Justin Arest: Candidate For Scarsdale Village Mayor
- Category: On Our Radar
- Published: Wednesday, 01 March 2023 21:50
- Joanne Wallenstein
The election for Village Mayor, Trustees and Village Justice is coming up on Tuesday March 21, with voting at Scarsdale Public Library. Former 2-term Village Trustee Justin Arest, has been nominated by the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party as their candidate for Mayor of Scarsdale. See below for his views on some of the issues that are top of mind at Scarsdale Village Hall.
Tell us about yourself – including your past volunteer work and your professional life.
I have lived in Scarsdale for 10 years with my wife Allison and our two children. Volunteerism has always been a priority for me. Shortly after moving to Scarsdale, I applied to serve on the Village Zoning Board of Appeals and was fortunate to be appointed. During my four years on the Zoning Board, I became familiar with our code and how the village operates. In my experience, volunteer work in Scarsdale leads to more and more involvement. I also served on the Library’s Capital Campaign Committee and Building Committee and the Village’s ad hoc Communications Committee as well as on the Board of the Scarsdale Forum among other civic committees. In 2018, I was elected to the Village Board where I served for two terms, including being appointed Deputy Mayor by two mayors, Mayor Samwick and Mayor Veron.
As for my professional career, I have spent the last 15 years investing in and managing commercial real estate. I have a BS in Finance and International Business from NYU Stern and a JD from the George Washington University Law School. Much of my experience regularly working with architects, engineers, designers, branding firms, lawyers, and finance professionals, prepared me well for the responsibilities and challenges that I faced as a Village Trustee and I am confident will do the same in the role of Mayor.
Why do you want to serve as Mayor? How do you think you can contribute?
I believe that my local civic experience over the past decade, particularly my service on the Board of Trustees and as Deputy Mayor, coupled with my legal education and business background, has prepared me to be Scarsdale’s next Mayor. I have forged strong working relationships with the Village Manager and his office as well as the various Department Heads. I have worked tirelessly with and for Scarsdale residents in myriad roles, and I would be honored for the opportunity to continue to serve our community.
Over the past five years, I have been proud to be part of the transformation of our municipal government. There have been numerous improvements made in various areas including finance and personnel. Our budget process is now more transparent and accessible. I also helped to improve the Board’s hiring process for critical positions. During my tenure, I was an active participant in filling multiple department head positions, including Village Manager. Despite all of the great work we have accomplished, there remains a lot of important projects ahead as we continue shaping the Scarsdale of 2030 and beyond.
There are many initiatives pending before this Village Board including the pool renovation, the traffic study and changes to the Village Center. How would you prioritize these projects and what would be your process for reaching consensus so that we can move forward?
Should I be fortunate to serve as Mayor, my first task would be discussing these projects with my fellow board members and village staff as well as listening to the community. While I have remained engaged and attentive this last year since the end of my term on the Village Board, a lot of important work has been done in many areas and I believe it’s prudent to listen to others before projecting priorities. I look forward to meeting with the Board and staff and speaking with residents and other community stakeholders. I hope to collaborate with my colleagues to continue moving our community forward and planning for the next decade. We have numerous infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed and the time to plan to prioritize and tackle those is now.
The Governor has called for increased housing in suburbs along the Metro North line. Though this has not yet been passed by the NYS legislature, this is the second year in a row she has made a call to increase housing in general and affordable housing in our area. Do you anticipate that the Village Board will reconsider a multi-use development project like the proposals we received for development at Freightway? What is your view on this? Also discuss your thoughts on her proposed plan to override local zoning code and mandate 3% housing growth every three years.
Having been very involved in the early stages of a potential Freightway project, I am keenly aware of the community’s concerns for the impact development can have on our schools, infrastructure, and the environment. I am monitoring this closely and am very appreciative of the comments already made by Assembly Member Paulin and State Senator Mayer.
Several years ago, the Village hired an outside attorney rather than having an in-house attorney on staff. What’s your view on this – how’s it working?
I think the model is working well. I was a strong proponent of this change when it happened. I think having a bench of legal experts readily available to the Board and staff has provided better information and depth of knowledge and experience.
What is your view on the tax cap – and exceeding it if necessary?
I believe it is the responsibility of every local government to provide the services its residents desire, while doing so in a way that is fiscally responsible and minimizes the tax burden on its residents. There are only limited tools available to a Village Board to balance its budget. And, if the choice is between a tax increase commensurate with the investments that our community needs or additional deferrals, choosing the latter option could be more expensive in the long run. The tax cap formula accounts for inflation but only up to 2%. Therefore, it may become quite challenging to remain under the cap if inflation remains at or near its current level. Regardless, I do not take the fiduciary duty bestowed upon the Board lightly and will continue to work hard to find ways to minimize the tax burden on our residents. This will require continuous focus on improving our government’s efficiency.
Con Ed has embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade the gas lines in Scarsdale. Other than road repair, do you think there is anything more we can get for them in exchange for this disruption?
The Village has spoken with Con Edison at various times over the past few years about running conduits under the ground for future work as well as better coordination with our Department of Public Works that oversees our infrastructure (e.g. paving and water/sewer lines). There has been some improvement in coordination but no success in burying lines or at least providing future options. However, that does not mean that the Village has given up in trying to effect change. No one on the Village Board or staff that I have worked with takes the disruptions on residents lightly. I hope to continue keeping pressure on the utility providers and the Public Service Commission to do better for Scarsdale, particularly during emergencies.
Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party cordially invites community members to stop by for a candidate meet and greet on Sunday, March 19th from 3:00 - 4:30pm at the Scarsdale Public Library. This is an opportunity for residents of the village to meet the candidates for an informal gathering. The candidates are Justin Arest for Mayor; Sameer Ahuja, Karen Brew and Dara Gruenberg for Village Trustee; and Cynthia Dunne for Village Justice. The event will take place in the Scott Room. Refreshments will be available. As a reminder, the Village election is on Tuesday, March 21st at the Scarsdale Public Library from 6am to 9pm.