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You are here: Home Section Table Village Voices Opening Comments from Marc Samwick at his First Village Board Meeting as Mayor of Scarsdale
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Opening Comments from Marc Samwick at his First Village Board Meeting as Mayor of Scarsdale

MarcSamwickNewly elected Mayor Marc Samwick presided over his first Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday April 9. Here are his opening comments when he discussed a change in the committee system, development at Freightway and instructions for communicating with the Village Board. See below:

Good evening. I am very happy to be here and to welcome and congratulate Trustees Lewis and Waldman on their election and Trustee Ross on his reelection to the Village Board. I am also very happy to join Trustees Arest and Crandall and to rejoin Trustee Veron and to welcome and congratulate her on her new job as Deputy Mayor.

I would like to discuss three items in my comments this evening: (i), the new Village Board organizational structure, (ii) the potential redevelopment of the Freightway parking garage site, and (iii) communications.

Village Board Organizational Structure:
Let me begin with the new organizational structure. One of the valuable lessons I learned in business school was to unify the structure of an organization with the way in which the organization functions. For quite some time, we have not had an alignment of the structure of our elected government and the work that is done by those officials. The committee structure that we have become accustomed to was designed to permit Trustees to focus their attention on their specifically assigned committees. For well over 20 years, Trustees have consistently been involved in all village matters and have attended all committee meetings. While we applaud the dedication of over a generation of Trustees, we recognize that it is time to match our structure with our operations by eliminating Village Board standing committees. This change will align our structure with how the Board actually functions. It is expected to improve efficiency, enhance communication, and, most importantly, enable all Trustees to have an equal voice and vote. In making this change, we have looked at surrounding communities and how their governing bodies operate. The overwhelming majority of communities surveyed have a framework similar to the one we plan to implement.

We will schedule work sessions on a monthly basis, though there will be months that have more than one work session and, possibly, though rarely, months that do not have work sessions. There will still be meetings called for in-depth discussions of specific topics – some of the topics I would expect to see covered under separate meetings might include the potential redevelopment of the Freightway parking site, potential changes to the land use code, or items that require more time sensitivity or deeper discussion. We will issue agendas, which will likely cover a number of varying subjects, and start times of our work sessions, but you can generally expect to see sessions begin at 6:00pm or 6:30 pm on the 2nd or 4th Tuesday of the month. Similar to the committee meetings we are accustomed to, work sessions will be open to the public although there still will be certain topics that will be held in executive session. Summary meeting notes will also be provided so the community can stay informed.

Potential Redevelopment of the Freightway Parking Garage Site:
Second, I would like to provide a summary of the potential redevelopment of the Freightway parking site and let you know what to expect from here. The Freightway parking garage was built in 1972 and is currently in need of nearly $2.5 million of repair and upgrade work. After looking at the very successful development of Christie Place, which was nearly built as a stand-alone parking garage at taxpayer’s expense and is now a vibrant residential and retail hub with below-grade parking for village residents, the Village Board decided to pursue a survey of resident interest in the potential redevelopment of the Freightway garage site. The Freightway Steering Committee was formed about two years ago, worked with the village’s consultant, BFJ Planning, and completed a visioning study for the Freightway site. The input of over 750 residents and other stakeholders was taken into account in doing the visioning study and I encourage all residents to review the report on the village’s website, www.scarsdale.com. The visioning study was the basis for a Request for Expressions of Interest that was designed to gauge interest from private developers who might partner with the Village to create a new hub that would bring vitality to our village center and, importantly, provide connectivity between both sides of our village center. We were very pleased to receive seven responses from developers in pursuing a public-private partnership to redevelop the Freightway site. The next steps in the process will include issuance of a Request for Proposals, selection of a Preferred Developer, negotiation of a mutually acceptable development agreement with the Preferred Developer and the standard land use process which will include the Planning Board, Board of Architectural Review and the Village Board.

A few personal comments about this process. First, we are in the very early stages of the process. I estimate that we are in the top of the 2nd inning with the 9th inning representing commencement of construction. Second, the Village Board started with extensive resident input through the visioning study and will continue to seek resident input throughout the process. Third, the Village Board is focused on issues that matter to residents, namely the potential impact on parking and schools – both of which are critical to Scarsdale residents. There will be ample time to address these matters, and other potential concerns, as we better understand what plans are developed for the Freightway site. We believe that we are embarking on a project that can materially enhance our village center and we look forward to creating a shared vision with the community.

Communications:
Lastly, I would like to discuss communications. Listening to the community is one of the most important duties of Village Board members. With that as a guiding principle, there are three areas I would like to highlight this evening. First, this Board will generally try not to vote on a matter that is the subject of a public hearing until at least the following Board meeting. It is important to provide the community with ample time to comment on matters and to provide the Board with time to digest community comments. There will be exceptions to this guideline in the event of pro forma matters, such as the annual renewal of taxi licenses in the village, and matters that carry a high degree of time sensitivity.

Second, you will notice that the public comment section of the Board agenda is now prior to Board liaison reports. Again, this change is being made to emphasize that listening to our constituents is critical.

Lastly, we wish to make it easier for people to comment to the Board. We recognize that stepping to the microphone at Rutherford Hall can be intimidating and not very welcoming. We also recognize the value of hearing from village residents and other stakeholders. In an effort to provide alternative means of communicating with your elected officials, I hosted a “Coffee with the Mayor” on Saturday at Metro Deli. I was very happy to sit down with residents and discuss issues and concerns and to just say hi. We plan to encourage communication in less formal settings and are open to trying new approaches to reach people, so if you have any suggestions or wish to share your views on a particular matter, please email me at mayor@scarsdale.com. Speaking of email addresses, you will also note that the Trustees now have village email addresses that use a uniform standard that makes it easier to reach your elected officials. You can reach any of the Trustees at their “first initial” and “last name” @scarsdale.com, for example, you may reach Trustee Ross at SRoss@scarsdale.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

With that, I am happy to hand it over to Village Manager Pappalardo for Village Manager’s comments.

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