COMMUNITY VIEW: Singin’ the Gromack Blues

COMMUNITY VIEW: Singin’ the Gromack Blues

Amy Durbin
Vice president, Clarkstown Taxpayers

At the Clarkstown Town Board Meeting on June 4, 2013, I had to walk out before the frustration I felt made my head explode. While cooling off outside, I met a woman who was walking out of the building shaking her head. She said that this was her third Town Board Meeting and the Town Board gets more idiotic every time she goes. I realized at that moment that this is the strategy — to get us so fed up that we stop coming.

I became a member of the Clarkstown Taxpayers in 2009 and have rarely missed a Town Board meeting or Town Board Workshop since then. It was soon after that Alex Gromack hired Keith Cornell. We wrote an article bashing him for political patronage. I don’t have to tell you that not much has changed since then.

We soon realized that this is a one party town full of politicians with two faces. While walking through New City two years ago on a Saturday, I came across a rally to kick off Thom Kleiner’s campaign against Scott Vanderhoef. Alex Gromack was there making a speech about how Thom Kleiner was going to win and he was the best man for the job and blah, blah, blah. The following week I received a postcard from Alex Gromack telling me to vote for Scott Vanderhoff because whenever he asked Vanderhoef for anything for Clarkstown, he was always there and ready to help. Which is it Alex?

The Clarkstown Taxpayers spent six weeks collecting 3,500 signatures for 8-year term limits. Gromack said that the people of Clarkstown would sign anything put in front of their faces. While speaking to a lot of those 3,500 people, we heard everything from “We don’t have term limits?” to “Why can’t this be retroactive?” to “Can’t we just shoot them?” The Town Board proceeded to vote down a public hearing on the matter so Alex wouldn’t have to face those faces.

Gromack bonded $5 million for the continuation of the boardwalk in Congers and tells me that he spoke to the people of Congers and they like the boardwalk. It is possible that these are different faces, however, it could be in how you ask the question. When walking the boardwalk, you can say, “Isn’t this nice?” and people, walking with you, will probably say yes. If you say, “Would you rather have this boardwalk or your roads paved or your taxes lowered?” I am sure he would meet the faces I have met.

It was reported in the newspaper that Gromack said that we are a small group of people regularly attending Town Board meetings and do not represent a majority of citizens and practice “politics as usual.” At the June 4, 2013 Town Board meeting, there was a public hearing on senior housing. Several legitimate questions and issues were brought up and a request was made to table the resolution until the next Town Board meeting.

Alex said there was public discussion on this matter at Planning Board meetings and we should have attended those. There is no doubt in my mind that had we attended those Planning Board meetings, we would have been called a small group of people regularly attending Planning Board meetings and do not represent a majority of citizens and practice “politics as usual.”

Alex always says that he welcomes your input. However, after we started to ask questions, they cut the public comments to three minutes. While sometimes they answer your questions, there is no opportunity to follow up or ask questions regarding their answers, if any. At the June 4 meeting, a question was asked of Amy Mele, the town attorney. Gromack would not let her answer that question and quickly adjourned the meeting. Although, I must confess that they do read two or three complimentary letters into the record before the meeting starts — I guess this the only input Gromack welcomes.

Before the Town Board Meeting on June 4, 2013, there was a Bardonia Civic Association meeting and on the agenda was the CVS that Mr. Bergstol wants to build on the corner of Route 304 and Bardonia Road. After much discussion and public outcry about health issues, safety issues, traffic issues, lighting issues, and about the CVS being an eyesore, Councilwoman Lasker got up and essentially said that this is Mr. Bergstol’s property and he can do what he wants. At the Town Board Meeting, there was an item allowing the Town to clean up what it determines as eyesores on approximately 30 private properties. They have even raised the fines for not maintaining your property to their standards. In essence, private citizens do not have the right to do what they want on their property. I don’t think it has anything to do with Mr. Bergstol being a very large contributor to Gromack’s campaign, do you?

At a previous Town Board meeting, Ed Lettre made a presentation to repair and renovate the four Community Centers in Clarkstown at a cost of approximately $600,000. This met with some serious questioning by Councilman Borelli who inquired as to what exactly this exorbitant amount of money would cover. Ed Lettre was to investigate and report back to the board. I do not recall any further discussion regarding these expenditures at any subsequent Town Board meeting. However, at the June 4, 2013 Town Board meeting, not only was the town authorizing $2.8 million to repair and renovate the four Community Centers, but apparently had already bid out the jobs and at this same meeting, unanimously voted to accept the bids and bond the $2.8 million.

Marsha Coopersmith used to be the head of the Independence Party. She also used to be in the Town Attorney’s office purportedly handling the tax certiorari cases. Once she was no longer head of the Independence Party, the Town Board chose not to renew her contract. I know, I was shocked too. They then hired Joseph J. Savino to handle the tax certiorari cases. They said they hired someone outside of the Town Attorney’s office to save money. Mr. Savino was arrested and before he could say “not guilty,” he was unceremoniously discharged.

At the June 4 Town Board meeting, they again saved us money when they brought it back to the Town Attorney’s office. Interestingly, however, they voted to give two attorneys in the Town Attorney’s Office who are already working full time, more money to handle this extra job while still working the same full time. One of these attorneys is Keith Cornell. We have now come full circle.

I did not get her name, but I would like to thank that woman for renewing my resolve. I walked back into Town Hall and listened to the same small group of people desperately trying to make a difference.