The following letter appears in the latest edition of THE GAZETTE...please note: your editor has highlighted in "red" some of the more interesting aspects of this must-read letter.
To the editor:
I grew up in Elwood, Long Island; a
place not altogether different than Croton. Like Croton, Elwood has a
small but excellent school district in an otherwise big town. Also similar to
Croton, Elwood still had lots of natural beauty and open space. Often
referred to as an exception to the rule, Elwood was supposed to be a tight knit
community and a great place to raise a family.
By the time my wife and I decided to
move our young family from the City, Elwood was an easy choice. However,
after doing so we quickly realized little Elwood had big problems. Like many
suburban districts, Elwood had a perpetual budget crisis, a bloated town
government and many other issues conspiring to push taxes to new heights every
year. In accepting, and despite those taxes, we expected to be content,
but year after year we weren't. Eventually we realized Elwood wasn't what we
had hoped. You see, Elwood, like anywhere I suppose, kept developing over the
years. Little by little, or sometimes a lot at a time, open space was consumed
by suburban sprawl. As houses multiplied and the population grew, little
was done to improve the infrastructure. As a result, we suffered under the
crushing burden of local traffic.
Traffic simply made everything
harder. Mundane errands became hair-raising ordeals. We couldn’t
let the kids roam around the neighborhood as it was in my youth. Where
proximity to the schools prohibited busing, parents were forced to drive their
kids. Parents were under constant pressure to keep children entertained,
endlessly shuttling them between activities; All leading to still more traffic.
It wasn't simply the number of
cars. As traffic increased, attempts to control it also grew. Stop
signs and traffic lights among other controls slowly multiplied. The
latter being expensive, poorly programmed, uncoordinated and ultimately
neglected. It was a losing battle. The more it was controlled, the more
pressure people felt and the worse they drove. A vicious cycle took hold.
In 2011 a developer proposed a 400 unit
condo complex on aptly named Elwood road; the busiest and most critical route
in our community. As rezoning was required, this conversation bears a
striking similarity to Croton’s current rezoning discussion. A benevolent and
beholden tone was struck, such to suggest no one would dare do anything without
the community’s consent. It was a rouse. Ultimately, despite overwhelming
opposition the town rewrote the very zoning laws that were meant to protect the
community from exactly this type of thing.
Given the prospect of still worse
traffic, we finally decided to move, and chose Croton in large part because we
felt the Village government would protect us from over development.
Elwood isn’t a village, therefore the town was able to force such projects on
them. We turned our lives inside out to move here, accepting even higher taxes
to escape gridlock, and now we feel like the same thing is going to happen in
We attended the first Croton rezoning
forum on March 21 and felt like we’ve seen this movie before! Of course,
no analogy is perfect, but it was abundantly clear we weren’t being told the
whole truth. In fact, the presentation was woefully inadequate. No
authority at the meeting nor documentation thereafter suggested a motive for
even broaching the topic. And yet, talk of 3-story structures, mixed
residential / commercial etc. was pervasive. The introduction was laced
with politically charged phrases like demographic and economic diversity,
making it clear the Village Board already had an agenda. Later, we discovered
the Village had already been approached regarding such developments; an
omission which is tantamount to a lie! Worse still, the potential tax
ramifications either to the Village or the school district went completely
unmentioned. Call me old fashioned, but I would’ve thought that to be a central
issue on the minds of those specifically elected to protect our interests.
Elwood is hardly unique. Many area
suburbs are tense, and it shows in people’s attitudes. Over-development,
overcrowding, and grinding traffic are big components in creating an atmosphere
where people aren’t very nice to each other. What sets Croton apart, is
the people don’t just say they are a community they act like it. Simple things
like greetings from total strangers are commonplace. Courtesy and consideration
are the norm, rather than the exception. It’s this collective personality
and character that’s at risk, with cavalier plans to turn Croton into just
another NY suburb.
Furthermore, we later learned of
numerous costly fiscal and administrative missteps from current and former
regimes. I’ll leave it to longer-term residents to expound on that, but
certainly we have a right to demand fiscal responsibly before entertaining
indelible changes to our community.
Given the significance of zoning
changes, and the heretofore myopic discussion, I was further bewildered by the
proposed timeline. Rushing through the process denies residents the
opportunity to air their concerns and contribute to a consensus. As such,
discussions of this magnitude must be on a timeline that assures the full
conveyance of potential risks, benefits etc… Without casting further
suspicions, the Village should stop this process and focus on fiscal
responsibility, prudent management and above all government transparency. The public trust must be rebuilt, only then
can the Village legitimately propose major changes.