“WPW” Reviews Events of 2001 Friday Night at 7:30

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White Plains Week’s Alex Philippidis, of Westchester County Business Journal and John Bailey, the CitizeNetReporter conduct a review of 2001 in White Plains Friday night at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71.
Philippidis and Bailey review the economic and news implications of the year for the city in what was easily the most news-packed year for the city in a decade. Exclusive pictures and exhibits of notorious documents will be displayed in a fast-moving half-hour that names names, gives the figures, and highlights the heroes and villains of 2001 within the City Limits.

Philippidis gives his unique trackings of the economy, developer profiles, and intriguing historical background on the key projects and players around the city, while Bailey highlights the hard news stories that shaped the city that will be in 2002.

The 45th show of White Plains Week begins at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71.

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Consultants Start Building Superintendent Profile this week.

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The search for a new Superintendent of Schools will gather intensity this week when Dr. John A. Whritner and Dr. Deborah Raizes, two senior associates from Hazard, Young and Attia, will make the first of four public fact-finding appearances in White Plains to develop community residents’ and leaders’ opinions on key school issues in the city and the characteristics they want to see in the next Superintendent of Schools.
The four Forums will begin Thursday, January 10 at White Plains High School at 7:30 PM, continue on Friday, January 11 at Education House at 10:00 AM, Sunday, January 13 at St. Bernard’s Church at 12:30 PM, where a Spanish language interpreter will be available, and conclude Wednesday, January 16, at Bethel Baptist Church at 7 PM.

Community Groups Have Special Meeting on January 16 at 2

According to Michelle Schoenfeld, Clerk for the Board of Education, Dr. Whritner and Dr. Raizes will alternate hosting the four community forums. Ms Schoenfeld reports to WPCNR various “community leaders” have been invited privately to provide their input directly to the two consultants in a meeting at Education House on Wednesday, January 16 at 2 PM.

Schoenfeld said these community groups include all members of the Common Council, all city commissioners, and representatives from the Council of Neighborhood Associations, the Rotary, the Council of Churches, Hospital Auxiliary Board, the Womens Club and other organizations, of whom she did not have a list readily available. School-Related Organizations Consulted, too.

In addition, she said, Drs. Raizes and Whritner are or will be meeting privately with PTA presidents, the PTA Council, District staff groups, former Board of Education members, the Civil Service Employees Association, the White Plains Teachers Association, and high school students to gather their views on the issues and the requisite skills of a future superintendent.

Focus asked for.

Key community organizations have already received questionnaires from the School District asking the groups to respond to the following questions.

1. What do you consider to be the two or three most significant strengths of the White Plains Public Schools?

2. What do you consider to be the two or three most important issues or concerns facing the White Plains Public Schools?

3. Please share two or three characteristics which you would like to see in the new White Plains Superintendent of Schools?

Profile Developed from Forums, Presented January 29

From these forums, Drs. Whritner and Raizes will construct a profile of the personal attributes and areas of expertise and track record results for the kind of superintendent they hope to attract. Their final “Superintendent Profile” is scheduled to be presented to the community on January 29 at Education House at 8 PM.

No National Advertising Yet. Position Announced nationally on HYA Website

All advertising for the Superintendent of Schools position is being handled by Hazard, Young & Attia. Presently the position of Superintent of Schools has been listed on the HY & A website as one of their Executive Searches, since January 5, so word has gone out nationally that the position is available. HY & A consultants were not available to ask whether the firm has already received interested queries about the position. However, WPCNR has been told that Dr. Raizes will be in touch with us, as she has been traveling.

When you click on the White Plains Public Schools Superintendent search listing on the HY & A website, you are directed to the White Plains Public Schools website.The Hazard Young & Attia website may be viewed at http://www.hyasupersearch.com

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NEW POLL: Tell Consultants Issues Facing the School District

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The consultants from Hazard, Young & Attia, the search firm hired by the City School District to present candidates for a new Superintendent of Schools are coming to town January 10, 11, 13 and 16 to hear White Plains speak out.

The new WPCNR Poll at the right gives you a chance to target the issues of most concern to you. Simply click on the premier issues you care the most about. You can vote more than once, but only once a day.

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“Dunphy Doctrine” Convinces CC to Stay at 5. Delgado No Holdover

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Special to WPCNR A crash Common Council meeting held in Executive Session Thursday night, resulted in the Common Council holding off appointing a sixth interim councilperson to fill the seat currently being contested in Appellate Court. The Council will conduct Monday evening’s meeting with five councilpersons and the Mayor with one seat vacant.
A 9-page Confidential Brief by city Corporation Counsel Edward Dunphy, drawing on 5 cases from 1837,1926,1951, 1964 and 1972, cites city inability to determine which council seat is vacant, (former Councilperson Pauline Oliva’s seat or Larry Delgado’s seat) as the crucial factor in preventing Larry Delgado from continuing on the Common Council.

This ambiguity of whose seat it is, prevents the Public Officer’s Law from kicking in, allowing Mr. Delgado to holdover, in Mr. Dunphy’s analysis of these five decisions.

According to the key conclusion of the “Dunphy Doctrine,” The fact that Mrs. Oliva (Pauline) did not seek re-election is not controlling. The controlling principle is that there is more than one incumbent and as a result, a vacancy is not capable of being identified and there cannot be a (Delgado/Oliva) holdover. This result might have been different if one of the incumbents had resigned. This last consideration is not before us and is of no consequence.”

The Public Officers Law holds that in a vacancy occurring through a normal expiration of term, with successor not chosen an incumbent holds over. (See previous WPCNR article on the holdover issue.)

Confidential Brief Delivered Thursday Morning to the Seating Five

The confidential brief analyzed the issue of a Delgado “holdover,” or a council interim appointment, was hand-delivered to all five seating councilpersons Thursday morning: Benjamin Boykin, Jr., Robert Greer, William King, Rita Malmud, and Thomas Roach. All but Robert Greer agreed to an Executive Session Thursday evening to discuss the issues with Mr. Dunphy. Mr. Greer, according to our correspondent, had a prior commitment he could not break.

Our correspondent advises us that the meeting apparently was held off until 8 PM, because city law requires that there be six hour notice before any meeting of the Common Council is held.

Dunphy brings Council Up to Date on Election Case

The meeting began in the Mayor’s council room, with Edward Dunphy taking center stage. Dunphy reported that as of 8 PM no decision had been reached in Appellate Court regarding the Adam Bradley-filed appeal of Judge Francis Nicolai, Jr.’s call for a continuation of the election. Dunphy, our reporter says, revealed that in the early years of his career, he was a law clerk in the Appellate Division.

Dunphy said, the Appellate Division usually moves very quickly in an election matter. He expressed surprise that the court will have had the Delgado/Hockley matter before it for three weeks as of Friday morning.

Dunphy is reported saying that no matter what the Appellate Court decides, it was likely that the losing interest would appeal to the Court of Appeals in Albany. Then the Council moved to Executive Session to discuss Mr. Dunphy’s brief.

After executive session briefing, Council releases “Dunphy Doctrine” to Public. Basis for their decision.

According to our CNR reporter, “The vote that was taken, after the public was invited back into the room (Mayor’s Council Chamber), at the conclusion of the executive session, was for the Common Council to waive the attorney/client privilege and to now authorize the release to the public of the heretofore confidential memo prepared by Corporation Council Ed Dunphy and which was distributed solely to the Common Council.

Boykin says no action contemplated. Awaiting Appellate Court Decision.

Our correspondent reports that after the executive session ended, Councilman Benjamin Boykin told reporters that “Dunphy’s memo spoke to the inability of former Councilman Delgado to take the position that he is a ‘holdover’ councilman and further (Boykin stated) that the Council would not be moving in the direction of appointing an individual, themselves, to fill the empty seventh seat on the Council.”

Our reporter adds that “the White Plains Common Council will be further instructed and guided by the eventual decision which will be issued by the Second Department of the New York State Appellate Division.”

Short Council has to vote ordinances twice to put them into law.

WPCNR’s correspondent reports Dunphy strongly urged the council not to appoint an interim councilperson. Our man on the scene advised that the Council will have to hear ordinances twice before they can be voted into law, as a consequence of having a “short” council. A meeting as been scheduled for 8 AM Wednesday, he says to hear a second reading of an ordinance on the Monday Council agenda.

Mr. Dunphy’s conclusion to his brief confirms this:

…When is a vacancy created, is not a novel issue; nor is the invocation andinterpretation of the controlling provision of the Public Officers Law, a question of recent vintage. Importantly, you can see, the holdover provision is not nearly as clear cut as first envisioned. As we have seen, its operation is very fact specific and it can be concluded that where the vacancy is identifiable, an incumbent can holdover. But in the facts confronting the City of White Plains, the vacancy certainly is not identifiable. Consequently, there can not be holdover.

Mr. Dunphy further reasons against vacancy identification,

An attempt to argue that a vacancy is identifiable in White Plains because incumbent Rita Malmud was re-elected and candidate Thomas Roach was elected and both certified by the Board of Elections, can be made. Mathematically it could be seen that these two were successful, in that they have filled two of the three positions on the Common Council, therefore, the third position is open and identifiable.

This argument has surface appeal, but when that strata is pierced, that argument evaporates rapidly.

And makes his play–

The vacancy is unidentifiable because two incumbents remain, Mrs. Oliva and Mr. Delgado. The fact that Mrs. Oliva (Pauline) did not seek re-election is not controlling. The controlling principle is that there is more than one incumbent and as a result, a vacancy is not capable of being identified and there cannot be a (Delgado/Oliva) holdover. This result might have been different if one of the incumbents had resigned. This last consideration is not before us and is of no consequence.

A nod to the Appellate Court…

Additionally, we must also recognize that the Appellate Division instructed that Messrs. Delgado and Hockley are presently barred from taking any steps towards the filing of an oath of office. This directive must be tempered by the realization that a holdover is not required to execute and file an oath of office…

Mr. D. Concludes With a Strong Advisory Not to Appoint an Interim Replacement Councilperson

As a final matter, a controlling consideration is what does the City do without its full complement of legislative officials? This answer is proved by the Foley Court, wherein Special Term noted that this fact was of little consequence because the government does not fail to function with less than seven members. The work will proceed with six, until a successor is chosen and there will be no interruption in government.

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Zoning Board Bulletins: Swimming Pool Agony, Schechter Day Care.

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Updated, New Information 1/6/02:On a light calendar Wednesday night, the Zoning Board of Appeals appeared willing to consider a variance in a setback to accommodate a modest swimming pool.

Solomon-Schechter School of Westchester made progress on establishing a day care center at their Rosedale campus for on-staff teachers only.
In a variance request being closely watched by residents who long for swimming pools, (if only they had a bigger yard), the Zoning Board of Appeals doggedly attempted to defend the 15 foot setback restriction in the request of a resident on Sterling Avenue hoping to build an above ground swimming pool.

The resident is seeking to install a 15-foot diameter pool, (owner had mistakenly referred to this as a 15-foot radius, as first reported), creating a setback of 8 feet instead of 15 feet, which the ZBA calculated to be a 45% variance they were not comfortable with approving. Paul Landesman , ZBA member, cautioned that the Board was reluctant to give such a variance because “every one else would want one.” Larry Fleischman, another ZBA member, pointed out that the Board has never given this large a variance.

The owner already has a 3-car garage on his property and seeks the 15-foot wide pool in a position by his outdoor deck, in order to preserve his workshop already existing in one of the garage bays, along with two bays where his antique cars are stored, to avoid consistently moving his two vehicles which he parks in the driveway.

He advised the board that the 15-foot wide pool could not be built into his existing off-the-house deck because of structural supports under the existing deck. His next door neighbor, and the owner’s mother, (an employee of the Planning Department, who administers Community Development funds and lives next door to the owner’s yard), testified on the owner’s behalf that the 8-foot setback would not bother them, and that the resident had done a lot to improve the appearance of his property.

The ZBA suggested several alternatives: 1.) Switching the workshop from one garage bay to another. 2.) Making the pool part of the housedeck. 3.) Decreasing the size of the pool from 15 feet wide to 12 feet wide.

After discussion, the owner said he would look into reducing the size of the pool to a diameter of 12 feet (6 foot radius), (suggested by a representative of the Building Department), which the zoning board appeared to agree to be willing to consider.

The 12-foot diameter still would result in only a 3-foot variance. The matter was continued to the February 6 meeting.

Solomon-Schechter Nears Day Care Approval February 6.

The ZBA closed the public hearing on the Special Permit to allow operation of a staff-only day care center. Cecilia Bikkal, Chairperson of the ZBA, promised a resolution at the Board February 6 meeting which would put “teeth” in the traffic management agreements the school has made with the Rosedale Residential Assocation and the city.

Elliot Spiegel, Headmaster of the school, said the school had agreed to the requests of the neighborhood association regarding the establishment of the Day Care Center.

He said the Day Care Center would be for no more than 12 children. All twelve would be offspring of staff employed by Solomon-Schechter. He said the center would be open only on a first-come, first-served basis, and that he would be willing to limit it to six children from the Greenburgh campus and six from the Solomon-Schechter Rosedale campus, or a 4-8 mix respectively.

Linda Harelick, Vice President of the Rosedale Association, pushed for tying the Day Care Center approval to enforcement of the Traffic Management Plan. (Solomon-Schechter agreed with the city to no standing or parking on the Dellwood and Elm Street right of ways leading to the school.) Harelick alleged these rules were violated flagrantly during September of 2001 when Solomon-Schechter began the current school year.

Hillary Markowitz, Solomon-Schechter parent liaison to the neighborhood, who personally educates Solomon-Schechter parents on the school-city policy towards public streets in the area, said the violations occurred as a result of parent World Trade Center anxiety after September 11, when more parents than normal wanted to pick up children personally. Ms. Harelick said the violations continued at least through September 25. Ms. Markowitz said the situation was now back to normal.

Ms. Bikkal, ZBA Chairperson, said there seemed to be great movement on both sides towards a solution, and the Zoning Board would craft a resolution regarding establishment of the Day Care Center at the February 6 ZBA meeting.

White Plains Honda put on Hold

White Plains Honda, seeking to rent a vacant building for a showroom at 350 Central Avenue, was told it had to work out a resolution of Traffic Commissioner Ted Gammon’s concerns that the proposed driveway into the facility had to be widened, and was continued to February 6. Honda legal representative, William Null, citing the fact that the paperwork on the facility had been in since October, pleaded with the Zoning Board to approve the usage, since his client was attempting to sign a lease. The Board refused.

Commenting to us afterwards, Ms. Bikkal, said that White Plains Honda application had had to be reviewed by the Building and Traffic departments. She reported the Zoning Board had just received those comments Wednesday, and therefore had to review them with Mr. Gammon, and could not in good conscience, approve a usage without knowing Mr. Gammon’s concern.

In other matters of note

The German School request for a Special permit to increase their student cap and Special Permit to configure an access drive through 800 North Street was continued to February 6.

Metro Auto Tech, Inc. on 7 Intervale Street to February 6.

Ronald Presser’s deck variance at 57 Ethelridge was postponed to February 6.

The Starr family room variance at 82 Havilands Lane did not appear. The representative from the Building Department gave the opinion that they had revised their plans so as not to require a variance.

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FLASH! Dunphy Issues Secret Ruling on Council Seating. Council Meets at 8

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Special to WPCNR:The Mayor’s office announced Thursday that Corporation Counsel Edward Dunphy has issued his opinion on Common Council right to appoint an interim councilperson in a hand-delivered letter to each Council Member. The letter presents Mr. Dunphy’s opinion on the composition of the first Common Councilmeeting of the new year Monday evening.
The Mayor’s Office announced a special meeting of the Common Council for 8 o’clock Thursday evening in Executive Session to discuss Mr. Dunphy’s opinion and the issues it raises.
George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, told WPCNR Thursday morning that Mr. Dunphy’s legal opinion on whether or not the council had the right to appoint an interim councilperson to fill the contested third seat on the Common Council, had been hand-delivered to members of the Common Council Thursday morning: Rita Malmud, Tom Roach, Benjamin Boykin, William King, Robert Greer.

Executive Session Called to Mull Dunphy Directive

Gretsas told WPCNR, “The Common Council will meet Thursday night at 8 to discuss the letter and ruling, and if they agree the letter (Dunphy’s) will be made public.”

City Hall refused to release the contents of Mr. Dunphy’s letter, citing attorney-client (Common Council being the client) privilege.

Delgado Oliva Not In Meeting

Asked if Pauline Oliva and Larry Delgado, previous incumbents of the Council, whose terms expired Monday evening at midnight, had been invited to the meeting, Gretsas said they had not.

Asked whether Tom Roach would be on the council, Gretsas said that Mr. Roach, and Rita Malmud, technically started their terms at midnight January 1, and that swearing in was strictly a formality. On the other hand, he said, Oliva and Delgado terms had officially ended at the same midnight hour.

The Dunphy Directive

Dunphy’s letter was expected to touch on a range of issues raised by the historic contested third seat which is currently unfilled by order of the Appellate Division, New York Supreme Court, Second Department, Brooklyn.

The Appellate Court is still reviewing Judge Francis Nicolai’s decision calling for a continuation of the November 6 election and a revote in White Plains District 18. A decision is expected either Thursday or Friday of this week

Armchair analysts think Delgado may “holdover.”

Legal analysts in the city, Jeffrey Binder, Delgado attorney, and John Martin,a former Councilperson who was himself appointed a councilperson by the Common Council, believe by virtue of the Public Officer’s law that Mr. Delgado could legally “continue” in his seat or “holdover,” until the seat is filled by a new election or a court ruling.

Other issues speculated as being covered in the Dunphy Letter are: whether the council has the right to appoint an interim councilperson (sources have told us that the Democratic council caucus would prefer reappointing Pauline Oliva); the mechanism for removing such an appointee; how long they would serve; and whose seat is vacant.

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WP Little League Requires In Person Parent Signups Jan 12 & 19

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Special to WPCNR:The White Plains Little League will conduct In-Person Registration for children, ages 5 to 15, who want to play in the 2002 WPLL on Saturday January 12 and Saturday, January 19.

Registration will take place at Ridgeway School Cafeteria from 9 AM to 3 PM, both Saturdays. Registrations will not be accepted at the Department of Recreation and Parks, or be accepted by mail, as in previous years.
The Registration fee is $65, or a maximum of $150 for a family of three or more. Scholarships are available, based upon need. Parents registering their children should bring proof of residence in the form of a utility bill, or driver’s license. Children who played last year will be on our records, so there are no complicated forms to fill out.

It is important, in order to achieve orderly composition of teams that parents register their children on those two days. Registrations will only be accepted in-person on January 12 and 19. If registration is missed, you will be placed on a waiting list, and subject to a $35 late registration fee, in addition to the $65 fee.

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White Plains Bravest Choose New Leader

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The White Plains Professional Firefighters have elected Jim Donahoe as their new President, replacing Adrian Scapperrotti, according to WPCNR Fire Department Correspondent, Duncan MacRae. MacRae reports Mr. Donahoe edged out Scapperrotti by one vote.
Duncan MacRae, White Plains Firefighter, reports to WPCNR that Donahoe took the reins of the firefighters union as of January 1, by virtue of one vote in a secret ballot that was recounted three times. Donahoe was previously Scaperotti’s Vice President.

Asked about Donahoe’s plans for the firefighters union, McLain writes,

“He wants to become more personally involved with the membership. He wants to be a physical presence rather than a voice on the other end of the phone or the sender of a fax.”

McLain was asked his own personal reaction to the departure of John Dolce, previous Commissioner of Public Safety, and what it might mean for the department, he writes,

“Well as we all know John Dolce was ‘Public Safety’ to a lot of people and politicians in town. He lost a bit of his luster with some politicians when he didn’t support pay parity for police and fire. With his retirement, we hope that the city leaders can look at the structure
of the Public Safety Department.

McLain continued, “A separate police and fire commissioner are definitely needed. The demographic of this city is changing with its skyline. It would be in the best interests of the citizens if this were to happen and it wouldn’t cost a dime.”

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Downtown Gala Sold Out. Dance, Ball & Fireworks “Beautiful”

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Special to WPCNR: The New Year’s Eve Gala staged by the White Plains Downtown Business Improvement District was a complete sellout and success according to BID spokesperson Darlene Gardner Wednesday morning.
She reports 175 persons officially attended the dance, buffet, and ball drop celebration held underneath the “Big Top Tent” erected, complete with dancefloor, reception area and rest rooms on Mamaroneck Avenue Monday evening, enough, she said to cover the expenses of the event.

“It was like being at a wedding,” Ms. Gardner told WPCNR today. “You had a vestibule, a place to hang your coats, restrooms, but you’d look out the windows of the tent, and see you were on Mamaroneck Avenue.”

Ms. Gardner described the actual ball that was dropped from White Plains Fire Department’s largest Hook N Ladder as “a beautiful thing,” and said the fireworks launched from the Cappelli City Center were “a once-in-a-lifetime show.”

She said people called most of Monday, but the number of attendees were held at 175. She anticipates that the event will be staged again next year. Ms. Gardner said the avenue attracted a large crowd for the ball drop and fireworks by midnight and that it was well attended by city officials and dignitaries from City Hall and the community.

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SPANO, BRONZ AND ABINANTI URGE PRESERVATION OF TAXTER ROAD PROPERTY

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Special to WPCNR:County Executive Andy Spano and County Legislators Lois Bronz and Tom Abinanti today pledged the county’s support to help preserve 200 acres of land in Greenburgh that represent the last major parcel of open space in Southern
Spano said he would work in partnership with the state, the Town of Greenburgh and land preservation groups to purchase the Taxter Ridge property on Taxter Road as part of his administration’s open space preservation program.

“As we have done with the Gaisman Property in Greenburgh, Hilltop Hanover in Yorktown and Davids Island in New Rochelle, we will work in partnership with local government, the state and others to preserve this environmentally sensitive property for future generations,” said Spano. “This is an especially important piece of land because it is one of the last really large parcels in what is a mostly developed area of the county. We should not miss out on an opportunity to save this property from development.”

Bronz and Abinanti, who represent Greenburgh, said local residents were deeply concerned about the future of the Taxter Ridge Road property.

“Adding Taxter Ridge to the acres of green space demonstrates this administration’s commitment to preserving the environment,” said Bronz. “This property has trees, streams and wildlife that is not found anywhere else in this county. It is an important asset to Greenburgh and Central Westchester. Preserving Taxter Ridge is essential to helping to maintain our quality of life in Westchester.”

Abinanti said, “Once again Westchester County is rescuing must-save open space. Preserving Taxter Ridge is crucial to the continued environmental health of Greenburgh and all of mid-Westchester.

“Development on the Taxter Ridge site would destroy environmentally significant open space and pour traffic down Taxter Road into the already overwhelmed 119-9A intersection.”

A haven for amphibian, reptile and dozens of species of birds, the Taxter Ridge property bordered by Route 9 is currently owned by the Unification Church.

The Trust for Public Land and the Westchester Land Trust have taken an option on the property through the middle of next year, but area residents, who have so far raised more than $25,000 to help preserve the property, fear that it will be developed if a permanent arrangement is not negotiated soon.

While no purchase price has been named for the property, Spano said he was hopeful that a deal could be negotiated as it has in similar circumstances across Westchester.

Upon taking office in 1998, Spano made a $25 million commitment over five years to open space acquisition for passive recreation. Under his new Legacy initiative, announced in his last State of the County address, he doubled that amount to $10 million a year over a five-year period, also including funds for active recreation such as ball fields.

So far more than 2,300 acres of open space has been preserved with county government assistance since Spano took office. This includes the Gaisman and Glenville Woods properties in Greenburgh, the Hillpoint Property in Cortlandt, Hilltop Hanover in Yorktown, Davids Island and Glenwood Lake in New Rochelle and the Haibershaw property in Yonkers among others.

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