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Letter to the Editor: Freightway Development will Affect the Living Standards and Taxes of Every Scarsdale Homeowner

letter to the editorThis letter to the editor was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Bob Selvaggio of Rochambeau Road:
To the Editor:
 Echoing Mayor Samwick’s invitation in his letter to Scarsdale10583, I urge my fellow Scarsdale friends and residents to attend the public meeting about the Freightway Garage Development this Wednesday, December 11 at 7:00pm. This type of large-scale proposed project comes up only once every several decades, and how it is developed and financed will affect the living standards and taxes of every Scarsdale homeowner.   All of us should work to ensure that the Scarsdale village board fulfills its fiduciary responsibilities to maximize the value of this important Village-owned asset by providing property tax relief for our single-family homeowners, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the site, and improving the delivery of commercial, professional and recreational services to Scarsdale residents.  Village Hall already has one set of useful data about our priorities for retail and recreational facilities -- the Douglass and Kirkendall-Rodríguez families performed extensive research and designed a comprehensive survey that can be found here.

Any proposal from the bidders that does not result in the near certainty of reducing the property tax burden on our single family homeowners, who have suffered a massive increase in effective property tax rates as a result of federal tax reform, or at a very minimum guarantees absolutely no increase in tax rates for years to come will be a non-starter to most Scarsdale residents.    Unfortunately, the efforts of our residents with expertise in financial economics to model the impact of the Freightway development proposal and provide an economic assessment of the project to date have been thwarted by a shroud of secrecy covering the various proposals. The Scarsdale Mayor and Board of Trustees have rebuffed the efforts of residents to uncover details about the project, the financial condition of the bidders, and the financial projections for Freightway. All we know is that among the several development plans, two survived and some details about the designs of each will be revealed at a meeting open to the public in Village Hall this Wednesday.  Unfortunately, the Mayor has indicated to some residents his strong preference that they not ask important questions about the financial condition of the bidders or about the economics of the project. 

Among the many questions that should be raised in that meeting, especially for those looking to model and assess independently the economic impact of each proposal would be:

• What are the Village Board’s current models and model outputs for the short-term and long-term economic impacts on our homeowners of each of the two proposals?  Who built these models and who validated them?  (Of course, these models and model outputs will hopefully be published online before the meeting so that we may ask intelligent questions about them).
• If new residential units are being contemplated, how many units and how many bedrooms?  (This will allow independent analysis of impact on our school taxes)
• If new residential units are being contemplated, will these be rental units, coops, or condominiums?  If the latter, is there an intention to pass the Homestead option? (This will allow independent analysis of potential tax subsidies from single-family homeowners to apartment dwellers such as those provided to Christie Place residents, for example).
• What commercial and professional office development is planned?  How many units of each type? (This will allow independent modelling of net property tax receipts)
• Where can we read the audited financials of the two surviving bidders?
• Have any among the Mayor and Board of Trustees ever had personal or professional dealings with any of the bidders?  Are there any actual or potential conflicts of interest that should be disclosed to Scarsdale taxpayers?
• Are any of the executives, owners or partners of the bidding firms Scarsdale residents? If so, who, and how will conflicts of interest and patronage be avoided?

Unless we citizens are satisfied with the results of short-term and long-term financial modeling of the project, we will have no way of knowing whether it will be value-adding or value-destroying (i.e., whether it should be accepted or rejected).    And unless we pay attention and make our voices heard, we may well be saddled with a value-destroying (property tax-increasing) Freightway development.


Bob Selvaggio
Rochambeau Road

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