By law, the County must pass a balanced budget each year. Last fall, County Executive Astorino and a bi-partisan majority of the County Board of Legislators approved a balanced budget for 2017 that accomplished a number of things.

It held spending to $1.8 billion, the same amount as the County Executive’s first budget seven years ago, and it continued a seven-year run of either lowering or holding the county tax levy flat. Consequently, $400 million has stayed in the pockets of seniors, young families, and small businesses when you compare County Executive Astorino’s seven budgets to annual increases of just 2 percent, the amount allowable under the state’s cap.

It’s also critical to note that the spending and tax savings were achieved <without> drawing money from the county’s reserves. According to audited figures, the reserves, commonly called the “rainy day” fund, were $164.5 million on the day County Executive Astorino came into office and were $164.7 million at the end of 2015. A similar figure is expected next month when the auditors close the books for 2016.

For those who say tax hikes amount to just pennies a day, those pennies add up quickly. In his last four years in office, former County Executive Andrew Spano depleted the rainy day reserve fund by $25 million and increased taxes by $175 million. Compare that to the Astorino record and you have a $600 million swing in what taxpayers had to pay and what they could keep.

One way that County Executive Astorino is making Westchester more affordable is by unlocking the hidden value of County assets. A key example is the Westchester County Airport.

By taking advantage of a Federal Aviation Administration program, Westchester can tap surplus revenues generated at the airport, which until now have had to stay at the airport. Under the proposed public-private partnership, net proceeds from the airport into the County’s general fund are expected to be at least $140 million – money that for the first time can be used to pay for police, parks, roads, day care and other services.

The public should also know the character of the airport is not changing. The county will continue to own the property. Yes, an outside company will manage the airport, but that has been the case since the end of World War II. The number of gates will remain at four and current passenger caps will also remain in effect.

Westchester’s great quality of life means nothing if people can’t afford to live here. The Astorino record shows a commitment to affordability by holding the line on taxes and spending and smartly positioning Westchester for the future.

  • Ned McCormack

<Mr. McCormack is Westchester’s Director of Communications and Senior Advisor to the County Executive.>

Thank you for your continuing coverage of the Crown Castle/Verizon mini-cell tower invasion.

Although the Rye City Council voted on April 22 to deny the Crown Castle (a Verizon contractor) request to place an additional 64 towers on residential property, the struggle against this threat to Rye’s essential residential character is far from over. An environmental proceeding of unknown direction is now beginning. Crown Castle may sue.

The citizens involved in Protect Residential Rye Association, a 501(c)(3) organization, are encouraged by the Council’s move, after ten months of continued debate about the appropriateness and legality of installing these 64 cell towers in front of residents’ homes.  

Since June 2016, more than a hundred citizens have spoken at City Council meetings to oppose the Council’s granting Crown Castle/Verizon permission to install these nodes on residential property. Not a SINGLE Rye resident has stood up in favor of Crown Castle/Verizon’s expansion plans.  

Throughout the process, citizens acting through Protect Residential Rye independently have sought to protect the integrity of Rye as a sought-after residential community. We have invested our own money and raised money to hire legal counsel and technical experts to recommend alternatives to the Crown Castle/Verizon plan. Our efforts have been met by lack of engagement from Crown Castle/Verizon and no attempt to find alternatives to placing 64 additional towers in front of our homes.  

What is essential for all of Rye to consider is that, if the Crown Castle/Verizon plan is eventually approved, Rye may be powerless to control how many other cell facilities are placed on utility poles on residential land. It is possible and likely that three to four other carriers will also claim the right to place their equipment, antennas, and whirring fans on utility poles outside your home.  

Hence, this issue affects all of Rye, not only those citizens with the first 64 polls by their houses. We urge all Rye residents to remain engaged by doing the following:

  1. Make tax-deductible contributions to Protect Residential Rye by sending your check to PRRA, PO Box 234, Rye, NY 10580. Without continued contributions, PRRA will be unable to continue to pay legal counsel and technical help to continue to see this through.
  1. If you haven’t signed the petition opposing the Crown Castle/Verizon plan, add your name to it here, www.i
  2. Share your views with City Council members directly.

By opening the door to Crown Castle/Verizon, we may lose our ability to control how our city looks with damaging effects on our beautiful town, our enjoyment of it, our property values, and the legacy we leave for our children. 

Please join PRRA to ensure we are able to achieve a solution that benefits Rye, not just mobile phone carriers and tower construction companies.    

— Ariel Eckstein

Thanks to the Internet, facts can spread faster than a stomach bug in a kindergarten classroom. The only problem is that many of those “facts” turn out not to be true.

Somehow we’ve moved from the Information Age into the Era of Fake News. How dangerous is it to live in this era? Consider that fake news led a gunman to go into a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. in search of a child sex ring that he believed had been started by Hillary Clinton. Consider that fake news has led thousands of parents to leave their children dangerously unvaccinated against diseases that were once nearly eradicated.

How did we get here? The Founding Fathers of this country knew that democracy could not exist without the right of the press to question our leaders, to look deeper into their statements, and to do so without fear of reprisal from elected officials. But they couldn’t have imagined the Internet.

Information is moving very rapidly these days. How do you know what news sources to trust? How do we avoid getting into a news bubble that keeps us from fully understanding what’s going on in the country?

These are serious questions that we are — or should be — asking one another and ourselves. Luckily, there are journalists living in our community who can help us sort out these issues. I invite you to join a panel of distinguished media professionals and me Wednesday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Community Synagogue in Rye to talk about Fake News, The First Amendment, and Democracy. This free event is sponsored by We Persist; registration is required at

It will be an evening for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, to come together and understand the new media landscape and its implications for all of us.

— Andi Hessekiel

<The following letter was addressed to the city council and forwarded to us by the author for publication.>

Along with dozens, likely hundreds, or perhaps thousands of our fellow citizens, I was alarmed by the published reports concerning the recent request by the Commission on Human Rights to the Council to issue a resolution designating Rye a sanctuary city.

This measure would, inter alia, invent a new prohibited status in the Rye City Code, violate provisions of the United States Code, possibly jeopardize the safety of our fellow citizens by unlawfully refusing to inform ICE of the City’s criminal arrest of a fugitive, and ignore the recent DOJ position barring funding from the DOJ (and possible clawbacks).

You are aware of the DOJ funding to Rye last fall for 18 bullet-proof vests, and assumedly for the FBI presence and otherwise the community is not at present aware. The funding bar and clawbacks could quite properly later extend to fire, police, schools, and transportation. Moreover, if this action is taken, the Council will also quite properly subject the City to an Article 78 proceeding for, inter alia, violation of laws and the Council’s duty to follow them.

This matter was not on the agenda for this week’s Council meeting. I do not know whether it has been scheduled for May 3, or if in fact this appalling initiative has been or will be withdrawn.

If this measure is scheduled at some future point, I would appreciate notice thereof, and request a brief period to speak in opposition.

Thank you for all you do for our City.

Jerome Coleman

Vote Yes on May 16

As a near empty nester, I write to support a “Yes” vote for the Rye City School District budget on Tuesday, May 16. With our youngest child graduating this year, I can say that we feel lucky to have found Rye and we love it here. As young families pour into Rye, I feel confident they too will love it here Rye is a truly great community.

Yes, we were drawn as many are to Rye because of its powerhouse schools. Rye City Schools have an outstanding reputation nationwide and internationally.  

Beyond school rankings though, Rye offers so much more — wonderful people, incredible school spirit, and, perhaps most importantly, a strong community that values education. Rye residents support their schools. When there is a need, the community responds. Participation in school and community volunteerism is what makes Rye so special.  

Navigating a history of state-imposed fiscal mandates, the District has proposed a tax cap-compliant budget that maintains the excellence of our schools. The proposed budget reflects intelligent decision-making, balancing fiscal responsibility and educational priorities.

We can all be proud that Rye has passed its budgets by a 70% margin the last five years. Clearly, Rye residents support education and this has strengthened our community and our property values.

For this, and especially for educating my beloved children, I owe a big thank-you. It will soon be time to come out again to support our schools. On May 16, I hope Rye’s new families and old will join me in voting “Yes” on the school budget.

Mary Emery

Do you pay your mortgage with your credit card? Do you sell a piece of jewelry to cover expenses at the end of the month? Of course not. But you know who does? Westchester County under the leadership of Rob Astorino. Rob Astorino has “branded” himself as a “no tax increase” County Executive. And that is true — he has not raised taxes. But instead of raising taxes he has used the County’s credit and is “privatizing” assets to cover the budget shortfall. That is fiscal mismanagement in my book. Here are some facts: The budget shortfall in Westchester County for 2017 was $15,000,000. A modest increase in taxes could have made up the difference. As an example a homeowner with a $20,000 property tax would pay roughly $150 a year. So for 50 cents a day, we could have no budget issues. I would sign up for that in a heartbeat. Instead, Westchester County has borrowed $15,000,000 from reserves to offset operating expenses with the expectation that Oak Tree Equities will pay it back when they take over the airport. If the deal doesn’t happen (and there are lots of questions about it), guess who pays that money back? You and me! So if you think you are avoiding taxes, guess what? You are getting a balloon mortgage coming back to bite you, with interest. This is a shell game. He’s passing the buck to the next guy. Rob Astorino wants to privatize the airport and give up control so he can continue saying that he didn’t raise your taxes. The first step in this process should have been to see if the county could have better monetized the airport. If that analysis failed to produce the desired results, then he should have created an open process to get the best deal. Instead, he suggested that we accept a deal with Oak Tree Equities without any other bidders in a completely closed process. Can you imagine a business approaching a deal of that importance and magnitude without getting multiple proposals? The County Executive has set a ridiculously fast time line to make the airport decision; faster than any timeline the FAA has ever approved. Importantly for the County Executive, the process would culminate right before his reelection. 8 Here’s the net of this. As we saw with the attempted Affordable Care Act repeal, without replacement in Washington, Republicans are great on rhetoric, bad on policy. Astorino has his own political advancement as his motivation. I have zero confidence that he has my or Westchester County’s best interests at heart in this deal or managing this county. — Mona Klein Klapper, Rye Brook