City Center Financing Expected to Come Through Next Week

WPCNR Morning Edition, Filed 3/28/02, 9:30 AM: City Hall was host Wednesday to a small contingent of Cappelli Enterprises staffers, working with city officials and legal representatives to complete the paperwork on the Cappelli Organization multi-million dollar financing package.
A spokesman for the Cappelli Organization, taking a break from the number-crunching, predicted to WPCNR that the long-awaited “closing” would take place next week.

The unofficial word from a trusted Louis Cappelli confidante, dovetailed with comments from George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, who stated Tuesday evening that the mammoth closing on upwards of $300 million in financing would take place in the next two weeks.

April is the month when Cappelli Enterprises must begin construction of the City Center, or transform the site into a park if he does not begin construction.

Gretsas said that, if there was any further delay, an extension of the agreement most likely would be granted.

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Hockley: Form Citizen-Police-Fire-Expert Panel to Study Police-Fire Organization

WPCNR All News Final, By John F. Bailey, Filed 3/26/02, 11:15 PM EST: The Common Council reversed its decision to hire and fund the Center for Government Research to study the feasibility of splitting the police and fire departments Tuesday. Glen Hockley called for forming a citizen panel of White Plains residents, police officers and fireman, and outside law and fire experts to conduct an independent, unpaid study of how to reorganize the Public Safety function.
In a meeting that took less than 15 minutes, the Common Council bowed to Firefighters union request not to undertake the CGR study at this time.

When Common Council President Benjamin Boykin, Jr. asked if there was any discussion, Glen Hockley spoke up:

“After the dust settles from this,” Hockley addressed the Council, “I think it’s in the best interests of the city to hear from the Presidents of both of the unions (James Carrier of the White Plains Police Benevolent Association, and James Donahoe, of the White Plains Professional Firefighters), what their feelings are (about the organization of the departments). It is in the best interest of the public to split the departments.”

Hockley calls for “a volunteer Board of Citizens:”

Mr. Hockley expressed confidence in White Plains’ ability to determine the destiny of its police and fire services: “We have a great deal of expertise throughout our city and county, and in our own (police-fire) departments, who know best what’s in the best interests of our departments. We could save a bundle of money by looking inward. I will pursue it to revisit this.”

None of the other five councilpersons present (Rita Malmud, Robert Greer, Tom Roach, William King, and Benjamin Boykin) commented. With that Hockley comment, the ordinance and resolutions officially dooming the CGR study were passed 6-0.

Rotunda Spin

WPCNR asked Councilwoman Rita Malmud, as she briskly walked down the circular staircase to her car, nonstop, if she would consider splitting the police fire departments asunder without a study. Mrs. Malmud said, “You cannot do a study without cooperation. Further study is needed, I still want a professional, independent study.”

Malmud said the Firefighters union was not going to cooperate, and that was why she voted against the study she had approved.

WPCNR asked, since the city is empowered to require employee cooperation with department initiatives, why the study could not have been done anyway. Malmud questioned the validity of the study without the firefighters’ endorsement of the study and the conclusions that would be reached as a result.

King suggests they not hire a Public Safety Commissioner and save money.

William King said, “We have to look at whole budget. We’re under some budget pressures. By not hiring a new Commissioner of Public Safety, and a new deputy Commissioner we can save $300,000. It might be that having a Public Safety Commissioner is a luxury we cannot afford any more.”

King, who had voted against the study on March 15 when the council voted to hire CGR, 5-1, said he had suggested to Mayor Joseph Delfino, that an independent consultant who has major police experience like William Bratton (the former New York City Police Commissioner), or a retired NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, (now again the Police Commissioner under the Bloomberg Administration, be hired to examine the White Plains police and fire operations as an alternative, and the Mayor rejected it.

Roach sees the study kill as a missed opportunity.

Roach said he wanted the ramifications of a police fire split “looked at, because it’s a major change in the way we operate, in an efficient manner. I’m disappointed we’re not going to do that, because this was a great opportunity to take a look at this.”

Hockley expounds on his favoring a Police Fire Split. Boykin stands firm: no study in near term.

Mr. Hockley, holding court on City Hall’s circular staircase talked animatedly about how, in his opinion, the police should run the police, and the firemen should run the fire department, with each “Chief” reporting to the Mayor.

Mr. Boykin listened, and when asked about Mr. Hockley’s initiative to form an ad hoc citizen-professionals committee, Mr. Boykin said, he was “not willing to entertain a study in the near term.”

Hockley draws on his discussions with the unions.

Hockley said he has had extensive talks with the police and fire union leaders, and as a result, is convinced the departments could run better, if separated.

He questioned the need for Deputy Commissioners, saying the department hierarchies could be consolidated under one Commissioner each, saving the salaries of both Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner, and we presume, the Commissioner of Public Safety. He sees both Police Chief and Fire Chief reporting to the Mayor directly.

Hockley’s thoughts on Fire Department.

Hockley said the Fire Department feels it needs autonomy, from his understanding, so they would have a Commissioner who would “speak out for them (the men),” and be behind them and the firemens’ interests, an advocate. Hockley said the firemen had told him that “we have obsolete equipment, (mentioning the “Gated Y” complaint), that they do not get the latest best equipment, but the cheapest.”

Jim Donohoe and WPCNR miss connections

Jim Donohoe, head of the firefighters union, has been trying to reach WPCNR. We have received at least one message from Mr. Donohoe, and hope to speak with the firefighters President on Wednesday.

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County Executive Spano Declares Drought Emergency

WPCNR 5 O’Clock Lightning Leader, From Westchester County Department of Communications, filed 3/26/02 5:00 PM EST:After weeks of warnings about the potential dangers of a lack of rainfall, Westchester County Executive Andy Spano officially declared a drought emergency today — triggering mandatory water restrictions that will go into effect next week.

The county had already begun gearing up for such a declaration earlier
this month when it became obvious that reservoirs were unlikely to fill
enough to avoid more drastic conservation measures.

As of April 1, businesses, schools and governments that use more than 1,000 gallons of water per day will have to decrease water usage by 15 percent. Restaurants will be barred from serving water to patrons except upon request.

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Council hears first Ordinance on course to kill Study. Meets Tues at 7.

WPCNR Midnight Special, By John F. Bailey, 5/25/02, UPDATE 1 filed at 11:30 PM EST: The Common Council, with Members Benjamin Boykin, William King, Robert Greer, Rita Malmud, and Glen Hockley attending Monday night, heard the first reading of an ordinance rescinding the Police/Fire Study. They will meet again Tuesday night at 7 PM
to hear the ordinance and vote it.

Photo by WPCNR

With Mayor Delfino somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, flying to Japan, the Council began the process of killing the Police Fire Study they had already approved March 11.

Council President Benjamin Boykin presided over the five-member council.

Firefighters refuse to be interviewed.

Boykin said the firefighters’ union asked the Council not to do the study. Boykin reported to WPCNR that the union told the Council they would not allow their membership to be interviewed for the study, which was planned to begin today (Tuesday).

Boykin perplexed.

Boykin commented to WPCNR after the reading of the ordinance, that he still felt “this was the right time to do the study.” Asked if the firefighters were displeased with the firm, or had given any reason for backing out of the study, Boykin demurred, saying “Ask the union.”

WPCNR asked Mr. Boykin if this wasn’t an embarrassment to him, considering how strongly he had personally called for a study of the police-fire operations in his Council President’s address in February. Boykin said, “You said that, I didn’t.”

Union has other agenda.

Earlier Monday, Boykin told WPCNR the union has an agenda it wanted to address in labor contract negotiations which begin Tuesday, and “was not looking for the Council to do the study at this time.”

Despite earlier reports from city hall spokesman Paul Wood that the study was dead forever, Boykin left the door open to do the study at some future date Monday evening, but “not any time soon,” (his words).

City Hall Shocker!

George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, said that the Mayor’s office had not received indication from the firefighters union that they had any reservations about the selection of CGR (Center for Government Research), to do the study at any time leading up to the Council approval of the study.

At the public hearing March 11, when the study was approved by the Council, Jim Donahoe, sitting next to Acting Public Safety Commissioner Daniel Hickey, the President of the White Plains Professional Firefighters did not comment at all, as the Council heard from the CGR representative outlining the study. Not one word.

Man from CGR already in-town, sent packing

Kent Gardner, a representative of the Center for Government Research, in town for the start of the study, arrived at City Hall just prior to the Council meeting at 6 PM Monday, and spoke with George Gretsas.

The Common Council offered no public comment or apology to Mr. Gardner regarding the Common Council eleventh hour change of commitment to the study.

No contract signed.

Gretsas reported that the city had not signed a contract with CGR for the study, and would reimburse CGR for travel expenses to White Plains already booked.
Second time in year, Democratic Council has backed off

At the beginning of 2001, the council was offered an opportunity to study the Police-Fire organization in White Plains as to its effectiveness. At that time, they rejected a study because of the expense, (approximately $200,000).

This time, apparently the price was right, but the fire department rejected the idea of being studied.

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FLASH! Council to Meet Tonight to Kill Police/Fire Study on FD Request

WPCNR Afternoon Tribune, UPDATE # 2 by John F. Bailey, 3/25/02, 2:00 PM: WPCNR has learned that the Common Council will hold a Special Meeting this evening at 6 PM, to kill the Police-Fire Study they approved 5-1 March 14. The surprising reversal comes at the request of the White Plains Professional Fire Fighters Union on the eve of beginning negotiations of their new contract.
With the Mayor in the air over the Pacific Ocean, winging his way to Japan, the Council, if they wish to kill the study, will have to meet twice this week in order to override their own approval of a scant two weeks ago.

Acting Commissioner Hickey “floored”

The union request of the council was news to Acting Commissioner of Public Safety, Daniel Hickey, who told WPCNR, he just learned about it from City Hall a few moments ago. Hickey said the union did not talk to him or Fire Chief, Mark Daimon about the request to kill the study. He said he was “floored” when City Hall told him of the special meeting within the last hour.

Fire Fighter Contract Negotiations begin Tuesday.

Hickey noted that he was to begin labor contract negotiations with the fire fighters union Tuesday, but said he was not going to talk to the union about any reorganization of the department. He said that was not a negotiable item, saying it was up to the Mayor and the Council.

Hickey said the meeting Tuesday is the kickoff negotiation meeting, when both sides layout what the are expecting. The city will first learn what the firefighters are seeking in a new contract.
Boykin: Fire Fighters Union Asked Them to Kill Study

WPCNR interviewed Common Council President Benjamin Boykin, Jr., a little after 12 noon today, and Mr. Boykin said the decision to “rescind” the study legislation was made at the request of the fire fighters union.

Boykin said, “They have other agendas they want to pursue in new labor contract negotiations, and were not looking for us to do this.”

Boykin said he did not know what the fire department “agendas” were. He also said the police union had not commented to him on the police-fire study. He expected four councilpersons would be at the meeting this evening, providing a quoram.

The meeting was called by Mr. Boykin, WPCNR has subsequently learned slightly early Monday morning. Quoram was not achieved until minutes ahead of the six hours time interval required for a special meeting.

The reported move to kill the study, developed among council members over the past weekend.

The move to drop the study, we have learned, comes on the eve when the study was supposed to begin. A representative of the Center for Government Research was scheduled to fly in to White Plains Tuesday to commence the study, which was to have cost the city $84,000.

Shocked media scribes were mystified since the study was the centerpiece of Common Council President Benjamin Boykin’s President’s Address to the City in February, when he promised to end the controversy over separate police and fire department feasibility once and for all.

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High School Looking for More Good Principal Candidates

Friday Night Getaway Gazette, by John F. Bailey, Filed 3/22/02, 5 PM EST: The Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for the City School District, reported today to WPCNR that the search for a new Principal for White Plains High School to replace William Colavito beginning in July, is continuing, and that the District is going to “re-search,” placing a new advertisement to “recanvas” potential principal candidates.
Dr. Linda Ochser, told WPCNR “We’re repening our search. We did not do as well as we had hoped. We have some attractive candidates, but have made no offers yet. We are still interviewing.”
Ochser said they were placing an advertisement and she expected to conduct new interviews in mid-April.

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Board of Education Selects Final 3 for Superintendent; Names Community Committee

Friday Getaway Gazette, By John F. Bailey, Filed 3/22/02, 4:30 PM EST: The President of the Board of Education informed WPCNR Friday that the Board has reviewed candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant (in June) Superintendent of Schools position and has selected three “finalists” for the position.
Donna McLaughlin, President, reports that in executive session held we believe Thursday evening, that the Board has selected three finalists to present to a Community Committee of citizens in approximately two weeks, who will be interviewing the three finalists for Superintendent.

Screening Committee from the Community

McLaughlin said that the “Final 3″ will be interviewed by a 7-member screening committee from the community. The committee will offer representation of three District labor unions: Jerry Gorski, President of the White Plains Teachers Association, Hugh McKiernan, President of the Association of School Administrators, and Natalie Arone, President of the Civil Service Employees Association.

Representing the community will be former White Plains Councilperson, Pauline Oliva, Nancy Smith, Co-President of the White Plains PTA Council, Judith Aucar, representing Centro Hispano, and Dr. Linda Ochser, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, representing the School District.

Three Finalists a mix

The finalists are both male and female, McLaughlin said, and not all are from the Northeast or immediate geographic area. She said she was “very excited” about the selected finalists. She said the committee was “a great addition to the selection process.” Mrs. McLaughlin added that she had “always been optimistic” about attracting top candidates because White Plains was “a great district.”

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Fisher Hill Committee Seeks facts About JBFCS Group Home. JBFCS Responds.

WPCNR Afternoon Tribune by John F. Bailey & Correspondents, filed 3/20/02, 1:00 PM EST:Residents of Fisher Hill met with Mayor Joseph Delfino Tuesday evening and learned the city not been able to develop a clear picture of the types of Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services clients who they propose to house at 139 Walworth Avenue. A WPCNR interview with a JBFCS spokesman sheds light.

139 Walworth Avenue: Site of planned group home for formerly neglected and abused youth under the care of Jewish Board of Family and Children’ Services.
Photo by WPCNR

Residents attending the meeting told WPCNR that a citizens information committee had been formed to approach the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and meet with the organization to get clarification of the plans.

Cynthia Ryan has agreed to head a committee of Fisher Hill residents who hope to meet with a Leonard Rodriguez, of JBFCS, who was described by the Mayor’s Office as the coordinator for the Westchester JBFCS operations. Claire Orlando, of the Fisher Hill Association said the Mayor had advised that the city had not been able to get much more information from JBFCS from contacts they had made.
JBFCS Spokesperson Clarifies Clientele

WPCNR interviewed Mindy Liss, Director of Marketing Communications for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, who gave us details about the young persons who are anticipated to occupy the group home at 139 Walworth Avenue.

Ms. Liss said the home is intended to house 10 children between the ages of 15 to 19, whom she described as “foster home care children, who have a history of being abused and neglected.” They are not mentally disabled. She said these children have been selected because they have “done very well,” and are considered stabilized.

She said the home residents will have 24 hour-a-day supervision, and their whereabouts will be accounted for at all times. They will be either at school or at work, she said, in closely supervised programs or when out of the home, in a supervised situation.

Ms. Liss said she is eager to meet with the Fisher Hill neighbors and explain the program, and took the number of Ms. Ryan to attempt to get in touch with her.

No date has been set for occupancy at 139 Walworth, because renovations are still on-going. She added that a group home had been run in the Eastview section of White Plains for twenty years by JBFCS, before it was closed to make room for the Clayton park apartment complex.

“White Plains Links,” the service compiled exclusively by WPCNR, tells you more about the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Service. CLICK ON “White Plains Links” in upper lefthand corner of this site, then CLICK ON the “Personal Health and Services Section,” to find the link to the JBFCS website.

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King Komments:Aggressive Cleanup of Bronx River, Hale Ave, Mamaroneck Riv

King Komments By White Plains City Councilman William King, Updated 03/19/02: Councilman William King, the “One Man Environmental protection Agency” on the Common Council, has been discovering to his horror, the shabby state of Westchester County-owned parklands in the city of White Plains. He’s also calling for city annexation of two Hale Avenue lots for parks and extensive cleanup of the Mamaroneck River within the city on April 6. Here are his latest observations with a call to action as Earth Day approaches.
We really have to put some fences up across the streams and stormwater flowages into the Bronx River from White Plains. Greenburgh and North Castle should too.

I just walked the river banks north of the County Center again over the weekend and the litter and trash on the banks is atrocious. Too much litter is flowing into the Bronx River. We have to catch it before it gets into the river. The river is being seriously affected by “non point source pollution.”

Calls for “Litter Catchers.”

We could have volunteer litter cleanups every other weekend all year long and we would not be able to catch up with the new litter floating in.

I will try to sponsor as many volunteer litter cleanups this year in the Bronx River as possible but I need some immediate action by the municipalities that they will do their civic duty in installing the fences and then starting having regular “litter catcher” cleanouts (at least once a week). We should install tight mesh screen fences that go below the water line and several feet above that would be several feet in front of every storm drain that pours directly into the Bronx River or into one of its tributaries. These Litter Catchers will catch the “floatables” before they wash further downstream.

Squatters Noted.

I noticed many birds nesting in this area but it must be so lousy for them nesting amongst all the trash. Needless to say, all the litter in the river and along its banks and tributaries makes it totally uninviting to people, save for a few squatters here and there that I have noticed evidence of, and puts the whole Bronx River area in the “loser” category.

We’ve got to get serious and get on top of this lousy situation.

Storm Drain Mesh Covers Urged

We should also install new steel mesh covers over some of our existing storm drains which we know from cleaning out are in the more problematic litter areas. I noticed such covers recently over the manholes in Norwalk, Ct. which also has a riverfront area they are way ahead of us in reclaiming.

The whole Bronx River Parkway Reservation could be so much nicer and more pristine – otherwise, why have it?

The city of White Plains and the towns of Greenburgh and North Castle have to get more proactive about helping keep this county parkland cleaner. We all have to jump on this one – right now.

City should Annex Hale Avenue Trash Sites
I would also like to mention that there is a really strong argument for the city acquiring the vacant, overgrown lots on each side of the north end of Hale Ave. next to Fortunoff’s and across from the Westchester Pavilion for a neighborhood playground and extra open space/parking space.

The lots have just sat there for years and years and all kinds of trash have been dumped on them and not picked up by the owners, totally blighting the neighborhood. I picked up all the tires there and stacked them along with other major pieces of trash. This can’t be happening in our city while we are on the watch.

“Outdoor Junkyard” in Mamaroneck River

I was checking out this stream that runs behind the 2 lower income apt. buildings on the east side of Lake St and the County DOT garage in Harrison, just below Silver Lake. Just north of the northern building in the little woods there I noticed a big metal desk and other items that make it look like some kind of “outdoor junkyard office” or it could even be used for some kind of rudimentary outdoor sleeping accomodations.

I think this is City land. Can we (the city) check this out and, if on city property, clean this area out? Per the Rec Master Plan, I want to have some Boy Scouts and other volunteers clean out the stream along Delfino Park, from the I-287 bridge north to the Silver Lake dam. But if this big mess in the woods is there, the scouts and volunteers will feel their efforts will be in vain.

I would like to do the stream cleanup on Sat., April 6. Can the (Department of Public Works) guys get that desk and other big junk out there? I also think we need to cut back the dense overgrowth there by the stream so people can get to it and use it and so we can get the litter and trash out of there. Do we have such a crew?

Thanks, Bill King

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School Board Impressed with first set of 5 Superintendent Candidates;

WPCNR Morning Edition, by John F. Bailey, 3/18/02, 11:00 AM EST: The President of the Board of Education reported to WPCNR Monday that Saturday’s opening round of talks with candidates for the vacant Superintendent of Schools position went “very well.” Tonight, the public is invited to the first presentation of the 2002-03 school budget at Education House at 8 PM.

Hazard, Young and Attea, the superintendent research consultants, said they would deliver between 3 and 6 candidates for White Plains to consider and they have done that.

Donna McLaughlin, President of the Board, delivered a report on the first round of superintendent interviews which commenced Saturday morning in Rye Brook, at a secluded local hotel.

Two Sessions.

McLaughlin said the full board interviewed the first set of candidates for two hours each Saturday morning, and are planning to bring in another set of candidates Wednesday evening.

McLaughlin described the interviews as having gone “very well, I’m very excited. We still have more to go, John. We only did the first set, we have another set coming up. It’s hard to say until I get the whole picture.”

WPCNR asked if she was impressed with the slate, her comment: “So far.”

Screening Committee Will Quiz 2 or 3 Finalists

McLaughlin disclosed that five candidates are being interviewed, with the second set coming in Wednesday evening: “We’re going to weed them down to two or three, then bring them back in in a couple of weeks. At that time we’re going to bring in another committee to join us (in the finalist interviews).”

McLaughlin said this screening committee would be made up of the Presidents of the 3 unions (White Plains Teachers Association, Civil Service Employees Association, and Administrators and Supervisors Association), a citizen at large, a representative from Centro-Hispano, and a PTA Co-President.

They’re coming to White Plains from all over.

McLaughlin said the candidates were not exclusively from the Northeast, but “from all over. We asked all kinds of questions, tried to cover the gamut.”

She said she was impressed with the answers she got: “We have to interview everybody, and weed it down, based on their answers.”

When asked what role salary would play in this, McLaughlin said, “We haven’t discussed it. Our number one criteria is the best candidate for White Plains. That’s our criteria.”

In other Board activity…

The Board of Education will hold its first public hearing on the 2002-03 School Budget tonight at Education House at 8 PM. The budget is expected to decline slightly from its last level which was over $127MM with an increase the same as last year, 7.1%.

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