LETTERS TO THE EDITORline

Letter To The Editor
Posted: October 31, 2016

Re: Tuxedo Park Board of Architectural Review

Dear Editor-in-Chief:

I am the acting Village Justice in the Village of Tuxedo Park. I am writing to you with respect to a letter from Ms. Paola Tocci and Mr. Robert Simon, regarding their resignations from the Board of Architectural Review, that you published on your website on October 18, 2016.

Within the body of their letter, Ms. Tocci and Mr. Simon stated that the Tuxedo Park Justice Court has jurisdiction to review the determinations of the Village Board of Architectural Review (BAR). This is incorrect. The Village Justice Court has no role in reviewing determinations by the BAR. Pursuant to the Village Code, decisions of the BAR are reviewable by the Village Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). Any appeal from the BZA is taken to the State Supreme Court sitting in Goshen, pursuant to the New York State Village law and Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Laws and Rules.

I hope that you will publish this letter so that the residents of Tuxedo Park will be properlyinformed as to both the law and procedure for appealing from decisions of the BAR.

Respectfully,

MARC D. CITRIN

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BAR Appointments - A Letter of Resignation
Posted: October 18, 2016

October 16, 2016
To the Mayor, Board of Trustees, and Residents of Tuxedo Park:

On Saturday, October 1, Mayor Guinchard, Trustees Guazzoni and Moon (with Trustees McFadden and McHugh dissenting) voted to fill the current vacancy on the Board of Architectural Review and appoint as its new Chair a person unknown to any of the BAR members, one who has never attended a meeting of the BAR, one with the briefest residency (less than a year) in Tuxedo Park, and one without expertise in any of the constituent fields (architecture, engineering, architectural history, construction and project management) that are required for responsible, proper determination of applications that can stand up to judicial scrutiny.

This action, which included the removal of both the sitting BAR Chair and Deputy Chair without prior notification or discussion, and without cause or explanation, in a public meeting at which no public comment was permitted, is not only an insult to all the BAR members who have served with great dedication over many years, but to the entire Village. In addition, the failure of the Board of Trustees to reappoint one of our most accomplished and valued BAR members – the only trained Architect on the Board, who holds a degree from M.I.T (one of the most rigorous architectural programs in the world) and who has developed a patented framing design for passive solar houses—solely as a ploy to elect a new member and Chair, is a reflection of the contempt and disrespect that the current administration feels towards the BAR, its members, and the Village. It is the latest in a series of executive decisions made by our Mayor, with the support of a majority of the Board of Trustees, that have created discord in our community and have threatened the continued safety and security of our Village. These include the wholesale dismissal and replacement of the Village’s police department, legal representation, and engineering consultants, as well as the elimination of the position of Consulting Architect, which had provided independent professional advice to the BAR, as well as to applicants and their architects, thereby resolving many potential conflicts –legal, aesthetic, and practical.

Over the period of our tenure, we have endeavored to make the BAR an asset to the community by protecting our architectural heritage while preserving the property rights and enhancing the property values of the entire Village. To that end, we have sought out and secured as members of the BAR residents who are accomplished and distinguished in the fields of architecture, engineering, architectural history, construction, and project management. At the same time, we have worked to provide clarity, transparency, and efficiency to the application process, while creating and establishing Design Guidelines to assist residents in the formulation of their new construction, restoration, or renovation plans. This has all been accomplished by BAR members who have devoted many hours a month over several years to conferences, site visits, and public meetings.

We have consistently received support and gratitude not only from Park residents and applicants, but from a succession of past Village administrations. We have accomplished this by scrupulously following our Village Code and remaining objective concerning the merits of each project no matter who the applicant might be. We are proud to state that the Tuxedo Park Board of Architectural Review has become a model for other historical communities, and has regained respect in the architecture industry. For the first time n a very long while, prestigious awardwinning architects and architectural firms are now attracted to working in Tuxedo Park and going through the BAR process. This has become a source of pride to us, our residents, and Village.

Recent developments in our Village have changed all that, and there is no secret that they began with the Mayor’s vehement opposition to a project initiated by her direct neighbor that had been approved by the BAR two years prior with no public objection at the time. Appreciation and gratitude for our long hours of volunteer service was replaced with disrespect, contempt, threats, and recrimination. Enforcement of Code violations has become selective. In perhaps the most blatant reflection of the current administration’s attitude, the renovation of the Keep and the rebuilding proposals of the Gatehouse –the most significant and recognizable structures in Tuxedo Park– have proceeded without any consultation, formal or informal, from the Board of Architectural Review. This is an incomprehensible lapse given the BAR members’ wealth of knowledge and experience in architectural preservation, restoration, construction, and costs. The Mayor has publicly stated to her Board and to the community in Board of Trustee meetings that she was working with a single BAR member on this matter – a claim that is blatantly false. After a significant public outcry and efforts by Trustee McHugh and McFadden, the gatehouse is now coming before the BAR. Still the Mayor continues to this day to spread serious falsehoods about BAR members, hoping to discredit them by casting aspersions on their character, integrity, and ethics.

After much consideration and deliberation, we can no longer continue to contribute our services as part of a Village government that has become profoundly undemocratic in its structure, secretive in its deliberations, and vindictive to many of its constituents. We are also concerned for the future viability of the BAR, not only due to its diminished expertise, but as it will now be led by a lawyer who is also a licensed real estate broker in Orange County and is married to our Village’s Acting Justice (who would need to rule on challenges to and enforcement of BAR decisions): both present serious conflict-of-interest concerns.

With considerable regret, we hereby tender our resignations. It is a painful decision that we do not take lightly as our many years of residency and volunteer service have demonstrated our love, passion, and devotion to the Village of Tuxedo Park. We apologize to the community and to any applicants whose projects may be delayed by our resignations and who will not benefit from our professional expertise.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert B. Simon
Resident, Tuxedo Park, since 1983
Member, Planning Board/Board of Architectural Review, 1987-1990
Member, Board of Architectural Review, 2006-2016
Deputy Chair, Board of Architectural Review 2008-2016

Paola J. Tocci
Resident, Tuxedo Park, since 1985
Consultant, Planning Board/Board of Architectural Review, 1993-1994
Member, Board of Architectural Review, 2006-2016
Deputy Chair, Board of Architectural Review, 2007-2008
Chair, Board of Architectural Review, 2008-2016


Subject: BAR appointment results

Dear Paola,

Thank you so much for your time as BAR Chair. Also, would like to thank Robert Simon for his time as Deputy Chair.

BAR appointments:

Sheila Tralins BAR new member and also BAR Chair.

Julia Simet Deputy Chair.

Regards,
Mary Jo

Mary Jo Guinchard
Mayor, Village of Tuxedo Park
(o) 845-351-4745, ext. 5
(c) 713-501-9960
mayormaryjo@gmail.com
Village of Tuxedo Park Office
P. O. Box 31
80 Lorillard Road
Tuxedo Park‎ NY‎ 10987

Tuxedo Park Garden Club letter regarding new parking lot at the Keep
Posted: October 18, 2016

TO:         The Board of Trustees of Tuxedo Park
                The Board of Architectural Review of Tuxedo Park
CC:          The Vestry of St. Mary’s in Tuxedo
FR:           The Tuxedo Park Garden Club
RE:           Proposal to construct a Parking Lot Adjacent to The Keep

There is a plan currently under consideration by the Board of Trustees that has come to our attention. We understand the plan would create a parking lot on a portion of the beautiful grassy area just inside the main entrance to Tuxedo Park, for police cars and for easier access to the back door of The Keep jail. The majority of The Tuxedo Park Garden Club members do not endorse this plan for a variety of reasons, the most important of which are:

  • In addition to compromising and detracting from the unique and historic architecture at the entrance to the Village, a parking lot filled with cars behind The Keep would permanently mar a cherished bucolic view which is a delight for the community -- for its sweep of green lawn, then punctuated by these historic buildings, and finally, rising above all, the mountain in the distance. Please refer to the attached picture of the exceptional view we currently enjoy.
  • A parking lot would certainly compromise not only the existing visual beauty but also, as it would require salt and plowing, the health of the surrounding grass and the magnificent and valuable specimen Weeping Beech tree, planted next to The Keep as a memorial to Cordelia Wheeler by her husband, Edwin and her family. Mrs. Wheeler was an upstanding member of the community and a devoted and active member of the Garden Club. 
  • Further, located directly across the street, a parking lot filled with cars would deflect attention from the Centennial Wall which the Garden Club and, indeed, the community at large have maintained at considerable expense since its creation in 1986 in commemoration of Tuxedo Park 100 years.
  • Police cars parked outside the entrance have, for years, served as a warning to most potential intruders.
  • A parking lot with police cars at the ready would certainly increase the likelihood of an accident due to its close proximity to the actual entrance.

The Tuxedo Park Garden Club has a fifty plus year history of serving our community and represents a sizeable percentage of Tuxedo Park residents.  This letter reflects a unanimous opinion among our executive committee and the vast majority of our members.

We hope that this letter will persuade the Board of Trustees and the Board of Architectural Review to take a fresh look at this situation and come up with an alternative solution.   Please consider re-examining the issues driving the decision to move the parking lot in the first place.
We applaud the efforts a few months ago to get input from the community via a survey and public comment sessions regarding the rebuilding of the front gate guard house. Please handle this situation for moving the parking lot with the same due diligence and community input as you did for the front entrance gate house.
Respectfully,

The Tuxedo Park Garden Club Officers and Executive Committee:

Jean Marie Thompson – President
Paula Sink – Vice President
Laura Garbett – Treasurer
Lili Neuhauser, Sandy Taylor - Co-Recording Secretaries
Susanne K. Williams – Corresponding Secretary
Stephen Brodheim – Chair Community Projects
Daphne Whelahan – Chair Programs
Dolores Marchand – Chair Conservation & Horticulture
Sara Cassis – Chair Special Projects

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One Architect’s Opinion - A Letter To The Editor
Posted: October 13, 2016

Dear Mrs. Vaught, Mr. Dupont, and Tuxedo Park Trustees:

        I recently learned of the departure of two distinguished members of the BAR,
Paolo Tocci and Robert Simon. I would like to express my appreciation for their service.  I also wish to acknowledge and commend the BAR for its extremely capable stewardship under their guidance. The task of serving on the BAR was, and is, formidable.

     Having had the good fortune of appearing professionally before the BAR over the past 20 years, I have witnessed a lot. Post 2007, the climate of construction certainly changed.  As always, each project requires particular care and a wide scope of understanding. The BAR responded extremely judiciously post 2007, making sure projects moved through the process in a timely fashion, while holding high standards of design. The practical side of construction was understood. There also was a sensitivity to the pressures experienced by clients in the process. This requires unusual skill. To objectively judge others, who are undertaking extremely important endeavors that have a personal impact to their lives, is no easy task. To do so, as a volunteer, while living in such a small community, is absolutely daunting. In my professional opinion, they did it extremely well.

     I did have the great fortune of serving as Mr. Simon’s architect. While I certainly have some bias in my appreciation of him, I can state sincerely that he always held his objectivity, sensitivity, and fairness in his service on the board during my presence.

     While change is inevitable for Boards with such a high profile, the transition in losing these two outstanding members will undoubtedly be a challenge.  I urge the trustees to seek ways of tapping into their talents, in whatever way possible. The interests of the Park are too great to miss out on their contributions.

Sincerely yours,

Peter Cooper, Architect and Landscape Architect

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