GROMACK SHARES “PITY” WITH CLARKSTOWN TAXPAYERS

Another colorful evening with the Clarkstown Town Board

BY MARIA BROWNSELL

New City Rams Pee Wee Cheerleaders - Empire State Champions!
New City Rams Pee Wee Cheerleaders – Empire State Champions!

At the board meeting for the Town of Clarkstown on Tuesday, March 4, members of the group formerly known as the “Clarkstown Taxpayers,” lined up and launched venom at board members. This time they hit pay-dirt, visibly upsetting several town officials, and prompting Supervisor Alex Gromack to announce his “pity.”

Tom Nimick opened the most heated portion of comments, tearing into Councilwoman Shirley Lasker in his statement. He talked about how things used to be when she first began serving on the board, following the Palisades Mall battles of the late 1990s, and how things are now. Taxpayers never realized a reduction in taxes following the construction of the mall and Lasker had joined the board fighting the powers that be, only to become one of them.

“What you have become and the road you are on is a tragedy – you are not trusted any more – and you have my pity,” said Nimick.

To Nimick, Lasker responded, “I am proud of my years as a public servant. I’ve done a lot to change things for the town. My heart and my soul is making sure the town is doing well. I’m constantly thinking of ways to help the town.”

Town Clerk Justin Sweet chimed in, “I have known her for many years and I am proud of all she has done. I found your comments personally hurtful.”

“I pity you, Mr. Nimick,” wailed Supervisor Gromack. “You bring your mean-spirited dialogue every 30 days. We have the highest ethical standards. It’s been an honor to servie with these individuals.”

Fireworks aside, the main business of the night was the fate of different properties. The first had to do with a decision of eminent domain and the second about senior housing. There was a packed house ready to hear and participate in the public hearings that were announced.

The first public hearing was: Acquisition by Condemnation of a Portion of Property known as Tax Map 64.08-3-30 (West Nyack Downtown Revitalization Project). The property being discussed is the rear section of land at 23 Sickletown Road in West Nyack. There have been numerous conversations with the homeowner, but there has yet to be an agreement over selling the piece of land to the town. The property is 3.74 acres and has a single family residence on the front end of it. The town wants the back 2.63 acres that is deemed to be in a marsh wetland and use it to resolve drainage problems and storm water management related to the West Nyack Revitalization Project. If there is no agreement, the town will file to acquire the land by eminent domain.

George Desmarais of H2M was there to speak on behalf of the town. He explained that there are many streams on the property, two of which have easements on them. The point of the project would be to minimize flooding, especially on West Nyack Road, which had major flooding near the post office during Hurricane Sandy. The town has looked into alternative sites, said Desmarais, but the other sites did not fit the criteria.

“I’m very reluctant to the use of eminent domain,” said Stephen Levine of Congers. “But I am aware of the flooding of West Nyack Road. I just hope that the town and property owner can come to an agreement.”

The public hearing will be continued on April 18.

The second public hearing was about: Proposed Local Law entitled “A Local Law Amending Chapter 290 (Zoning) of the Local Laws of the Town of Clarkstown with Respect to Senior Citizen Housing, Senior Citizen Congregate Housing and Assisted Care Living Quarters.” This topic sparked the interest of many and brought in numerous faces to hear what would happen.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to tackle is affordable senior housing in Clarkstown,” Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner said. She spoke of the affordability requirement and about expanding the building to allow for-profit developers. Another change to the senior housing would be to include two bedroom units. Many seniors want their own space from their husband or wife, she said.

Town Attorney Amy Mele added that the floor area ratios will be increased from .25 to .50. Also originally only 10 percent of the units were allowed to have two bedrooms, and now up to fifty percent of the units could have two bedrooms.

Jose Simoes, the planning director, explained that these changes would help to give options to seniors in to downgrade their large homes but stay in Clarkstown where their family and friends are.

With the talk of senior housing, a concern of many is the recent discussion of the possibility of the town selling Middlewood Senior Citizen Park, which is a 107-unit affordable senior housing complex that the town has owned since the 70s.

“With the town selling Middlewood, will there be a stipulation to keep them low income for seniors?” asked Richard Sena of Bardonia.

“There are no decisions to sell Middlewood,” said Mele. “There are legal declarations made to keep things the way they are. We are not going to do anything to jeopardize the way you live or the programs you operate under.”

The public hearing was closed and adopted. All resolutions were accepted.

During the public comments, Michael Hull asked Councilwoman Lasker about the town deficit and its relation to the selling of Middlewood Senior Citizen Park. The board didn’t offer any response to his question.

Stephen Levine asked about the consolidation of the Receiver of Taxes position. Supervisor Alexander Gromack mentioned $500,000 estimated savings per year with the consolidation. Town Clerk Sweet also explained the same.

Pat Gotfried asked Hausner about her comment that friends her age cannot afford to live in Clarkstown and what has she done about it. He also addressed Councilman George Hoehmann.

“You said, we can do better. What are you doing about it?” said Gotfried. “It’s infuriating. You are the worst out of all the boards in the nation. You are in the top 10 of the worst.”

Lasker responded to Hull that the town is in great fiscal shape.

“You don’t like the answers you have been given many times,” said Lasker.

And in lighter news, the New City Rams Pee Wee Cheerleaders were given recognition for their achievement as Empire State champions!