First we heard from the , now it's onto our northern village for a long chat with Sleepy Hollow Independent Party candidates Dan Scott (below referred to as DS), Sean Roach (SR), and David Bedell (BD).
The first batch of questions was posed to all Sleepy Hollow candidates from Adrian Berezowsky.
1. What made you decide to run this year and when did you make this decision?
DS: I ran for Mayor last year, and with only about six weeks of campaigning won nearly 40% of the vote. I think that was a strong showing, and many people said to me it would have helped if they knew who I was already or if I maybe served as Trustee first. I think the response last year was overwhelmingly positive, and I have been more or less committed to running again ever since. I have continued to stay involved by showing up at Board meetings, asking the tough questions and making thoughtful recommendations, as well as writing articles periodically on Village issues. My goal is to bring positive, proactive leadership to our community, to have the opportunity to serve our great community and to give others who are interested the opportunity to get more involved.
SR: I've been thinking about running for a while. Local governance has always been of interest to me. I began really digging into it late last year and talked to a few of the folks on the current board about running with the Democrats. Ultimately, I felt it was best to run independently and chose to do that in early December 2011.
DB: The idea of running for Trustee first occurred to me in 2007, as I watched the Board working on General Motors, and has remained with me since. My interest in public service has grown during my time as Village environmental council chair, and the particular set of challenges facing the community this year motivated me to run.
2. What changes do you feel need to be made to the board and what do you think has been done well and does not need changing (and why)?
DS: I think there needs to be more open discussions and more public debate among the Board members on the issues and decisions being made. Too often a decision is made and the Village is not made aware of the decision (or the reason behind it) until after the fact, as was the case with the elimination of the after-school program. I believe in informing and educating the public on all issues and decisions.
In addition, our government is a process through which our laws and policies are made and enforced -- it is not the process through which you implement your own personal agenda or the agenda of a political party. I do not believe personal or political party agendas should have any role in our government. I think it would be good for our Village if the Board of Trustees were not comprised of members of the same political party, who act together and agree on most (if not all) issues. The Board should consist of intelligent, independent minds working together to find the best solutions and make the best decisions for our Village as a whole.
Finally, I believe in a truly open and transparent government that allows residents to have an active voice in the government and provides opportunities for residents to participate and help in solving problems. In order to do so, I would propose allowing more resident committees to be formed around specific issues facing our Village (e.g., Youth Outreach, Hispanic Relations, Tourism, Halloween and Celebrations, Downtown Revitalization, just to name a few). Working together as a community will bring strength and unity to our Village, and will yield greater results.
SR: A more open and inclusive approach to our government is needed. We need to overhaul our committee structures to encourage more citizen participation and we need to actively recuit residents from places like Kendal on Hudson and the inner village to work with the government to reduce costs, and tackle problems like our budget and a Master Plan. We also need to work more with Tarrytown instead of bickering with them from behind the dias - let's set up quarterly meetings to discuss issues and capital purchases. I think the current board has done a good job of stabilizing the village and keeping taxes low, but all the big purchases and decisions about the direction of Sleepy Hollow will be coming up in the next year or two as our infrastructure continues to fall apart and we have major waterfront developments that could make or break this town.
DB: The current Board has done a good job keeping tax increases to a relative minimum. I have a strong interest in parks, so the new playgrounds at DeVries and Douglas are very welcome. I enjoyed helping Trustee Wompa and the Downtown Revitalization Corporation at Morse Park -- an ugly, neglected parking lot was turned into an amenity for the school and for the families of the Village.
The Board does need a greater variety of voices. This doesn’t mean opposition for the sake of opposition, but rather having a perspective that complements the skills and interests of the other trustees. During my time serving as EAC chair I have contributed strongly to various issues in unique ways -- on parks, playgrounds, tree policy, riverfront development, environmental issues and others. There are issues in every neighborhood that need new energy if progress is going to be made.
3. Where is your favorite place in Sleepy Hollow to "relax" and why? More than one place is perfectly acceptable.
DS: If we are with the kids, we like to walk over to Kingsland Point Park. It is such a beautiful park, and Jake and Ben can run around and be silly, or throw a ball. There is also the dog park, which my two dogs -- Penny and Romeo -- love. When my wife and I get to go out alone, we really like going to either the or . Both have great food and drinks, as well as a friendly crowd.
SR: If I am going to relax, I'll run or wander on the Aqueduct trail. I also like cycling around town, it's a great place to bike.
DB: Without a doubt, my favorite places to relax are the new playgrounds. Lately we’ve spent a lot of time at DeVries. My kids have a great time and we always meet friends.
Finally, we got one great question for all the candidates in Sleepy Hollow from Joyce Byrne:
What are your specific ideas for cleaning up/revitalizing Beekman Avenue?
DS: First, I would like to see a committee consisting of Village residents and business owners formed to focus on cleaning up/revitalizing the downtown. I think we need to look to see what other municipalities have successfully done with regard to "quality of life" laws, in order to crack down on the garbage build-up, loitering and buildings falling into disrepair. In addition, I would like to see a comprehensive Village Master Plan put in place to ensure a diverse mix of quality stores, services and restaurants. That Master Plan can also provide for signage and beautification requirements, to ensure a standard that we are all proud of is maintained. Those standards of course, should come from the input of residents and business owners, and should involve the Architectural Review Board, so that the look, feel and character of our historic Village is maintained. We also need to find a solution to our parking problem. Finally, I think the Board and Mayor should take a more proactive role in bringing in new businesses to the area. There is great potential in our downtown, and letting the world know about the opportunities here is good leadership.
SR: Hey Joyce. Thanks for the question. To start, I don't feel we should view downtown reviatlization as one street. Beekman is one of many streets in our downtown area that really need a lot of work. There is a way to do it, but it will take a few steps to get there.
One, we need to reach out to the downtown population and get them involved in caring for the streets and appearance of our inner village. That needs to be done through communication to the population in English and Spanish and setting up a Hispanic outreach committee that focuses on relaying government messages to Spanish-speaking residents. This is also imperative from a safety viewpoint. The government having the ability to relay messages to half of its population is important.
Then we need to set up neighborhood/street task forces and something like Tarrytown's beautification foundation, so we have residents picking up trash, planting flowers, and caring for tree wells and the general upkeep of their neighborhood.
I would like to work with our village court system to dole out more community service instead of fines. I want to see people working off their debt to society by making our village a better, cleaner place. There are other ways to tackle this issue, but they would warrant further study and a public participation process. Ideas like banning smoking in public places and increasing fines for littering.
The Village can also work with business owners, property owners and residents to tackle issues like parking. We have a few empty lots that can accommodate parking. We can form public/private partnerships to convert these empty lots into solutions. We should look at how the government can help facilitate transitioning those spaces into parking that can help local businesses and property owners. No one wins with empty spaces. We also need to look at other parking solutions, such as the creation of diagonal parking and perhaps even bike lanes on some of our wider streets to encourage non-motorized transit. Also, the government for the last couple years has put together a trolley service during Halloween shuttling people from the Tarrytown train station to sites in the Village, maybe we can work with Tarrytown and Historic Hudson Valley to make this a more permanent service on the weekends.
Next, we really need to work on branding Sleepy Hollow better. There has been talk of a rivertowns tourism consortium, and Sleepy Hollow would be the primary benefactor of that effort. We have all the sites, trails and history that tourists would want. If we create more of a destination, this can help us get out of this laudromat, bodega cycle we are stuck in as more feet on the ground and outside vistors will create the demand for more diverse businesses.
These are just first steps, the biggest issue would be a master plan for the downtown area, something that would preserve and protect our architectural and historic character, while guiding smart building, growth and business development over the next 25 years. We used to have a Master Plan, but it's irrelevant now as it was done in the 70s I believe, and to the point I can't even find a copy of it any more.
These are some of the things I want to do, and feel our government should be doing. Downtown revitalization is an issue we need to tackle now, not when GM gets going. I would also like to say this needs to be an open process, and one of the important aspects of getting revitalization right is listening to everyone about what we should be doing. So those are my ideas, and I would like to know what are yours?
DB: As chair of the Village environmental council, I have co-sponsored downtown cleanup events for the past two years, working with the Tarrytown EAC, Patch.com, the Girl Scouts, and other groups. Here are some steps to take to help clean up the streets:
(1) There should be enough trash and recycling receptacles downtown. Currently there are whole blocks on Cortlandt and Beekman with no trash cans or too few trash cans, and there are no recycling receptacles anywhere yet. Cigarette urns should also be considered, as cigarette butts are a major problem. These are the most basic steps the Village can and should take.
(2) The two events per year the EAC sponsors aren't enough to solve the problem. Stores, churches, and other groups downtown should be able to adopt blocks -- meaning the sidewalk, gutter, and street tree pits -- promising to do weekly cleaning. Signs should be posted so these groups get credit for their work. Local residents are the ones who will make a lasting difference.
(3) There should be a general public awareness campaign in English and Spanish -- something like "One Piece Per Day", asking people to pick up a piece of trash, even if it's not theirs, per day. This applies strong peer pressure on those who litter.
(4) Strong enforcement of applicable laws against littering, perhaps involving police on foot patrol from time to time.
One would hope that this combination of steps, or similar ones, would make a difference.
Thank you to our readers who asked great questions, and to the candidates for taking the time to answer so thoroughly. Stay tuned for another edition this week from the women of Sleepy Hollow, and, finally, the three Republican challengers of Tarrytown.