WP Hospital Hosts Drug/Alchohol Family Info Series Tomorrow

WPCNR NEWSREEL. Special to WPCNR April 3, 2002. 3:15 PM: The White Plains Hospital Medical Center will host the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence famed Family Information Series beginning tomorrow, Thursday, April 4, and continuing April 11, 18, and 25 at 7:30 PM.
The Family Information Series is designed to educate and inform those who need more information regarding alcohol and drug addiction.

Joan Bonsignore, the NCADD/Westchester, Inc. President, said, “We are so proud to be offering this program at The White Plains Hospital Medical Center because the needs of family members are so great. They are desparate for solutions to the problems with addictions.”

The first program will be given Thursday evening at 7:30 PM at the White Plains Hospital Center, Maple and Davis Avenues, White Plains.

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Paulin and Matusow to Split White Plains in Half Under Proposed New Districts

WPCNR Afternoon Tribune. By John F. Bailey. April 3, 2002. 2:15 PM EST: Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of the 88th Assembly District, brought WPCNR up-to-the-minute today on the latest redrawing of the Assembly District Guidelines. She reports that instead of losing most of White Plains, she will still have 50% of the White Plains voters in her newly redrawn District, should it be adopted.



Ms. Paulin contacted WPCNR to give us the latest on where the Assembly “lines” stand.

“There was some disagreement over the lines, “ Ms. Paulin told us. “The State Senate will take up the redistricting next week. We are in recess this week. We will be back in Albany Monday. We have been focusing on the budget negotiations.”

She said that currently she represents 39,000 of the 52,000 White Plains voters. The new redrawing of the 89th and 88th Assembly Districts, would have Naomi Matusow, who now represents the other 12,000 White Plains residents in her 89th district, representing 26,000 White Plains voters and Ms. Paulin the remaining 26,000. The new line, according to Ms. Paulin gives her “most of the White Plains downtown and all of the South End of White Plains. It splits it in half.”

Ms. Paulin reports the map she has seen is “hard to read” but the demarcation appears to run through the middle of the White Plains downtown. Asked if “horsetrading” of district lines in relation to budget concessions was going on, she said, “not that I’ve heard.”

Paulin said the Senate, Assembly and Governor have to agree soon on the new districts, or stay with the present boundaries, because she and Ms. Matusow, (and all candidates) have only from June 1st to July 11th to get their petitions for reelection in to the Board of Elections. Petitions are due July 8.

The new information from Ms. Paulin indicates she will have more of White Plains than originally was indicated by persons reporting on the new guidelines to us, and she will have all of Scarsdale.

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School Board Adopts $126.9MM Budget for 02-03, Offers $3.6MM Referendum

WPCNR AFTERNOON TRIBUNE, by John F. Bailey. April 2, 2002, 3 PM EST: The School Board adopted a $126.9MM budget for the 2002-03 school year, and voted to bring a $3.6MM referendum before the city residents for the repair and renovation of the district’s aging schools on May 21, the day of the School District Election.
At the annual public hearing on the school budget Monday evening, held before three citizens attending, the Board of Education unanimously passed the budget which results in an 8.6% increase in the tax rate, which means an extra $337 a year ($3,348) for the average homeowner, less than a dollar a day more in taxes for the average homeowner (average assessment $15,000).

Aching boilers need repair

In a separate funding request, the Board voted unanimously to hold a referendum on the same ballot as the May 21 budget vote. The referendum authorizing the district to bond $3.6 Million dollars is needed to execute physical improvements at six schools.

The improvements will be executed over the next two and a half years with the bonding not taking place until May 2003, allowing the school district to delay payment on the debt service until 2004.

The Referendum Details

According to Assistant Superintendent for Business, Richard Lasselle, the proposed bonded funds will be targeted for replacement boilers at Eastview School, Post Road School, Highlands Middle School and Ridgeway School.

A portion of the money is also earmarked for a new bus loop and parking renovations at Church Street and repair of a roof section at Ridgeway School. Another portion will replace the original lockerooms and their bathrooms at Highlands School (which date from 1930 )will be modernized. At the high school, Pool Building windows will be replaced, lockers renovated, and a video surveillance system installed. The high school baseball field is planned to be raised and drainage improved.

McLaughlin, Schere, Kirkpatrick balk at $3.9 million request

School Board President Donna McLaughlin, and Board Members Dorothy Schere and Susan Kirkpatrick were uncomfortable with Mr. Lasselle’s request to raise the referendum amount requested to $3.9 million.

Lasselle advised that estimates received just Monday from heating and air conditioning engineers indicated that the first estimates for boiler repairs were falling far short of what the boiler repairs would cost. Eastview boiler replacement is now estimated to be $750,000 dollars instead of $450,000 as originally estimated. Lasselle wanted to referendum for an extra $300,000 just to be on the safe side.

Kirkpatrick was troubled that the costs of the physical improvements continued to rise (“creep up” were her words), from when the board first considered it. (In early February, the referendum was described as a $2.5MM referendum.)

Dorothy Schere felt that because the financial circumstances surrounding the money from the high school bonding were not clear yet that the district should hold the line at just $3.6MM for the referendum amount.

Donna McLaughlin, Board President agreed, saying she felt $3.9 million was psychologically more troubling than $3.6MM. “Id rather be conservative,” she said.

Lasselle reasoned to the Board that the debt service was very low and that the district “could handle “ the extra $300,000 in bonding without a problem at this time.

Larry Geiger and Stephen Sules were very supportive of going for the $3.9 MM now, since in their opinions, it would not make a great deal of difference in the debt service.

The board voted 4 to 3 with McLaughlin, Schere, and Kirkpatrick voting against the $3.9 figure, and Mr. Sules, Mr. Geiger, Richard Bernstein, and Michelle Trataros voting for the $3.9MM level of bonding.

This is the only public meeting this year that this reporter has seen the Board split on an issue.

Not good enough, Lasselle says.

Mr. Lasselle pointed out that the Board needed to be more behind the referendum, because the state statutes require a 3/5 voting majority behind a referendum.

Mr. Sules attempted to reason with the three dissenters, who were in favor of bonding but not in favor of adding the extra $300,000 bringing the bonding request to $3.9MM.

Mr. Lasselle advised that perhaps some monies would be left over from the high school bond to make up the short fall, but he could not tell at this time what would be left over after the high school is finally finished.

Still McLaughlin and Schere held firm.

Schere said, “3.6MM is a better fit. We have more flexibility. There’s enough ambiguity at the moment about our capital plans to support it. We should play on the ambiguity of the moment. I don’t think this is the time to do it at all. It’s not appropriate to ask for even more money.”

McLaughlin held the line, too: “No doubt. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to the $3.9MM. I think we can get it done for $3.6MM.”

At this point, seeing he was not going to change their minds, Sules introduced a resolution to lower the referendum to $3.6MM, which passed unanimously, 7-0.

The referendum will appear in three parts on the May 21 School District Budget Election, and details on it will appear along with the school budget in a forthcoming newsletter.

Budget Bits

Mr. Lasselle, commenting on the budget noted that the district is assuming the same state aid as last year. He said that any additional state aid would most likely be targeted to“needy” school districts, so he was not expecting any additional state largesse for White Plains.

He stated that the final city assessment roll came to $320,598, 834, and that “we’re already receiving all kinds of petitions regarding tax certioraris.”

No one commented during open forum.

The School Board made no statements on either the status of the superintendent search, the White Plains High School Principal search, or the release of the District 2001 test scores by the Department of Education.

City Tax Increase and School Tax Increase Combined:$419

In a related development, City Budget Director Eileen Earl is calling for a city tax increase of 6% in her new 2002-03 city budget just released.

Ms. Earl is reported to peg the cost to the average White Plains homeowner as an extra $82.80 for a home assessed at $15,000. Add this to the property tax increase of $337 projected by the school budget increase, and the average homeowner will pay a combined increase of $410.80 in 02-03.

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Roach:Council to Evaluate Electronic Voting Machines

WPCNR White Plains Week Highlights. By John F. Bailey. Filed 4/1/02, 9:45 AM EST: Tom Roach, White Plains Common Councilman reports that the Council will review two electronic voting machine systems within the next month. It is an effort to be what he calls “the beachead” for reforming the way New York State casts its votes. Roach made the announcment in an interview on White Plains Week which can be seen Friday evening at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71


THREE MONTHS IN THE SADDLE: Tom Roach talks about his first three months on the Common Council Friday night on White Plains Week at 7:30 PM on Channel 71. Jim Benerofe, left and John Bailey get the new Councilman’s progress report on his effort with the Mayor’s Office to bring new voting machines to White Plains.WPCNR Photo by Lyn Storey
Roach said that after taking his councilseat in January he has been working closely with the Mayor’s Office, coordinating with the two companies in New York that manufacture computerized voting machines. He praised the Mayor’s office for their cooperation in evaluating and arranging for a demonstration of the two voting procedures which he said would be showcased at a work session within a few weeks.

Roach made the remarks during an interview with James Benerofe, Editor of SuburbanStreet.com and John Bailey of WPCNR on White Plains Week which can be seen Friday evening at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71. The program is cablecast Mondays at 7 and Fridays at 7:30 PM.

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Resident Supports King on Group Home Exclusion Effort

Letters to WPCNR: A resident writes in support of Councilman William King’s stance against placing a group home for foster teen-age children in the care of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.
Bill,
This is exactly the kind of leadership we been searching for, someone
to standup for the City of White Plains and realizing the spiritual value
and integrity of our neighborhoods. It’s times like this that demonstrates
the value of our public officials, and also provides the community with
information about which officials and organizations are in touch with the communities.

Although White Plains is not opposed to Group Homes, the homes should conform to our neighborhoods in a non-disruptive manner.

Placing 10-12 teenagers with a couple of hired counselors within feet of single family homes hardly constitutes a family environment. The sheer volume and magnitude of additional activity from the home, will alter the neighborhood significantly. The Group Home is totally out of character with the neighborhood.

In addition, this so called family environment has proven to be a complete failure by the vast number of missing kids at each Group Home in White Plains each year. In observance of these reports, it appears we will also have to live with increased police activity which is not of the type this neighborhood is accustomed to. Information on trouble reports for each Group Home can be obtained from the White Plains Police Dept.

I know you have listened to some White Plains residents who have experienced living around these group homes, and heard some devastating stories. Stories that you can not find in a police report. In White Plains we have many, many citizens that have and want to tell their stories.

The reality is that these Group Homes have and will continue to damage neighborhoods, and destroy the dream that many of us spent years working for to move into a family neighborhood. This situation has also caused anxiety to the young child in my home and to surrounding homes, as well as to the parents.

I can continue to list the negative impact that these homes have on our neighborhood, but I am challenged to see the benefits.

I hope you get the support to challenge this issue from other City Officials and Organizations, because it is clearly wrong. Words such as “We cant do anything, it is the Law” or ” This problem belongs to another dept ” are not acceptable to this community. We need motivated officials such as yourself, that understand the value and vital protection of the neighborhoods of White Plains.

F.C.

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King Komments:Fisher Hill Against Group Home, Please Place Elsewhere

King Komments, By White Plains City Councilperson, William King, Filed 3/28/02: Councilman William King attended the Fisher Hill Neighborhood Meeting last night, held to discuss the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services plan to house foster care teenagers at a home they have purchased in the Fisher Hill Neighborhood. Here is his open letter to the JBFCS.
Dear Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services:

I will be sending you a complete letter after I have had a chance to read all about your organization and the many good things you do from your website, www.jbfcs.org And let me wish you all a Happy Passover.

I am writing as a member of the White Plains Common Council who has heard with concern my fellow citizens’ concerns about your proposed group home for troubled teens at 139 Walworth Avenue in the middle of a wonderful single- and 2-family neighborhood in the Fisher Hill section of White Plains near the Scarsdale border.

I do not believe this is a good location for your group home and ask you to reconsider your purchase of the home and, instead, resell the home and look for an alternative location that is not in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

For example, there are homelike buildings in disrepair in the “historic oval” of the New York Presbyterian Hospital campus in White Plains which could be fixed up and used without upsetting a surrounding residential neighborhood. I note that one of JBFCS’s Westchester Division board members, Paul Bergins, is a private attorney representing NYPH who could possibly make initial contacts to pursue this possibility further.

Last night I met many of the residents of the neighborhood surrounding 139 Walworth Ave. at a Fisher Hill Neighborhood Association Meeting, including former White Plains Mayor Al Del Vechio, who lives just up the hill. The mayor and 40-50 residents in attendance who spoke in a level-headed but determined tone voted unanimously against the proposal for your group home. I agree with them.

I learned that your organization purchased this beautiful early 1900’s home with significant historical value (architecturally and due to earlier residents including one Nobel Prize winner) with attractive surrounding property for only $475K.

I believe you could resell this house, in the current market, at the same or possibly a significantly higher price. If you did so, you would provide great relief to the residents surrounding the home, many of them relatively new residents of White Plains who have made substantial investments in what they thought was an improving older neighborhood, one of several such neighborhoods we are trying to preserve in White Plains.

They are now concerned about their houses losing value after they have made substantial investments in buying and renovating them. One resident told me she has been contacted steadily by a realtor advising her to sell now before her house value drops.

Thank you for your consideration. I will follow this email up with a formal letter and I hope you will hear comments in the same vane from our mayor in the near future. If you would like to meet with me and my fellow members of the White Plains Common Council along with residents of the neighborhood, you can contact me at home or at work.

Sincerely,
Bill King, Member, White Plains Common Council

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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.


COUNCIL MINUS DELFINO-SAN LISTENS TO THE ORDINANCE:
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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