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You are here: Home The Goods Seth Ross: On the Ballot for a Second Term as Scarsdale Village Trustee
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Seth Ross: On the Ballot for a Second Term as Scarsdale Village Trustee

SethRossSeth Ross is completing his first term as Scarsdale Village Trustee and has been re-nominated by the Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party to serve a second two year term. Below he responded to some questions about himself and his activities on the Board. Take a look and remember to vote on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at Village Hall, 1001 Post Road, from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

For those who don’t know you, tell us a bit about yourself – including your background, experiences in Scarsdale and your professional career?

I grew up in a family in which volunteer community service was a way of life, so when my wife and I moved to Scarsdale in 1995 to start our family, it seemed natural to join the Scarsdale Forum and the Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Department. I was active in both of those groups for many years, stepping down from the board of the Scarsdale Forum only when I was elected to the Village Board. I am no longer an active firefighter but am a sustaining member of Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Company 3.

I soon branched out into other activities, including the Citizens Nominating Committee and the Procedure Committee (which I chaired ), the Zoning Board, Planning Board, and Scarsdale Bowl Committee (all of which I also chaired), and the Board of the Scarsdale Foundation. Service as a Village Trustee seemed like part of a natural progression once I was sufficiently knowledgeable about the community and my family and work obligations allowed for the requisite time commitment.

My wife, Susan (also an active community volunteer), and I have two children, both of whom were raised in Scarsdale from birth and attended public school here. Our daughter is now a biomedical engineer living in California, and our son is a freshman in college.

My training and work as an attorney have provided me with a solid background for community service, and although juggling the demands of two concurrent careers can be challenging, it helps make for an interesting and satisfying life.
Looking back on the last two years, what stands out about the activities of the Scarsdale Village Board?

What stands out about the activities of the Village Board over the last two years is both the positive impact the Board’s actions have had on the experience of living in Scarsdale and the constant and ever-intensifying struggle to minimize our residents’ real estate taxes by controlling the growth of the Village budget.

Over the past two years, the Village Board has taken a number of actions that I believe benefit our residents, including the adoption of a curbside food scrap recycling program, restrictions on the potential locations of businesses selling vaping supplies and firearms, and the revamping of our tree protection ordinance to meet the challenges of indiscriminate clear cutting. We have also taken concrete steps toward the redevelopment of the Freightway site, which I believe will have a significant positive impact on life in Scarsdale.

What have you enjoyed about your service and why do you want to continue for another two-year term on the board?

I enjoy the give-and-take with other Scarsdale residents that service as a Village Trustee entails. My fellow trustees are an outstanding group of residents, devoted to the community and committed to working together in an atmosphere of civil and constructive dialogue. I am constantly challenged by them to think about issues both more broadly and more deeply than I might on my own, and together with them I do my best to reach the best decisions for the community.

Interactions with Scarsdale residents who are not on the Village Board are also a major part of the job. I communicate regularly with a wide range of community volunteers, as well as with residents who may not be generally engaged in civic affairs but have concerns that they want the Village Board to address.

I hope to continue as a Village Trustee because I believe that in this way I can help to improve the quality of life for all village residents and because my service on the Board has been a very positive experience so far. I look forward to continuing work on the Freightway redevelopment because the success of this project is particularly important for the betterment of the community.

What were your committee assignments and what if any resolutions were passed from those committees?

Last year, I chaired the Personnel Committee and served on the Land Use Committee. This year I chair the Finance Committee, have continued on the Personnel Committee, and also serve on the Law Committee.

The Personnel Committee fills openings on Village boards and councils as diverse as the Planning Board and the Advisory Council on Senior Citizens. As Chair, I led the effort to place dozens of residents on those boards and counsels, providing the village with a range of vital services.

The recent revision of the tree protection ordinance and the restriction on potential sales of firearms and vaping supplies were deliberated on by the Law Committee before their adoption by the full Village Board.

It is important to understand that, although a resolution originates in a committee, the entire Board participates in each committee’s meetings. All of the Board’s resolutions, therefore, reflect the collective wisdom of the entire Board rather than just one committee.

What are your views on the development of the Freightway site?

The Freightway site, consisting of approximately 2 ½ acres of Village owned property in downtown Scarsdale, is not only unattractive but substantially under-utilized. The site detracts from the character of our downtown as a whole, essentially leaving a void near the center of what should be a unified mixed-use district. The garage located on the site requires either replacement or a significant expenditure of funds in order to put it into proper condition.

We need to do something about the site, and our Village government is taking a thoughtful approach to the situation. The Freightway Site Redevelopment Study completed last year was the product of an intensive effort by numerous volunteers to help think through what the community wants on the site and what would most benefit the community for decades to come. The responses received from several developers to the Village’s Request for Expressions of Interest have given us a preliminary indication of what might be built. The Village is now working on a Request for Proposals, which will lead to a better developed picture of the possibilities. There is still a great deal of work (and many opportunities for discussion and community input) ahead of us, but we know enough now to have high hopes for the site to be developed into a major community asset. Although the potential benefits to the community are significant, the planning must take into account issues including the inevitable increase in traffic and the amount of parking that will be available to those who require it.

The Freightway project is likely to be the biggest change Scarsdale has seen in a very long time. I am confident that it can be an extremely positive one.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the Village now?

Probably the greatest challenge facing the village is, as always, the need to maintain the facilities and services on which our residents depend, and in some cases improve on those facilities and services and adapt them to meet changing needs, in a fiscally responsible manner. Keeping taxes as low as possible while addressing our community’s various needs and priorities has always been a challenge. The statewide cap on local tax levies that came into effect in 2012 made the challenge even greater. The limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes imposed by the federal government created yet another cause for concern.

By way of perspective, Village taxes comprise only about 18% of our residents’ total real estate tax burden, and much of the Village budget is beyond the discretion of the Board. Employee benefits comprise a very large share of Village expenses, and these and other costs are largely dictated by collective bargaining. On the whole, significantly cutting expenses in the areas where we are able to do so would lead to relatively small tax savings, and substantial declines in the level of services and the quality of the facilities our residents enjoy. The Board has been, however, constantly vigilant about balancing these issues to minimize the Village portion of the tax burden on residents.

The work that needs to be done in order to develop the Freightway site so as to maximize its value to the community is another significant challenge. It is, however, a challenge coupled with a wonderful opportunity.

What had you hoped to accomplish that remains to be addressed?

I think we can do more to protect the character of our residential neighborhoods. One way to do this is to take further steps to ensure that new construction and renovations are in harmony with what already exists. This is a difficult task, though, as it not only involves potential limitations on private property rights but, if we are not careful, can actually make Scarsdale less desirable by impeding the updating of our housing stock to address the changing needs and desires of current and prospective Scarsdale residents.

It has been proposed that historic properties in Scarsdale be pre-designated for preservation. I believe that such a measure might not only facilitate the protection of structures of historic value but make the process of historic preservation more predictable. Should I be fortunate enough to be elected to a second term, I look forward to having further conversations on this and other proposals to help preserve our village character.

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