EDITORIALS
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Click Here For "Letters To The Editor"

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Certified Lakes Manager Needed
Posted: March 10, 2017

Dear Mayor Guinchard and Trustees,

The singular, most important action the Trustees can take to protect our watershed/lakes/reservoir system, is to hire a Certified Lakes Manager to:

1 - create a prioritized "game plan" for the watershed/lakes (for the Board to approve)

2 - supervise the work of any volunteers

The record shows that Allied Biological's (now Solitude) relationship as professional lakes' consultant with the Village ended almost two years ago. Mr. Chris Doyle, the representative, is both a lakes' biologist and Certified Professional Lakes Manager. Since Allied Biological's contract as professional lakes' consultants was terminated, the record shows that the company was hired only to apply copper sulfate to mitigate algal blooms. Mr. Doyle has a license to apply this chemical while the Village does not. Prior to application, some testing of algal levels and type is necessary to determine dosage. Following the dramatic bloom in 2016, Mr. Doyle answered questions posed by the bloom occurrence.

As helpful as Mr. Hines, (a principal of the engineering firm McGooey, Hauser and Edsel), was recently in securing a place for the Village in CSLAPS, it is important to note that the firm's website does not indicate that Mr. Hines is an engineer (as stated by the Mayor) or that the firm has a certified lakes' manager on staff.

It is critical that the Board engage a firm that specializes in watershed/lakes ecological management so that the most effective strategizing can occur and appropriate supervision of volunteers can take place. It was of great concern to hear Eurasian Water Milfoil talked about as primarily an esthetic concern and blue/green algae (Cyanobacteria) as a taste/odor drinking water issue. Some Cyanobacteria release toxins that can seriously impact health. Rising phosphorus levels, caused by a number of factors in the watershed, will lead to more algal blooms. The continuing use of copper sulfate, a heavy metal, IS of concern.

As a significant side note, if EWM and algal issues are now going to be largely defined as esthetic, then the Village justification for charging all water customers for control of these problems is inappropriate. Hamlet customers could legitimately demand that the expense be eliminated from their bills.

The Board needs to use the same care and standard in hiring a professional for our lakes as it did in approving the outstanding firm designing and implementing the work in the Racetrack Nature Preserve. Our iconic lakes, our drinking water and important source of real estate value, deserve nothing less.

Sincerely,

Susan Goodfellow

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What happened to theLakes Management Program?
Posted: February 6, 2017

7 Stable Road
Tuxedo Park, NY 10987

February 3, 2017

Dear Mayor Guinchard and Trustees,

While I am away from the Village more than I am here, I have not lost interest in our reservoir system. I reviewed all of the records re lakes matters and am deeply concerned.

An examination of the records for the care of the lakes and expenditures for the past year shows:

  • Lakes’ testing and observation program was abandoned.
  • Lakes management oversight by a professional lakes’ biologist was abandoned
  • Trustees are making Lakes management decisions that are not science based
  • Acquisition of required Trustee approvals for lakes expenditures have not been obtained

Without a scientifically based program for acquiring data and making observations of lakes’ conditions on an ongoing basis, the Village’s ability to respond to emerging lake problems is compromised. For example, in the event the Village needed to seek redress from harm we would be unable to demonstrate the extent of damage. The Village could show the “after” condition but would be unable to demonstrate the “before” condition. Unless a credible program is resumed, the Village is a “sitting duck” at many levels.

Residents want safe water to drink. Residents want safeguards in place for early detection and actions to resolve problems whether due to oil spills, development, mulch piles, invasive species growth and/or other threats not even contemplated. Pilgrim Pipeline is the latest.

Following the threats posed by the Town of Tuxedo mulch pile, testing of lake water and streams was put in place to alert the Village to any problems AND provide a baseline of lake conditions against which damages could be shown should a need to go to court arise. The program was professionally advised and supervised providing the Village with legitimate scientific data.

This ongoing data collection is also useful in watershed planning and provides help with identifying threats. That program was gutted. The NYSFOLA sampling program is gone – and the cost of that program was in large measure subsidized by the State and carried out by volunteers. 

The Mayor and Trustees had a basis for making sound, reasonable decisions based on knowledge, not political whims. There was a sound basis for evaluating the efficacy of existing programs.

If the Pilgrim Pipeline comes to pass, we are truly vulnerable in every way. If the pipeline comes to pass, and there is an unfortunate oil leak the Village will never be compensated for our losses, especially if we lose baseline data that shows the “before” conditions of the lake. 50 gallons of oil is all it would take to shut down the water plant.

It is imperative that lakes management issues be put in the hands of a professional lakes’ manager. There are many opportunities for well-meaning volunteers to help, but volunteers should not be directing the care of our most important asset on the basis of anecdotes. The Trustees need to provide adequate funding for sampling and hire a professional lakes manager to direct the programs and the work of much needed volunteers.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Susan Goodfellow

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This Is Meant To Scare You
Posted: January 30, 2017

As we look forward to what the new year will bring for us in Tuxedo, 2017 has the potential for being very grim. We need to band together to fight yet another looming threat.

Those of us who live in the corridor from Albany, New York to Linden, New Jersey are facing the possible construction of a petroleum pipeline, the Pilgrim Pipeline. This pipeline would move crude oil, highly volatile Bakken crude, from Albany, NY 170 miles south to Linden, New Jersey for refining, and then the refined product would flow back north again for distribution.

Those who are involved in the oil industry see little of concern. In fact, they are fully in favor of it as it will be good for their business; to their benefit and theirs alone. The Pilgrim Pipeline is Koch Industries. Their record is far from pristine. They have paid out record amounts of criminal and civil penalties for their environmental shenanigans, loss of life, etc. In short, their focus is profit, plain and simple. Google the Rolling Stone article from September 24, 2014 for an interesting read on the Koch brothers and their business practices.

This is a very real threat. There isn’t one good thing for our community or any of the others along the 170 mile proposed path. The risks include the following: any cleanup cost is on us the taxpayers, not the pipeline. It will negatively impact the beauty of the corridor leading to the Catskills. Albany has recently given substantial monetary grants for the revitalization of our town. This pipeline would fly in the face of Albany’s recent gift towards revitalizing Tuxedo and Sloatsburg.

Let’s set aside the possible havoc and just concentrate on the building of the pipeline itself. The amount of land needed for the actual pipes is small, a matter of a few feet down in the ground and a few in width. The amount of space needed to maintain this pipeline is about 100 to 150 feet in width, all trees and other vegetation gone, so that vehicles can travel on either side of it. This results in a huge scar requiring massive amounts of chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, to keep the land clear from all vegetation to facilitate access to the entire pipeline.

Where does the proposed route of this pipeline lie? It is to run down the NY State Thruway right of way, crossing over at Dottie Audrey’s parking lot and on into Tuxedo Park. Then it will go through Tuxedo Farms and on south into Sloatsburg and then into New Jersey. The good people of the Related Companies (of Tuxedo Farms fame) and the Pilgrim Pipeline folks have also proposed an alternative route. Have you heard about the greatly heralded gain of the Northern Tract, 900-plus acres that the town has secured to keep pristine forever, just northwest of Tuxedo Park? A deal has been made to potentially run the pipeline through this land. This would be the worst possible scenario, as it is smack in the middle of our watershed. That is the land located directly above us that feeds Tuxedo Lake that provides our water supply! The watershed would be loaded with herbicides at the very least, a nightmare scenario for us and our water. Our elected officials often mention the importance of the reservoir, Tuxedo Lake, but how serious are they about combating the pipeline threat? Some have already resigned themselves to this eventuality. This is not acceptable.

One small leak, a pin-hole leak, would mean devastation to our water supply. We the taxpayers would be forced to foot the bill for any clean up. This pipeline, if built, would simply be a time bomb, tick-ticking away. Even if a leak never happened, consider the years of chemicals being sprayed on the ground that is our watershed. Add in the noise of construction, hundreds of trees being cut down, and so on. This is meant to scare you.

It is imperative that each of us pick up the phone, email, or write those we have put into office, locally, and in Albany, to insure that this nightmare never happens. For our and for our children’s sakes; this truly is a potential time bomb. It would be far better for us to focus on the positive efforts being made here that are safe, environmentally sound and overall a win for us and the place we call home.

Join the efforts of CAPP, the Coalition Against the Pilgrim Pipeline, stoppilgrimpipeline.com . The CAPP site is full of useful information and videos. I can highly recommend “A Pipeline Runs Through It.”

Call Governor Cuomo and tell him how you feel about the pipeline. The number is 866-846-4075, let him know how you feel. The system is automated; you may leave a message or get information on sending a fax, letter or email as well.

The Pilgrim Pipeline has not a single benefit to Tuxedo, just risk.

Lili Neuhauser
Prior Mayor of Tuxedo Park

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Lighting Law Postscript
Posted: July 2, 2016

Friends and Neighbors:

I had hoped that with Tuesday's vote, the Village could put the not very inspiring  saga of the “Local Law Concerning Exterior Lighting” behind us and move on to other important matters. Not so, it appears from the continuing post-vote emails and letters, and therefore I'll ask for your indulgence in offering some perspective and correcting what I believe to be some misinformation. 

Those of you who have been following this story know that I have consistently opposed  aspects  of the  proposed law that I and others in the community viewed as intrusive,noverreaching and unreasonable. Feel free to peruse TPFYI for details. Most of those objectionable provisions have been dropped from the adopted law. To be clear; in substance, the  law as adopted provides:

1. pole or building lights should be pointed downwards.

2. floodlights on boathouses should be on a timer.

3. future (not existing) installations of safety and convenience floodlights should be on a timer.

4. restrictions on lighting of flags and towers.

5. "illumination” across property lines restricted in a way consistent with many communities (i.e., light transmitted to your property from another should not be more extensive than the equivalent of standing under a Village streetlamp).

6. no new “recreational lighting”.

7. existing "recreational lighting" is regulated as to time similarly to party noise.

  1. "nuisance” lighting restriction substantively not that different than current law, with the actual language copied from the code of  Southhampton, NY.

For clarity, the requirement that spotlights can only be pointed toward the owner's house was not included in the new law. Also not included was any regulation or limits on “candelas” as such.

Claims that the adopted law is the dawn of a New Era, or the end of Village life as we know it, are both a bit excessive. In reality, the final regulation is relatively low impact.

Was it worth the time and attention devoted to it over the last eight months? Clearly not, and maybe there are some lessons there for those continuing or entering into office.

I've been asked why I voted in favor of this (not that my vote would likely have changed the outcome). Most importantly,  as adopted, the law is not unreasonable.   Having allowed it to grow in public attention out of proportion to other significant issues facing the Village, I felt the current Board had some responsibility to resolve this if possible, without burdening the new Board with a continuing, ongoing distraction. The new Board  is now free  to make its own decision on whether it wants to continue this discussion and whether to keep, amend  or repeal the law, as it sees fit.
 
Its not a perfect law, and makes some compromises. But in my opinion it's vastly better than what might have been.

Feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss this or anything else.  The views expressed here are my own. Thanks to TPFYI for the courtesy of providing the  platform for this message and to all of you for the opportunity of having served  as your Trustee.

Respectfully,
Paul Gluck
(Outgoing Deputy Mayor and Trustee)

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Response To ‘Tuxedo Park Light Law Increases Homeowners’ Rights’
Posted: July 1, 2016

This is written in response to Village Trustee Claudio Guazzoni’s remarks after the Village voted in a new law concerning exterior lighting. He also circulated his comments by email to residents, inviting them to respond to him with their thoughts on the lighting issue. Obviously, it’s a little late for that since it’s over, and the law has been approved by the Board of Trustees. However, I am taking Claudio up on his invitation, and this is what I have to say…….

Let’s revisit what happened:  This Light Ordinance has been under discussion for some time, and there were many objections. The public hearing went on and on. Within the last week, the ordinance was revised to reflect some of the objections. It appeared on the Village website with these changes. I saw that, and thought that it was still a work in progress. The revised ordinance was not publicized for continued public comment. No effort was made to let residents know that this was it, and that the Board planned to put it through. Nothing was posted at the gate, which I think is a requirement. No one had any idea that this was the final, and that the Board would vote on it with a lame duck Board, just before the newly-elected Board came on. But, this is what happened.

This code is 3+ pages long, with a myriad of definitions of watts and lumens and candelas. Really? It’s another effort to call in the “experts” and unnecessarily over-regulate. Have there been problems? Who are the “humble and meek and almost forgotten people in our Village” who, I’m assuming, have been oppressed, somehow, by non-control of lighting? What additional rights, Claudio, does this Lighting Law give to homeowners, as you have stated? “Additional rights that we do not currently have” – please be specific.

Basically, this law is unenforceable, unless someone calls the Building Inspector, and he then creeps around a residence with the newly-purchased expensive light meter to see if there is a violation of watts or lumens or candelas.

I see that you have grand-fathered the existing tennis courts lights (the cause of the whole uproar), but decreed that “no new installation or use of recreational lighting shall be permitted.” Is this fair or wise? We all know that tennis courts will not ever be an overwhelming presence in Tuxedo Park. Two existing tennis courts have recently been given up. However, if someone should have a court, and want to have lights, why can’t he, also, have lights? What about other “recreational” lighting? For years our boys played basketball on a back blacktop area where we had installed a floodlight for evening play when the days were shorter. And, you may recall, that this same family exercise was most important to the Swirbul boys. We no longer use our court, but I would not hesitate to turn on the lights when our grandchildren come to visit. Why should families and children in the future be deprived of this?

A last comment:  This detailed decree is insulting to us, the property owners. It leaves a bad taste: we are considered to be like children who would, without the guiding hand of the Village, defile our own property and that of our neighbor’s.  A certain dogmatic, untrusting, and petty spirit prevails from the top, and, sadly, this has filtered down to residents and neighbors. There are so many absurd codes, that anyone who wants to get at a neighbor can do it, in the spirit of the Village of Tuxedo Park. This makes me very sad. Instead of moving in the opposite direction, with more trust and good will in Tuxedo Park, this Board seems to have taken up the cudgel. And then you say, “If you want to enjoy your house fully lit, God Bless You…..and if you wish to enjoy the great night darkness…..God Bless You.”  Claudio…really…...what do you take us for?

Sally Sonne

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The Construction on Camp Comfort Road
Posted: June 3, 2016

May 25, 2016

Dear Mayor Guinchard,

I wish that instead of writing this letter I were doing what I should be doing, writing music.

I purchased the “Library” property at 19 Patterson Brook Road in 2002 as a place to compose music, which I do daily. I have done this happily until last Spring 2015 when construction at Camp Comfort Road commenced.

The constant, unrelenting sound of pile driving and other unbearable construction noise has rendered this property completely unusable for the purpose for which it was purchased. I found the natural beauty and quiet of the setting inspiring. No longer. I have not been able to write there at all last year and now, with the return of spring, the pounding noise has begun again in full and threatens to ruin another productive summer period. What is the completion date of this project as required by the Code (40-5)?

I realize that notices are sent out to neighbors regarding new construction within 500 feet visual distance but, more importantly, what about the sound/noise factor? I cannot see this construction but I can hear it constantly and it interferes and prevents me from being able to create. I am at my wits end. I am unable to compose music under these conditions and am considering consulting a lawyer to find out my rights in regards to my quality of life (and that of numerous neighbors, I venture to guess) and productivity being undermined and threatened by a single inconsiderate neighbor and a Board that does not protect its residents from these kinds of aural assaults. That a disturbance of this nature was approved and allowed to continue for so long is appalling.

I suggest an amendment be enacted to the village by-laws that construction noise and heavy boring into our rock ledges be either disallowed or heavily restricted.

For the present situation, with which I must deal on a daily basis, I urge the Board to find a way to limit the hours that this kind of disruption in our peace is allowed to continue. (Code 40-7D) Instead of 8 hours a day 5 days a week the noise should only be allowed to persist from 8am – 1pm, or perhaps only 3 days a week. Some compromise must be found. This type of heavy construction for a single house should not be allowed to continue months on end but rather held to a compressed and limited schedule for completion.

It is important to protect our beautiful village for the eye but also for the quiet, peaceful natural setting that we all love and appreciate.

Sincerely,

Howard Shore

cc:        Deputy Mayor Paul Gluck
Mr. John Kilduff, Trustee
Mr. Alan McHugh, Trustee
Mr. Claudio Guazzoni, Trustee

PS

When discussing the Camp Comfort construction situation while our grandson was present he knew all about it. He attends Tuxedo Park School across the street from this construction site. He tells us that the entire school has been suffering with the noise that runs throughout the school day and all are in anguish about it. The students, faculty and administration are all subjected to the pounding and banging from 8am right through the end of the school day at 4. They come to attend this fine school in it’s bucolic setting and struggle to ignore the raucous noise that continues for hours on end, while they attempt to study and stay focused on learning.

It is wrong that one resident can cause so much misery for so many in the Village. Limitations need to be enacted to prevent this kind of abuse that is depriving many of us of the peaceful enjoyment of our homes.

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Our Tuxedo Schools…What Are They Saying?
Posted: April 25, 2016

By Sally Sonne

I have read Messrs. Mollo’s and Rickard’s comments on the Tuxedo school. I don’t understand their title, “Education Gift To Tuxedo Taxpayers”. What is that supposed to mean?

After I read the first paragraph citing the cost per student as almost $60,000, I realized that these were inaccurate alarmists, writing to frighten the unknowing taxpayer. I asked questions and did a little research, which I would like to share with you. It’s not so simple. Some say that numbers don’t lie, but in fact they can be manipulated and interpreted in such a way that the conclusion is false. That’s what has happened here.

A simplistic and totally erroneous approach for estimating what we pay per student is to take the total budget and divide by the number of students. The result - $56,000! Shocking! (I guess Mollo and Rickard wanted to round up, just to make it sound even worse.) But, wait; it doesn’t work like that.  The true measure of the cost per pupil to the tax-payers of the district is projected to be $11,450,415,the amount of the levy. The remaining portion is funded through other revenues, like state aid, for example. The school district pays for the bussing of all private school students within a 15-mile radius. There are about 95 in this group, and they’re not counted in the total number of students. In addition, by law, the district contributes towards textbooks and health/welfare services for these students. Twenty-one Special Education students, residents of Tuxedo, are sent Out of District. They’re not counted either. Their cost is much more than the normal cost-per-student, no matter how you calculate it. One student costs the taxpayers $159,622 per year! The total amount paid for these 116 students who are not counted in the Tuxedo student body is $2,108,022.

Even so, the cost per student is high. That follows naturally when the number of students declines. Expenses can also be reduced, but not at the same rate. If teachers are let go, it is mandated that the newer teachers with lower salaries go first. So, the district is left with a highly-paid faculty. An academic program that has fewer students still costs approximately the same as it would with more students.

Mollo and Rickard have focused on “bloated budgets” that end up with unspent funds at the end of the year. They say that the budget (amount to run the district, including program) should have been reduced so we paid less taxes. I was told, and it certainly makes sense, that the budget must have a cushion for emergencies and unexpected expenses. If there was no surplus in the budget, and something occurred, the district would have to go back to the taxpayers in the middle of the year to ask for more money. I would say that if there is money left over at the end, they should be praised for good management or maybe just good luck.

My conclusion: Don’t jump onto the negative bandwagon based on these numbers, made to look fancy with columns and a colored graph. I don’t mean that everything is rosy; it is not. There’s a lot of hard work ahead, which I believe can best be accomplished with community support.

Tuxedo was dealt a big blow when Greenwood Lake left. The timing has been tough because there aren’t yet new students to replace them. Tuxedo Farms has a few years before it can start to deliver students. The desks are waiting. The ever-quoted cost-per-student will drop. And there will be more taxpayers. It could work out very well for all of us – the students and the taxpayers.

School taxes are wicked. No question. But, they could be worse – a lot worse. Let’s look at our tax rate per $1000 of assessed value compared with that of some surrounding communities: Tuxedo - $79.58; Town of Ramapo - $179.69; Monroe-Woodbury - $145.72; Town of Warwick - $150.62. Count your blessings.

A few more facts: The proposed budget for 2016/17 is less than last year’s budget by $670,000. Since the cap imposed by the state this year is negative .33, even with considerable trimming on the expenditure side, the proposed tax levy is 1.06% or $157,414 over the Tuxedo tax cap. Therefore, in order to pass the budget, the district will need a super majority vote of 60%.

A good public school is a tremendous asset for any community. I believe that we have an opportunity to have that in Tuxedo. We lose, big time, if we give up and don’t fight for our future. Can we be patient and tough it out for the next few years? I sure hope so.

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Education Gift To The Taxpayers
Posted: April 25, 2016

From George Mollo and Joe Rickard

This year we feel it imperative that all taxpayers be made aware of the consistent overstatement of Tuxedo School (TUFSD) budgets. The Board has a history of masking true costs. This is the key reason why the Town has one of our Nation's highest cost per student of almost $60,000.

The School Board consistently acts with little transparency. This year’s budget includes more than $800,000 that should be removed providing the taxpayers a budget well below the CAP. Additionally there are further cuts that could be made. What school district with a student teacher ratio of 7 to 1, loses 10% of their budgeted students and does not reduce staff and expenses?

The School Board has a History of Bloated Budgets.

Here is an example of the strategy that has been used by the Board for years. In 2015 the Tuxedo BOE was seeking an increase in the 2015-2016 Budget over CAP. The day before the budget hearing they reduced the Budget to CAP at 1.6%. Many citizens were fooled because they were happy they would receive the NY State tax rebate.

What the taxpayers did not know was there were considerable dollars stuffed into the budget that should have been removed further reducing their taxes. True to form, again, we have an inflated budget and high costs.

Below is an illustration depicting the amount of funds not spent from budgets approved by the taxpayers. This is an example of a School Board that acts with no oversight.

Note:

  • All of the above figures are official numbers as approved by the Tuxedo Board of Education
  • Dollars are rounded to the nearest thousand

Key Points:

  • The actual dollars unspent in 2014/2015 were $871,205. This is $393,000 above the estimate of $478,206 provided by the District at the time of the Budget proposal.
      • This is consistent with a historical trend within the District.
  • $867,838 is the difference in the Estimated Actual spending against the Budget for 2015/16 presented in the proposed budget.
      • Based on past performance, it is safe to assume the Actual spent will be lower and the unspent will be higher.

Based on the unspent dollars in past budgets, it is obvious that all budgets have been bloated. The proposed budget is more of the same and similarly bloated.

Our Findings:

That being the case, here is our opinion:

    • There is no reason to go over CAP.
    • There is no reason for the Board to make threats to cut K-6 programs if the budget proposal is not approved.
    • The proposed budget should be below the CAP, and taxpayers should expect a tax rebate.

Consistently giving the Tuxedo Board of Education a “rubber stamp” has led us to be a School District with high costs and consistent mediocre performance.

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School Budget Workshops To Be Held March 31 & April 7
Posted: March 30, 2016

*The Following was circulated by Joe Rickard to the residents of The Woodlands as a reminder of the School Budget Workshops. The issues listed within represent the opinion of Mr. Rickard only and TPFYI cannot assure their accuracy.

For your information:

This is a reminder that the School budget workshops are being held this Thursday, March 31 and April 7 at the George Grant Mason School, Multipurpose Room at 7 PM.

This is an opportunity for residents to voice their views on decisions that affect the quality of the education afforded our kids, property values and the size of our tax rates.

As a recommendation, here are the three issues to focus on at the meetings:

1. Ensure the 2016-2017 budget proposal is carefully reviewed and opportunities for less spending explored

2. Given the consistent excess and size of the budget, the Board must explain why they cannot stay within the NY State''s recommended CAP guideline or explain in detail why they need to exceed the CAP.

3. Many important decisions and planning is not clearly communicated to the public We lack details. We have a bloated budget and a continued declining High School enrollment. We need to address the problem of our students fleeing to other schools. A truly honest assessment of the future must be presented by the board.

If you can, try to attend the meeting and challenge the Board where appropriate. .There will be an opportunity to vote new members on the Board on May 17th but the decisions on the budget are being made now. Joe Rickard

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Tuxedo Farms market in Sloatsburg to compete with Tuxedo Town businesses
Posted: November 17th, 2015

At the late October meeting of the Tuxedo Town Board, John Kwasnicki of Sloatsburg asked to be heard during the public comment period. He told the Board that Tuxedo Farms is proposing to build a shopping center, of up to 65,000 square feet, in northern Sloatsburg. This shopping center is to be built on Tuxedo Farms property on Route 17 just south of Park Avenue and Jessie’s Bagels. This was apparently new news to our Town Board for they questioned the veracity of Mr. Kwasnicki’s information. A visit with Sloatsburg’s Mayor Carl Wright later that week confirmed that the project was indeed under review by Sloatsburg’s Planning Board. Tuxedo Farms is currently seeking tenants for the project through this web site: < http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/19426827/199-Orange-Turnpike-Sloatsburg-NY/>

In the long review process that has accompanied Tuxedo Reserve/Tuxedo Farms, delayed multiple times by both the developer changing the layout as well as the financial crisis of 2008, successive Tuxedo Town Boards have hoped that the development would benefit the Hamlet. The Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Planning Department also shared this hope. The latter repeatedly suggested changes to plans in order to direct foot, bicycle and car traffic into the Hamlet from the development. To this end, in the years leading up to the issuance of a Special Permit to build Tuxedo Reserve in 2004, successive Tuxedo Town Boards carefully limited the commercial space within the development in order to protect Hamlet businesses. This commercial space was originally limited to 3,000 square feet but has grown in recent years to 30,000 square feet. Certainly the addition of a YMCA to the development will be a positive amenity, however, it is unfortunate that our Town Board learns about the Tuxedo Farms shopping center, not through a phone call from a Tuxedo Farms representative, but from a concerned citizen from Sloatsburg. It is hard to believe that this is a new idea for the Tuxedo Farms developers.

This shopping center will have important environmental impacts that were not considered in prior environmental reviews of Tuxedo Farms. It will affect traffic flows on Route 17 and within the Tuxedo Farms development. It will have financial impacts on the development as a whole, on the Hamlet, on the Town of Tuxedo and on Orange County. Consequently a Supplemental Environmental Review is needed.

Are there other places within the Town of Tuxedo where this shopping center could be built? One is the location of the Red Apple Rest as it is already commercially zoned, has ample parking space and would create less traffic congestion than the proposed site in Sloatsburg.

This proposed shopping center in Sloatsburg will probably have negative consequences for our Town. If you are as dismayed as we are about it please communicate with the Town Board, the Town Planning Board and the Chamber of Commerce.

Jim and Nancy Hays
4 Cliff Road
Tuxedo Park, N.Y. 10987

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EA Letter In Support of Val Reardon For Town Council
Posted: November 2nd, 2015

Dear Friends & Neighbors,

As our Town of Tuxedo election approaches this Tuesday, November 3rd, we would like to ask for your support for Valerie Reardon.  Val is a 13-year Tuxedo resident, living with her husband Mike in the Eagle Valley section of Tuxedo.  As part of the push for increasing the depth and breadth of skills and knowledge on the Town Board, Supervisor Rost appointed Val to serve after a mid-term vacancy this summer.  This already has proved to be an excellent decision for a number of reasons.  Val comes to the Board with a resume that many would be hard-pressed to match.  Val earned her BA from Baylor University and carries not one, but two MBAs, one in Finance and one in Accounting (something our Town Board has needed).  She also is a CPA and has served on the Board of the Better Business Bureau of NYC.  Val's work experience has included Goldman Sachs and First Boston.  She currently serves as an SVP and Chief Enterprise Risk, Ethics & Compliance officer at the $8 billion health care company, Emblem Health.

Val is an avid golfer, contending for her club championship each year.  Of note, she was asked to serve on the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation Board - the first woman EVER to serve as a Board member on this organization in 118 years!  Clearly, Val's skills, knowledge and insights are sought by many.

Needless to say, this is one of the people we MUST have on the Board to maintain the turnaround that has begun.  We are fortunate to have such a highly qualified person in our town with the time, desire and dedication to bring Tuxedo forward in an open, honest, transparent and ethical fashion.

Please make sure you vote for Valerie Reardon this Tuesday, November 3rd.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Josh & Nan Bewlay

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Editorial - Michele Lindsay For Town Council
Posted: October 29th, 2015

Dear Town of Tuxedo Voters:                                                          October 25, 2015

On November 3rd, Tuxedo will elect two Town Board members from among three competing candidates. Your vote for candidate Michele Lindsay is essential for improving the financial health of Tuxedo.

 For several years running, Tuxedo has continued to face major challenges arising from uncontrolled budget expenditures, operating deficits, and the discovery at the end of 2014 of significant accounting discrepancies.  These material events were confirmed by the Office of the NYS Comptroller that conducted a year-long audit of the Town’s books and issued a report highly critical of the Town’s lax management process and inadequate financial reports to the Tuxedo Town Board, which over the years presided over this serious, deteriorating situation with little apparent attention, questions, or concern. 

The Town’s on-going financial crisis appears to have been made worse by the oversight failure of the Town Council.  Some of these same members continue in office today.  In response, the Town hired professional consultants to address the Town’s multiple financial accounting and control deficiencies.

Now is the time for Tuxedo voters to elect new Board talent – not to re-elect those that were oblivious to the Town’s growing financial debacle. The Board needs Michele’s experience, talent and energy to ask necessary questions, take responsibility for raising standards, provide oversight and help solve problems. The Town really can’t afford to do otherwise. Let’s hope the voters agree and elect candidate Michele Lindsay for Tuxedo Town Council. For more information visit www.LindsayForTuxedo.com.

Hon. Houston A. Stebbins

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A Response From Pilgrim Pipeline
Posted: October 26th, 2015

An account of a TP Town Council hearing earlier this month (Public Hearing – Local Law Introductory #2 of 2015 – Pipelines) relayed a number of items concerning the Pilgrim Pipeline that we would like to help clarify.

In brief, the Pilgrim Pipeline project seeks to construct two contiguous underground pipelines running between Albany and the New York Harbor.  The southbound line would carry crude from Albany to facilities in the Linden area, and the northbound line will carry refined products like home heating oil, gasoline and diesel fuel to points north.

The account starts by describing an “unauthorized” visit by a Pilgrim lobbyist.  In fact, a Pilgrim representative did enter the community in late September, but not under false pretenses as described.  At the guard gate, Mr. John Casellini of Ways and Means, LLC, an experienced lobbyist who represents Pilgrim in New York, stated that he had materials about the project that he wished to drop off with the Village Mayor’s office.  At no point did he tell the guard that he had a scheduled meeting with the Mayor.  Mr. Casellini was subsequently given permission at the gate to enter the property in order to leave the materials, which he proceeded to do.  It is true that his visit was not announced in advance; it was not, however, undertaken with any intent to be deceptive, nor could it be described as “unauthorized.”

A question was raised about the width of the pipeline. For clarification purposes, the sizing of the two pipelines has not been finalized, but they will be no more than 24” in diameter at most, and most likely 18” in diameter for the crude pipeline that runs south and 16” in diameter for the refined pipeline that runs north.  For the sake of context, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has a diameter of 48” and the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would have a diameter of 36”.  The construction right-of-way would be roughly between 25 and 50 feet wide.  The footprint of the pipeline itself (both lines together) is only about 5 and a half feet, with the trench approximately 5 feet deep.

Questions had also been raised about the deviation in the pipeline’s route from the Thruway right-of-way, which it follows south from Albany.  The pipeline runs off the Thruway in this area in order to pick up the Algonquin natural gas pipeline right-of-way just across the border in New Jersey as it heads south toward New York Harbor.

The comment that the “Federal Bureau of Energy” is “also fighting the proposed route,” also needs clarification.  First, there is no “Federal Bureau of Energy.”  There is a U.S. Department of Energy, but it does not have purview over oil pipelines and is thus not involved in the project, much less “fighting it.”  The necessary permits for the project must be acquired from a host of state agencies rather than the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees natural gas pipelines. 

Having said that, Pilgrim will be constructed in accordance with numerous federal regulations that help ensure the project meets the highest standards of safety, and will also incorporate a broad range of modern advancements that make it a cutting-edge example of pipeline technology.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to post this response, and look forward to further discussions as the route is finalized and the project continues to go forward.  We also encourage Tuxedo Park citizens to reach out to John Casellini at John@WaysAndMeansNY.com or 518-438-9669 with any questions about the project.

George Bochis
Vice President of Development, Pilgrim Pipeline, LLC
1 (800) 414-6241 ext. 706.

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I Thought This Was A Democracy
Posted: September 17th, 2015

As everyone is well aware, on the morning of Saturday September 5 a drunk driver crashed into the booth at the Police Gate rendering it unsafe and it was subsequently demolished.

Although there were a multitude of Code Red alerts that went out in the immediate wake of the accident, there has been no official word from the Mayor or the Trustees as to how they plan move forward now that the booth is no more.

On September 8, at 11am, the Board held a Special Meeting and although the Mayor did provide a detailed timeline of the event, she did not talk about what would happen moving forward.

Since that time, the rumors have been flying.  I have heard that the booth will not be replaced and that in order to accommodate a second lane for entering cars, the Village will cut through the stone wall adjacent to the Keep and run a “road” over the Church lawn.   It has been suggested that a pressure tube, similar to that used in banks, will be installed so that guards can easily transfer directions to vehicles seeking entrance without having to go outside.   I’ve also heard that the Village is planning to sell the property on which the Village Office sits and construct room for the Office adjacent to the Keep.   

Now, another Special Meeting of the Board has been called for tomorrow, 9/18, again at 11am with the announced purpose of providing an “update on the main entrance.”

The Front Gate, how it is operated and what it looks like, is something that has an important impact on every taxpayer in the Village.  Not only does it have a direct effect on security and property values, what happens there in terms of “rebuilding” and planning for the future will no doubt have an impact on everyone’s taxes moving forward.   Not once during the two weeks since this unfortunate event occurred has the Mayor or her Board reached out to the residents for their opinion!  Rather, they continue to schedule Special Meetings for 11am, a time at which the majority of residents are at work or otherwise engaged and cannot attend!  Why aren’t they soliciting our feedback???????  Is this not a democracy?  In my view, a public hearing should be scheduled before any determinations are made or actions taken. Not only are the taxpayers deserving of more information (Was the booth insured?  Will the drunk driver be held accountable and to what extent?  Is the Keep even sound?  If not, how will the Village fund the necessary repairs?) but they are fully entitled to have their views heard and acknowledged by the Board.  It is very possible that a majority of the residents would like to see the booth rebuilt.  Regardless, this is an issue that demands community discussion, which in my view should be scheduled for an appropriate time at which a majority of residents will have the opportunity to attend.

-Meg Vaught

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Important Update from United Monroe R/E KJ Annexation
Posted: September 8th, 2015

United Monroe Update

Hello Friends.

The reports are all in. Multiple agencies, environmental groups, municipalities, even the Town of Monroe's own consulting firm's report confirms what we all know.  KJ's environmental review was a sham.  KJ refused to acknowledge the potential growth and development if the 507 or 164 acre annexations are approved.  Their engineering firm failed to project what the County Planning Department was able to do using accurate data.

The environmental review launched and orchestrated by KJ reached their preordained conclusion. There would be no negative impact to either annexation.  Are you laughing yet?

Neither are we.  If the impacts of this annexation weren't so extreme and serious the KJPE's brazen and outrageous behavior would be amusing. 

Today we learned that the Town of Monroe Supervisor, Harley Doles, wrote a delusional letter to the State Education Commissioner.

Doles asks the Commissioner to appoint three monitors to ov­­­ersee the School District. Doles is implying that the opposition to annexation is based on discrimination.  Doles, in his letter, politicizes the conversation.  He trusts that the KJ school district board has already resolved to simply shift the boundaries of the school districts to remove the 507 and 164 acre annexations from the MWCSD.  Doles points out that the MWCSD board members were endorsed by United Monroe and he insists that a state appointed monitor intervene in the district.  Doles is counting on KJ's clout and influence on the state level to push this annexation through.

Doles completely denies your ability to think for yourself.  Doles is attacking the 6, independent, qualified members of the MW School Board who have stepped up in the most challenging time in Monroe's history to help protect our schools. 

Doles is a madman and he's scared.  He has been urging the MWCSD to alter the borders of the district in anticipation of the annexation's approval.  An approval that he has control over- Doles has to vote on Tuesday on the fate of our community and our school district.  The school board in its current incarnation is not cowering, is looking deeply and carefully at the details of this complex issue, and has retained an excellent law firm to strategically handle this situation.

Doles is putting our school district on par with East Ramapo by requesting state monitors.  He's suggesting that the United Monroe endorsed candidates on the school board are as damaging to the district as the East Ramapo School Board are to East Ramapo. 

Doles was elected almost entirely by Kiryas Joel.  Doles received 99% of the KJ vote in 2013. One month after he was elected to the Supervisor position, the annexation petition for 507 acres of Monroe land was filed. Doles is bullying, deflecting and manipulating in order to repay the KJPE for his Supervisor salary.

Doles, in implying that the School Board requires state monitoring, is slapping the face of every school district voter who elected these fine, upstanding citizens to the volunteer school board of Monroe Woodbury.  He's telling you that you're not smart enough to know who you're electing, and what the issues really are.  He's suggesting that United Monroe has mind control over all in the region.  How insulting to the educated and engaged electorate.

United Monroe is made up of volunteer citizens.  We were formed in response to the corruption being perpetrated by Doles, Burke, McQuade and the KJPE. 

Doles is attempting to turn the tables and confuse the public. 

How stupid would our school district be to alter the boundaries of the district prior to the annexation vote?  The School Board has been responding intelligently and under the advice of counsel.

The annexation vote is taking place on Tuesday, September 8th at 7pm at Bais Rachel Paradise Hall at 5 Israel Zupnick Drive in Kiryas Joel.

We are meeting at 5:45pm on Tuesday prior to the annexation vote at the McDonald's parking lot on 17M in Monroe.  Those able, will join us in a peaceful walk, with signs, from the McDonald's to the Bais Rachel Paradise Hall in KJ.  It's a 1.7 mile, mostly flat walk. 

Those unable to walk should arrive early at the banquet hall in order to secure a parking spot. 

For more details and specific information relating to the annexation vote, tune in to our podcast "Stand Up Hudson Valley" by clicking here at 8pm on Sunday night.  John Allegro and I will be taking your calls with any questions or comments you may have.

In addition, should the Board vote yes on either annexation, Preserve Hudson Valley will be taking immediate legal action.  You can make your tax deductible donation to the legal fund by clicking here.

Thanks, as always, for all that you do.

Emily Convers and the United Monroe Team

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Thank You Thank You Thank You
Posted: July 9th, 2015

Thank You    Thank You    Thank You
You Know Who You Are…As does my dog
But I Don’t

Last Friday our neighbor was taking care of my beloved 9 year old pet Golden Retriever , Ransom while we were away for the weekend.

Our friends have watched Ransom innumerable time without incident.   They were taking Ransom out Friday evening around 8:30, just as a fireworks company blew off 3 test BOOMS. This put Ransom in full sprint mode to get as far away from the noise as possible.

From what I have been able to gather from several  eye witnesses, the whole street was looking for him…both on foot and a motorized division…no success. Hoping that he would come back on his own, my neighbors were at the fireworks at the Tuxedo Park Club and continued to spread the word about the missing Golden Retriever …the police were notified as well as the gate.

Good fortune and some Divine Intervention resulted in a person that had attended the fireworks  and  heard about the missing dog was on their way home and while driving by the antique shop on Rt. 17 north  saw Ransom & TOOK THE TIME TO STOP,  PICK HIM UP & TAKE HIM BACK TO THE GATE AT TUXEDO PARK.  Ransom was over 2 miles from home and  he had never been there before….he was lost.

So Ransom was home when we returned on Saturday night…he hadn’t eaten in 2 days…but was VERY glad to see us.  Oh the stories of  concern  & angst  we heard on our street.

Unfortunately, because Ransom was one of  several dogs that went missing that night (one is yet to return) there is no record of the caring person / persons that returned our Ransom.  We heard that at one point there were 2 dogs held in the gate house awaiting their return to their owners.

So if it was you that took the time to do the right thing (or you know of that person) I want to let you know how much we appreciate your efforts.

God Bless You

PJB   Tuxedo Park NY

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Just The Facts - What A Government Should Do
Posted: June 11th, 2015

Despite its small size, the Village of Tuxedo Park (VOTP) is an official governmental entity. The mayor and trustees are elected, and sworn to uphold the constitution of the United States and the State of New York. The VOTP is neither a co-op board nor a homeowners association. Legal principles that apply to all cities, towns and villages are required to be adhered to: the resources of the Park cannot be dissipated on the mere whims of the Board of Trustees.

It is within this rubric that the Causeway Wall matter was handled.
The homeowner of the property in question was cited many times over the course of more than 15 years for the dilapidated condition of the wall, which had a decided lean that was visible to the naked eye.(Click here to view copies of letters sent by the Village to the Homeowner regarding this issue dated as early as 1999)  The pronounced lean was confirmed by several examiners, ranging from expert stone masons and engineers, who employed both basic “plumb” measurements and sophisticated implements to study the situation. It was noted that stones had fallen out of the wall at this time. The conclusion that the wall had failed was proper and correct, based on science, basic physics, and engineering. Due to its close proximity to one of the most heavily traveled roads in the Park, the situation had to be addressed. Quite simply: the Village government had been put on notice that there was a significant, dangerous, safety threat to motorists and pedestrians from the wall.

So, what’s a government to do?

The BOT followed the law.

First of all, the danger to life and property had to be mitigated, which it was through the initial closure and subsequent limited access to the causeway.

The homeowner was cited for failing to maintain the wall, under various provisions of the Village code, and was directed to achieve a satisfactory repair. The homeowner failed to undertake any restoration or even submit plans for a repair, well beyond the time frames prescribed by law.

The next step in the legal process was for the BOT to hold a hearing, and it was the jurisdiction of the BOT to decide several key issues in the matter, including responsibility for the wall the extent of the necessary repairs. Once again, this was all done pursuant to the law of the Village.

After an extensive review of the various deeds, property maps, and surveys, and, after hearing from the homeowner and the evidence presented by her attorney, the BOT concluded the wall was situated on the homeowner’s property, and ordered a repair of the wall.

After an extended period of inaction and refusals to act by the homeowner, the Village undertook the next step in the legal process that is the same across New York State: enforcement.

The Village code permits the Village to undertake repairs and perform other actions to remedy an unsafe condition. Hence, arrangements were made to dismantle the wall down to a safe height and secure the property in order to open the causeway, alleviate the dangerous condition, and end the terrific inconvenience of the detour.

There was never a consideration to have the wall remain dismantled. The situation was to be temporary, allowing the litigation to take its natural, long course. Since the VOTP certainly had the means to restore the wall, its actions to achieve a safe condition and open the road should not have been viewed as causing any permanent or “irreparable” harm to the homeowner.

As we all witnessed, the homeowner proved to be a fierce litigant, and the failure of the court to rule for such a long time rewarded the scorched earth tactics employed.

When the court did finally rule, every single action of the BOT was upheld as being legal and correct.

The court, however, in an absurdity, decided to weigh in, uninvited and unrequested by either side, to decide ownership of the wall, despite that the fact that the BOT had already correctly decided the issue, in the process outlined and prescribed by the Village code, which the court acknowledged.

At this point, over two years had passed by.

So, what’s a government to do?

The Village had already provided the court with an extensive record, which substantiated the homeowner’s ownership of the wall. For trial, however, experts would be required, and interminable delays from expected appeals by the homeowner, on every single point, gave the BOT no alternative but to seek a settlement that would surely be distasteful, but necessary.

In the end, a settlement was reached in which the residents of the Park will pay for the majority of the cost of the wall’s repair. The action was driven by the need to end the unsafe condition, resulting from curiosity seekers and others refusing to avoid the area. Concern over the swiftness of emergency access also played a factor.

For the record, the Village attorney fees were capped early on in the litigation. The true cost that the BOT was focused on was not necessarily the cost of the repair, but the cost of potentially setting a financially destructive precedent and the priceless cost of time, inconvenience, and safety.

The BOT followed the law. It vigorously defended the rightful position of the people not to bestow a bounty, in the form of free wall repair, to an individual homeowner.

It was what a government should do!

~John Kilduff

 

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The Village’s 2015-2016 Budget by the Numbers
Posted: June 4th, 2015

A number of Village residents have questions about why the recently approved Village budget of $4,692,746 (General Fund and Water Fund) cannot be reduced, and also are asking about why the Budget surplus has declined in each of the last four budgets. The purpose of this article is to answer both questions by focusing on the budgets for fiscal years 2007-2008 through 2015-2016. 

The Village budget has two major components to it. The first is the Water Fund, and this is the cost to customers of the Village's Water Department for operating the Village water plant and processing our drinking water.  This fund's surplus has also been declining.  We have not had a rate increase since 2007, although at the Village Board’s April 28th meeting, a 7% rate increase for both metered water usage and the capital improvement fee was approved.  Hopefully, the increase will put the Water Fund in a more positive cash position for the 2015-2016 budget.

The General Fund costs for the new fiscal year (on which your Village taxes are based) are projected at $3,948,750 with $185,000 of that total being covered by an allocation from Reserves (Unallocated Surplus).  Why? First, it is important to understand that every budget since the 2007–2008 budget has allocated a draw on the Reserves.  However, since budgeting is not a science, it was not until the 2012–2013 budget, that this allocation was actually used.  Prior to this time, costs were lower than anticipated and/or revenues were somewhat higher than projected, resulting in no need to draw down the budget allocation from Reserves.

With this in mind, let us review the new 2015-2016 fiscal year’s General Fund budget, which has 91% of its total costs locked in; ergo, they cannot be reduced. What are those costs?

DPW, Police, & Village Office Salaries                            $1,497,629   37.9%           
Debt Service to include Interest                                        $   373,868      9.5%
Employee Taxes & Benefits                                              $   963,659    24.4%

Eight Essential Services the Village Cannot Function Without
Garbage Service                                                                  $   156,000   
Sewage removal, chemicals                                            $     98,725
Roads Maintenance – Repaving                                      $   220,000
Snow Removal                                                                    $   117,000
Insurance                                                                              $     54,000
Legal (Budget is actually $100,000)                                $     50,000
Auditing Village Accounts                                                  $     17,500
Engineering Support                                                          $     45,000
                                                            TOTAL                        $   758,225    19.2%

As you can see, these percentages add up to 91%. Can the legal or snow removal actual amounts be less? Absolutely, but they can also be more, so it depends on how conservative you want your elected officials to be in the budgeting process.  In my nine years as a Trustee, I was responsible for producing eight budgets, and I have come to realize that both projected revenues and costs are most likely case estimates, but neither category is ever 100% accurate.

It is all well and good from a sound bite perspective to talk about reducing taxes, but the reality is that no Mayor or Board can reduce taxes given the State imposed tax cap guidelines all NYS Villages have been operating under since 2012, unless that Village has a surplus. {Note, the tax cap is changed annually by the State government. Last fiscal year the cap for Tuxedo Park was 1.48% and this fiscal year it is 1.68%.} Starting with fiscal year 2016–2017, at the current revenue intake and expenditure outflow, Tuxedo Park’s Board will have no choice but to continue using up part of the remaining unappropriated Surplus Reserves and/or to raise property taxes.

In summary, use of some of the Surplus Reserves has been a projected part of every budget since 2007 – 2008. However, at the end of some fiscal years (2007 – 2008 and 2010 – 2011) not only was the projected allocation from Surplus not used, but in fact the Surplus was increased. Increases in the Surplus occur when either revenues exceed projections and/or expenses are lower than projected. In years when the Surplus is partially used, it is used to not only balance the budget, but to also minimize any increase in property taxes.

Going forward, given that the largest single cost the Village incurs annually relates to employee salaries and benefits, we need to look into not only containing the growth in employee salaries and benefits, but also explore passing on to new employees part of the benefit costs such as medical insurance.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions about the contents of this article.

Thank you.

David B. du Pont

Budget Analysis and Tax Rates (Click Photo To Enlarge)

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A Community At The Crossroads
Posted: May 12th, 2015

The recent decision by the Tuxedo Board of Education to continue the high school program created a pause allowing for an evaluation of the viability of the district into the future.  Already, there are those, including candidates for the school board, who favor dissolution of the high school.  Their hope is that Suffern or other schools may offer a better educational opportunity and cost savings.  Understanding the long-range impacts has been a missing element from the discussion. 

Tuxedo has long been a divided community.  Geographic and economic separation fosters an unhealthy environment that contributes to the demise of our economic viability and community spirit.  Well meaning people who envision a better education for their children may believe that closing the school and joining a larger district is the answer.  They tell each other that we can always come back, or reopen the school in the future.  How can anyone be against what seems to be a “good deal” for the students and community?  These are dangerous ideas born from inexperience.  Let’s not be shortsighted as the ramifications of such an action are irreparable. 

Then, what if we did lose the high school?  Is that a more cost effective and educationally superior strategy?  On the surface, it may seem worth considering.  However, the longer view is that it is the first step on the path of absorbing Tuxedo into another district.  The tax impacts on Tuxedo would be huge.  The social impacts are immeasurable.  If Tuxedo loses its high school, you cannot simply reopen it in the future.  Local districts must adhere to laws and regulations imposed by the State Education Department and the State Legislature.  Close the high school and you lose your right to operate a high school in the future.  That is the reality.

The process to reestablish a new high school would take years, with approval from the state highly unlikely.  If we become part of the Ramapo 1 School District they will certainly resist our leaving and claim negative financial impacts.  They did that to forestall the Charter School application, and are likely to do it again.  Their predictable rising expenditures, as well as dwindling revenue from the Ramapo Township make this a predictable outcome.  Further, a K-8 district would make Tuxedo a dependant district, like Greenwood Lake.  In short order, a K-8 district, too, would be lost, and with it the character and independence of Tuxedo will be gone. 

Continuing the high school program was an important decision.  No one wants the program to suffer due to the reduced size, but it “buys” us time to be creative and aggressive toward rebuilding the student population.  Whether the plan is to add students by creating tuition scholarships, encouraging the acceleration of the Tuxedo Farms development, or by other initiatives, no plan will succeed when the community is so mislead by assumptions, false arguments, and personal agendas.

Consider the prospect of future development from Tuxedo Farms.   New residents are likely to resist any effort to return to the Tuxedo school district as they would never have known the quality of education along with the low tax rate of TUFSD.  Those future residents will have significant influence and numbers equal to our present town population.  Over time, they will resist any change back to a non-dependant district, even if the state would allow it.  That solution is NOT going to be "Tax Positive" as the project always represented.

In the coming weeks, there will be a budget vote and school board election.  This time, it is essential that the school not be stifled by monetary constraints that inhibit the strength of the program and efforts to rebuild.  Yes, the current Board and Administration must be held accountable for effective use of our tax dollars and provide transparency to the taxpayers and parents.  It is in our mutual best interest to support this year’s school budget.

It is also essential that people elected to the Board possess the business acumen and commitment necessary to assure that the long range objectives of district survival and educational excellence are both achieved.  It is not acceptable to make decisions about issues that affect the community in such a profound way without understanding the facts and being willing to demonstrate true leadership.

School Board members have an important role.  It cannot be a ceremonial task or one that forsakes the wishes of part of the community to favor another.  The Board is responsible for the decisions made in the schools and must assure that it chooses the best professionals to implement its policies.  In the near term, that responsibility will be more important than ever before.

After careful consideration of the candidates running for the school board, it is clear that some candidates are committed to keeping the entire school district operating while searching for a permanent solution.  Other candidates believe their ideas for joining a larger district are better. 

Do not be influenced by those who simply do not understand or lack the experience to make the right decision for Tuxedo.  Their good intentions will cause irreparable harm to this community.  We cannot embark on the path toward a tuition agreement.  That is the first step to closing the high school, and the entire district soon thereafter.

Your vote is more important than ever.  Please join me in supporting Diana Petrosky, Mary (Meg) Vaught, and Allyson Arber.  They have all voiced their commitment to keeping the district open and to build for its future.

Let’s not be adversaries on this matter.  Rather, let this be a new beginning for a community that has heretofore been resistant to new ideas and change.  Do not accept bureaucratic road blocks and impediments that will deter efforts to return the school district to a secure footing.  Do not be part of a mistake that will forever change it, and lead to its demise.  This may be the last chance for this community.

Respectfully Submitted

Joseph Ribando

Past member and President of the Tuxedo Board of Education
Former Councilman and Town Supervisor

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School Decision
Posted: March 23rd, 2015

Dear Tuxedo Union Free School District Parents,

It is becoming obvious to me that there is an element in this town that has decided that it is ok to sacrifice the education and High School experience of our children in order to try to hold on to a functioning high school in Town.  I think we all want the high school to survive. I certainly do. But I want the school of today to survive, the one with 300 kids and a vibrant program, not the school to come with 10 or 15 students in each grade. Not the one with no meaningful sports or extracurricular opportunities.  Not the one where the entire class can fit at one lunch table and heaven help you if your child doesn’t fit in.

I’ve heard lots of arguments in the last week.   I heard that not having a high school in our town will hurt our property values. Maybe. What I am certain of is that having a lousy high school will hurt our property values a lot more. I also heard that once we close the school we could never get it back. Doubtful. We can put ourselves in a position to be able to reopen.  Or that Tuxedo Farms couldn’t sell the homes without a high school. Nonsense. Few would object to a GGM elementary/ Middle and Suffern High School education who were moving into the area.

I have heard a lot about taxes.  I looked at some of the numbers.  Suffern’s tuition rates are about 19,000 per regular and 48,000 per special education student.  Based upon 70 regular and 10 special ed, that works out to be between 1.5 million with a reasonable discount to 1.8 for full bust out retail. Add a couple of hundred thousand for increased transportation costs.   I do not know what it costs to run the high school now, but I find it hard to believe that it costs less than those numbers.  I would guess that it costs double that.  Tax increase scare tactics are just that, scare tactics.

I have spoken to parents and students in the school now.  The consensus I have seen is that everyone wants to stay if the Lakers stay.  If they don’t, the now juniors soon to be seniors will try to take courses at RCC that double as high school and college credit or stick it out.  The lower grades will split along the lines of who can afford to send their kids to another school. (They will.)  And those who can’t afford too. (They won’t.)  (I’m afraid that the wording of the survey sent out may not disclose this nuance.) I expect that will leave us with a number from low to mid-teens per grade.  That may have been ok in the 60’s when there were fewer choices, but it isn’t now.  Our children deserve a full, rounded and complete High School education and experience. Part of that experience needs to include great elective choices, art and music, the socialization that comes from meeting new people, extracurricular opportunities and sports programs; not spending half their day sitting in front of computer screens in a “virtual high school”. (Which was tried before here and failed.)

I also don’t see the phase out as the panacea that some others do.  It will of course make the upper classmen, teachers and administrators happy.  I have a son in the 6th grade now.  What will he find when he arrives at the school in 3 years.  Empty halls and stripped programs? Will the best teachers have left for a secure school? Will he be expected to attend an empty program, instructed by the teachers that couldn’t find a job somewhere else?  How many of his classmates do you think will be attending that school?

I am not a board of education member. I do not know all the ins and outs of these negotiations and what is possible, and what isn’t, but if I was on the school board I would try to insist that any negotiations with another school include that they also hire someone like Mr. Schrammel as part of the deal. Our kids would then have someone there that knew them throughout their entire education. They need a go-to person they trust.  I would also suggest they use our teachers to fill any openings they have.  I would insist the tuition contract include a clause that they agree to support us if we decide to reopen the high school after the reserve fills out.  If they won’t agree, move on to someone who will.  I believe that if you have the support of wherever the kids would be leaving from, that you will have a reasonably easy time getting permission to reopen. Our problem has always been with the bigger towns putting pressure on the State Education Department.  If our host school would agree to support us, we have removed a huge obstacle to reopening.

As for the school building itself, I would like to see a student center that would be the envy of every other district.  I would like to see SAT – ACT classes, homework help, continuation of the Drama and Musical and foreign language classes offered after school and Saturdays.  Just because the school is closed doesn’t mean we have to lock the doors or stop supporting our kids. Perhaps OCC or RCC would offer satellite classes there.  When Tuxedo Farms is built out, then we can try to re-open it.

There are those that would sacrifice the education of our children for their sense of nostalgia and pride until at some point in the future we could find enough kids to fill it out again. It will be easy for them to find hundreds of people to sign a petition to keep the school open, especially if you don’t explain the ramifications to the kids in the school now, and the ones that are about to enter, or if you tell them their taxes will go up if they don’t.   I hope we do find the kids to run a vibrant program. I hope they succeed in keeping the Lakers. They shouldn’t however expect our kids to take one for the team while they work it out.  They only get one shot at high school.

If you agree with me, please lot the Board of Education know.  Tell them that you won’t send your kids to an empty school, or that if you are not in a position to send them to a private school how disappointed and angry you will be if your kids have to pay the price for this Hail Mary attempt to keep the school open.   Email the Board of Education at boe@tuxedoufsd.org.  Don’t delay. They will be making this decision on Tuesday.  

Thank you,

Dan Castricone

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Save Our School = Save Our Town
Posted: March 18th, 2015

The decision by the NYS Board of Regents to reject Tuxedo's Charter School application is a devastating blow to the Town of Tuxedo on just about every level.  Virtually everyone who lives here will be adversely impacted by it in some way as will a great number of other people. Clearly. this is both a frightening and confusing time for the District and many people will no doubt have strong ideas and opinions as to what should happen next with our school and our children.  I am one of those people.  I believe we need to do everything we can to keep the High School open.

The success of any strong, family-driven community is directly tied to the success of its' schools.  It is no secret that home sales, property values and taxes are driven by schools.  Here in Tuxedo we have always enjoyed the benefits of a unique, small public school which, because of its size, is able to provide students with what is basically the equivalent of a private school education.  Small class size and dedicated teachers come together to create a trusting and familial environment in which most students thrive. This is unusual in a public school environment.  As a result, the school has long enjoyed a high ranking and this, in turn, has been attracting families to Tuxedo for decades.

If Tuxedo loses its school, it will lose it's most viable, marketable asset.  Families that might have settled down here will no doubt choose other places to live where the taxes aren't nearly as high and their houses are worth more money.  They will seek out locations closer to their schools in order to avoid lengthy commutes and ensure the accessibility of extra curricular and after school activities.  Not only will families not choose to come to Tuxedo, but without a school, there is a good chance that many families will choose to move out of Tuxedo....for the very same reasons. Once the school is closed, it will be next to impossible for it to re-open. In all probability, there will never be a high school in Tuxedo again.  We will forever be dependent on other districts, their Boards and budgeting processes...constantly at the mercy of contract negotiations and re-negotiations on a 5-year cycle.  We will be outsiders and will lack a predominant voice in how our children are educated.

Without Greenwood Lake students, enrollment at GFB will be reduced to less than half its current enrollment and the BOE has projected a total student body, grades 7-12, of 120.  This is roughly 20 students per grade.  These are certainly grim numbers and there would no doubt be parents who chose to withdraw their children as a result, driving enrollment further down.  There is hope however, in the form of the Tuxedo Farms development.  An unusually long application process has caused a great number of people to lose faith in reality of this development but, rest assured, it is happening....very soon.  While the high school will not see immediate benefits, the developer projects an influx of roughly 400 kids over the next 10 years.  That's a lot of kids in a relatively short period of time....and it's more than enough to repopulate the school and in fact, drive enrollment up.

If the school does remain open, it is undeniable that the next several years would be uncertain and possibly shaky.  That being said, I believe it is a risk we need to take for the future of this Town and the community that lives here.  I say this knowing that my children will be directly affected.  I know there will be many people who disagree with me and I understand and respect their views....but I stand by mine.

-Meg Vaught

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The Tuxedo School District Needs Our Help
Posted: February 9th, 2015

The Tuxedo school district needs our help.  In just about a month the Board of Regents will be voting on whether or not to grant Tuxedo's Charter Application.  If the application is denied, the school will close for good this coming June. 

Why is it crucial that we maintain our school here in Tuxedo?   

For one, the value of our properties is directly tied to existence of a school here.   Should the school close, not only will Tuxedo lose it's largest business, but our community will become much less attractive to prospective residents and property values will plummet. Conversely, our taxes will go up so that we can afford to tuition our kids into another district.  Our district has not yet announced which district we would join, however it is important to note that the three closest districts, Monroe, Suffern and Warwick are presently at capacity.  

The Tuxedo High School has successfully begun their transformation to a STEM Academy.  For those of you who are not familiar with STEM and it's specialized type of curriculum, I urge you to visit this site and educate yourself a bit about it.  I believe that it is the future of education in this country.

http://www.livescience.com/43296-what-is-stem-education.html

The STEM curriculum may not be right for every kid, but here is the beauty of this situation.....if the Charter is secured and the District remains in tact, Tuxedo residents who wish to send their children elsewhere (another, larger district with arguably more extra curricular opportunities) will have that option!  Again, the District has yet to identify what the choice will be, but it will exist.  For the first time ever, high school students in Tuxedo will have choices!  

Once the Charter is in place, Tuxedo will have the ability to recruit students from other districts (the STEM education being a major selling point in this regard) and this increase in enrollment will help the school to finally be much more self-sustaining.....AND it will put to bed once and for all any dependency our District may have on Greenwood Lake.

The surrounding districts, namely Monroe, Warwick and GWL do not want to see Tuxedo granted a Charter because they fear they will lose students and in so doing, have to pay for them to attend the Tuxedo School (which is how a charter works)  They have been quite vocal with the Board of Regents in their opposition joining together to write letters and attend Board of Regents meetings.

So what can you do to help?  

Simply copy the message below and paste it into an e-mail.  Sign your name at the bottom and send it to the following e-mail address:
Regent.Tisch@nysed.gov

It will only take a couple of seconds to do it and if everyone does, it will send a clear message to the Board of Regents.  You do not need to be a resident of Tuxedo nor do you need to have children in the school to send this letter.  If you feel so inclined, you can also write your own, more personalized letter.

I hope you will seriously consider everything I have said here.  If Tuxedo loses its school, it will never get it back.  We need to preserve what we have here, for the good of this community and most importantly, for future of our children.

Thank you for your time

Meg Vaught

 

Merryl Tisch
Chancellor – Board of Regents
via email

Dear Commissioner Chancellor Tisch, Regent Phillips and esteemed Members of the K-12 Education Committee:

I am writing to express my full support for the Tuxedo UFSD Conversion Charter application and respectfully request approval for the Tuxedo STEM Academy Charter School and that the Board of Regents issue an initial charter and provisional charter for the converted school.

In an environment of constant consolidation, increasing class size, and the loss of the "town school", Tuxedo STEM Academy Charter School provides an alternative: a small-town atmosphere with committed teachers who are focused on providing the best possible education for their students. As an parent, I feel the opportunity to evaluate and choose the placement for my child is invaluable; every parent should have options for where their child can be educated, regardless of the family's financial situation. In this way, a Charter school would be a great asset to our community.

If the charter is not approved, it is the students who will lose. George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo is a consistently high performing school providing an intimate learning environment not often found in the public school system. Without the Charter conversion, and no negotiated contract with the Greenwood Lake School District, George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo will be forced to close and there are no real positive outcomes of losing a high-performing school.

While I see this is a difficult decision that affects school districts beyond the borders of the Tuxedo UFSD, I feel this conversion charter could be an innovative solution to many problems currently faced by more rural school systems. Pioneer concepts always cause mixed emotions, but with enough collaboration and cooperation, I am sure a viable solution for all those affected could be found, and the result could be an innovative model for application across the state's rural communities.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME HERE

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Why I Ran for the State Assembly as a Minor Party Candidate
Posted: November 12th, 2014

By Dan Castricone

I ran for the Assembly in NY’s 98th district because voters deserved a choice and a chance to support the only candidate willing to oppose Kiryas Joel’s plan to annex a large portion of Monroe. Evidently a lot of voters appreciated having a choice. Running on the United Monroe line, and buried in an obscure place on the ballot, I received nearly 30% of the Orange County vote in a three-way race. But for the block vote, I would have been the highest vote getter in Orange.

Had at least one of the two other candidates, Republican Karl Brabenec or Democrat Elisa Tutini, been willing to oppose KJ, I would have bowed out after the Republican primary. But both Brabenec and Tutini owed their primary victories to KJ, and neither dared utter a word in opposition to annexation.  

Why is annexation the seminal issue of our time?

KJ wants to annex more than 500 acres of land in the Town of Monroe. Once KJ has control of the land, another square mile of high-density housing will be built. KJ’s inevitable growth in population will place an unbearable strain on local neighbors and Southern Orange County, overwhelming the capacity of sewage treatment plants, water supplies and local schools. Because 93% of KJ’s population is on Medicaid, and because Medicaid is partially paid for by property taxpayers, taxes will skyrocket.

Our political system sits upon a cliff at the edge of an abyss.  Currently, KJ’s leadership commands a bloc vote of approximately 7000 votes, enough to swing the outcome of races in the Town of Monroe and the local Assembly seat.

But past is prologue. KJ’s growth has skyrocketed since 1990, growing from 7,400 to more than 21,000, an increase of nearly 300%. Its population density is 12,000 people per square mile, compared to 418 people per square mile for all of Orange County. The average couple in KJ often produces more than eight children. Young girls are routinely wed not long after they reach puberty. Thousands more wait in Brooklyn for the opportunity to move to KJ. Another square mile of high density housing and within 15 years KJ’s population will triple.

The day is fast approaching when KJ’s block will determine the County Executive, District Attorney, County Clerk, the Sheriff, our County Judges, who represents the County in the State Senate and the United States Congress. Candidates for those offices will no longer need appeal to a broad swath of the electorate. They will need only the nod of KJ’s Grand Rabbi. At that point we will have a government of KJ, by KJ, for KJ.
My success at the ballot box started a movement that will not die.  

I or some other candidate will carry on the fight because it is right and just. Indeed, in the neighboring Assembly District, both candidates advertised their opposition to annexation. As voters become more cognizant of KJ’s impact on all of us, including environmental pollution, a depleted water table, over-taxed schools and the burdens KJ places on property taxpayers, they will also become more sensitive to allowing KJ to pick our elected officials. 

People move to and live in Orange County because they cherish our culture, rural character and the bucolic beauty of our surroundings. Allowing KJ run roughshod over local zoning laws will destroy the very thing that brought people here to being with. I will continue doing all in my power to make sure that does not happen even if it means bucking the leadership of the local political elite.

Dan Castricone is a former member of the Tuxedo Town Board, a former Orange County Legislator and candidate for State Assembly. He is President of Castricone Enterprises, a Hudson Valley Insurance and Financial Services Firm.

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Scenic Hudson Opposes Both Ceasars and Sterling Forest Resort
Posted: October 3rd, 2014

Click Here to View .PDF

*Both supporting and opposing views from other recognized organizationa are eligible for editorial space on TPFYI, but may first be vetted for truth and accuracy.

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A Town Is For Sale
Posted: September 9th, 2014

The railroad barons of lore make place for the Casino barons of our century.
Where guns used to rule it's now money - BIG MONEY!  What has remained the same is a blatant disregard for the well being of the people who are living there or would be touched by their plans.

Genting America, a subsidiary of a Malaysian hospitality and Casino company is going to build a 1000-room hotel plus casino in the "doughnut hole" of
Sterling Forest State Park, an environmentally vulnerable section of our town, which was saved from the "wrecking ball" just 10 or so years ago by a
huge and unique effort on the part of then Governors Pataki and Whitman in cooperation with many government and private resources. The main issue then was water for a population of 17 million people.  The main issue now is water - again - just more so.

For some time now Genting has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence not only our elected officials but virtually everyone who they think will support them.

At the suggestion of a "friend" the town's Supervisor hired a consulting group, Alvarez & Marsal, to help the town board to make an "educated decision". A proper RFP was never initiated.. The analysis, which A&M discussed at a public hearing, was considered by many to be a white wash, attempting to convince the residents of the "huge" benefits coming their way.  There was both laughter and mocking comments from the public during the A&M presentation. A "market feasibility study/analysis" for the project was never forthcoming and as of this writing neither Genting nor the consultants (or the Town Board) have produced the required "market feasibility study". There are only promises, nothing but promises, of ever lasting prosperity for our small valley.

Our Town Board was flying blind and rushed through various resolutions including a Hosting Agreement and a zoning change, the latter is presently challenged in the courts. Additionally the Town Board voted itself the lead agent for SEQRA, which is a blatant conflict of interest if one thinks of the $ 47 Million carrot, which Genting dangles in front of them.

The discussion of the final scoping document a few weeks ago before a record crowd had speaker after speaker challenged, with well thought out and well researched arguments with regard to the entire project. The few speakers for the project spoke vaguely about the fiscal and financial benefits coming to town. Nobody offered any hard numbers.

Many people in town have not yet grasped the fundamental change which will come with this development. This is not a fairytale. It is of paramount importance that all of us keep informed. Attendance at the next town board meetings is mandatory.

September 6th, 2014

Maryvan and Ulrich Pendl

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Why I Voted To Support Genting
Posted: June 29th, 2014

Why I Voted to Support Genting – David du Pont

Before outlining the reasons I voted to provide Genting with a letter of support on its casino-resort project, I would like to pose to the Village residents who are reading this, two questions. First, what percentage of registered Village residents regularly vote in the Town elections? Second, what would be the impact on the Genting project if the Village of Tuxedo Park did not provide any letter of support?

The first question on Town elections is critical to why I voted in favor of supporting Genting. For reasons I cannot understand, Village turnout at all recent Town Board elections has been limited. Thus, the last Village resident to serve on the Town Board was Fran Liza, who retired from that Board in 2004. Supervisor Dolan once asked me why he should do anything for the Village, when its residents did not support him. I thought that was a good question. I bring this up because the Town makes its policy and governance decisions with virtually no input now from the Village, despite the fact that we provide over 40% of the Town’s budget with our tax payments.

Fast forward to the Town’s three to two vote to approve the Genting project despite the strong opposition to this project from both Laurel Ridge and Tuxedo Park among other areas of the Town. That opposition has now only become stronger, but sadly the train has already left the station. The Village is left with a fait accompli despite our protests. The Town sent its letter of support for the project to Genting several weeks ago and as of Wednesday night, finally completed its Hosting Agreement.

Thursday morning, the only question in my mind pertaining to the Village agreeing to support Genting or not, related to the impact or lack thereof if the Village did not sign a letter of support. If we did not sign a letter, the Village would have been making a largely symbolic gesture that according to our Village attorney, would have no impact on Albany’s final decision about casino location. I respect the fact there is some disagreement on this point by certain Village residents, but I heard nothing in our two public meetings to objectively support a negative declaration’s impact on any decision to be made in Albany about Genting. What I did hear over and over was the destructive impact a casino-resort so close to the Village will have on our property values, our children, and our wonderful way of life here. I completely agree that if the Genting project goes through, it will indeed bring with it a number of both negative and positive impacts on Tuxedo Park, but the project decision was entirely out of the Village’s hands and was made by the Town several weeks ago as previously stated. Given the choice of making a largely symbolic gesture with a negative vote or receiving $10,000,000 for a positive vote, I chose the later.

In closing, I would like to thank all of you who attended the Village meetings pertaining to this proposed project and hope you continue to stay involved in both Village and Town government affairs. The Village needs a voice in the Town government, but will only get one if a Village resident runs for the Town counsel, and is aggressively supported by other Village residents.

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The Value of Peace and Quiet
Posted: June 23rd, 2014

Last week, consultants hired by the Town presented a two-hour sales pitch to Tuxedo. 

While they stated that they had no ties to Genting, they were paid with Genting’s money, and they presented only Genting’s side of the question.  They promised air-castles of benefits, mostly financial: taxes will go down, property values will go up, the treasury will increase, and money will flow.  They considered no negative effects, not one.

In addition to dangling dollar signs on strings, they offered a parade of material gifts:  they will fix the sewer system, rebuild the utilities, buy new equipment for the DPW, repair the roads, build a playground, beautify “downtown,” award college scholarships, fund sports teams, form a ski club, and the list trails off into infinity….  Just sign here.

There is one thing they did not and cannot offer in their treasure chest: peace and quiet.  That quality of life that characterizes our existence in this charmed region is not on the table. 

Rather, our peace is what we will give up in return for the dubious promise of money and gifts— and it will be gone forever.

I wish people convinced by the sales pitch would wipe the dollar signs out of their eyes and take a second look. 

The price we will pay for the casino is threefold: social degradation, environmental ruin, and physical transformation.

All the questions from the audience about these three areas were waved away with the same short answer:  “it will be evaluated in the environmental review process.”  That is an inadequate answer. 

The social impact of casinos is documented: a remarkable increase in local crime (both petty and organized), drunk driving, and suicide.  Evidence shows a percentage of problem gamblers emerge from the local population near any given casino.  As more casinos are established, competition will force Genting to exploit an ever lower grade of gambler.  Nice people to have hanging around.  When the casino finally fails, our tranquility does not come back. 

Sterling Forest State Park, with its 22,000 acres of wild land, is the anchor of our quality of life.  The Genting project is surrounded by the park, and cannot help but wreak destruction upon it.  We are studying the effects of wetland contamination, forest fragmentation, and habitat loss.  Apart from these specific areas, we know that bringing intense human activity into the middle of Sterling Forest State Park will sweep away forever the park’s most fragile quality, its wildness.

Finally, the physical transformation.  Five million visitors a year bring an uncontrollable explosion of human activity.  Sitting here today on a quiet Sunday morning, we cannot imagine how radically this influx of noise, traffic, trash, and humanity will change our lives.  Tuxedo will be swarmed. 

Not only visitors will generate traffic.  We learned last week about plans for worker housing in Southfields (and perhaps elsewhere: that abandoned project near Woodlands seems a likely spot for it). 

While Genting’s henchmen tempt us with shiny rewards, consider the cost.  In return for the lower taxes (maybe) and the playgrounds or whatever (maybe), we pay the health of the ground we walk on, the air that comes quietly through our open windows, the safety we feel when we stroll in the evening, and the well-being we feel when we greet each other at the post office.  That’s the price.

Rodger Friedman

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PIPC Expresses Concern Over Sterling Forest Casino
Posted: June 13th, 2014

Dear Supervisor Rost:

I am providing my initial comments on the proposed plan to build a resort and casino in Tuxedo. While we have limited opportunity to review the proposed casino plan and there few details regarding the potential impact of such development, I do have significant concerns regarding this proposal and potential impacts on our park land and critical natural resources we are charged to protect. Of most critical concern are the potential impacts on the water resources which were among the primary purposes that Sterling Forest was preserved under the unique partnership of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the National Park Service, the State of New York , the State of New Jersey and many not for profit organizations. I am specifically concerned about how such a development will obtain its water supply and depose of wastewater and how such actions may impact park property, its water and other significant ecological resources.

There are also the many concerns regarding the impact of associated development on our park resources. The plans do include the development of exit 15b off the NYS Thruway. I note that such a` plan would require the acquisition of park property. No one has approached the Commission regarding this issue and the Commission does not support such an acquisition and such a conveyance is not authorized under our Federal Congressional Compact.

Given the extremely limited information and preliminary nature of the proposal I do not support the proposed plan and likewise feel it is inappropriate and premature for the Town to endorse such a massive project without a better understanding of the associated impacts and whether critical components such as exit 15b are even legally practical considerations underpinning the proposal, not to mention completely unknown impacts of the critical water resources of the area.

The Commission’s properties are a significant asset of the Town, as noted on your website, providing significant tax payment in exchange for few services. I hope that the Town will take these concerns seriously as you make this critical decision regarding community support of the project. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
James Hall

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What's Going On With The School Budget?
Posted: June 12th, 2014

What is really going on with the School Budget? It’s a good question. Next week, voters will be asked to head back to the polls and vote once again on the proposed 2014/2015 budget. If it should be voted down a second a time, New York State mandates that a Contingency Budget must be adopted and if this happens, most if not all arts, music and sports programs at the school will be cut, which needless to say will have a direct and extremely unfortunate effect on the youth in this community. On the other hand, how is it that taxes keep going while the quality of management at the school seems to be in decline? Below, please find two letters written by Village residents John Moon Esq and Walter Dean respectively. We implore you to read both of them, make an educated decision and vote on Tuesday, June 17. Remember, the quality of this school has a direct effect on the value of homes and overall quality of the Tuxedo community.

Dear Sir or Madam,

This post concerns the vote on the Tuxedo Union Free School District (the “District”) budget, set for June 17.  As a former member of the District’s Board of Education, I have worked through several budget cycles; however, I did not participate in drafting the proposed budget in any way.  Several emails about the budget have been forwarded to me.  Unfortunately, they are replete with misinformation.  Because a budget defeat on June 17 would negatively impact the welfare of children, I urge every voter, in the strongest of terms, to carefully assess the facts. 

The misinformation I have received follows:

  • During last year’s budget “[w]e only voted once, did not approve the increase by the required super-majority (60%) and they taxed us anyway.” This is palpably false.  Last year’s school budget passed by a margin of 271 votes “for” to 73 “against.”
  • “Rather than to see if any reductions can be made to its budget,” the District “has unanimously decided to hire two new administrators.”  This statement is untrue and also misleading.  The District promoted two administrators, who were elevated from within the District to take the place of two senior personnel.  The net result of the personnel actions is that administrative cost is reduced.
  • As to the ham-handed assertion that the District did not look for reductions, 11 full-time employees are laid off under the proposed budget and over $1 million in additional cuts.
  • “Tuxedo spends $33,756 PER PUPIL!” (emphasis in original).  This is the tired re-hash that takes the bottom line budget figure, divides it by the number of enrolled students, and tries to dress it up as “analysis.” This argument—if it is one—is either sophistry or a displayed ignorance of budgetary expenditures required by New York state law.  The majority of the District’s budget is unfunded mandates that are not directed at education per pupil.  For example, did you know that the District provides for the following items: textbooks and health services for the Tuxedo Park School, bus transportation for certain students to and from the Park School as well as approximately ten other private or parochial schools, and assistance for our students with special needs?  When you strip away expenditures that are not directed at the education of students, the quoted figure is reduced by at least 33%.
  • One pundit concedes that “the state average increase to the budget is 1.8%.” As the budget before you is less than 1.47%, it is reasonable in the present inflationary environment.  Moreover, you should know that the drivers of the budget increase are revenue shortfalls outside of District’s control—sunsetting the five-year contracts with Greenwood Lake and BOCES reimbursements.  When accounting for the lack of state aid, our school taxes are among the lowest in the region.  

Significantly, a budget defeat would require the District to adopt a “contingency budget” under New York State law.  This means that guidance, art, music, and sports would be severely cut.  It is hard to imagine how such a school could support real estate prices throughout the Town.  This development would be harmful to the children and have no benefit to the taxpayer.

On a positive note, I am pleased to report that the graduates of the Class of 2014 have done well.  They have been admitted to (among other institutions):  Binghamton, Boston College, Columbia, Cornell, Drexel, Ithaca, and the Pratt Institute. Last year’s top students attended Notre Dame and Carnegie Mellon on full academic scholarships. The year before that, our top students were admitted to Brown and Vassar.  

Finally, I observe that the District High School and Elementary School buildings are named after two storied Tuxedo Park residents: George F. Baker and George Grant Mason.  The former founded the predecessor to Citibank and also Harvard Business School (see interesting pictures attached); the latter donated funds for a building at the Yale School of Engineering.  With other residents, they raised private funds to build the primary facility of the District.  Many residents have followed the philanthropic tradition of Baker and Mason by serving on the Board of Education, volunteering for the PTO, and privately supporting District students in other ways. I am not asking for anyone’s philanthropy; but merely, a dispassionate assessment of the facts—precisely what the District trains our students to do.

Respectfully Submitted,

John G. Moon, Esquire



Dear friends and neighbors:

The Tuxedo Union Free School District Board has unanimously decided to hire two new administrators, and to accept a $340,000 "gift" from the group that is proposing a Tuxedo casino, rather than to see if any reductions can be made in its budget. The previous budget, which was not approved by more than 60% of the voters two weeks ago (as is required by state law), will be up for a new vote on Tuesday June 17th (minus $600.00).

646 New York State school districts (out of 669), or more than 90%, have settled on budgets that are below the mandated cap. The state average increase is 1.8%, with the TUFSD's requesting 4.5%.

Please mark your calendars to vote on Tuesday the 17th of June from two to nine PM.

With thanks for your consideration,
Walter Dean

By Gittel Evangelist
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 05/29/14 Last updated: 7:14 AM - 05/29/14

TUXEDO PARK — The Tuxedo school board was spared from an unsavory predicament Wednesday evening with its acceptance of a "nonbinding, nonrefundable" $340,000 donation from the developers of Sterling Forest Resort, a proposed casino in town.
The board was facing the potential for substantial cuts to its $15.9 million budget, which voters defeated May 20, in order to bring it under the state-mandated 1.4 percent tax levy cap.

It was the third year in a row the district had proposed overriding the tax cap, a move that requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

School budgets that fall at or under the state cap require only 50 percent of the vote to pass.The district received just 53 percent voter approval for this year's budget, which exceeded the tax levy cap by more than 3 percent.

In accepting Sterling Forest Resort's donation, the board was able to lower the tax levy and bridge the deficit.

District officials stressed their acceptance of the "gift toward education" was not an approval of the proposed casino.

While the developers have shown that "a commitment to education and generosity does exist "» we are not endorsing or negating the project," board President Joanne Vernon said.
"That's for the town to work out," said Superintendent Carol Lomascolo.

Only a handful of residents came out to Wednesday's school board meeting, and none of them spoke publicly about the budget or the casino.

Board members resolved unanimously to adopt the revised budget of $15,932,099 — a scant $600 below the original spending plan — and will put it up for a revote on June 17. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for7 p.m. June 10.

In other action, the board accepted the resignation of high school Principal Denis Petrilak, who is leaving to lead Chester Academy.

The board voted to appoint Arthur Schouten Jr. as the new high school principal and Jason Schrammel as assistant principal.

gevangelist@th-record.com

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A response to PIPC From Genting
Posted: June 12th, 2014

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PIPC Expresses Concern Over Sterling Forest Casino
Posted: June 11th, 2014

Dear Supervisor Rost:

I am providing my initial comments on the proposed plan to build a resort and casino in Tuxedo. While we have limited opportunity to review the proposed casino plan and there few details regarding the potential impact of such development, I do have significant concerns regarding this proposal and potential impacts on our park land and critical natural resources we are charged to protect. Of most critical concern are the potential impacts on the water resources which were among the primary purposes that Sterling Forest was preserved under the unique partnership of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the National Park Service, the State of New York , the State of New Jersey and many not for profit organizations. I am specifically concerned about how such a development will obtain its water supply and depose of wastewater and how such actions may impact park property, its water and other significant ecological resources.

There are also the many concerns regarding the impact of associated development on our park resources. The plans do include the development of exit 15b off the NYS Thruway. I note that such a` plan would require the acquisition of park property. No one has approached the Commission regarding this issue and the Commission does not support such an acquisition and such a conveyance is not authorized under our Federal Congressional Compact.

Given the extremely limited information and preliminary nature of the proposal I do not support the proposed plan and likewise feel it is inappropriate and premature for the Town to endorse such a massive project without a better understanding of the associated impacts and whether critical components such as exit 15b are even legally practical considerations underpinning the proposal, not to mention completely unknown impacts of the critical water resources of the area.

The Commission’s properties are a significant asset of the Town, as noted on your website, providing significant tax payment in exchange for few services. I hope that the Town will take these concerns seriously as you make this critical decision regarding community support of the project. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,
James Hall

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A clarification regarding Tuxedo’s recent decision to support a casino
Posted: May 16th, 2014

Letter to the Editor, Photo News:

A clarification regarding Tuxedo’s recent decision to support a casino

Although the town board, as a governing body projected an obvious lack of understanding that led to the embarrassing public spectacle of the gaming applicant from Malaysia educating them regarding the law, a clarification to my recent letter: The Doomed are being led by the Dumb in Tuxedo, is in order.

Councilman, Kristian Matthews dissented in his vote regarding the casino and did have a clear understanding of the process.  However, he neglected to speak-up and educate the board of the process.  Councilman, David McMillen initially voted in favor of the board’s resolution supporting the casino proposal, but upon learning the details concerning the gravity of the resolution, he also cast a dissenting vote but unfortunately, a simple majority clenched the deal.

We all hope as this alarmingly rushed process moves forward, the town board as a whole will understand every technical detail and nuance and consider its total impact on the community in the decision-making process, unlike at the board meeting this week.           

Sincerely,
William E. Lemanski
May 15, 2014

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Changing the Conversation About Development in Tuxedo
Posted: May 12th, 2014

I’ve received more feedback regarding the Genting / Sterling Forest Resort proposal than any single issue during my time with the Chamber of Commerce. Yet this is far from the only major development in Tuxedo currently underway.

Last winter, a development group purchased the Duck Cedar Plaza, and under the new name of Tuxedo Plaza, is actively recruiting small business tenants to bring life to the now-vacant building. A Tuxedo Park resident is reportedly under contract to purchase and completely renovate the IGA / HomeTown Market building. After decades of controversy, Tuxedo Farms (formerly Tuxedo Reserve) is set to break ground this fall, not to mention Ramapo Woodmont Hills in neighboring Sloatsburg. The Watchtower / Jehovah’s Witness world headquarters – comprising of four massive buildings just shy of one million square feet – is currently being constructed off Long Meadow Road. The organization has also recently purchased both the International Paper building and NYU apartments.

Change is not just coming to Tuxedo – it’s already here, for better, and for worse.

Therefore, the question isn’t whether or not the Sterling Forest property on 17A should be developed, because that will happen sooner or later. It’s whether Genting New York is the right partner for Tuxedo with Sterling Forest Resort.

We believe that it is. With unanimous support of the Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees, and the vast majority of our members, we are recommending that the Town Board approve the Genting New York preliminary proposal to build Sterling Forest Resort. With the oversight of a public-private partnership for the greater good for Tuxedo, we feel that this will result in tangible positive changes to our small business economy, employment, property tax situation, and infrastructure.

That said, we are mindful and cognizant of the social and lifestyle change this could potentially represent for residents of Tuxedo, particularly those who, like members of my family, live in Laurel Ridge and Clinton Woods. Their concerns, voiced eloquently by community leaders such as Tony Davidson and Bob and Ruth Ortmann, are valid and deserve our attention. Their voices can and must be heard.

This is why Monday’s vote is the beginning – not the end – of negotiations with Genting, which still must seek approval by Orange County and the New York State Gaming Commission. It is now time to change the conversation from whether or not this property will be developed – it will, whether we want it to or not – and find out how we can build a better Tuxedo that meets the needs of our residents and business owners together. Keeping an open dialogue and working together are critical during the next few months, which is why I am calling on business and community leaders to unite.

Genting offers some incredible and measurable benefits over any other developer for this space. To begin, they have expressed a real and genuine interest in connecting with our community. They are a professional, well-managed, and resourceful organization with decades of experience in building small, resort-style gaming facilities in the US and abroad. New York State has vetted and approved the organization in the past, and they received a technical and financial score of 95/100 during the 2010 competition to operate the Aqueduct Racetrack.

In addition to the 5% of gaming tax revenues that will be coming directly to the Town of Tuxedo, improvements to the property by an experienced and well-capitalized developer will result in a much higher assessment base. Above and beyond all of us as taxpayers, many owners of surrounding property are likely to benefit from these improvements. These factors stand in stark contrast to the other major development going on in town, which is actually removing large chunks from the taxable roll. As my business partner is the tax assessor for the Town, this has weighed on my mind heavily during the past few months. Genting’s promise to remit 50% of school tax revenues to the Tuxedo Union Free School District comes at a critical and much-needed time as George F. Baker High School is in the initial phases of a conversion charter process. We will certainly not enjoy these specific, measurable advantages from any other private developer.

Genting is very serious about doing business in Tuxedo. Before they will even know whether or not the NYS Gaming Commission will select their bid, they will have invested millions in the project in property acquisition, planning, engineering, infrastructure, environmental studies, and application fees. The 24-month time frame to complete the project is so short that they cannot sit idle while they wait to see if they will be one of the four out of 22 applicants selected for approval.

They have an excellent chance of winning a bid. Of the 22 applicants, the Sterling Forest Resort is the closest in proximity to New York City (thus, the highest in expected revenue). The Genting group has offered to pay for construction of New York State Thruway Exit 15B, and no other group’s commitment to infrastructure development will have nearly that level of impact. Finally, remember that this group won the bid to run the Aqueduct, giving them an instant advantage over the other applicants.

Since even before the Great Recession, Tuxedo has been losing businesses at an alarming rate. We used to boast a food market, a hospital, a car dealership, drugstore, florist, and bakery. All have departed or gone out of business. Our largest employer – by a factor of 10 – is currently the public school district. Granted, much of this has to do with the Walmartization of America, but the lack of amenities is one of the oft-cited reasons why young people avoid our town. For those of us who do run a service-based business in town, the opportunity to have 2,000 employees of a world-class facility move in is a golden opportunity to meet the needs of a new population, to say nothing of the secondary and tertiary effects of bringing economic activity and tourism to our back yard. I have personally spoken to the owners of Tuxedo Ridge, the Renaissance Faire, and several surrounding businesses, and we are all enthusiastic about the opportunity.

However, you should be suspicious of people who claim that this proposal will be 100% good OR 100% bad for Tuxedo, because they are both either deluding themselves or lying to you. The truth is somewhere in between, and where in between depends greatly on your point of view.

My promise to you and all of Tuxedo is to work every day to improve the place that we share through open dialogue, conversation, and tireless community service. The Chamber’s mission is to promote economic activity and small business growth, both of which we will achieve in leaps and bounds with Genting New York’s tremendous investment in our community. We need to ensure that this doesn’t come at a price that is too high for some of our residents, and we will do this through tough negotiation and oversight in a coordinated effort with the Town Government.

Change is coming, and we need to work together to ensure that it is for the better. Regardless of the outcome of Monday’s vote, the Chamber will remain committed to making Tuxedo a better place to work and live. Thank you for your support.
 
William A. Sweet, CFP®
President
Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce
Stevens & Sweet Financial

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Proposed Sterling Forest Casino
Posted: May 12th, 2014

Mr. Michael Rost
Town Supervisor
Town of Tuxedo
1 Temple Drive
Tuxedo, NY 10987
May, 9, 2014

Dear Supervisor Rost,
Thank you for making a venue available to the residents of Tuxedo for open comments on the Proposed Casino in Sterling Forest. I personally look upon this opportunity as a responsibility to participate in the civic activity of voicing my opinion.

I look upon this proposed casino as not a gain to the community, but a loss to the community. Let’s look at the facts and numbers prepared by those individuals with expertise, who have spent time and effort to analyze the impact of a casino on a community.

Property Values
A study of the property values of Springfield, Massachusetts, where a casino is located, indicated a decrease in property values and sale prices of 2-10% decline in value. Also, noted were the increase in short sale/home foreclosures.

Economic Impact of Casinos on Home prices Literature Survey & Analysis, NAR Research

Loss of Commercial Business
A policy brief titled: Expanded Gambling: Casino’s impact on a new community writes, “Most casinos would not bring in tourists to the area and become a destination gambling location the likes of Las Vegas.

Rather, most communities will be dealing with a situation of convenience where local people will be mainly coming from the surrounding area. It noted that “in a convenience gambling economy, discretionary spending is diverted from other forms of entertainment and consumer expenditures to casinos and other gambling establishments. Restaurants and other local businesses lose revenue and fail.”

Casino Watch Policy Brief, February 7, 2008

Loss of Jobs
“When looking to the economic impact of a casino in your community it’s important to understand a few key concepts; a casino would cannibalize a local economy and result in a net loss of jobs not a net gain. “

In 2007 Professor Frederic H. Murphy of Temple University proved in his economic impact analysis of expanded gambling in Philadelphia, that because money from the casino was leaving the area and not staying in the local economy, there would be a net loss of over 4,000 jobs. “According to research not sponsored by the casino industry, commercial casinos nationwide generated job losses in more than 42 percent of the counties with casinos.” Very few communities could absorb this kind of impact thus a local casino would have the exact opposite effect and would be extremely costly to its residents.

Casino Watch Policy Brief, February 7, 2008

Traffic
Traffic will dramatically increase on Rt. 17 with a toll on the new exit 15B on the NY State Thruway.

Single passenger cars commuting to work at the casino will use Rt. 17 and not the Thruway for convenience and financial reasons. The schedule to construct the interchange is unrealistic and the residents of Tuxedo will be saddled with oppressive traffic congestion that will become the new normal.

Crime
Casino Watch writes: “gambling addiction is one of the largest problems and that it’s a silent addiction.

White-collar crimes are some of the most devastating, as access to money becomes more limited; gamblers often resort to crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearance, and garner more money to gamble. In a survey of Gamblers Anonymous members, more than half admitted stealing to finance their gambling. Collectively they stole $30 million, for an average of $135,00.00 per individual. A lot of them do white collar crimes, fraud, credit card and employee theft.”

Casino Watch Policy Brief, February 7, 2008

Environment
The impact upon the natural environment would be irreversible and would forever alter the landscape. I would like to echo the comments from the letter by The Friends of Sterling Forest, www.friendsofsterlingforest.org , regarding the “environmental & aesthetic threats to the Town of Tuxedo, Ramapo Watershed, the Highlands Region and the Palisades Interstate Park.”

The Friends of Sterling Forest are the very people who fought so hard for the creation of The Sterling Forest State Park and out of respect for their work, their voices must be heard.

It is my opinion that Tuxedo Town Board should vote no on the casino proposed for Sterling Forest and work instead to promote the natural environment that the Town is located in – Sterling Forest, Harriman State Park, The Appalachian Trail, and the Hudson River Valley, World Class Natural Wonders that we are so very fortunate to be stewards of.

Thank you again for this opportunity.
My best,
William Mincey
50 Clubhouse Road
Tuxedo Park, New York 10987
845-351-2203

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Worth The Gamble?
Posted: May 9th, 2014

Dear Supervisor Rost:

First, may I compliment you and the Council for your collective diligence in researching the potential benefits and adversities of a resort/casino in our Town of Tuxedo.

Since you have thoughtfully requested the opinions of Tuxedo residents, a few of mine are below:

  1. I have researched the Genting Organization though acquaintances more familiar with this firm than I.  The net assessment is that Genting is an experienced, responsible, capable and financially stable organization.
  2. The opportunity of collecting municipal revenue from the casino portion of this proposed development is attractive at first glance.  However, the cliental in most of the remote casinos I have visited seem to be destitute, disheveled and even desperate individuals.  They appear to be wagering the rent and food money in hope of a quick payoff, which never materializes.  I can’t help feeling it is illogical, and even immoral for, our Town to be subsidized with tax monies extracted from the thin purses of the poor, unemployed, downtrodden and gambling-addicted. If this were the Bellagio, Atlantis or Monte Carlo, where nearly all betters can afford their losses, then a Town revenue stream would seem fair and acceptable.  But, absent assurances otherwise, I foresee a Tuxedo Casino as a place praying on those who can ill afford the lure of gambling tables.
  3. Finally, many residents, myself included, are troubled by the 2-year project window for land purchase, design, utilities, engineering, environmental approvals, construction, furnishing, staffing and marketing.  This constrictive time table could easily lead to slipshod over-sight, substandard construction practices and environmental mishaps.

For example, the proposed N/S interchange (#15B) necessitates State land acquisition, Thru-way disruption, and a massive construction effort to reach completion.  When Gov. Mario Cuomo budgeted for 15B, 25 years ago, the allocation was $100 million.  The current developer has budgeted only $25 million for the same clover leaf.

It is quite foreseeable that the 15B interchange would take much longer than 2 years to achieve, and Tuxedo might be traffic-paralyzed for, many years.

Thank you for requesting and encouraging public comment during this time of difficult deliberation.  I trust the Council will move carefully and thoroughly through their evaluation as the consequences, either way, could be considerable.

With appreciation,

Peter J. Regna
Tuxedo Resident, 1976
845-351-5400

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Sterling Forest Resort: Shot In The Arm or Overdose?
Posted: May 6th, 2014

STERLING FOREST RESORT: SHOT IN THE ARM OR OVERDOSE?
By Meg Vaught

The Town of Tuxedo is Broke. This is not an exaggeration. Loss of revenue due to a multitude of varied issues has left the town in dire straights with a year end General Fund balance of -$476,581 and a balance in the B Fund (Town outside the Village) of -$646,684 for a combined shortfall of approximately $1 Million. Not Good.

Some people might say that this is just one more reason why Tuxedo should support Genting America’s proposal to build a 1,000,000 square foot Resort and Casino at the Sterling Forest Ski Center.  Revenue from the project would certainly help to kill the deficit, while creating jobs for locals and bringing a little bit more life into what is, let’s face it, a fairly dry commercial area.  Just the other day I was cced on an e- in which one local business owner wrote “We are for the development of this resort. Tuxedo has needed a shot in the arm for many years. This is more then a shot. It is an explosion.”

As with most big development projects, there are a fair share of opponents, and the Casino aspect of this project brings a whole separate set of concerns.  My somewhat limited research shows that the statistics for drunk driving, drug sales, prostitution, human trafficking, theft, money laundering and even murder are heightened in communities with Casinos.  Do I want to see a rapid increase in these types of crime here in Tuxedo?  Certainly not!  Crime aside, the increase in traffic alone (the sheer number of vehicles on the road) suggest that there will be a drastic increase in traffic accidents, many of which could result in death or serious injury.  Admittedly however, this is the case pretty much everywhere and while I hate to see it destroy our quiet little neck of the woods, I don’t feel it is a good reason to deny the project.

The reason I am not in support of this project is two-fold.  First and foremost, the timeline is extremely disconcerting.  New York State has placed an unrealistic timeline on the development of these facilities and in order to maintain their license, construction must be completed within a two-year time frame.  Surely a development of this size requires thorough analysis on many levels.  The developer is proposing to complete the entire planning and review process inside of 3 months.  Aside from the long list of environmental concerns that come of with a project of this nature, infrastructure and traffic could potentially be MAJOR problems here.  The developer has suggested that they will get their water from United Water, but as one woman pointed out during the Public Hearing on April 28 although they are required to tell developers that they have plenty United Water of New York is currenty in the process of saying that they don’t t have enough water for all of their customers and consequently needed to build a desalination plant.  What was Genting’s response to this?  “We’re talking to United Water.”  What about preservation of the Ramapo River and general maintinance of the watershed and drinking water? How can we be sure that the massive amount of construction that is going to take place between the resort and the Thruway exit won’t have an adverse impact unless we take the time to do to thorough analysis?  Genting has proposed to construct their own waste-water management facility on site.  Is this allowed?  What are the specifications and restrictions for something like this?  Theyclaim that they will capture run-off and use it to blow snow in the wintertime and water the gardens throughout the rest of the year.  Again, what will the system for that be?  How will it be implemented?

Perhaps more worrisome to me than the water is the potential for disaster with the traffic.  As I have already mentioned, the sheer number of cars will create the opportunity for a dramatic increase in accidents.  This is not my main concern, however.  The construction of the resort and the Thruway exit will happen simultaneously.  Genting is also proposing to widen 17A to 4 lanes all the way to the base of the Greenwood Lake Mountain, which ensures that the roadway will be ripped up and/or under construction for the duration of the construction as well.  Not only will this be a total nightmare for people who travel that way, but because the exit won’t be completed prior to the construction of the facility itself, it means all of the construction traffic will come through downtown Tuxedo.  When asked about this, the developer commented that they considered the resort to be Low Impact construction and that because they do not need to clear cut the land or bring in a ton of fill, the only trucks traveling to the site will be stone and concrete trucks.  This is just not true, as anyone with a brain can determine.  The area is going to be an absolute mess for 2 years. 

Once constructed, Exit 15 B is supposed to alleviate most of the traffic concerns, but will it really?  How can Genting guarantee us that some people won’t still use Rt. 17 through Tuxedo to access the resort? They can’t.  At the Public Hearing on April 30th one gentleman asked Genting if they had some sort of assurance that the Thruway Authority would not decide to put a toll at the new exit.  The response was that Genting has no idea what the Thruway Authority will or will not do, but they don’t believe they will put a toll there because there is no toll at Exit 15A.  This logic makes no sense what-so-ever.  In fact, I would say it’s sure bet that eventually, the Thruway Authority will be looking to capitalize on not only the traffic going to and from the resort, but all the commuters going to and from Greenwood Lake and Warwick as well.  Genting estimates between 3-5,000,000 visitors to their site annually.  That’s a lot of toll $.  Route 17 already sees a ton of traffic from people who travel that way in order to avoid the toll at Woodbury.  If another toll should go in at 15B, it is logical to assume that a fair number of people would get off at 15A and travel through Tuxedo to reach the resort.  I don’t want to see 3-5,000,000 more cars coming through town.  Do you?

Also, consider the fact that Tuxedo Farms, formerly known as Tuxedo Reserve, is slated to break ground in the Fall of 2014.  The construction phase of that project will be ongoing for the next 5-10 years before the development reaches build-out at more than 1,200 residential units.  Not only will the town double in size with the onset of this development, but it is also slated to include 30,000 square feet of light industrial office commercial building (there’s our shot in the arm) Do we really want or need major development on both sides of town??

These are just some of the important questions we need to explore when looking at the potential impacts of this project.  There are a multitude of others as well.  I am not against development in this Town, but I do favor responsible development; projects that have been thought out and planned well.  I have lived in Tuxedo my whole life.  My father lived here before me and now I have chosen to raise my own children here.  We love this little town.  We like living in the woods.  Tuxedo is a safe, friendly place.  We should strive to preserve that.  Do we need a shot in the arm?  Maybe.  Do we need a potentially devastating explosion/overdose?  I don’t think so.

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Local Assembly Candidate Dan Castricone Sounds off on Kiryas Joel Annexation
Posted: April 14th, 2014

My View-
by Assembly Candidate Dan Castricone

Allowing the Village of Kiryas Joel to annex more than 500 acres of land in the Town of Monroe is a bad idea.

Some contend that the annexation will have no environmental impact. True if you believe the Village of KJ is going to create a 500 acre park when they have control of the land. Only the naïve would believe that.

Once KJ has control of the land, there will be an immediate zoning change. High-density housing will proliferate, taxing the resources of Orange County taxpayers and straining infrastructure of the surrounding area, including streets, highways, sewage treatment plants, water supplies, wells, school districts, law enforcement and fire protection services.

The growth of KJ is already taxing public resources. Its population has skyrocketed since 1990, growing from 7,400 to more than 21,000, an increase of nearly 300%. Its population density is 12,000 people per square mile, compared to 418 people per square mile for all of Orange County.

Our sewer plants are already near capacity, and the amount of treated effluent being dumped into the Ramapo River is reaching its limit. The new pipeline connecting the Village to New York City’s Catskill aqueduct will only increase the amount of waste water that needs to be treated. Couple the current situation with KJ’s current rate of growth and within a short time it will effectively kill any chance to foster wealth creating development at Camp LaGuardia.

Orange County desperately needs to increase its tax base with development that adds more to the county coffers than it takes away. And we cannot incubate job producing, wealth creating manufacturing or high-tech business development unless we have the infrastructure to handle it. Using all of our water and sewer capacity for high density housing instead of high end projects will only increase the burden on people who are already overtaxed and under employed.

Two lawsuits to undo zoning rules in the neighboring Town of Woodbury have been filed by agents of Kiryas Joel and are now pending in State Supreme Court. The suit demands the construction of multi-family units.

Can either the Village of Kiryas Joel or the Town of Monroe objectively make a determination of the environmental impact of the annexation? Doubtful, since residents of the Village have a vested interest in the outcome, and the Town of Monroe government was elected almost entirely with KJ votes. Failure to assume that the annexation will result in density increases in zoning is disingenuous and casts a pall over the process. This will only produce an environmental impact study that fails in any reasonable measure to study the impacts that the annexation will have on the environment.

Orange County will undertake its own Environmental Quality Review process. The DEC has also been asked to amend its rules to allow the county to be the lead agency whenever a municipal border is expanded by more than 10%. The request should be granted, for all taxpayers of Orange County will be impacted if the Village of Kiryas Joel is allowed to double in size.

In addition, the Town of Monroe should give its citizens a voice in the process by holding an advisory referendum and allowing its citizens to vote on the annexation. Too many people have been denied a chance to be heard. Too many questions have gone unanswered at Board meetings. Too many times those who have gone to the meeting have been told they can’t ask questions because it’s ‘not on the agenda.’ All the more reason to put it on the agenda and let the voters decide.

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Comment on Recent Board of Trustees Meeting
Posted: February 12th, 2014

As one who was born and raised in Tuxedo Park; with a family history of paternal and maternal grandfathers who were both superintendents of large estates beginning in the early 1900's; a paternal aunt living in the park and a recently deceased maternal uncle (both of whom have spent their entire lives here);  and me, a summer resident (June - October) of Tuxedo Park and home owner for over 20 years as well as having a special love for the unique history of this incredible village, I would like to thank you for your web site and recording of the local government proceedings. 

Coral Gables, FL, http://www.coralgables.com/, is  a city with a population of approximately 50,000 that is also the result of a planned development in the early 1920's and has staunchly maintained its identity within Miami-Dade County and the  2.5 million residents that surround us. We have no gates but many defined entrances. As a resident for over 35 years and active in community affairs, it is a never ending effort to preserve the historical and aesthetic beauty of a community, fend off the barbs regarding strict zoning codes, as well as balance the need for careful cost of living budgets and effective management dealing with present day issues.

Of course, with a city our size, we have public access TV, the web site (see above), and various community websites and emails available on current events relating to the city. The service your web site provides is every bit as good. Having attended many Village of Tuxedo Park meetings, I often wish there could be public viewing access so residents could see not only the Board of Trustees in action, but the conduct of many residents who appear before them. 

I find recent comments by some that your web site is a parrot for the Board's positions appalling. With the exception of one trustee, who apparently has no understanding with respect to speaking on public matters that are in litigation, I find this Board to be well managed and moving in a direction that benefits the community as opposed to individual residents' personal interests.

A final comment: Over 60 years ago, I asked my family why we have gates. My grandfather replied: "the world becomes continually smaller and privacy is a very beautiful feeling. It  is very difficult to obtain and once it is lost, you can never regain it". My uncle replied: " the gates are to keep some people out and should also be used to keep some people in".

Thank you again for keeping us informed.

Very truly yours,
Stuart McGregor

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The People Have Spoken....But Is Anybody Listening?
Posted: January 10th, 2014

When the results were counted on November 5, 2013, the Town of Tuxedo had a new Supervisor, Mike Rost.  He polled 525 combined votes running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence lines.  Incumbent Peter Dolan received 395 votes on the Democratic line and Shaun Neal got 165 on the Clean Government line.  So, after 8 years, Tuxedo has a new Supervisor.  But……former Supervisor Dolan didn’t really act as though he had been voted out of office.  Instead, he drastically stepped up work on wide reaching amendments to the Town’s Zoning Code, holding 2 workshop meetings in the weeks leading up to Christmas and even scheduling a Public Hearing and Board vote for those amendments for December 23rd.  The hearing and vote never happened as the workshops weren’t able to cover all the many many topics contained in the changes to our code in time to hold the hearing.  But, Mr. Dolan didn’t really seem concerned.  He explained that there would be at least one more workshop early in 2014 and then the Board would vote on the amendments sometime shortly afterward. How could Mr. Dolan know what the schedule would be if he was no longer in office?  It has recently become apparent how……as Mr. Dolan has submitted an application to become the Chairman of the Town Planning Board!  This Board appointment is being supported by Councilpersons Loncar, Phelps and Spivak.  So even though the residents and taxpayers of the Town voted Mr. Dolan out of office, Board members Loncar, Phelps and Spivak think he should continue to serve the Town by taking over the second most influencial Board in Town…the Planning Board.  In this position, he will be able to “bargain” with applicants of projects in Town, most notably Tuxedo Reserve and the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Usually, when one public official retires (be that voluntary or forced) there is a period of transition between administrations.  There is at least one, if not more, meeting between the outgoing and incoming official.  Any ongoing “business” is explained and the incoming official is brought up to snuff on what’s happening. The reins are turned over.   This has NOT been the case here.  Instead, Mr. Dolan held meetings with representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who have built on the old International Paper property and are building their new headquarters just over the border in Warwick.  Why would he meet with this group mere weeks before he was no longer in office and why wouldn’t he have included the new Supervisor in any meetings?

Was this what the voters intended when they voted Peter Dolan out of office?  I, for one, don’t think so.  If you agree, there are two things you can do:  1-Call or write a Board member (it probably should be Loncar, Phelps or Spivak as neither Mike Rost nor Kristian Matthews are in favor of this appointment) and express your opposition to this appointment.  2-Pay attention to the Town Meeting schedules and agendas.  The next meeting of the Town Board is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21st at 7:30.  This will be the annual reorganization meeting.  It is possible, though not written in stone, that the appointment will be made that night.  ATTEND THE MEETING!  Show up and tell the Board what you think of this appointment.  The people have already spoken on Election Day, but the 3 man majority on the Board is not listening.  Let’s tell them in person.

Mary Graetzer

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The Tuxedo Mulching Facility, can the Town Board get it right?
Posted: October 29th, 2013

On March 12, 2012 a massive fish kill occurred in Four Corners Pond adjacent to Long Meadow Road, followed a few days later by a second fish kill in Watch Tower Pond. These ponds empty through Warwick Brook into Wee Wah Lake. Subsequent testing of these waters and waters up stream near the Town of Tuxedo’s mulching facility by the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC), The Sterling Forest Partnership and the Town of Tuxedo showed a drastic reduction of oxygen in these waters when compared with other streams in Sterling Forest State Park. They also showed very high concentrations of organic carbon in the head waters of Warwick Brook near the mulch pile. All three groups agreed that the cause of the low oxygen concentrations and the resulting fish kills were caused by excessive organic matter leaching from the Town of Tuxedo’s mulching facility into the headwaters of Warwick Brook.
        
After eighteen months, numerous communications and threats of penalties from the DEC, this facility is still not in compliance with DEC’s regulations. The latest inspection report by DEC personnel on September 4, 2013 noted unauthorized material being brought to the facility. Organic matter (leachate) was seen oozing from the main mulch pile and the Town had failed to control insect breeding areas, both of which are violations of 6NYCRR Part360-1.14. The leachate pump was not running, slits had been cut into risers “pipes” allowing leachate to drain off into surrounding stonework, the height of the mulch piles exceeded the 20 foot limit, and a pile of broken concrete remained in an unauthorized area. In spite of all these shortcomings, on the day of the inspection all three mulch grinders were idle, there was no activity in the area of the main mulch pile or around the “soil” pile, but facility personnel were landscaping in front of the Town of Tuxedo’s Highway Department garage.
        
There have been some improvements however. The mulch piles now appear to be within the 20-foot height limit. Water testing by the Town in April 2013 showed a reduction of polluting organic carbon in the marsh next to the mulching facility relative to the tests a year earlier. Yet this marsh is still not as pure as other marshes in Sterling Forest. Herons have returned to Four Corners Pond but Warwick Brook is still murky and the beavers appear to have abandoned it.
        
The failure of the Town Board to clean up this facility in a timely way is astonishing, not just because DEC requires it but because the environment of this town and its residents deserve it. It is difficult to imagine that this facility will be operated in a environmentally sound manner in the future without substantial changes to the Tuxedo Town Board.

Jim and Nancy Hays

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Thank You B.O.T.
Posted: June 26th, 2013

Dear Honorable Trustees:

I regret being unable to attend your June Meeting, but I wish to convey my appreciation and that of TPFYI’s Sponsors nonetheless. 

Your Board has been confronted with many diverse and complex issues over the past two years, and while most have been dealt with deftly and swiftly, enough remain to challenge the ingenuity and volunteer spirit of your newly configured Board!

Thanks especially to the departing Tom Wilson and Alan Heywood for their exemplary service, plus a warm welcome to Mary Jo Guinchard and a fond re-welcome to Susan Goodfellow

It is also most reassuring for our Village to enjoy the dedication and acumen of Mrs. Newhauser, Mr. duPont and Mr. Kilduff.   TPFYI thanks all of you for your selfless
dedication and unwavering concern for our venerable Village.

Sincerely,
Peter Regna and the FYI Sponsoring Board.

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The 17-Year Locusts Are Coming
Posted: June 3rd, 2013

The 17-Year Locusts Are Coming
by James Hays

In the next few days grubs that have been feeding on the roots of plants will emerge from the ground and metamorphose into beautiful cicadas with bright orange eyes. They are commonly known as 17-year locusts but they are not locusts. The larvae spend 17 years underground eating then emerge to spend a few weeks flying around, singing lustily and having sex. They eat little during this joyous phase. At the end of this romp the males die and the females lay their eggs and also die. The eggs will hatch over the summer and the larvae will burrow into the ground for another 17 years. They do no harm during the few weeks of their exultation so don't spray them with insecticides or blow their bodies away with leaf blowers for they make excellent fertilizer for lawns and gardens. Just listen to them sing and join in their celebration of life.

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Let’s Rally Around Tuxedo’s Kids - Not a Dying Institution
Posted: December 26th, 2012

By Josh Bewlay

No one can fault the spirited enthusiasm that some parents, teachers and students have shown for George F. Baker high school.  It was that rallying cry that got the Greenwood Lake (GWL) School Board to allow Greenwood Lake parents the option of sending their kids to Tuxedo, among their other two high school choices - Warwick and Chester.  However, I can’t help but feel that this enthusiasm is misplaced and, perhaps, focussed on the old glory days rather than the stark reality of the present.

On Monday, December 17th, Tuxedo Park residents heard the Superintendent of Schools, Carol Lomascolo tell us that she and the Tuxedo School Board had lowered the tuition we will charge Greenwood Lake students from $13,900 last year to $12,000 this year - in the hopes of luring them to come to George F. Baker.  We then learned that while we only charge Greenwood Lake $12,000 per student, our own Tuxedo children are charged $31,000 per student to cover the cost of education at George F. Baker high school.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And remember, this Greenwood Lake tuition rate is fixed, which means that if we have fewer than the number of GWL kids we expect, Tuxedo’s piece of the equation HAS to go up to cover costs.  Where will it stop?  Here’s the thing, no one knows.  Tuxedo kids may ultimately be charged $32,000 or $35,000 or $40,000 per student!

So why are we being asked to rally around a dying institution?  An institution that has been designed to die - based on the deal struck by our Superintendent and School Board?  As anyone who has had to balance their own finances knows, this math simply does not add up and this is not a long-term solution.

I think it is (finally) time to take matters into our own hands.  As wonderful and mutually enriching as our town’s relationship with Greenwood Lake has been for the past 31 years, their School Board decided to seek options for their students by asking for bids to send their kids to other schools.  The result was fantastic for them.  They received offers from Warwick high school at a tuition of $8,000 and Chester high school for $9,500.  Many Tuxedo residents - myself included - were quite upset by this move.  We felt betrayed by our close school partner.  However, what the Greenwood Lake School Board did was in the best interests of their kids, their parents and their tax payers.  By offering them choice, they refused to be swayed by the glory days of years past or be biased by the 31 year history of our two districts.  They decided to look out for number one.

Here we are, about a week away from the end of 2012 and we still don’t know if we will even have a viable high school to open in nine short months.  We don’t know how many kids will come from Greenwood Lake and what grades will be impacted.  We do know that whatever the decision, school programs and services will have to be cut further.  Even if we get 100% of the Greenwood Lake students, we are still talking approximately $500,000 in revenue losses due to the $12,000 tuition rate and simple demographics.  And since we know that we will not get 100% of the available GWL students, we also know that our school taxes will be going up.  Remember, for every GWL student that chooses to go to another school, Tuxedo tax payers will be asked to make up that lost revenue at $12,000 per child.

At the meeting Monday, I asked the School Board President if she and the Board have approached any area high schools to see if they would receive our 80 high school students and, if so, what sort of tuition they would charge us.  I was hoping that our administration finally realized that Tuxedo needs a back up plan and viable alternatives.  I was also hoping that the board was living up to the promise our Superintendent made to Tuxedo residents back on September 10th, when she put in writing that this was one of the options she and the School Board were, in fact, analyzing.  Unfortunately the answer was that our School Board “did not feel it was time to enter into those types of negotiations just yet.”  First, I don’t think that soliciting bids from other area high schools is akin to a negotiation.  Negotiation is what you do after you get the initial bids.  Second, the time to do this was months, if not years ago.  Had we had alternatives five years ago, perhaps we would have been able to negotiate a better deal with Greenwood Lake then.  It’s always better to negotiate from a position of power, with alternatives in your back pocket (like Greenwood Lake recently did to us) than with no alternatives, no options and fully at the mercy of the other party (like Tuxedo has done and appears to be continuing to do).

As the stewards of our school tax dollars and, more importantly, of our children’s education, why won’t our School Board simply approach area high schools for competitive bids to see what our options are?  It’s time for out Superintendent to live up to the promises she made to seek all options and alternatives for our kids’ education.  It’s time for Tuxedo to look out for number one.

Please call, write or email the School Board with your thoughts.

UPDATE:  On Friday, December 21, we learned that Greenwood Lake has unilaterally decided to extend their school choice decision deadline from December 31 to January 17, 2013.  No reason for the extension was provided in the school district website.  Once again, Tuxedo children are left in the balance at the whims of Greenwood Lake.

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The Future of George F. Baker High School - A Greenwood Lake Prospective
Posted: December 26th, 2012

By RON NOWAK, Greenwood Lake

The company line that many of you heard at the recent Tuxedo UFSD information meeting held in Tuxedo Park was that at a $12,000 tuition, you as taxpayers in the Tuxedo UFSD are subsidizing Greenwood Lake students. That is a “spin” that Tuxedo school officials are putting on a situation that, when you examine the facts, plays out quite differently.

To begin with, if all of Greenwood Lake’s high school students attend Baker High next year at $12,000 each, Greenwood Lake will pay approximately $3.2 million in tuition to the Tuxedo UFSD. That number is about $3.7 million this year at $13,900 for each student. That last number doesn’t include the extra bonus payment we have to make for each special education student who is educated in the high school.

Now go to your district’s budget and check on Tuxedo’s payroll for secondary education. It is in the $2.5-$2.7 million range for all teachers in grades 7-12. Special education salaries encompassing all grades are in the $850,000 range. Clearly, Greenwood Lake’s tuition covers virtually that entire combined amount. Who is subsidizing whom? The only salaries that remain are those of Tuxedo’s elementary K-6 staff.

Considering that Greenwood Lake students make up only about 77% of the Baker High enrollment, why should Greenwood Lake be paying for Tuxedo’s entire 7-12 plus special education payroll? Again, who is subsidizing whom?

Remember, you would have to have a set of teachers in the high school whether Greenwood Lake students were there or not.

In fact, if you go to Tuxedo’s state report card, you will note that the direct cost of instruction in Tuxedo is listed at just a bit over $12,000. That includes all expenses directly related to instruction plus a prorated portion of other expenses like administrative costs.

That flies in the face of Tuxedo administrators’ and school board member’s recent proclamation that it costs $16,000 to educate each and every student.

That number is close to Tuxedo’s Seneca Falls number that the state calculates as the maximum tuition a district can charge.

The Seneca Falls Formula, many experts will agree, was never meant to cover the Greenwood Lake/Tuxedo situation where the sending district’s students outnumber the receiving district’s resident students. Also, there are major flaws in the reasoning behind the formula. I won’t go into that since it is highly technical and not relative to this discussion.

In any event, Greenwood Lake could never afford to pay the Seneca Falls number that is estimated next year to be in the $18,000 range. Like you we in Greenwood Lake are under a tax levy cap restriction that limits the amount of money that can be raised through taxation unless voters agree to grant a waiver by a super majority of those voting.

I also urge you to find out from your administrators what the estimated tuition cost would be if you eventually have to send your high school students to a neighboring district. With about 80 Tuxedo resident students attending Baker High, even at $16,000 each, that would come to about $1.28 million. But, as we have all learned, tuition is negotiable particularly now when most districts are desperately seeking additional revenues (that’s why Greenwood Lake is so popular in Warwick and Chester).

Even if you consider that by tuitioning your high school students elsewhere you lose Greenwood Lake’s revenue, don’t forget you also lose most of that $2.7 million in secondary payroll and most of that $850,000 in special education payroll plus the associated benefit costs. Spreading the out-of-district tuition cost over Tuxedo’s considerable tax base, I doubt, would make much of an impact on your school tax rate.

The annual Mid Hudson School Study Council report on school tax rates, notes that Tuxedo’s true value rate (equalized to 100% of real estate market value) is the lowest in a five county region comprising over 50 districts.

As for closing your district and being forced into a merger, that has been threatened by the State of New York for decades. Forced merger is not an option for many legislators who view it as politically unpopular. Instead, Governor Cuomo and the legislature are trying to put districts out of business by using the levy cap as leverage.

It is, and has been my opinion, that we in Greenwood Lake actually subsidize the entire cost of operating Baker High including Tuxedo resident students. Tuxedo administrators have never been forthcoming with an actual cost of operating Baker High number despite being repeatedly asked.

I ask you as Tuxedo residents to consider our plight. If you had the option of paying either $8,000 or $9,500 in tuition as opposed to $12,000 what would you do? The fact that Warwick and Chester supplement those tuitions with state aid is not a concern for us, since Greenwood Lake taxpayers do not have to come up with that money. That’s how the system works.

Also, please don’t be fooled by claims that Baker High is superior academically to those other schools. I invite you to check the lists of courses, sports, electives, extracurricular activities, etc., provided by all three districts in response to Greenwood Lake’s parental choice option request.

As a Greenwood Lake taxpayer who is opposed to our district continuing its high school relationship with Tuxedo, I am appalled at the “spin” Tuxedo officials are putting on the current controversy.

One of my favorite quotes is, “We are all entitled to our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts.”

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The Future of George F. Baker - A Historical Prospective
December 2012

As a very brief background let me introduce myself to all but a very few long time residents. My name is Lew Rothman. I was the School Board member who initiated the deal to bring the Greenwood Lake students to GFB. I was also the Business Administrator for the Tuxedo Hospital, and my wife LaVonda was the founding President of the Tuxedo PTA.

Over 30 years ago there was a dramatic change in the make-up of the Tuxedo School Board. That year three parents of school age children were elected to the board replacing three elderly Tuxedo Park residents who neither had school age children nor had ever sent their children to the Public School. Their interest as Board members was simply and exclusively to keep tax rates as low as possible.

At one of the earliest meetings at which the three new members attended this very issue, the fate of GFB was discussed. It so happened that the Greenwood Lake Board was discussing the very same choices they are dealing with today, and meeting that very same night !  Over the violent objections of the senior old line member of the Board I suggested that at any cost we make a deal with Greenwood Lake to bring their students to GFB to maintain the viability of our school. As a result we called the Greenwood Lake Police Department and had them  inform them that our Board would like to meet them that very night at the Duck Cedar restaurant to make them “an offer they couldn’t refuse”.

While the offer was not “send your students to GFB or sleep with the fish”, we made the price so low ($2,000 per student less that their best previous bid) that a deal was struck that night and the fate of our High School was secured for the immediate future.

We did this knowing full well that Tuxedo residents would be bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of running the School. However, as parents we preferred having our children educated right here in our town rather than having them bussed on endless trips over icy winter roads to schools where they would be a very small minority.

The decision today is not quite the same as the one we faced thirty plus years ago. The choice back then was: How much are you willing to pay to live where and how you live in a tiny community that exudes all the charms of the turn of the last century, and still have your children receive a first class education locally?

I believe that if GFB loses Greenwood Lake, or even a significant portion of Greenwood Lake, that a first class education with competitive choices in curriculum can no longer be offered. GFB becomes a school that cannot prepare its students for the competition they will face in college. It is the same situation we had when we closed the Tuxedo Hospital. We had a 56 bed hospital with out-dated equipment that residents would only use for a trip to the emergency room. For anything beyond a scrape or a cut people went to Good Samaritan in Suffern.

“All good things come to and end”, and while I’m not saying that a decision should be made to close the school a choice needs to be made right now. That choice is to make a deal with Greenwood Lake that is so financially beneficial to that community that they cannot send their children anywhere else while having Tuxedo residents bear the massive increased cost of operation – or resign yourselves to having your children bussed to Monroe or Suffern. It’s not far afield from the choice we made long ago.

Personally, although I have not lived in Tuxedo for over twenty five years, I would gladly pay the price.   

Sincerely,
Lew Rothman

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Now Is the Time To Rally Around George F. Baker High School
December 2012

Excellent Education and Taxpayer Value Can Continue With Your Support

I have a great deal of respect for Josh Bewlay, and highly recommend that everyone in Tuxedo read his thoughtful and nuanced analysis on the high school situation published here on TPFYI.

However, while it is the responsibility of the school board to examine every contingency and make the best decision for the education of our children, I believe that now is the time for the Tuxedo community to rally around our high school. George F Baker provides - and can likely continue to provide - the best educational opportunity for Tuxedo kids at an incredible value to taxpayers.

According to US News and World Report, George F. Baker High School ranks in the top 4% of high schools in the nation, outshining every other Orange County high school in their college preparedness index, and a full 402 spots higher than Warwick Valley High School. Earlier this year it was named to the publication’s prestigious “Best High Schools” list. What little Baker lacks in extraneous programs it more than makes up in educational excellence and the school’s ethos embodied by Principal Denis Petrilak’s pledge: Kids are not allowed to fall through the cracks at Baker.

If educational quality is unimportant to you, consider that Tuxedo property owners enjoy the lowest school tax rates in Orange County at $11.79 per $1,000 of full market value (which properly adjusts for New York State equalization ratios). This figure is astonishing considering that our neighbors pay more than double this rate: Warwick is at $21.70, Cornwall at $24.01, and Monroe-Woodbury is at $24.55.

To put this figure in context, if you buy a $250,000 house in Tuxedo, your school tax is approximately $2,947.50, while if you purchase an identical house in Monroe, your school tax is approximately $6,137.50, or an annual difference of about $3,190.00. This savings in school taxes is a direct testament to the Tuxedo Union Free School District’s fiscal responsibility to you as a taxpayer, among other factors, and should not be taken for granted (just ask anyone who lives in Laurel Ridge or Clinton Woods). No other district in the county can boast these impressive figures.

I will grant that the doomsday scenario of a district merger (e.g., a possible doubling of our school taxes) is unlikely. However, my analysis of this year’s school budget shows that any tax savings by eliminating our high school are likely to be eroded by a loss of incoming tuition ($4.4 million) and additional transportation costs (difficult to estimate) that simply are not made up for by decreasing salary and programs at grades 9-12 (for example, all teacher salaries for grades 7-12 compose only $2.5 million). The figures can be adjusted further by reducing staff and activities, but the savings are likely to be marginal even before even adding in the cost of outgoing tuition to another district (probably $400 - $700K), which is an uncertain figure over which we will have little control from year-to-year.

This back-of-the-envelope math completely ignores benefits that won’t show up as a budgetary line item; namely, the economic, social, and commercial benefits of having our kids in a high school in our community, instead of busing them 30-40 minutes away from our homes. George F. Baker teachers and faculty are a part of our community and care deeply about our kids. We might eventually be able to say the same of another district, but how much is that independence worth?

Belts are tightening across the country, and the grass on the other side is not necessarily greener; every Orange County school district is facing budgetary challenges in today’s economy. Warwick, for example, is facing a $3 million budget shortfall going into next school year, even after closing an entire elementary school in 2011. Monroe-Woodbury has recently been criticized by the state comptroller’s office for “mismanaging reserved funds” and, unfortunately, is no stranger to misconduct and many of the issues that plague larger high schools.

We will not all agree on the best solution going forward, and that’s okay. Conditions can and will change, as will our collective opinions. So much depends on the individual decision that Greenwood Lake parents will make later this month, for example, and I am optimistic that parents will choose the better school and a community that hasn’t voted to keep them out of the district by a 4:1 margin. I’m relying on the school board and our community leaders to make the best decision possible, even if that ends up being a difficult choice.

In summary, I perceive that the whole of George F. Baker is far greater than the sum of its parts. Even in the unlikely scenario where a cost savings would be realized by shutting this nationally-recognized institution of education down, we should consider the secondary and tertiary effects of that difficult choice. It may be inevitable if enrollment declines and the quality of education suffers, but until that becomes a reality, I believe that Tuxedo is far stronger with George F. Baker High School as the center of our community.

I would just ask the Tuxedo community to think long and hard about endorsing any scenario in which we choose to eliminate our proud high school, because once gone it is not likely to return. And I don’t know how to put a number on that loss.

Now is the time to rally around our high school. It’s worth fighting for.

William A. Sweet, CFP®
President

Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce

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Tuxedo High School Update - An Editorial
December 2012

By Joshua Bewlay

Tuxedo High School Update

On Monday, December 17th at 7:00 p.m., Tuxedo School District Superintendent Carol Lomascolo and some members of the school board will hold a meeting for Tuxedo Park residents at St. Mary’s-In-Tuxedo.  I urge all residents to attend as this issue affects every tax payer in the entire community.  The upcoming decisions that the current school board will make will have the potential to affect our taxes, our property values and, most importantly, the quality of education for the children that attend the high school in Tuxedo.  In a letter to the Tuxedo community on September 10, 2012, Superintendent Lomascolo presented an option to close the Tuxedo high school and send our students to a regional or receiving school in the area.  Many parents and residents feel this could be a superior choice for our town in terms of academic excellence, college preparedness, extracurricular programs and LESS EXPENSIVE to our town.  However, after that initially tempting proposal, many feel the current focus of the administration is back to keeping the Tuxedo High School open at all costs.  We are afraid of those exponentially rising costs, shrinking student body and certain reduction in the quality of the education and offering of extracurricular programs.  Tuxedo Park residents need to attend this meeting and, as voters, need to be heard.

Background on Tuxedo High School

Many Park residents are not fully aware of the situation present at Tuxedo’s George F. Baker High School (GFB).  For more than 30 years, GFB has been propped up by receiving students from the town of Greenwood Lake (GWL).  As GWL only has a K-8 program, they have been sending their high school students to Tuxedo, operating under what recently have been a series of 5-year contracts where our school board sets the tuition rate that the residents of GWL must pay per student.  Tuxedo receives those tuition dollars and applies that revenue to the school budget.  Recently, the tuition rate charged per student from GWL has been BELOW the rate needed to run the school.  The difference is made up predominantly by Tuxedo tax payers to balance the school’s $16.5 million budget.  Currently, GWL students make up approximately 80% of the GFB student body.  The split is roughly 300+/- GWL students and 80+/- Tuxedo students.  In the 2011-12 budget, we received $4.4 million in tuition from GWL.

This spring, as GFB and GWL began the final year of the current 5-year contract (expiring June 30, 2013,) GWL asked neighboring school districts for bids to send their students to other schools.  Ultimately, the high schools in Warwick, NY and Chester, NY offered to charge just $8,000 and $9,500 per student, respectively.  While Tuxedo had originally offered $13,900 per student, the school board ultimately landed on a tuition rate of $12,500.  This number contemplated Tuxedo receiving all the GWL students as it would reduce Tuxedo school district’s tuition revenue by an additional $420,000+/- from the prior budget.  At the time, Superintendent Lomascolo was quoted in the papers saying that if Tuxedo became one of the schools included in a “parental choice” model, that ($12,500) tuition number would have to be increased to offset the reduced number of students attending GFB.

Initially, the GWL school board voted in May 2012 to agree to a new contract exclusively with Tuxedo at the $12,500 tuition.  However, the members of the GWL school board changed after their election and the new board rescinded the prior board’s vote.  The new GWL board voted to allow GWL parents to have a parental choice where they could chose to send their kids to either Warwick or Chester.  This decision excluded Tuxedo entirely as an option.  (There was a provision to allow current Tuxedo students to finish and graduate from Tuxedo.)  Clearly, this was not good for the future of GFB.  The loss of the GWL students and associated tuition would be devastating. 

Shortly after this vote, concerned parents, teachers, administrators and students from both Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake mounted a grass-roots campaign to have the GWL school board add Tuxedo as one of the schools in the parental choice option.  Their efforts, along with the decision by Tuxedo’s school board to further reduce the tuition to $12,000 per GWL student, ultimately paid off when, on October 17th, the GWL school board voted to include Tuxedo’s GFB high school as one of the three schools that parents may choose beginning in the fall of 2013.  Contractually, this decision is good until June of 2015, however because this is an annual choice and a short-term contract, no one actually knows what will happen to GFB in the near or long-term future.  What is troublesome is that we previously heard from the superintendent that the $12,500 tuition was basically a rock bottom number and contemplated Tuxedo receiving 100% of the GWL students.  Even in that scenario, programs and services would have to be cut and Tuxedo’s tax levy would have to be increased.

Current Situation

Now we are faced with the combination of a lower tuition rate AND a reduced number of students from GWL.  Parents of GWL students have until the end of December 2012 to make their decision regarding where they wish to send their children.  Only then can we know the number of students (and which grades) Tuxedo will receive from GWL.  We also will know the tuition revenue Tuxedo will receive based on the $12,000 per student rate.  Needless to say, this is not a good situation for our students, our village, our town or our tax payers.

At a meeting held in early October by the Tuxedo Superintendent with parents of 8th grade students (I am one of those parents), whose children will immediately be affected as they could potentially be entering a 9th grade class of just 25 students, most parents left feeling very frustrated having heard more questions than answers.  Why did the school board let this go this far?  Why were contingencies not in place years ago?  Why can’t we have a choice of sending our students to another high school next fall?  Can the school operate with just 25 students in the 9th grade next year?  Do we want a school with only 25 students in a grade?  In the meantime, at least two of the high school’s highly respected teachers (teaching advanced placement math and science) have left to pursue more certain futures at other schools.  Many fear this teacher “brain drain” will continue.

In October, the Tuxedo school board hired a consulting firm, Public Consulting Group, with the following objectives:

  • Provide direction and support for developing a long-term solution that will best meet the needs of the communities’ high school students.
  • Develop a vision and plan for the future of GFB High School.
  • Explore options that result in a sustainable future for GFB High School.
    • Innovate with “outside the box” thinking
  • Analyze cost, implementation timeframe, NYS Education law/regulations for various options.
  • Provide recommendations about the most viable option(s).

The consultant has held a number of focus group meetings with various constituencies in Tuxedo, including the parents of students in various grades, Village residents, northern Tuxedo residents, the Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce and other groups.

In a letter issued by Superintendent Lomascolo on September 10, 2013, she outlined three options for Tuxedo that she and the Board of Education were addressing:

  • Remaining a K-12 district - with Tuxedo students only.
  • Remaining a K-12 district - with Tuxedo students and other tuition students
  • Closing George F. Baker High School and continuing as a K-8 district while tuitioning our High School students to Monroe Woodbury, Suffern or another surrounding district.

In this same letter, Superintendent Lomascolo went on to show some revenue projections at a $12,500 tuition rate.  For example, if the GWL population is reduced by just 20%, it would represent a revenue reduction of $1,375,724 and result in a tax increase to our town of 13.11%.  Obviously, the real tax increase will be higher because the board ultimately agreed to a $12,000 tuition rate.  Her quote in this letter summed up the situation.  “All revenue reductions must be made up by a combination of increase in taxes and program reduction.”

Faced with yet another certain tax increase on the order of 15%+/-, and the certain reduction in school programs available to Tuxedo students, not to mention the declining enrollment and loss of quality teachers, many Tuxedo parents and residents are exploring the superintendent’s third option listed above - to close GFB and send our kids to another school.  With some research of public documents and in speaking with a consultant from Public Consulting Group, many parents feel that we have the opportunity to send our students to a better high school nearby with greater opportunities at a reduction in cost to our tax payers.

Please come prepared to ask questions and voice your concerns and opinions on this very important issue.

Mr. Bewlay has put together a comparison between George F. Baker and other high schools in the area, with a focus on US News & World Report rankings, as well as the NY Times SAT score rankings. Click here to have a look.

Joshua Bewlay

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DEC Ruling Slaps Tuxedo Mulch Pile (But does it slap hard enough?)
November 2012

DEC Ruling Slaps Tuxedo Mulch Pile  (But does it slap hard enough?)
By Rodger Friedman

Last month, the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEC) issued a set of rules to the Town of Tuxedo for the continued operation of its mulch pile on Long Meadow Road.  Called a “consent order,” the document provides very specific regulations on the scope and dimensions of the pile, on its border with the adjacent wetlands, and on the effects of its runoff on the wetland system.  

Failure to comply will result in fines compiled daily.  The fine is $1,000 per day for failure to comply within the first month, $2,000 per day in the second month, and $3,000 per day thereafter.  The effective date of the order is October 11, so we are already well into the second month.

The document requires the Town to fund an On-Site Environmental Monitor who is answerable to the DEC.   We assume the monitor’s job will be to observe the operation and report any variance from the imposed regulations.

Our main concern is the putrefying effect of the mulch on the adjacent wetland system and on Sterling Forest State Park.  The DEC document orders the Town to erect a physical barrier (“such as large boulders or concrete blocks”) along the boundary edge of the wetland as it is defined in a survey published in July 2012.  This physical borderline was to have been in place by October 25.

Furthermore, the document insists that all mulch-related material retract a distance of 100 feet from the wetland boundary, and that the 100-foot buffer must be graded down to its original elevation, seeded with perennial grasses, and must remain undisturbed.  This retraction of the pile and creation of a 100-foot buffer was to have been fulfilled by November 11.

Additionally, the DEC ordered an end to all drainage from the mulch pile into the wetlands.

The document goes on to determine conditions under which the plant can continue to operate.   It sets limits on the dimensions of the pile as well on the volume of materials that can be accepted and the length of time those materials can remain on site.  The specific volume limits will be determined at a later date.

The DEC also offered models of environmentally sound mulching plans that exist in Pennsylvania and in Kansas as patterns for “best management practices” for the local pile, if it continues to exist.

Our concern is the health of Sterling Forest State Park.  We will be happy to see the mulch pile shrink to an area buffered by 100 feet of grasses prior to the marsh boundaries, and produce no effluent. 

We fear, however, that the DEC order does not go far enough.  Fundamentally, it allows the mulch operation to continue, albeit with some reduction in volume.  As long as the mulch is there, it will continue to release organic carbons into the wetland system, and will continue to foul the air, water, and beauty of Sterling Forest State Park.  We would be happiest of all to see it shrink to nothing, disappear, and leave the State Park forever.

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The Golden Fleece Award Part 2...or...Here We Go Again
November 2012

In amongst a batch of “business as usual” resolutions passed at the last Town Board meeting on October 22, was an “acknowledgment” that the Tentative Budget for the Town had been filed on October 1 and the  scheduling of  a  Public Hearing on the Preliminary Budget for  November 12.  During his Supervisor’s Update, Supervisor Dolan stated that he had been working diligently on the budget and was happy to announce that the Town should have a less than 2% increase in the budget this year. However, later in the meeting during the public comment period, he was asked if there was a dollar amount that could be attached to the revenue from the mulch pile which would dictate the Board’s saying that the mulching operation should stay open no matter what?  The Supervisor replied that with the income from the mulch pile, which he estimates is $225,000, the budget would have under a 2% increase, but without the mulch money, there could well be a 12% increase which would mean the Board would then have to decide whether to dip into the Town’s reserve funds or to make some “hard decisions” and let some employees go. 

It wasn’t easy to get a copy of the budget.  I asked if it were available the night of the meeting and was told it would be posted to the Town’s website by the next morning.  It wasn’t.  When it still wasn’t there by Wednesday, I emailed the Supervisor and asked for it again.  He replied it would be on the website by the next morning.  (The check is in the mail?)  On Thursday, I was doing final edits on the report of Monday’s meeting and it still wasn’t there, so I made note of this in the  report.  Miraculously, when I looked on Friday morning, the budget was there. 

When I first looked at the budget, I noticed almost immediately that the Supervisor has scheduled yet another 3.5% raise for himself as well as for many other employees of Town Hall (although not for the Town Council members.)   Given what has gone on in the past year (Fish Kill on 4 Corners Pond and subsequent stonewalling of the taxpayers on the subject) I have to wonder……. has the Supervisor’s performance this year been raise-worthy?  According to my records, he has had at least a 3.5% raise in salary every year since 2008 (and  it may be even longer, but I don’t have records dating any further back) Again I wonder….how many of us taxpayers can say the same thing? 

At the October 22 Town Board meeting, the Supervisor stated categorically that he had not yet received the report from Land Use Ecological Services containing test results for the water surrounding the mulch pile, which was promised in August and for which we have all been waiting ever since .  These consultants were hired in May specifically to determine whether or not the mulching business being operated by Perfect Cut on the Town Highway department property is polluting the surrounding wetlands and streams in Sterling Forest State Park. The Supervisor and Board Members have stated over and over again to the public that they are only waiting for this report before they make a  decision regarding  what to do about the mulch pile.  The report was first promised by the end of August and at each  subsequent meeting, there has been another excuse for why it hasn’t been received.  On October 22, we were told that it hadn’t been received because the Supervisor had forwarded a report done by Dr. James Hays on the chemistry of the wetlands as well as a copy of the Scott Mine groundwater study done in the DEIS for the Sterling Forge development to Land Use for them to study.  BUT, more than one Town resident has now spoken directly with Will Bowman of Land Use Ecological  and he states that his report was sent to the Supervisor shortly before the October 22 Town Board meeting!!!!
After hearing this, we  tried FOILing the report and were told categorically by the Town Clerk that the Town doesn’t have the report. So…….I ask again….is this a raise-worthy performance? 

The Supervisor, like it or not, must ultimately answer to the taxpayers in Town. We are the people who are responsible for his “performance review.”  There is a public hearing scheduled on the budget on November 12 at 7:30.  This is your chance to speak out!  I urge everyone to show up to tell Supervisor Dolan that they DO NOT approve of his proposed raise.  After this, the next chance to send him a message won’t be until next November when he is, once again,  up for re-election.

—Mary Graetzer

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The Mulch Pile - The Real Story - An Editorial by Suzanne Papke
November 2012

Since the November 2011 election, my running mate Shaun Neal and I have foiled hundreds of records and reviewed hundreds of town documents in the earnest effort to research areas of great concern to us during our bid for election. It took more than 7 months to receive the documents and gather the information. In the meantime, we of course had the Four Corners Fishkill. This editorial is meant to give direct information from the records compiled by the town so they can gain an accurate understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the Mulch Pile.

We have all been privy to the Town Supervisor’s voracious protection of the Mulch pile, publicly espousing in many town meetings that the Town of Tuxedo could not survive without it,  We have repeatedly been told that without the Mulch Pile our taxes would rise surreptitiously. We have been told many times over by the Town Supervisor the town  has generated in excess of $200-$300K per year from its Mulch Pile operation and that the Mulch Pile was in compliance with the DEC standards and proposed no threat to the community or the environment.

However, on April 13, 2012 the DEC  Notice of Violation and Non Compliance clearly states that the Town is “in violation of the consent Order and specifically the schedule of compliance items that the Town has agreed to and is legally obligated to meet.”  What is of greatest importance here is that these are the same violations that were outlined in the DEC 2010 Notice of Violation, left unattended to for more than 2 years.  It should also be noted that the 2006  Lease between the Town of Tuxedo and Perfect Cut called for heights not to exceed 25” in height and not to exceed 10,000 cubic yards maximum product per year Most intelligent people who drive past the environmental hazard  created on Long Meadow Road can see for themselves the Mulch Pile growing and growing, towering well above the DEC 50’ requirement. It has spread in length, width and girth, creating an eyesore in Tuxedo’s pristine environment.

We also question why the counting of trucks  in and out of the facility to accurately determine the town’s revenue has been on the “honor system” for years. We have no idea how many trucks truly come in and out of that facility. It should also be noted that the Town Board refused to provide to us copies of the checks provided by the operator, but will only produce “paid reciepts” filled out by the Town Clerk. According to the Town records, the Much Pile does not generate between 200-300K per year in revenue promised by the Town Supervisor. In fact, the foiled records show that the  Mulch Pile has generated approximately $118K  per year for the past 5 years, not the 200-300K repeatedly referred to by the Supervisor in public meetings.  This does not account for the more than 90K paid by the taxpayers of Tuxedo for consulting and legal fees paid to operate the Mulch Pile or the labor costs for Town of Tuxedo  DPW employees who  assist with the Mulch Pile.  Town records demonstrate more than 90K in costs associated with the Mulch Pile have been paid to Town Attorney Don Nichols and  Holzmacher, McLendon and Murrell.   

Seven months ago, Tuxedo Park resident and former banker Alan Heywood banker asked for a taxpayer accounting of the revenue and expense related to the mulch pile. In the October 22nd  2012  town meeting, Supervisor Dolan was still unable to provide this accounting. Mr. Heywood, the numbers are as follows, averaging approximately $118 per year less operating expense.  

Mulch Piles Revenues
2006       $127.2  
2007       $148.0  
2008       $  48.7
2009       $  69.8
2010       $ 191.9
2011       $ 127.5

The Mulch Pile has been out of compliance since 2008 and remains out of compliance today. According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the violations outlined in the “2010 Notice of Violation  and Notice of Non-Compliance”  were still unattended to two years later in the April13, 2012  “Notice of Violation and Notice of Non-Compliance”. The  first set of fines on March 8, 2010  levied in the amount of 66K required an immediate payment of 25K by the Town and set forth “interim measures” for the town to comply with.  The second set of fines,  levied on the Town by the DEC on April 13,  2011,  required the immediate payment of the additional 41K outlining the same compliance failures. For the past 2 years, the town has blatantly ignored the compliance requirements of the DEC. What is more  concerning is that the town taxpayers fronted the 25K in fines on behalf of the Mulch Pile operator while waiting months to be reimbursed. The town supervisor kept the operators post-dated checks locked away in the town safe for months.  Can we send it post-dated checks for our taxes? One would begin to ask just who  is benefitting from the Mulch Pile and why our town supervisor has let this operation run out of control for the past 4 years endangering our environment, our property values and potentially Tuxedo Lake, the source of drinking water for the residents of Tuxedo Park.

Then of course, we have had the March 2012 fish kill at Four Corners Pond. Residents have been outraged that it took the Town Board 2 months to have the water tested; it is now 7 months later and we are still waiting for results and answers. In early October 2012, conclusive water testing studies developed by Dr. Jim Hays, Tuxedo Park resident and. Professor Emeritus of Columbia University  have conclusively demonstrated the contamination of the marsh adjacent to the Mulch pile. This was done through a comparative study of 4 Tuxedo water bodies, clearly demonstrating the high levels of contamination of that marsh. We must also question the safety of our Town Highway Department employees who breathe in these noxious fumes daily.

I hope that this information provides a lot of clarification to the taxpayers and the concerned citizens of Tuxedo. Of course, the real question is, why would the Town Supervisor go to such lengths to keep this operation alive in violation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and consciously jeopardize the water supply of Tuxedo Park and the property values of our Town? Do we really think that the 50K Bond required by the Town Supervisor is sufficient to clean up a toxic waste site?  The second question that we must ponder is if our Supervisor cannot manage a mulchpile, how will he manage Tuxedo Reserve?

 To read a copy of the 2010 DEC Complaint against the Town of Tuxedo, click here.

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Tuxedo Lake and Us
October 2012

James D. Hays

Tuxedo Lake is our Village’s most important visual feature; it teams with fish, supplies our drinking water and is a source of pleasure for us all. As we drive, bike, jog or walk around the lake it appears permanent and stable. But as we learned a year ago, when the aggressive invasive species Eurasian Water Milfoil was discovered in the lake or as the lake clouds in summer with algal blooms, this is clearly not the case. Our lake’s health is delicate and in our hands, we have an obligation to be good stewards.

Tuxedo Lake is part of a complex ecosystem that includes the lake, the flora and fauna that inhabit it, the underlying rocks, surrounding forests and the streams that feed it.  Its waters contain chemicals needed for its flora to build cells and tissues. Water and carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, provide the bulk of what plants use for this purpose and there is no shortage of either. They also need small amounts of nutrients such as phosphorous, nitrogen, silica and other less abundant elements and compounds. The nutrient supply, can limit the lake’s plant production, which might seem a drawback but is a benefit as algal blooms can result from an over supply of nutrients and the subsequent decay of these blooms reduces the lake’s oxygen content, which is detrimental to its fauna. These nutrients naturally come from the chemical decomposition of rocks, soils and vegetation on lands surrounding the lake and within the watershed of its tributary streams. Forest plants use nutrients and reduce soil erosion so under undisturbed conditions waters flowing into the lake contain low nutrient and sediment concentrations. Trees with their extensive root systems and leaf canopies are the most effective barriers to soil erosion.  Shrubs and ground cover such as ferns or pachysandra also hold the soil. Finally dead leaves and needles from the previous fall form a blanket protecting the soil from erosion by rain and through their decay return nutrients to the soil for future use by trees and shrubs.

Human activities can inadvertently disturb the natural supply of nutrients and sediment to the lake. The removal of trees and shrubs makes soils vulnerable to erosion and leaf blowing exposes the forest floor to rain further increasing sediment and nutrient supply to the lake. This increases lake turbidity and fosters algal blooms. Algal blooms are poisoned with copper sulfate at considerable expense to the village.

Successive Village Boards of Trustees have been aware of these dangers and early on established a requirement that all construction except docks and boathouses be set back at least one hundred feet from the lake. Many municipalities with lakes have such requirements because structures disturb the soil and can release chemicals to lakes. The village limits the size and number of trees that can be cut on a single property in a given year in part to protect the lakes watershed. It also bans the use of phosphate containing chemical fertilizers on lawns. Other municipalities prohibit the cutting of trees along lake margins and/or require swales and shrubbery near the shoreline to trap pollutants.

Our lake’s ecosystem is delicate and complex. Each of its components plays a role in keeping the system in balance and our lake water pure. Activities that increase the flow of soil, fertilizers pesticides and other pollutants to the lake are negative for its health While maintaining or increasing vegetative cover that absorbs pollutants and holds the soil is positive.  Cutting a few limbs may enhance a view as effectively as felling a tree. Diseased trees may die but can be replaced; replanting is an option that should be considered. Shrubbery and ground cover are decorative and beneficial to the lake, bare ground isn’t. Stripping leaves from the forest floor with leaf blowers creates air pollution; noise pollution and can increase pollution to our lake. Chemical lawn fertilizers if applied can wash into the lake. What we do with our properties are individual decisions but these decisions affect the lake which is a common resource.

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It's Time For Plan B
September 2012

To the Board of Education at Tuxedo High School,

            My name is Naomi Meekins and tonight, after the meeting in Tuxedo, my mind is filled with a thousand thoughts about all that is going on in our high school. Over and over the testimonies of students, faculty, parents and residents have been presented to both boards. You have heard the hearts of our two communities, and more than the Greenwood Lake Board of Education, you have appreciated the part we have taken in these meetings. Thank you for supporting us; the students, faculty and residents that have come out or voiced their opinion through our petitions. We will continue to be a part of this process.

            However, there are still many questions floating among us. Our school is on the path to being cut in half, and possibly becoming extinct. There is more than just a 50% chance that Greenwood Lake and Tuxedo could end their 31 year relationship. It is a big possibility that we could lose 100% of the Greenwood Lakers that have been attending our school. So as we question how it is that we cannot lower our tuition rate we have to look at our priorities. Our school is going to change dramatically if we lose these kids (which looks more likely every meeting). There will be dramatic cuts to our program and faculty if our classes shrink down to 30 or 40 Tuxedo students. There are many cuts to come even if all the current Greenwood Lakes come next year because of the lowering incoming student rate. Cuts are going to be made- our program is going to change, some may lose their jobs or take on more responsibility for no extra pay. The board's focus should not be on preserving our school as it is. our school is on the brink of change, big change. It was said tonight by a parent, "We are in crisis mode, what are we going to do about it?"

            Our school is made up of more than just the curriculum and what we offer academically. In no other high school have I seen the community we have at George F Baker. Everyone knows who everyone is, and as a result we have been more involved in our education and more proactive about the important issues in our country and in our community. Chanel 12 has even seen how different we are than other school districts. If our school is cut down to the bare minimum there will be a change in our education, yes, but there will still be the possibility of rebuilding our program. If the only choices become Chester and Warwick we will be losing that opportunity for good. We need to do everything possible to keep what we can. There needs to be a lower tuition rate if we want to be in the Parent Choice. 

            It's time for Plan B, or C, or D. It's time to make the cuts that might hurt us, but in the end, bring about a stronger relationship between Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake. We are two communities under one school district. Help us to continue this relationship. "It's the fourth quarter, we're down by 5 and there are two minutes left", what are we going to do? 

Thank you for your time,
Naomi Meekins
           
"Yet this i call to mind and therefore i have hope; because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail..." Lamentations 3:21-22

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Ex-Town Planning Board Member Mary Hanson Speaks Out
August 2012

Mary O.  Hanson
354 Bramertown Road
Tuxedo, N.Y. 10987

Re:  Reasons For My Resignation From The Town Planning Board, July 2012

Dear Readers of T.P.F.Y.I.,

I have served on the Town’s Planning Board for thirteen years having a stellar attendance record with regard to Technical, Planning Board and site visit meetings. I was always prepared for all applicants and asked appropriate questions. I was never afraid to ask for more information from the applicants. My main focus was to protect the town and it’s taxpayers.

Everything was going well with the Planning Board until December, 2011.  During that month, three Planning Board  members, Chairman Nils Gerling, Joseph Gartiser and myself were asked  by Peter Dolan what we thought of appointing Jacobowitz and Gubits as the Planning Board’s law firm.  All three of us said that we weren’t in favor of that appointment because of the possibility of interference from the Town Board Attorney, Don Nichol, from Jacobowitz and Gubits.  All five members strongly felt that the P.B. should have an independent counsel. Please be aware that at the May meeting between the Planning Board and Town Board to discuss the counsel issue, member Robert Thompson, strongly disagreed with the appointment of Jacobowitz and Gubits.   Susan Goodfellow has clearly stated, in her letter published in F.Y.I, her opposition to the appointment of Jacobowitz and Gubits.  Why did Peter Dolan ask us for our opinions when he had no intentions of listening to them?  Mr. Dolan is not a supervisor he’s a dictator! I’m pointing out all these facts because Peter Dolan seems to have a different take on this story.  At a recent T.B. meeting he said that only one member of the P.B. was unhappy with the new law firm.  That is an out and out lie. All planning board members were told, verbally and in writing by Peter Dolan, that we could all resign if we didn’t like the appointment of Jacobowitz and Gubits.

The problem of interference from the T.B attorney, Don Nichol, with regard to a P.B. application didn’t take long to manifest itself. At the joint T.B./P.B. meeting in May, Attorney Don Nichol admitted that he alone instructed Alyse Terhune to write a confidential memo to the planning board members regarding the Watchtower proposal.  The chairman of the P.B. always instructs our  counsel not the town attorney.  Alyse Terhune was busy writing the confidential memo even before the members of the P.B. received the Watchtower application.  By the way, Jacobowitz and Gubits billed and received $5,000 from you the taxpayers of Tuxedo for that memo. After I read the memo, it wasn’t clear to me who Ms. Terhune was working for?  It certainly didn’t seem to be the Town of Tuxedo.  Her memo contradicted our town code concerning uses allowed in LIO districts and density calculations set forth in the Tuxedo Town Code.  She never bothered to read the code forbidding dormitories in the Town of Tuxedo. 

I’ve outlined some of the reasons why I can no longer be a part of a compromised Planning Board.  Finally, I was so disturbed by the supervisor’s slander against Thomas Egan, Esq. that I said enough is enough.  Tom Egan is a brilliant attorney and a true gentleman.  He spent thirty years working with many people on the Planning Board and deserved a much better send off.  Shame on Peter Dolan for the poor way that he treated Thomas Egan. 

It’s terrible that the Planning Board has lost years of knowledge acquired by Chairman Nils Gerling,  Mrs. Susan Goodfellow, Mr. Robert Thompson and myself over our many years on the Planning Board.  Apply for one of the three open positions on the Planning Board, but don’t expect to be thanked for you efforts.  The fact is that you will be treated with distain by the town board.   After all, they know what’s best for the town! Or they know what’s best for Jacobowitz and Gubits – your tax money. 

Sincerely yours,

Mary O.  Hanson

Planning Board – resigned July, 2012

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Letter Outlines Reasons Behind Planning Board Resignation
July 2012

7 Stable Road
Tuxedo Park, NY 10987

 

Town of Tuxedo Supervisor and Town Board Members
One Temple Road
Tuxedo NY 10987

July 22, 2012

Dear Supervisor Dolan and Town Board members,

When ethics and principles give way to expediency, it is time to resign.

As your recent letter to the Planning Board says: “it is important for the Planning Board to be insulated from political pressure and influences so that it may deal fairly with property owners”. Fine words. The actions taken by the Town Board, however, are directly contrary to the sentiments expressed.

The Planning Board is supposed to function independently of the Town Board.  It is meant to exercise its independent judgment in identifying and resolving issues, free from undue influence. This principle is so important that NY State law specifically gives authority to the Planning Board to hire its own consultants,  (NYS Town Law Section 271). The Town Board does not have the legal authority to arbitrarily assign an attorney to the Planning Board.

This year, the Town Board appointed Jacobowitz and Gubits, the law firm that represents the Town, as the Planning Board attorneys without consulting with, let alone securing prior approval of the Planning Board. The Town Board did not even bother to notify the Planning Board of this arbitrary action. Thus ended a 30 year history of independent legal counsel for the Tuxedo Planning Board.

There are critically important matters already before the Planning Board and others likely coming that will have major impact on our Town. Planning Board members, the public and applicants should all feel that the Board functions independently in exercising its statutory powers, duties and discretion, with transparency, free of undue influence, real or perceived, from others who have not been assigned those powers, duties and discretion.

The dual representation arbitrarily created by the Town Board by hiring Jacobowitz and Gubits has already created real or perceived issues around undue influence and conflict.
For over thirty years, the Planning Board and community benefitted from advice from a law firm different from the Town’s. Now, the Planning Board officials’ ability to serve the needs of the residents has been compromised by the Town Board officials’ own political agendas.
The decision to inform the Planning Board that funds are available for Jacobowitz & Gubits only, thus denying funds for the Planning Board to hire independent Counsel, is a prime example of the exercise of undue “political pressure and influences” that fatally undermines the Planning Board’s ability to “deal fairly with property owners.” This arm-twisting via the purse strings is not only unethical, but also contrary to the intent of the law. Ending your letter with the offer of a choice between accepting your dictates or resign is another clear example of influence.

Since the action of replacing the Planning Board attorney with Jacobowitz and Gubits was first made, concerns about political agendas and perception of conflicts has grown over the past 6 months:

  • In mid February, the Planning Board advised you of concern that Jacobowitz and Gubits appeared to have a conflict. They were representing  “Science of the Soul” as clients before a Planning Board in another Town involving very similar land use matters as being presented before Tuxedo’s Planning Board.
  • Town Supervisor Dolan was quite explicit with Planning Board members about the political objectives re the Jehovahs Witnesses’ application. The outcome of this application may set a critical precedent for our community and the issues around it need clear, transparent, independent legal advice.
  • Directed by the Town attorney, an unasked for legal memo was prepared for the Planning Board by Ms. Terhune regarding the Jehovahs Witnesses’ application. The Town Board authorized payment of $5000 for that memo. I know of no instance where an attorney writes a memo that wasn’t asked for and then receives payment for it.
  • Ms. Terhune, the Associate of Jacobowitz and Gubits assigned to the Planning Board, was very actively involved for many years with Tuxedo Reserve’s original special permit when she was a member of the Town Board. Tuxedo Reserve is appearing before the Planning Board.

Over time, an acute sense of discomfort and concern about the lack of open and transparent decision making processes, free of actual or perceived conflicts and free of undue influence, have arisen. The Planning Board researched the law on its own and discovered the rights referenced earlier in this letter under New York State Town Law Section 271.

Unfortunately, the issues that gave rise to this situation never will be properly vetted, and it is the residents who will be made to suffer. The circumstances surrounding the rejection of the Planning Board’s decision to hire an independent counsel could not be more ham-handed and very puzzling.

In May, the Planning Board Chair, Joe Gartiser, informed the Town Board, via a phone call to Supervisor Dolan, of its unanimous decision to hire independent counsel.   Sometime after receipt of your response letter received on May 25th and the July 10th Planning Board meeting, the Planning Board Chair apparently changed his mind about the decision made by the group.  When the formal motion to hire independent counsel was made and seconded on July 10, the Chair called for an immediate vote and rejected discussion of the motion.  The deciding “no” vote was cast by the newly appointed alternate member, the wife of a Town Board member, who was attending a Planning Board meeting for the very first time. She had never before listened to or participated in any Planning Board discussion of this matter.

The voting process made it clear to me that I could not participate on this Board any longer without constant concern about outside influence from the Town Board, murky decision making processes, and no legal advice from attorneys hired by the Planning Board. I gave my verbal resignation and left the meeting.  This letter confirms my resignation.
Sincerely,

Susan P. R. Goodfellow

cc. Members of the Tuxedo Planning Board

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6 Reasons to Attend Tuxedo Town Board Meetings
April 2012

By Jake Matthews
Friday April 27, 2012

Citizen participation in local government is key to the success of our town for now and for our future. Whatever your opinions and your time availability one easy way we can all participate is to attend town board meetings to learn and share issues we all face. Following are six reasons we should all participate and attend Tuxedo Town Board meetings.

Voice your opinion. We live in a democracy; don’t forget that. If you have a strong opinion about an issue, make your voice heard. The Town Board meetings have open, public comment periods and these are an opportunity to let Town Council members and others in town know your opinion on a local topic.

Listen and learn. By attending a town meeting and simply listening to the activity, discussions, resolutions and agenda items - and how our town is run – this may help you better formulate your voice and opinion on local matters that affect life in Tuxedo.

Meet your town officials. How many of us have actually met a town official, know them by face and name and have had a conversation with them? Attending a town meeting may be an opportunity to do so.

Affect Change. and back positive initiatives: If current or pending issues in the Town of Tuxedo rub you the wrong way or if you are in favor of current proposals, town board meetings are an opportunity to learn about the issues and make your opinion known. By doing this you can affect change. Others around you may be influenced by your opinion and a groundswell can develop.

It’s Convenient and Local. If nothing else, town board meetings are usually only about 1 hour long and are located in downtown Tuxedo at Tuxedo Hall. If you live in Tuxedo or Tuxedo Park, you certainly don’t have an excuse that the meetings take too long to get to!

We are all one. That which affects the Town, affects Tuxedo Park and affects other areas of Tuxedo. An example of our interdependencies is the current issue of The Mulch Facility, our Environment and our Drinking water. Aside from the above ongoing reasons for attending town meetings, the Mulch Facility at the town DPW property on Long Meadow Road and an issue that affects everyone in Tuxedo. With the recent DEC letter citing the town for violations to the Environmental Conservation Law, it is Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park residents’ responsibility to be aware of what is going on with this issue and make their opinions known. Tuxedo Park and the Wee-Wah basin are very close to the Mulch facility at the DPW property. With issues such as, drinking water, air quality and financial issues at stake, it’s critical to be informed. Just because an activity or issue is taking place outside of Tuxedo Park, it does not mean it does not affect Tuxedo Park residents in a material way. Believe it or not, Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park are one community. In fact, Tuxedo – all parts of it, north south east and west are one – inextricably linked and each part of our town has to be concerned and heard. Town board meetings are a good starting point.

Come out to the next Town Board meeting on Monday April 30, 2012 at 7:30pm. I’m certain you will learn something new about our town and come away from the meeting with a better sense of civic participation.

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Warwick School Tax Benefits Greatly Overstated
February 2012

by William Sweet

Actual School Tax Barely Changes if Greenwood Lake Students Leave George F. Baker for Warwick

This spring, the Greenwood Lake Board of Education will decide where their students will attend high school in 2013 and beyond. George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo has proudly hosted Greenwood Lake students since 1981, and today roughly 8 out of 10 Baker students live in Greenwood Lake.

The tuition cap figure, commonly cited in the Times-Herald Record and other sources, is the per-child rate determined for each student to attend one high school compared to another. The differences between school districts are often framed as a reason for making a switch: to save taxpayer money. While relevant to the discussion, these figures are extremely misleading at best. Simply switching school districts will not likely result in a significant tax break to residents.

What matters to Greenwood Lake property owners is what they actually pay each year in school taxes – not an arbitrary per-child rate – because these costs are spread across the entire tax base. If you have three children in high school and are considering the switch to Warwick, you will not be paying $24,000 per year ($8,000 per child) instead of whatever your school tax is now. Fair or unfair, that’s just not the way that property tax (including school tax) is collected in New York.

To get an idea of what the difference in school property taxes will be, we must look at comparable properties. A property in Greenwood Lake that is identical in lot size, house size, amenities, and assessment will pay a very similar property tax amount per year to a sister property Warwick. Because in New York State aid is determined by the receiving district (Tuxedo or Warwick) and not the sending district (Greenwood Lake), we can make a more accurate comparison using this method.

Using public tax records, we created a sample of four Greenwood Lake properties and four Warwick properties. The average taxable assessed value, which is the true figure upon which taxes are calculated, was matched to average $29,375 for Greenwood Lake and $29,375 for Warwick, which correspond to market values of approximately $210,000. The actual average school tax paid in 2011 on this sample for Greenwood Lake was $3,523.35, and the average actual school tax paid for Warwick was $3,283.96, making the comparable difference $239.39, or 6.8%.

is a far cry from the thousands of dollars per year of tax savings that have been promised. Obviously, this small figure is what matters to taxpayers in the end – what they will actually pay in property tax. For full details on the method used, visit tuxedochamber.org/greenwood-lake.

Personally, I would love to reduce my property taxes by a small amount - but at what cost? I don’t think a marginal decrease would be worth losing jobs, hurting small businesses, and literally closing a high school for, especially if my kids and neighbors made up 80% of that school. George F. Baker is, for all intents and purposes, Greenwood Lake High School.

Each voter must make his or her own decision, and should actively voice an opinion to the Greenwood Lake Board of Education. We fully respect the right to choose, but we ask that this critical choice be based on what is best for the children of Greenwood Lake, not empty promises of tax savings.

William A. Sweet
President
Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce
Stevens & Sweet Financial

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Freedom Of Information Or An Invasion Of Privacy
February 2012

By Meg Vaught

For those of us who regularly attend municipal meetings, there is no doubt that the recent amendment to the “Open Meetings” portion of the New York State Public Officers Law will make things a great deal easier to follow.  To summarize, the amendment requires that all agency records, as well as proposed resolutions, laws, rules, regulations, policies, amendments there-of, etc. that are scheduled to be the subject of discussion by a public body at an open meeting be made available to the public via the Village website prior to that meeting.  On the surface, this seems fairly straightforward.   But when we stop and take a closer look, in some cases, this amendment can be considered a state-mandated invasion of privacy.

In the Village of Tuxedo Park there are four main “public bodies”: The Board of Trustees, The Planning Board, The Board of Architectural Review and the Board of Zoning Appeals.  The BOT is our main governing body and as such, the Trustees are the ones who are, for the most part, dealing with the adoption of laws, rules, regulations and policies.  It is nice to know that moving forward, if the BOT plans to discuss a policy change or new draft legislation on a Tuesday evening, interested residents can log onto the website a couple of days beforehand  and review the documentation.  The newly allotted “review time” will enable residents to consider any questions or concerns or thoughts they might have, so that they can, in turn, voice these at the appropriate time.  Individuals living in other municipalities, states or even countries can get a glimpse of how things are run here, the types of laws we are enacting, the projects we are putting out to bid, the policies we are considering etc.  This is probably a good thing.  We have a lot to be proud of here…why shouldn’t the world have a look if they want to?

Things are a little different, however, when we take a look at how the amendment will affect the other three public bodies.  The Planning Board, Board of Architectural Review and Board of Zoning Appeals preside over the process of development within the community and as a result, site plans for projects of all kinds are subject to their review.  Whether an applicant wants to build a new home or an addition, install windows, reroute their driveway or even put up fencing they must appear before at least one (and sometimes all three) of these boards, detailed plans in hand...plans which, under the amended law, will now be available to the World via the Village website.  Its one thing to allow the World at large a closer look at how we govern the Village, but in my view, it’s another entirely to provide them with a detailed look at what residents are trying to do with their private property.   It is true that most site plans do not outline interior details (and those who may have done so at one time will surely delete them now) but all the same, they do provide a map, however vague or detailed it may be, of the project in question and in many cases, of the entire property at hand.   Certainly, there are cases where certain individuals might want to have a look at this kind of information.  For example, neighboring property owners might want to know what is being proposed in the lot next door or just down the street and in my view, that is entirely understandable.  As TPFYI’s BAR reporter, I will not deny that having access to site plans will certainly aid in my ability to follow the discussions that take place during meetings and also embellish my understanding of the projects before the Board, which will no doubt improve the quality of my reports.  That being said, should this kind of detailed information be available to any one, anywhere, world-wide, who might want it?  I think not.

So, what can the Village do to protect the rights of its Applicants?  Sadly, not much of anything.   When asked If they could provide the information on a pass-word protected basis to Village residents only, Village Attorney Rick Golden advised the Board that while they could attempt to protect the information in this manor, they would be unable to deny any person the ability to register and obtain a password.   Just about the only thing they can do is to remove the information as quickly as possible after the applicable meetings have taken place, and although the Board has yet to determine what the policy for posting and removing the information will be, they all agree that speedy removal will probably be a part of it. 

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East Village Resident Relief Committee - Work Finished
January 2012

    During the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, The Tuxedo Park Fire Department responded to over seventy calls in a 4-day period.  As part of the community's outreach to storm victims, the Department's Executive Committee asked David du Pont and Gardiner Hempel for their help in organizing the residents of the East Village as that section of town was particularly devastated.  With the help of Reverend Betty McWhorter, who generously offered up St. Mary’s as a place to meet, the Department was able to bring forty family members from the East Village together.  Collectively, this group elected six members from various parts of its neighborhood to prioritize a list of those families needing outside assistance.  The six elected members were Rick Marsh, Dave Stevens, Fidelis Curry, Ron Tripani, Rich Rigoli, and James Ogden. In light of the work already being undertaken by St.Mary's and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, it was quickly determined that the TPFD would focus its efforts on three specific resident needs: electrical panel replacement; furnace replacement; and hot water heater replacement. The rapid approach of winter and the threat of cold weather as well as the ability of the East Village Committee to assess and prioritize needs in a relatively short period of time were leading factors in this decision. 
 
    As soon as the East Village Committee started its assessment, the Fire Department began its fund raising by contributing $2,000 to what came to be called the East Village Resident Relief Fund. Two individuals and one institution immediately contributed $10,000 each followed by gifts from two foundations of $4,000. Fund raising efforts were then halted in order to ensure that the funds could and would be intelligently spent on the three items the Department had chosen to focus on. In the subsequent weeks, starting in late October and going through the end of December, financial assistance was provided to 25 homeowners over and above the donations from both of the Church organizations.  The total amount spent was $34,949.38. The fact that so many different people within the Tuxedo community came together, and working with both Churches and the Fire Department, donated well over $120,000 to assist the East Village community is something we can all take a great deal of pride in. The members of the Tuxedo Park Fire Department thank you for your generosity as you redefined the true meaning of the word "Community". Bless you all.
 
TPFD

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Saying Goodbye to 2011
January 2012

By Meg Vaught

As we welcome the year 2012 with open arms, TPFYI would like to pause for a moment and reflect on 2011. There is no doubt that 2011 was a challenging year for the Village filled with lively elections, changes in government, hurricanes and freak out-of-season snowstorms. It was also a highly productive one in which the Tuxedo Road Guiderail project was finally completed, the Tuxedo Lake Dam project was brought to a close, water mains on Club House Road were realigned, generators were installed at the Village Office for the purpose of creating an emergency community center and the Village website was redesigned. Thanks to the strong leadership of Mayor Wilson, the Board of Trustees, the Village Police Department and an extremely dedicated and hardworking DPW the Village has not only handled all of this in stride, but is cruising comfortably into a new year that promises to be just as productive with discussions and plans for various new projects as well as improvements and repairs already well under way.

TPFYI would like to take a moment to salute all of those members of the Tuxedo Park community, elected officials, employees and volunteers alike, who have worked so hard over this past year to make the Village the wonderful place that it is to live. There is no denying that the workload around here has increased in recent years and we are extremely grateful to have such a strong, diligent, and dedicated group of individuals at work on our behalf.

THANK YOU and HAPPY NEW YEAR

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Your Vote Counts....Or Does It?
December 2011

By Meg Vaught

When I arrived at the polling station, I was a little caught off guard by the new system of voting that was under way. Gone were the two metal voting booths of old, replaced by what looked like several make-shift, curtained off cubicles with tables inside of them. I was greeted by a smiling election inspector, who quickly directed me towards the table designated for Village voters. I easily found my name in the book and dutifully signed on the dotted line. A plump young man, who looked to be in his early twenties, then handed me a paper ballot. He explained that the annual proposition for the Library budget was located on the back of the ballot and instructed me to vote for one candidate in each column as he pointed me towards the closest cubicle. Thinking to myself that the system had taken a giant leap backwards by reverting to paper ballots, I pulled the curtain closed behind me and reached for a pen. As I began filling the various bubbles, I quickly realized that two of the individuals I wanted to vote for were listed in the same column. Hmmmm. I scanned the ballot again. There were 5 candidates running for the position of councilman. Although four of them had campaigned with slates, I knew that I had the ability to vote for a mix of candidates if I wanted to (which I did) however, not every candidate had been designated his own column, and if I followed the directive I had been given when handed my ballot, I would not be able to cast the vote I wanted to. Surely, there must be some mistake, I thought, and filled in the bubbles next to my candidates of choice anyway. But I was unsure. On my way out of the cubicle, I stopped at the table and in the vaguest possible terms attempted to explain my dilemma by clarifying the instructions I had been given. The gentleman looked a little unsure of himself, but reiterated his initial directive. Frustration mounting, I asked for a blank ballot and he quickly produced one. Using it as an example, I pointed out that each of the candidates had not been given their own column and that asking voters to choose only one candidate from each column was technically unfair as it forced them to choose between candidates who were opposing each other. “Exactly” commented the election inspector from behind me. “You can only choose one candidate per column. The machine will not read your ballot if you do otherwise”

“But that’s not right” I protested. .

No longer feeling the need to be modest about my vote (but also not wanting to broadcast it to the entire room) I grabbed both the spare ballot and the ballot I had filled out and attempted to point out my specific concern as discretely as possible. “Let me see” said the inspector coming closer. She then took my completed ballot and spread it open on the table commenting “I’m not wearing my glasses, I can’t read this anyway” Despite the fact that there were only a few bystanders, I was somewhat horrified by this action. After noting that I had indeed filled in two bubbles from the same column, she once again remarked “This won’t work. The machine will not read this ballot. It will have to be voided”

“Why don’t you let her try and feed the ballot into the machine” suggested one of the nearby poll watchers. “It’s worth a shot”

“No” she responded. “It won’t work.”

As I moved awkwardly to fold my ballot back in half, she presented me with a large black marker and instructed me to write VOID in giant letters all across the ballot. As I was doing this, she went to the corner of the room and retrieved a large green bag, which she used to take the voided ballot from my hand (law prohibits her from touching it) The young man at the table promptly handed me a fresh ballot. I turned around and noted that a small line was beginning to form at the table behind me. Flustered, I headed back into the cubicle. Torn between the desire to defend my rights and the fear of causing a scene, I sat there for a moment. Then, noting the time and realizing that I was expected at work in New Jersey in less than 20 minutes, I decided against my better judgement to choose between the candidates and quickly filled in one of the bubbles. I promptly exited the cubicle and was directed to a machine that looked like a giant ATM, where I fed my ballot into a slot that sucked it away. As soon as it was gone, I regretted my decision.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that I was not the only one who had experienced this issue. Many of the voters I spoke with simply voted for whom they wanted to, while others like myself, compromised their vote. One individual, who voted hours after I did, told me that poll watchers were openly cautioning voters that the machine might not read ballots with two votes in the same column. Whether this was true or not, we’ll never know.

As it turned out, the winners in the election triumphed by a landslide and as a result, nobody saw the need to challenge the results.

That being said, all these weeks later, I still question their validity.

While I fully understand that certain aspects of the voting process are mandated by Orange County and cannot be changed, it is my sincere hope that the Town of Tuxedo has taken note of this situation and will move towards making notable improvements to the process for the next election.

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The Golden Fleece Award | January 2011

The late senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin, my home state, famously hated frivolous government spending and periodically dispensed Golden Fleece awards to highlight what he considered bad uses of taxpayer money.

Last night, the Tuxedo Town Board held their Annual Reorganization meeting which took approximately 15 minutes and consisted of the Supervisor waving a document around and mentioning a few highlights, such as an across the board 3-1/2 % raise for the employees of Town Hall. This was followed by a quick and unanimous vote in favor of the proposed resolutions. Only this morning did a copy of the Reorganization document become available to the public, and in reading it through, I discovered that the Supervisor and Town Councilmen are henceforth going to be paid for carrying out their liason assignments to the tune of $500 per “liasonship.” Each member of the Board has been assigned as liason to five organizations around Town so each member has just, in effect, voted him or herself a $2500 raise. This was done without any announcement, discussion or even acknowledgement that they were doing it. Do we really need TWO liaisons to the Monroe-Woodbury School district? We now have them. TWO liaisons to the Ambulance Corps? A liason to the Silver Dollars??? We’ll all be paying for those too!

In the current economic climate, most municipalities are cutting back and a lot of that starts with the people at the top of the governments. In the Town of Tuxedo, however, not only have the people at the top of the government just voted themselves a 3-1/2 % raise, but they have also given themselves a little $2500 dividend just for doing their jobs! And, they have done this without telling anyone about it, instead burying it on page 6 of a 7-page document which was voted on without being read into the record.

I nominate the Supervisor and Town Board for a Golden Fleece award. Shame on you for this blatant disregard for your taxpayers wallets! Conversely, I would like to commend Town Justice Loretta Davis who refused the offered 3-1/2 % raise and will be paid at last year’s rate!!!

-Mary Graetzer

To view the official Reorganization document that was voted on, click here.

To View the 2010 Reorganization figures (for comparison) click here.

To view a spreadsheet outlining salary amounts click here.

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Town Supervisor and Council Approve Tuxedo Reserve Environmental Impact Statement and Revised Special Permit For 1200 Unit Development | November 2010

With little advance notice and a few days before Thanksgiving the Tuxedo Town Board unanimously approved a new Special Permit for the Tuxedo Reserve Development. The new permit rearranges the development’s plan and increases multifamily units by 41%, all to be built in Phase 1. The additional multifamily units will replace single-family units and will certainly reduce the tax base of the development. The true impact of this reduction was never carefully analyzed because the data for the fiscal analysis was provided by the developer and it paid little heed to current real estate sales, the needs of the fire district or the opinions of the Town’s tax assessor. It is disappointing that the Town Board chose not to consult the Town’s Planning Board, which had spent months reviewing the Application, or the Town’s School Board whose budget and our taxes will be severely impacted by the project.

Nevertheless, we are told the Town Board gained important concessions from the developer. The Development’s Home Owners Association will be responsible for the maintenance of; 10 of the 14 miles of roads within the development, all retaining walls and all infrastructures associated with the storm water management and water supply systems. The current and future boards should hold firm on all of these concessions.

Some will be unhappy with the Town Board’s decision. If so they should consider running for a seat on the Board as more important decisions lie ahead. Others will be angry with the Related Companies, but after all, developers develop. We must remember that a few members of our own community initiated the project and sold it to the Developer, they must bear ultimate responsibility for its negative outcomes.

-Jim Hays

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Tuxedo Reserve: Unanswered Questions | July 2010

The Tuxedo Town Board is well along with their review of Tuxedo Reserve’s application for an Amendment to their Special Permit of 2004. This amendment asks for sweeping changes to the Special Permit that was negotiated over many years by the prior Town Board. Some of the changes seek to unravel agreements the prior Town Board thought important, including limiting multifamily units to 305, banning construction within the Tuxedo and Mountain Lakes water sheds on environmental grounds and limiting retail space within the development in order to protect Hamlet businesses. The amendment calls for a 41% increase in multifamily units, including condominiums and rentals, over a thousand percent increase in retail space, and construction of houses within both the Tuxedo and Mountain Lake water sheds. The Town Board has conducted a series of workshops, but the developer has influenced the direction of the discussion. Town Board members have asked questions and are engaged, but can be deflected by the developer. For instance, Supervisor Dolan wanted to explore phasing of the development, so that if all the developer’s fiscal predictions don’t come true, the town has a chance to renegotiate certain aspects of the project. The developer’s representative objected and the town’s attorney for the Tuxedo Reserve project, after looking at the developer’s representative said “that would be difficult” and the matter was dropped.

There are many issues of concern to our town’s residents that have not been satisfactorily addressed. Of particular concern is the fiscal impact of the development on the town’s taxpayers. Time after time, at public hearings last fall, town residents, who had little faith in a prior fiscal analysis, that the developer guided, asked the town board to conduct a fiscal analysis independent of the developer. An independent fiscal analysis was promised on a number of occasions by the Town’s supervisor. But the analysis that was performed, was again heavily influenced by the developer. The developer provided the data for the analysis and the developer’s consultant did the computer runs. The town’s consultants did not thoroughly check the validity of the information that was provided by the developer for, if they had done so, they would have realized that the average square footage of housing units was larger than it had been in the prior analysis. This increase helped move the outcome into positive territory. Without a believable fiscal analysis, the board can’t make sensible decisions on issues that may be advantageous or disadvantageous for town taxpayers.

The Town Board is in a very strong position--they don’t have to agree to amend the Special Permit. The developer has a Permit to build…….so let them build. The developer wants changes, so the town should negotiate something from the developer in return. This development has many potential costs to the Town: equipment for the fire district, the ambulance corps, space for the library, costs to the highway department etc. These potential costs need to be analyzed carefully.

In recent months, the town board has received perplexing advice from their attorney that is not conducive to communication between residents and the board. The board has been advised not to answer any questions about Tuxedo Reserve raised by town residents. For example, at a summer meeting of the town board, I started to ask a series of questions that I thought the board should consider. I was stopped by the town Supervisor before I finished and told to submit the questions in writing. The board would then ask for answers from their consultants that would then be relayed to me. I did as I was asked, but never received any answers. At a subsequent town board meeting, I asked if my questions had been submitted to the consultants. I was informed that they had been and town board members had discussed the answers but I would not be told what the answers were nor what Town Board members thought about specific issues.

Those of us who have regularly attended Town Board meetings and work shops are concerned about the removal of these minimal rights of communication with the Town Board. We want the board to negotiate a deal for the town that is fiscally positive and we have repeatedly made this point. We believe the Town Board also wants this but their task is large and they need encouragement from their constituents. Please contact your Town Board representatives and encourage them to do a credible fiscal analysis and from it negotiate a deal that will not be an expense to the town’s current taxpayers. Supervisor Dolan has said there will not be another Public Hearing before the board votes on the Amendment so contacting your town representatives or speaking at a Town Board meeting are the only options open to you.


Sincerely,

James and Nancy Hays
TARGET Tuxedo

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PUBLISHING CRITERIA FOR ARTICLES RECEIVED FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC

Mission:  TPFYI is intent on presenting polite public discourse and opinion regarding issues of relevance to the affairs of the town of Tuxedo and the village of Tuxedo Park. However, TPFYI reserves the right to publish in full, edit, abbreviate or dismiss any submissions at its sole discretion, without specifying its reason for so doing.

Qualification: The underlying issue must be relevant and / or important to the town and  village  and  beyond that, the wider community. It must be factual to present and future circumstances and meet the tests of substantiation & verification. Factual correctness is paramount and any submission must add to the knowledge base of the issue under consideration. Individual “opinions” and “attitudes” will be excluded unless they meet the stated criteria.

Editorial Right:  Any script submitted for publication must not be inflammatory, abusive, defamatory, libelous or otherwise derogatory of any person or entity. It may be contentious but must be respectful to all and any of the involved parties.

Geography: TPFYI is willing to receive comments, letters and / or editorials from residents of the Tuxedo community and from residents in areas contiguous to the town and village. It will also consider scripts from others who can offer value to the relevant issue.

Archiving:  TPFYI would normally expect to archive any published script not later than 2-4 weeks after publication.

TPFYI is intent on presenting polite public opinion concerning important issues relevant to Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park. However, TPFYI reserves the right to publish in full, abbreviate or dismiss any submissions at its sole discretion. Thank you.



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