoo! Mayor Schmidt. Your Slip Is Showing!

July 4, 2007

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Fellow residents, would you believe that—at taxpayer expense—the village of Croton-on-Hudson is policing the parking of automobiles on private property? That’s right. Violate one of the rules established by the owners of the Van Wyck shopping center, and the village will ticket your car so fast your head will spin. Balance such unusual special treatment against the following:

At the July 2nd village board meeting a visibly distraught woman, a Radnor Avenue resident for 32 years, reported that neighbors were maliciously parking their cars so as to block egress from her driveway. The only comfort Mayor Schmidt could offer this complainant making her first-ever appearance before the board was to suggest that perhaps the village should have “a conversation” with its seldom-seen police chief about “what can be done,” and then the village might have a little chin-wag with the offenders. That was neither reassuring nor a magisterial resolution of her problem, Mr. Mayor.

He reminded the woman and viewers that many Croton streets are narrow, making passage difficult. One obvious solution he did not mention would be to allow parking on only one side of Radnor Avenue, a thoroughfare frequently used by knowledgeable drivers to avoid the congestion of Maple Street.

It is no exaggeration to say that our village is so busy tending to affairs it shouldn’t be messing with that it neglects keeping its own house in order. For example, the election that unseated Leo A.W. Wiegman as a village trustee took place on March 20. One might think that by now, more than three months later, this village would have corrected its records and its web site to reflect his departure from office. Yes, one might think that. And one would be embarrassed to discover that one was very wrong.

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The Disaster at the Intersection of Routes 9A and 129 in Croton

June 26, 2007

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When will the village of Croton do something about the abominable traffic and disastrous parking conditions at the strip mall at Maple Street and South Riverside Avenue?

The strip mall as a mini-shopping center came into being all across America in the period following World War II. Typically, a group of stores was built as a continuous row with parking in front. Easy parking for motorists, of course, meant limited access for pedestrian traffic or bicyclists. Croton’s first and only strip mall was no exception. Historically, it is interesting in that it was one of the first pieces of postwar retail construction to be built in our village, now left in the dust by the larger and more ambitious Van Wyck shopping center and Croton Commons.

Like most strip malls—self-contained with few pedestrian connections to surrounding neighborhoods—the strip mall in question, built by Croton resident George W. Underwood, was service oriented, and contained his liquor store at one end and a laundromat at the other. Paralleling the front of the stores at the curb line is Croton strip mall’s lone concession to design esthetics: a small strip of turf, arguably now the sorriest-looking and least-tended spot of greenery in all of Croton. Mr. Underwood’s mall also provided parking spaces behind its strip of stores, a fact seemingly unknown to many residents today.

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Croton's Bleak House Six Long Months Later

June 14, 2007

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Does the date December 15, 2006, ring a bell?

It should. It has to do with your tax dollars at work.

December 15 was the date by which the elaborate community center questionnaire prepared by the village of Croton had to be completed and returned for processing. The brightly colored, convoluted questionnaire was ostensibly intended to ascertain community attitudes about the construction of a community center.

Tomorrow, June 15, will mark the passage of six months since that magic return date. Six months in which absolutely nothing has been done. In the meantime, the returned questionnaires—all 500 of them—have been consigned to the bowels of the Stanley H. Kellerhouse Municipal Building and are languishing there in a cardboard carton in the basement. Or so we have been told.

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Is Croton-on-Hudson the Most Dog-Unfriendly Village in Westchester?

June 7, 2007

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Croton’s dog owners think it is. The village prohibits dogs “on any public park, playground, ballfield, or school property or on the property of another person without the consent of such other person, whether or not restrained by a chain or leash.”

This is no way to treat “man’s best friend.”

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