Mayor Cohn on the
First Six Months
By Robin Jovanovich
Before the community was otherwise distracted by the promise of summer, the City Council held a special and very informative meeting June 20.
Mayor Josh Cohn scheduled the meeting because he felt it was time to update the public on the many things the Council has been working on and considering.
“We’ve met nearly every week, determined to get City business done, since coming into office in January,” he began. “We’ve held office hours twice weekly.”
A lot of the Council’s time has been occupied with discussion of infrastructure and finances. Regarding the former, “The road is too potholed for us to kick the can [on road improvement]. We’re under state directive to update our courthouse. Many of the sewer pipes are approaching 100. The Save the Sound lawsuits facing the City may require $1,000,000 in repairs.”
How will the City pay for those projects, and more? Which projects need to be started now? Do they borrow for all?
Reminding listeners that the City only receives 15 percent of property tax revenues — 60 percent goes to the School District and 25 to the County —, and the majority of that amount goes to fund salaries and benefits for current City staff and retiree benefits, which are rising, the Mayor laid out the economic facts. “The tax cap is 2 percent, inflation is 2.8 percent, and the unions are asking for annual increases greater than 2 percent. “This is the financial pickle in which the City steeps.”
To help us work our way out of the brine, the Council resuscitated the Finance Committee, to assist them in making revenue and spending decisions,
Meanwhile, the Mayor brought us up to date on a number of projects and concerns.
The DOT Last Mile project, which will have “significant impact on the north end of Rye.” He and City staff are working to ensure some relief in the traffic interruption.
The City has budgeted $1 million this year for road repair, “which has been neglected too long.”
Enlargement of the DPW’s salt shed can no longer be deferred, and the entire garbage fleet needs replacement.
With gas main improvements occurring all over town this summer, the City is trying to negotiate a schedule with Con Ed in order to inform residents in advance.
“Our Boat Basin is threatened by silting, and it’s unclear how the Enterprise Fund will raise the money.”
The City is working with the Governor’s Office to make sure it uses the $3 million in NY Rising funds awarded well.
Discussion continues on the addition of sidewalks on parts of Forest Avenue. With no opposition and plenty of support from affected residents, the City will seek grant funding in the near future.
While recognizing that our sports fields suffer from overuse, the Mayor explained that the City doesn’t have the funds needed right now to invest in them. “Perhaps privately donated funds will become available.”
Regarding the continuing concerns for our community, the Mayor reported that the Crown Castle litigation in State Court is in progress; and Starwood continues to try to sell its rights to the former United Hospital property.
Mayor Cohn emphatically stated the Council’s opposition to the proposed plan for a tunnel from Long Island to the Sound Shore. The Council formed a committee, led by Ted Stein, which will be interfacing with the public soon. “We can’t chance this. The plan is bad for the whole of I-287 and bad for Westchester.”
- Additional reporting by Tom McDermott