WPCNR News Reel. From New York League of Conservation Voter. August 13, 2002:The New York League of Conservation Voters, a statewide environmental group, announced today its early endorsement of N.Y.S. Assemblymember Naomi C. Matusow (D) for the 89th Assembly District in Westchester County.
“Naomi Matusow is clearly an environmental leader, and the New York League of Conservation Voters enthusiastically supports her re-election,” said Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director of the NYLCV. “The League believes that Matusow will continue an excellent voting record that reflects her strong commitment to environmental issues.”

“I am honored and delighted to receive once again the endorsement of the New York League of Conservation Voters. It is gratifying that my commitment to environmental protection, preservation of open space, improvement of air and water quality and opposition to un-checked urban sprawl has been acknowledged. Every citizen of the 89th A.D., can rely on me for continued leadership on these crucial issues,” said Assemblymember Matusow.

Matusow was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1992. In 1998, Matusow guided a bill that established the Clean Drinking Water Revolving Fund and negotiated the Pesticide Reporting bill through the N.Y.S. Legislature. In 2000, Matusow authored a law requiring the Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt stringent air emission standards for personal watercraft.

Matusow has played a principal role in the N.Y.S. Assembly in sponsoring pro-environmental legislation. On recycling, Matusow introduced a bill to expand the definition of the term “beverage” in the state bottle bill to include non-carbonated drinks. Matusow also sponsored a bill that would make considering means of alternative energy mandatory for energy performance contracts.

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New Superintendent Debuts at Board of Education; Will Change Format in September

WPCNR School Days Diplomat Courier. By John F. Bailey August 13, 2002. White Plains new Superintendent of Schools was introduced at his first Board of Education meeting Monday evening, and announced a new format for the monthly meetings. He said he was looking forward to addressing his goals for the district with White Plains teachers September 3, receiving the Board of Education’s input over the next month and sharing his goals with the public at the new twice-a-month September 23 Board of Education meeting.

TC TAKES THE REINS: Dorothy Schere, President of the Board of Education, introduces Timothy Connors at the beginning of last evening’s meeting. Mr. Connors thanked the Board and the community for asking him to take the job of Superintendent. He said he had visited every school building, met with the custodial staffs, and was very impressed with their concern and commitment to maintaining the school facilities. He said he was looking forward to meeting with the entire staff of the district September 3. He is currently seeking a home in the city, he said, but presently is still commuting from Connecticut.
Photo by WPCNR

Mr. Connors suggested and the Board of Education agreed to meet twice monthly during the school year, the second and fourth Mondays of the month. He also advised moving the starting time of the Board’s meeting to 7:30 PM from the current 8 PM “Pledge of Allegiance” time. The Board concurred.

Public Forum Moved Up.

Connors, speaking in his dulcet tones, proposed a new format for the Board meetings, which the Board also agreed to. Under the new Connors “Agenda,” Mr. Connors would give a Superintendent’s Report prior to the start of the summary action items, and after he gave his report, the public would be invited to speak out on any issues relating to the forthcoming summary action items. The Board agreed to this format change by acclamation.

Members of the public would be given up to 20 minutes to speak on any matter, with individuals limited to 3 minutes, even if it were not on the agenda.

Of 85 new positions, only 7 remain unfilled.

Connors said the School District was in good shape to open the school year with only seven positions, one of them a science position at the Middle School, the other a biology teaching position at the high school, and a special education position still to be hired. The remaining four positions of are a secretarial nature.

Board OK’s hiring of Bassano’s spouse, Despite Tratoros objection.

In an uncomfortable moment, Michelle Tratoros, Board Member, asked that consideration of Janine Bassano as a teaching aid be tabled. Ms. Bassano is the wife of new Board Member, Peter Bassano.

Ms. Tratoros and William Pollak, Board member asked for an explanation of how Ms. Bassano came to be considered at the same time as Mr. Bassano was appointed to Richard Bernstein’s expired term. It was explained that the hire of Ms. Bassano (at the Eastview Middle School as a Teaching Assistant), was done independently by the school, which had no idea that Mr. Bassano was under consideration for appointment to the Board of Education, at approximately the same time. The hire was not discovered until forwarded to personnel on the 22nd of July, and Mr. Connors said he had not become aware of the hire until August 6.

Mr. Bassano said he “owed the Board an apology for not being sensitive,” on the issue that this wife was applying for a position at the same time he was.

Board members Susan Kirkpatrick and William Pollak were satisfied with this explanation, and Dorothy Schere said it was “an unfortunate coincidence.” With Bassano recusing himself from the vote, the Board voted 5 to 1, with Ms. Tratoros voting “No,” to approve the hiring of Ms. Bassano for the position.

Board approves $30,000 “Redo” of New High School Entrance Floor Tile.

The Board of Education approved a “fix” agreed-to between the District and Tratoros Construction, the contractors on the high school renovation, in which the terrazzo flooring from the Administrative offices to the new entrance of the high school is cracking.

Richard Lasselle explained that a “hidden condition” underneath the new marble tiled “terrazzo” was causing the new tile to crack. Lasselle said an independent testing firm had identified the condition: a compound on top of the existing concrete in the entranceway that the new terrazzo floor was failing to adhere to, causing the cracking.

William Pollak queried Lasselle as to why the contractor was not responsible, and Lasselle said the school’s specifications did not specify that any excess floor covering be removed down to the concrete, and that an independent testing firm had identified that a “hidden condition,” a material attached to the concrete had caused the condition.

A la carte prices of food to rise in the cafeterias.

The Board approved a rise of a la carte items in the district cafeterias, but the prices of breakfasts and lunches would remain the same. Price increases were not announced last night.

Trainer service now available to athletic teams.

The Board of Education voted to approve up to $25,000 with Pro Sports Physical Therapy to provide an athletic trainer for athletic events.

District “On the Money” in Pegging Assessment Refunds.

Richard Lasselle reported the district had finalized tax certioris for the 2001-2002 year at $978,346.55, when it had been expected the district would have to give back $1,000,000 in certioris.

In other matters–

The Board hired KG & D architects, the firm that designed the high school renovation, to begin decisn for the $3.6 million capital projects program approved last May by the voters.

The Board of Education handed out Commitee Assignments to its members. Assignments of note included: Dorothy Schere will liaison with the PTA Council; Michelle Tratoros will represent the Board with the city’s Youth Bureau; Donna McLaughlin will take the city’s Recreation Advisory Committee assignment; Maria Valentin will take the Westchester Putnam School Boards assignment.

The 2002-03 BOARD OF EDUCATION: Left to Right: Maria Valentin, William Pollak, Donna McLaughlin, Mr. Connors, Dorothy Schere, Susan Kirkpatick, Michelle Tratoros, Peter Bassano, and Clerk to the Board, Michelle Schoenfeld. The Board will meet twice monthly. Next meetings are September 9 and September 23 at 7:30 PM.
Photo by WPCNR

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City Files Unfair Labor Practices Charge Against CSEA

WPCNR Evening City Star Reporter. By John F. Bailey. August 12, 2002: The city filed suit Monday with the Public Employment Relations Board in Albany, charging the local Civil Services Employee Association with unfair labor practices for failing to negotiate in good faith.

The city, according to George Gretsas, the Mayor’s executive Officer, is seeking for the Public Employment Relations Board to order the union to the negotiating table.

Gretsas said the suit filed Monday documents stating that the city had asked the union local 1000, headed by Joseph Roche, engineer in the Building Department for the City of White Plains, to begin negotiations 19 times, and each time the union failed to set a date to begin negotiations.

On June 30, 2002, the current contract with the CSEA expired. Presently, Gretsas said, non-CSEA employees are receiving raises, while CSEA union-members, as a result of union failure to come to the bargaining table, are continuing at the rate of pay of the expired contract.

Joseph Roche, head of the local CSEA union, has been asked to comment to WPCNR, but as of yet has not contacted WPCNR with a comment or a reason for the delay in negotiations.

On July 23, in response to the last city letter of July 17, the CSEA wrote saying it was prepared to begin negotiations August 6. However, when the city wrote agreeing to that day, the union public relations representative, identified as a Mr. Sparber in the complaint, wrote they could not negotiate on the sixth due to another commitment.

Gretsas said that pay increase was not the issue here because pattern bargaining is followed in the case of pay issues. Gretsas also said that he had no idea what issues the union was prepared to discuss because they have not negotiated in the six months leading up to the expiration of the contract.

Asks Board to Force CSEA to Post Notice Admitting it Failed to Negotate.

The city’s suit, addressed to Monte Klein, Director of Public Employment and Practices and Representation, asks the Board to find the CSEA to have engaged in an improper practice; order the CSEA to cease and desist from such conduct now and in the future; order the CSEA to negotiate in good faith; and direct the CSEA to post a notice in areas “conspicuous to all unit members that it is and has been engaging in unlawful activities and that it will cease from such activities now and in the future.” Gretsas had no opinion as to what “further relief” (asked for in the suit) consisted of.

Common Council has “No reaction.”

Asked if the Common Council endorsed the suit, Mr. Gretsas said the Common Council, when informed of the city’s intention to file the suit, had “no reaction,” and did not tell the city not to file the action.

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White Plains Week Talks Hospital Decision at 7:00 PM on Channel 71

WPCNR White Plains Variety. By John F. Bailey. August 9, 2002: The weekly City News Roundup Show, White Plains Week, presents exclusive coverage of the Common Council decision to approve a $250 Million biotech/proton accelerator complex on its White Plains campus this Monday evening at 7:00 PM on Public Access Channel 71. The program also shows exclusive pictures of seven locations in White Plains where the new trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange might be built.
Alex Philippidis, Editor-in-Chief of Westchester County Business Journal, Jim Benerofe, Dean of White Plains Journalists and Editor of and John Bailey who have been all over this story for two years, talk about the high drama and emotion that boiled over last Monday night, and what lies ahead.

The team also talks about the shortfall in city sales receipts, what it means to the upcoming White Plains budget for 2003-04, and showcases attractive locations for the New York Stock Exchange in White Plains.

The Adam Bradley charges against Naomi Matusow are also reviewed.White Plains Week is seen every Friday at 7:30 PM and Monday at 7 PM on Public Access Channel 71.

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Spano, Delfino Join Forces to Remember 9/11 in White Plains

WPCNR County Clarion Reporter. From Westchester County Department of Communications. August 9, 2002. :Poetry readings, musical selections and a moment of silence will be part of the program September 11 when Westchester County and Project Liberty hold a community gathering in downtown White Plains in honor of the 108 county residents lost in the World Trade Center attack.

The program will be held on Martine Avenue in front of the County Office Building starting at 8:30 a.m, and is expected to last approximately one hour.

“We wanted Westchester residents to have a place where they could come together as a community to commemorate Sept. 11 and remember those we lost,’’ said County Executive Andy Spano. “This is very much in keeping with the state-wide plans announced by the governor, only it will be closer to home and focus on Westchester. We are offering a simple and, what we hope will be, a moving event to mark a solemn day in our history. We ask Westchester residents to join us for this important commemoration.’’

The City of White Plains will close off Martine Avenue between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Court Street starting several hours before to accommodate the event.

“We thank White Plains and Mayor Joseph Delfino for hosting this event and Project Liberty for co-sponoring it with Westchester County,” City of White Plains Mayor Joseph M. Delfino said as the county seat and the central point in Westchester, White Plains was the logical and most appropriate place to hold the event.

“The City of White Plains is very proud and honored to host this solemn event marking the one-year anniversary of the senseless tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001,’’ said Delfino. “It is through these acts of community fellowship that Americans have renewed their faith and allegiance to the principles that our country stands for.’’

Project Liberty, a non-profit organization created with federal funds to offer counseling and other services to help residents rebuild their lives after 9/11, helped to organize and fund the event as a way to promote healing.

“Westchester County lost 108 of its citizens on September 11th, 2001. They were – spouses, parents, sons, daughters, siblings, friends, neighbors and part of our future. Each one is dearly missed,’’ said Jackie Connors, program director for Project Liberty, Westchester. “This ceremony is an opportunity for the Westchester Community to honor them. It also allows us to renew our commitments to ourselves, families, friends, community and our way of life.”

The program will include performances by vocal group The Westchester Chordsmen, a presentation by the Junior Girl Scout Troop 2261 of Irvington and the reading of a poem written and selected for the event by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, a Westchester resident. As in New York City and elsewhere around the state and nation, a moment of silence will be observed at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first plane hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Spano will speak about Westchester’s plans for a memorial to those lost on September 11 and will introduce members of a committee formed to help plan Westchester’s “Freedom Plaza.”

Also speaking will be Lois Bronz, chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and Mayor Delfino. Master of Ceremonies will be former WNBC journalist Tony Aiello.

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Westchester Packers Kick0ff Season September 8

WPCNR Press Box. From Tom Rooney. August 9, 2003:Through the heat of summer, and the hurt of strenuous workouts, the 40
players who make up the Westchester Packers Semi-Pro football team have been preparing for the upcoming 2002 football season since July 20. This is the 26th year the Packers have taken to the gridiron in the
city, and as their prior history of success would indicate, expectations for the upcoming season are high.

Affectionately known as the “Green and Gold”, they will be put to the test on September 8 when they take on the Brooklyn Cardinals at 1:00pm at Lincoln High School located at Kneeland Avenue in Yonkers, New York.

The Packers, who play in the 8-team North East Football Association (NEFA) won the league championship in 1997, 1998 and 1999. They play teams from Bridgeport and Stamford, CT, Brooklyn, the Bronx and New Jersey.

Head Coach George Davis has led the Packers on the sidelines for the 26 years the team has played in Yonkers.“It doesn’t seem possible that it could be 26 years already, but that just illustrates how much fun I have had coaching this team,” said Davis. “We have had some really good years with the team, and it is very rewarding to watch the guys grow as players and men.”

Despite being called a “semi-pro” team, the team is nothing close to a pro team, talent or budgetwise. There are no NFL scouts, although a handful of players in the league have managed an Arena Football League game or two. At practices, the players change in their cars, the practice field is not lined, and the place kicker boots the ball between two trees which barely resemble a field goal post.

“There is no pay, in fact, the guys all pay over $250 per man a season
to play, so they really have to enjoy the game,” Davis explains. “The $250 doesn’t get you anything close to a top-of-the-line uniform or a bus ride to away games, but we manage, barely.”

In 2001, the Packers received sponsorship help from 2 Yonkers businesses, Beck Chevrolet and Westchester Greenhouse Farms. “We are truly thankful for the help of those businesses, without their help, we would not have been able to make it through the year.
Insurance, field permits, and referees are not cheap. I hope between now and the start of the season we can find a couple of businesses to help us out,” said Davis.

On the field, the Packers, in a rebuilding situation last year, were 4-4-1, and qualified for the playoffs, but Davis said with a little luck, the team can be a lot better this season. “We have many young guys at
the skills positions. If they continue to work hard in practice to get better, we should be able to improve on last year’s record.”

The entire Packers roster is comprised of players from Westchester
County. If your interested in football and want to get involved
with the Westchester Packers in playing, coaching, sponsoring, or providing other assistance, call Head Coach George Davis at (914) 693-4493.

To learn more, e-mail the Westchester Packers and visit the official Westchester Packers web site.

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Council President Boykin’s Remarks on Historic Vote.

WPCNR News Reel. From Council President Benjamin Boykin. August 8, 2003:For those who have not seen or heard Council President Benjamin Boykin’s speech given prior to the historic Common Council approval of the New York Presbyterian Hospital biomedical project, WPCNR presents the text of his speech given at 2:10 AM Tuesday morning, reproduced with the permission of the Councilman. His comments make clear his reasoning for casting the decisive vote approving the project.

Common Council President Benjamin Boykin
Photo by WPCNR

Thank you Mr. Mayor and my Council colleagues.

Good evening again to my fellow residents. Tonight, this Council will vote on the application from NYPH. I want to thank the City Staff for the hundreds of hours and the many feet of paper that has been generated for this application. To our outside Counsel, Mr. Gerard and Mr. Johnson, your advice has been exceptional and very thoughtful. To the public, your letters, emails, personal discussions, and presentations before the Council have been extremely valuable in my deliberations.

For nearly two decades, various proposals have come from the hospital to develop a portion of its property. None of those proposals have resulted in any development at the White Plains site. The most recent Marriott Facility proposal approved by the Common Council, to be built within the Medical Oval, was withdrawn by the hospital earlier this year due to adverse market conditions and the lack of funding for these facilities.

The application before us tonight is for an amendment to the existing special permit and approval of a site plan for the construction of 384,000 square foot hospital building with a separate parking structure for more than 986 cars. Approximately 50,000 square feet of the building would be dedicated to the Center of Advanced Proton Therapeutics (CAPT) or Proton Beam Facility. This facility and lab space would be for the treatment of certain cancers.

The discussion over this project has sparked much passion from various individuals and organizations. The range of discussion has gone from absolute no development on this property to those who say that this is private property and the applicant has the right to develop it. It has been, and it will continue to be, my attempt to find some middle ground where everyone has given something up, but in return, everyone benefits because we have more than we started with. We have heard many arguments for this proposal and many arguments against this proposal. Each person has articulated his or her position quite well.

I think that we all agree that medical research is a good thing. It saves lives and adds to our quality of life. The delivery of patient care is rapidly changing and will continue to evolve. Medical institutions must also change or they will become like the dinosaur –extinct. However, the issue for this community, from a public policy standpoint is whether this is the right project in the right place for White Plains.

Some individuals have advocated that we just so no – reject the project and move on. Do not allow any development on this property. The hospital, under its current R1 – 12.5 zoning, can build about 490 single-family houses on their property. They could, in theory, start this development tomorrow. The status quo is therefore residential development.

As I have read the information, listened to the discussion, and spoken with individuals in our community, I have tried to focus on the key issues and concerns regarding this project.

I believe that the hospital has a right to do some modest development on its property. However, the right of private property ownership carries with it the public responsibility to be considerate of your neighbor and sensitive to the environment. In the environmental process for this application, the Council has built a public record that will prevent massive development of this property. Therefore, most of the conceptual master plan information presented early in this process will never happen. We must make sure through legislation and the forming of new relationships with the hospital, that community concerns are considered and addressed for this property.

The key issues, as I see them, for this application are Project Location, Traffic and Use. Let me spend some time on each of these issues.


The hospital, in its initial application, asked to build this project on Bryant Avenue, next to Bryant Gardens. It would have been an obtrusive invasion of this beautiful residential neighborhood. Every member of this Council publicly stated that this project could not go on Bryant Avenue. After much discussion, the hospital agreed to move the project to Site 8 or a combination of Site 8 and 5. Site 8 is several hundred feet behind Bloomingdale’s Department Store and set back several hundred feet from Bryant Avenue. Site 5, located inside the Medical Oval, was the proposed location of the Marriott Facility. The Site Plan approval before us tonight is for location the facility on Site 8.

At the insistence of several Council members, we reviewed each potential location inside the Medical Oval in depth to see if the proposed project could be located there. With the historical preservation status, the placement of the proposed facility completely within the Medical Oval was not practicable.

The new location cannot be seen Bloomingdale Road and will have very limited visibility from Bryant Avenue in the winter months. This location protects the residential property values and eliminates any “medical building creep.” Site 8 also preserves the open space buffer along Bryant Avenue and minimizes the impact on environmentally sensitive areas.


With any new proposed development, traffic becomes a major concern. With the project on Bryant Avenue, traffic on Bryant Avenue could not be mitigated. The proposed development is now on Site 8, which is behind Bloomingdale’s Department Store and several hundred feet from Bryant Avenue. However, relocation of the facility was not enough to mitigate most of the traffic impact on Bryant Avenue. Therefore, I demanded that the Bryant Avenue entrance closed and only available for emergency use. The Environmental Findings Statement as well as the Site Plan that we will vote on this evening will close the Bryant Avenue entrance except for emergency use. With the elimination of most of the traffic impact on Bryant Avenue, we are continuing to protect our residential neighborhoods.


A very difficult aspect of this project has been use. The applicant is seeking approval for two uses – Proton Bean for the treatment of certain cancers and medical research. We have employed experts to examine the Proton Bean facilities and based upon their analyses, I have concluded that they are safe and that this is an appropriate hospital related use.

Medical research is a permitted use under the Special Permit if it is subordinate or subsidiary to the principal hospital functions. That is, medical research must be ancillary to the principal hospital use. While there is no definition of ancillary use, this council has wrestled with this issue and decided that the proposed medical use is ancillary. In addition, any medical research done at the White Plains Campus of NYPH must be connected with the hospital activities at this location. There will not be any labs for the production of items for distribution. Commercial activity on this site is strictly prohibited.

There are other aspects of use that has given me great pause. I have asked about relationships that the hospital may enter into for profit. In order to address this issue, we have placed language in the Environmental Findings Statement to allow the Assessor to collect the appropriate information to make the tax status determination. I have been assured by City Staff that if for profit activities occur at the hospital, appropriate actions will be taken to put these functions on the tax rolls of the City of White Plains. We cannot and we will not allow entities to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers of this city.

This project will require additional electrical power and water. Con Edison, in cooperation with our Public Works Department, has stated that they can handle the added electrical burden with the current or reconstructed substations. Hospitals use a lot of water and with the Proton Bean and the Medical Research facility; the water usage for this city will increase. When the city reaches a certain level of water usage, raw water costs increase. The Council, unrelated to this project, will probably adjust water rates for heavy wpcnr_users in the coming months. This project will not increase water rates for our residential water wpcnr_users.


I have tried to listen, reflect and arrive at a decision that I feel addresses many competing interests while protecting our city from a successful legal challenge of our actions. It has not been easy. This is a very complex proposal and an emotional issue for many of our residents. As an elected official, I cannot reject a proposal simply because I may not like it. I must, through due process and thoughtful deliberation, arrive at a decision that is supported by fact and that is good public policy.

I am concerned that if we deny this application, the city may lose control of our special permit and zoning rights and the courts will determine the fate of this project. This would be the worse of all situations for the residents of White Plains.

I believe the relocation of the project to Site 8, the closing of the Bryant Avenue Entrance and imposing detail conditions for hospital related uses, the impact on our neighborhoods and the City of White Plains have been mitigated.

Therefore, I will vote to approve the Environmental Findings Statement and the Site Plan Approval for the applicant.

It is time for a new beginning with the hospital. I ask the hospital to immediately meet with us to address pressing community concerns. I look forward to working with the hospital to provide the residents of White Plains with public access to the beautiful property for passive as well as leisure and active recreational uses.

Thank you.

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Historic Council Meeting Can Be Seen Nightly on Public Access 72

WPCNR White Plains Variety. August 7, 2002: Fred Strauss, Director of the White Plains Cable Tevelison Commission announced today that gavel-to-gavel television coverage of Monday evening and Tuesday morning’s Common Council meeting in which the Common Council granted the New York Presbyterian Hospital approval to build the biotech/proton accelerator complex on their White Plains campus will be shown beginning at 5 PM Wednesday.

The dramatic coverage will be shown in its entirety from start to finish and it ends approximately midnight, and will be telecast nightly.

The program is cablecast on Government Access Channel 72 in White Plains.

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“Uncommon Council” OKs NYPH Development With Controls. Calls for Land Talks.

WPCNR Common Council Chronicle-Examiner. By John F. Bailey. August 7, 2003: The Common Council 6-1 decision early Tuesday morning approved development of a six story biomedical research and proton accelerator cancer treatment center to be built on an interior site on New York Presbyterian Hospital below Bloomingdale’s. Councilpersons each had their reasons for approving the project that they eloquently expressed.

Gavel to Gavel video tape converage of this historic decision can be seen this evening beginning at 5 PM on Government Access Channel 72 within White Plains city limits.

MY GOAL IS TO CHANGE THE MIND OF THE COUNCIL said Councilman William King as he began his public commentary just prior to Tuesday morning’s historic vote. The Common Council listens to Councilman William King, (far right), surrounded by books, charts, index cards and a dictionary, as the Councilman attempted to persuade three of his colleagues to turn down the NYPH project. A 5-vote majority was needed because the site is environmentally sensitive. Note Council Chamber Official Clock is not correct.
Photo by WPCNR

Council Continues to Hold the Reins.

The stunning decision enables the city to retain control over the scope and nature of hospital development. At the same time, its environmental findings provide the hospital a definition of what development the city will accept and how it will accept it on other sites on the property.

This was how Common Council President, Benjamin Boykin described and analyzed the impact of the Council’s historic vote to reporters after the vote was taken.

Shocker in the Night.

The resolution approving the project was approved by voice vote after Councilman William King spoke for fifty minutes from 12:42 A.M. to 1:32 A.M., attempting to change the minds of Glen Hockley, Tom Roach, Robert Greer, Rita Malmud and Mr. Boykin on the resolution

After the longest-running, tumultuous and emotional public hearings in recent memory was closed at 12:30 A.M. Tuesday morning, Mayor Joseph Delfino invited the members of the Common Council to express their positions on the issue.

THE KING FILIBUSTER: William King, praised at various times by opponents of the project for his opposition to the plan, who this weekend revealed to The Journal News the voting intentions of his colleagues, attempted to change his colleagues’ minds.
Photo by WPCNR

King discoursed for 50 minutes, saying “My goal is to change the mind of the council,” citing four reasons:

1.)the resolution violated the single family zoning now permitted on the site.

2.) The New York Presbyterian Hospital Master Plan calls for more biotech structures.

3.) It conflicts with zoning.

4.) Site 8 is the least desirable site (in his opinion).

King said the hospital “did not really consider” as a site, the land he suggested, a “Site 9” located behind the Memorial Methodist Church off Bryant Avenue. He elaborated at length on the feasibility, in his opinion, of this site, pointing out that it could be entered through St. Agnes Hospital, and St. Agnes could also supply parking.

King is All Over It.

The dissenting Councilman said approving the project as proposed, disregarded the element of housing he said would be needed on the property to house what he described as “low paid” research workers.

He criticized the architecture of the proposed six-story building on Site 8, that would house the biotech structure and proton accelerator, saying it did not “mesh” well with the historic architecture on the hospital oval.

He attacked the conclusion of the resolution that the usage would be “ancillary,” questioned the safety of the proton accelerator, using the thickness of the concrete walls as evidence that it was unsafe, and expressed doubts the proton accelerator would ever be built due to New York State budget problems.

He also read specific sections of the zoning code which, in his opinion, the resolution violated. He maintained the city Master Plan adopted in 1997, characterized the hospital property as “quasi public” and drew from that the resolution before the council violated this spirit.

Reads letters from public.

King read extensively from letters of comment sent in by citizens against the project. He warned that approving the resolution, the council was approving “de facto” acceptance of the hospital master plan for the entire site, which he felt was operating in an “arbitrary and capricious manner.”

Moratorium called for. Westchester County Planning Board Renders No Opinion to Date.

He concluded by calling for a moratorium on New York Presbyterian Hospital development , suggesting a land swap with the hospital be arranged with Westchester County or New York State, and that he would like to hear from the Westchester County Planning Board about what they think of the project.

Though sent documents detailing the hospital proposal and resolution, the Westchester County Planning Board has not commented as of Monday evening on whether they approved or disapprove of the project, according to Mr. King.

“I’d like to say slow down, let’s not be herded to a judgment,” King said in his last remark at 1:32 A.M. The 25 or sow remaining in the audience gave him a round of applause.

HOCKLEY’S WALK-ABOUTS TELL HIM MR. AND MRS. WHITE PLAINS ARE NOT AGAINST THE PROJECT: Councilman Glen Hockley said in less than five minutes that he felt the council had considered the project and built in safeguards. He said that in his weekly “Walk-Abouts” in which he walks the neighborhoods of the city, discussing city issues with residents, he has found the most citizens are not against the project, even are “mostly for” the project.
Photo by WPCNR

Glen Hockley discussed his position next, saying he felt the council had reviewed the project, built in safe guards within the resolution, and he would vote to approve it.

Mr. Hockley had been called out of the Council meeting at 10:30 PM, being informed of an emergency involving his wife, which he and his wife wished not to discuss. Mrs. Hockley told WPCNR she was fine after the council meeting had ended. Mr. Hockley, exercising his “sunchin” (focus) after learning his wife was safe, returned to his post on the council and completed the historic evening under strain. WPCNR has learned from a reliable source the matter had nothing to do with the resolution under discussion.

COUNCILMAN GREER DEFUSES ANCILLARY USE ISSUE: Councilman Robert Greer said he was “torn between great beauty” in considering the issue. He said Michael Gerrard, the city environmental lawyer had advised the council “that an ancillary use could be both ancillary and major at the same time.”
Photo by WPCNR

Mr. Greer lauded the resolution for its retaining “control” of the project. He said the Council built safeguards into the resolution, retaining the right to approve or deny Biotech Level 3 research to the hospital, prohibiting Levels 4 & 5, and that safety procedures permit Level 3 research in Manhattan, a much more crowded place than White Plains.

City Hospital Leaders Rebuffed by Resolution Guidelines.

The Council’s retention of right of approval of what the hospital does, rejects concerns of leaders of White Plains Hospital, Burk Hospital and St. Agnes Hospital expressed in the last three weeks to the Common Council, that the council was interjecting itself in the management and mission of hospitals.

Expects a Dialogue. Wants to Develop Master Plan with the Hospital, Address Zoning on All City Hospital Property.

Councilman Greer said the resolution begged the question that the city had to look at all hospital zoning in the city:

“Our major concerns have been dealt with in the resolution. We’re not thinking if this is approved, if it happens, it is an opportunity for the city to work with the (New York Presbyterian) Hospital to update their Master Plan, developing a clear understanding of what the hospital is planning on doing,” Greer said. “It’s time for us to go ahead with this project.”

Greer added that the city would also expect to address zoning ordinances governing all hospital properties in the city.

ROACH REFUSES TO LITIGATE TO MAKE A POINT: Responding to Lewis Trippett’s advice “not to be afraid of lawyers,” Tom Roach said that the easiest thing for him to do politically would be to say “No” to the project.
Photo by WPCNR

Councilman Thomas Roach, stepped to the plate next, and expressed that, he being new to the issue, “The cards had already been dealt and I was forced to deal with the hand before me, and I’ve done the best I can with that.”

Roach said one thing was certain, “We don’t own it (the NYPH property), and they’re entitled to make use of this property in conformance with our land-use laws.”

Roach commented on his attitude towards litigation, and the threat of being sued if the city should turn down the resolution for the hospital facility: “I have no fear of litigation, but I don’t take to litigation to make a point. A large majority makes a point. Another group of people not coming to the meeting, they elect you and you’re going to make a reasonable finding.”

He characterized that the hospital and the city are “essentially on a war-footing. The easy thing for me is to just say “No.” Because they are under the law they have the legal right to proceed with this project.”

MALMUD SAYS RESOLUTION RETAINS CONTROL ON HOSPITAL PROJECT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Councilperson Rita Malmud says the Findings Resolution protects the residents of the city.
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Councilwoman Rita Malmud noted that she has long opposed development on the hospital property and had been in the lead for years on preserving open space. She said the resolution up for approval improved the hospital’s proposal because it had teeth in it, stipulating,

1.)There would be no commercial activity of any kind on the property.

2.) The project the hospital is considering is not a commercial venture.

3.) The biotech/proton accelerator building has been moved to an interior site.

4.) Bryant Avenue is closed to all hospital traffic, except for emergencies.

5.) The number of trees removed has been reduced.

6.) Safety Officers with backup officers will be on duty at all times in the labs.

7.) The nature of research will be subject to Common Council Approval (Level 3 has to be approved, Levels 4 & 5 prohibited).

Malmud Expects Issue of Hospital Land to be Discussed.

Ms. Malmud noted that no tree-cutting should take place “until all permits are in place.” Then she added a hope:

“The broader issue of hospital land use should be discussed in the very near future. We need to re-evaluate. This Council’s work should not end tonight.”

COUNCIL PRESIDENT BOYKIN CALLS FOR A NEW DIRECTION IN CASTING FIFTH VOTE PUTS RESOLUTION IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE: In his remarks at approximately 2:10 A.M. Tuesday morning, Councilman Boykin said why he was voting to approve the project, he also called for discussions on land for a park.
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Councilman Benjamin Boykin, casting the fifth and decisive vote, passing the project, and giving the New York Presbyterian Hospital approval for the project, eloquently stated the hospital’s opportunity to develop a new relationship with the city, saying,

“The discussion over this project has sparked much passion from various individuals and organizations. The range of discussion has gone from absolutely no development on this property to those who say that this is private property and the applicant has the right to develop it. It has been, and it will continue to be, my attempt to find some middle ground where everyone has given something up, but in return, everyone benefits because we have more than we started with.”

Saying “No” to the project would be the easy political choice:

“Some individuals have advocated that we just say no – reject the project and move on. Do not allow any development on this property. The hospital, under its current R1-12.5 zoning, can build about 490 single-family houses on their property. They could, in theory, start this development tomorrow. The status quo is therefore residential development.”

SEQRA Review prohibits massive development of property in future. Kills Hospital Master Plan.

Boykin said the environmental review of the hospital project set standards indicating what the city feels can be built on the hospital, and informs the hospital what they can propose in the future:

“…the right of private property ownership carries with it the public responsibility to be considerate of your neighbor and sensitive to the environment. In the environmental process for this application, the Council has built a public record that will prevent massive development of this property. Therefore, most of the conceptual master plan information presented early in this process will never happen. We must make sure through legislation and the forming of new relationships with the hospital, that community concerns are considered and addressed for this property.”

Boykin: Council decides use is ancillary. Mechanism in place to collect taxes if appropriate.

The Council President said, “While there is no definition of ancillary use, this council has wrestled with this issue and decided that the proposed medical use is ancillary. In addition, any medical research done at the White Plains Campus of NYPH must be connected with the hospital activities at this location. There will not be any labs for the production of items for distribution. Commercial activity on this site is strictly prohibited…We have placed language in the Environmental Findings Statement to allow the Assessor to collect the appropriate information to make the tax status determination.”

City assures residents their water rates will not go up with this project.

Boykin went on record as saying, “this project will not increase water rates for our residents,” and that Con Edison “has stated they can handle the increased electrical burden with the current or reconstructed substations.”

Boykin asserts city could lose control of its fate, if city goes to court.

In response to the suggestion that the city vote No and confront hospital attorneys in court in an Article 78 action, Boykin put the matter into consideration:

“I am concerned that if we deny this application, the city may lose control of our special permit and zoning rights and the courts will determine the fate of this project. This would be the worse of all situations for the residents of White Plains. I believe the project to Site 8, the closing of the Bryant Avenue Entrance and imposing detailed conditions for hospital related uses, the impact on our neighborhoods and the City of White Plains have been mitigated. Therefore I will vote to approve the Environmental Findings Statement and the Site Plan Approval for the Applicant.”

The time when Boykin finished speaking was 2:23 A.M. You could have heard a pin drop. It was all over. The hospital had its 5-1 majority.

Councilman Boykin wasn’t finished, he called for a new beginning:

“It is time for a new beginning with the hospital. I ask the hospital to immediately meet with us to address pressing community concerns. I look forward to working with the hospital to provide the residents of White Plains with public access to the beautiful property for passive as well as leisure and active recreational uses.”

Hospital officials, appearing stunned, and not quite knowing how to react to what appeared to be an unexpected victory in the opinion of those observing them, refused to comment on that statement after the meeting, other than issuing a preprinted statement, thanking the council for their approval.

MAYOR CALLS FOR A CENTRAL PARK: In his address to the Council Mayor Joseph Delfino remarked on the 25 years of hospital/city conflict, and called for finding a way to achieve finally a “Central Park for White Plains.”
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The Mayor, his sixth vote no longer an issue, placed a benediction on the historic evening, as fitting and uplifting in this reporter’s opinion as Calvary Baptist Church’s Reverend Lester Cousins’ rousing singing of a psalm to open the Council meeting seven hours before:

The Mayor remarked on how the council had reached the evening’s predicament, chiding opposition forces for rejecting Plan A, that would have provided 60 acres of free park land, and Plan B, calling for massive development of buildings on the property two years and 19 days before.

He was not satisfied with the proposal before him: “What we have here is Plan B. It has a number of great benefits…it’s about saving the lives of our citizens.”

Mayor Says Cancer Facility is Needed Citing Deaths from the Disease.

The Mayor mentioned 50,000 persons died in 2001 of cancer, 1,500 persons a day, and 16 million persons had died of cancer since 1990, 100 million persons in the last century. The Mayor put the cost of caring for cancer victims at $157 billion in just the year 2001.

Dunphy Da Man.

The Mayor said “We really didn’t have much choice (in approving the proposal).” He praised his Corporation Counsel, Edward Dunphy, whom he described as “absolutely right on the money,” on all the legal issues, chiding the Council for rejecting referral of Plans A & B on July 17, 2000: “They heard the messenger (Dunphy) but they did not like the music.”

Kudos for the Department Heads

He thanked the city department heads, Executive Officer George Gretsas, Michael Gerrard, the Arnold & Porter environmental consultant, and Susan Habel, Commissioner of Planning, whom he described as “going above and beyond to protect the city’s interests.” Ms. Habel and her Deputy Commissioner wrote the massive, 70-page Environmental Findings Statement.

Now that the Approval is Granted, A Central Park Can Be Discussed: Delfino

The Mayor said the city and the hospital now could discuss land issues (formerly prohibited by the city’s settlement of the hospital’s lawsuit in January, 2001), and secure a “Central Park” for White Plains.

With that the Mayor asked to move the resolution, a roll call vote was taken, and the Center of Advanced Proton Therapeutics and Biotech Lab was approved by a 6-1 vote. The time was 2:32 A.M.

The UnCommon Council meeting adjourned at 2:40 A.M.

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Park Crusaders Fail to Sway Council in Marathon Last Stand.

WPCNR Common Council Chronicle. By John F. Bailey. August 6, 2003: Twenty-seven White Plains neighborhood activists and eleven New York Presbyterian Hospital supporters took five hours Monday evening to deliver in passionate, eloquent, and poignant voices their opposition and support respectively, for the New York Presbyterian Hospital biotech/proton accelerator proposal subsequently approved by the Common Council at officially 2:32 A.M. Tuesday morning.

THE HOUSE AT 1:30 A.M.: Diehard Council watchers observing William King’s 50-minute attempt to persuade Council colleagues to turn down the New York Presbyterian Hospital project.
Photo by WPCNR

For perhaps the last time, the “Park Crusaders” who have worked for “A Central Park for White Plains” for almost a quarter of a century stalked doggedly and spiritedly to the podium delivering both eloquence and innuendo, at times pleading, at times cajoling, other times scolding the council for backing off their campaign promises.

They included Alan Teck, Barbara Benjamin, Don Wilson, Claire Eisenstadt, and were joined by concerned neighbors from the Gedney Association, Bryant Circle, neighborhoods directly affected by the hospital project. The ranks were swelled as the evening moved past midnight by persons watching on television, then coming to City Hall to speak.

The supporters included a handful of professionals employed on the White Plains New York Presbyterian Hospital campus, and some notable White Plains personalities, including former Councilman Hal Masbach, Carl Barrera, Tim Sheehan, and former Mayor Michael Keating. A last minute mailing from New York Presbyterian Hospital which arrived only Monday in White Plains mailboxes failed to bring more “in-person” support for the hospital to City Hall.

The Council meeting attracted 45 persons at its start, and had dwindled to a diehard 25 by the time the final vote was taken.

Supporters Advocate the Medical Future.

Behavorial specialists from New York Presbyterian Hospital began the reopening of the marathon public hearing in its seventh month. Dr. John Docherty, leading off for the hospital, commented how the close proximity of researchers at the proposed biomedical research facility would result in “knowledge transfer,” between doctors and researchers, a key component of progress in mental health treatment, saying “The White Plains campus is a very unique opportunity to bring these communities (treatment specialists and researchers) together.” He said treatment of depression in the elderly would be one of the hospital missions that would be facilitated by the biomedical facility.

Gail Ryder of the hospital, said, “This is a great evening. This is the next generation of health care. Thank you for reading what I know has been reams of material. This (proposed facility) is the future pace and future direction for wellness.”

Hal Masbach, of the Downtown Business Improvement District, a former Councilman, said, “It’s mind-boggling that the city fathers could consider not adding this facility (to White Plains). I’ve heard all the objections. There’s not one of these objections that’s either untrue or dealt with (in the resolution to approve).”

FORMER MAYOR ENDORSES PROJECT: Michael Keating, Mayor of White Plains for a portion of 1974 and all of 1975, addressed the Common Council, recalling the New York Presbyterian Hospital’s history of treating the mentally ill. He recalled when the hospital applied for and received approval for the Bloomingdale’s project in the mid-70s. He described that as a period of time when the hospital “had lost their way,” but now, he feels that the present project shows that they have “found their way” and that he encouraged the Council to approve the resolution.
Photo by WPCNR

Opposition centers on Zoning Change, Ancillary Use Turning into Primary Use.

After an initial sequence of supporters, the long familiar line of those opposed to the project weighed-in, one after another.

One gentleman likened the hospital proposal on the table to an orchestrated, calculated plot leading off with the worst proposal first, (locating two buildings on Bryant Avenue), then strategically withdrawing to the Site 8, 6-story one building proposal the council was voting on.

This gentleman reported that former White Plains resident Joseph Clark was the mysterious reporter of the toxic dump site on the campus. Mr. Clark’s identity has been long shielded by Concerned Citizens for Open Space, which has refused to reveal their source for this charge they have made throughout the current review process.

WHYATT FOR THE DEFENSE: Thomas Whyatt urging defeat of the hospital proposal on zoning, ancillary use violation, and failure to produce a detailed master plan Monday evening.
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Whyatt: Proposal Violates Zoning, Ancillary Use Definition.

Concerned Citizens for Open Space Attorney, Thomas Whyatt, constructed the legal argument that the size of the project, with over 900 employees expected, dwarfs the number of employees now on the campus, saying this made the project far from ancillary (defined as “subordinate”), thus violating the city’s Special Permit conditions. Whyatt, in addition maintained that the project violated the R-1-12.5 residential zoning, and called the project an industrial park. He said the Council was in its resolution, its controls on the project were being left to future councils.

He said, “I don’t think this is legal.” He called for the Council to reject and ask the hospital to come back with a request for a zoning change, prepared to discuss land. “It should be on the table,” he said. Marc Pollitzer of the North Street Civic Association echoed Whyatt’s arguments saying the project violated zoning.

Doris Simon called on the council to “stop this monstrous project,” calling it “an environmental crime.”

Rosemarie Hicks, a research technician, criticized the hospital description of their proposed research facility as “a fantasy,” saying, “they’re throwing out numbers that do not make sense in an every day laboratory facility.”

Benjamin cites wide anti-project sentiment.

Barbara Benjamin said she had been inundated with telephone calls over the weekend from persons opposed to the project after reading the Journal News story that the council was going to approve the project. But, to anyone following the council maneuverings in recent weeks, it has become apparent the Council was spelling out conditions under which it was going to approve this project. Public Access Channel 71 White Plains Week commentators James Benerofe and John Bailey have been predicting this approval on the air for a month, and they said so again on last Friday evening’s show.

Benjamin said she had heard from a vast and diverse number of citizens, who, she said, ended their conversations with the same words, “I’ll never trust anyone on the Common Council again.”

Benjamin said she also resented the hospital’s alleged attitude that those opposing the project were indifferent to the pain and suffering of cancer victims, remarking her own husband had died of the disease. This criticism was echoed by several other speakers, one of whom had trouble holding on to her emotions, fighting back tears.

CAMPAIGN PROMISES QUOTED TO THE COUNCIL: Resident Claire Eisenstadt, quoting from the White Plains Watch, reads the campaign promises and quotes of several councilpersons, in which the councilpersons promised they would not support development of the hospital in any way, and would work for a park. Eisenstadt said, “We voters will not forget this project on the next election day.”
Photo by WPCNR

READING OF THE NO ROLL: Eva Stern commanded 15 minutes of hearing time by reading 434 names of persons opposed to the project from a CCOS advertisement that appeared in the White Plains Watch. Stern began her “roll call” saying, “I’m very disappointed in you. I think you’re making a terrible mistake. I hope you have the guts to say No to this project.”
Photo by WPCNR

Wilson, founder of CCOS calls for a new dialogue.

Don Wilson, speaking early in the evening called on the council to deny the resolution, ask the hospital to come back, asking for rezoning. He urged, “using the rezoning process to permit an industrial park on the (medical) oval only, and work with the New York Historical Preservation” to preserve elements of the hospital’s Millennium Preservation Plan to make part of the open space a city park.

VOICE OF REASON: Donald Wilson, CCOS founder, who helped stop the infamous “City Within a City” project in 1984, called for the council to reject the proposal. Later in the evening, Councilman Benjamin Boykin was to call for the hospital to discuss land appropriations to the city after the council had approved the project.
Photo by WPCNR

Others speaking strongly against the project were Robert Wall, Amy Barish, Brian Henderson, Louis Trippett, and Betsy Desoye. Desoye particularly drew Mayor Delfino’s ire by bringing up Robert Greer’s disclosure of his wife’s employment at the hospital. Desoiye was of the opinion Greer should have recused himself from the impending vote. Mayor Delfino stated the Corporation Counsel, Edward Dunphy had absolved Greer of any conflict of interest, and that the Ethics Board had declined to take up the issue.

GRILLING GREER: Betsy DeSoye made Robert Greer uncomfortable challenging the ethics of the Councilman for not recusing himself from the vote. The Mayor dismissed her charges as already having been dealt with.
Photo by WPCNR

After Carl Barrera, the 38th speaker of the evening, ended the comments at 12:30 AM Tuesday morning, supporting the project, the Mayor introduced Michael Gerrard, the city legal environmental attorney who assisted in preparation of the environmental review and the Findings Statement. Gerrard said that comments from the public received up until July 29 did not introduce any new matters impacting the Findings Statement. With that the Mayor asked the council to close the hearing after seven months, and it was ready for the Council to be heard.

INTERMISSION: SCHMOOZING IN THE ROTUNDA: During one of three breaks in the seven hour and 45 minute meeting, White Plains movers and shaker schmooze, speculate and rumorize in the famous City Hall rotunda.
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