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You are here: Home Section Table Around Town Marc Samwick Candidate for Mayor of Scarsdale Vows to Make Village Government Open and Accessible

Marc Samwick Candidate for Mayor of Scarsdale Vows to Make Village Government Open and Accessible

MarcSamwickMarc Samwick, a former two-term Village Trustee, has received the nomination from the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party as their candidate for Mayor of Scarsdale. We asked Samwick to comment on the issues of the day, and below are his responses. Remember to vote in the Village election on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at Village Hall, 1001 Post Road, from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

For those of us who don’t already know you, tell us about your background, your family and your professional career.

My wife, Cynthia, and I moved our family to Scarsdale in 1997. Our sons, Jason, Oliver and George, have grown up in Scarsdale and have all graduated Scarsdale High School. Like many, we moved to Scarsdale for the schools. But we had another strong draw -- Cynthia’s older sister, Andrea Seiden, and her family lived here, and we wanted our families to be close, especially our five boys. We expected to spend our days surrounded by a close family. What we didn’t expect was to also be immersed in the strength, generosity and support of the Scarsdale community. Cynthia and I and our boys have built very full lives with great friends, neighbors, and family. We love Scarsdale, and it means so much to us to give back to this wonderful community that has given us so much.

I grew up in Westport, CT and graduated with honors from Union College. I also received an MBA with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Professionally, I am a real estate investor and developer, focusing on properties in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. As a developer, I work with many different communities, and I understand the roles, responsibilities and interests of residents, elected officials and staff. My experience working with various cities, towns, and villages provides me with a broad perspective and knowledge of different approaches to managing municipal matters. Over my two terms on the Board of Trustees, this experience assisted me in my role representing Scarsdale residents.

What were/are some of your volunteer activities in Scarsdale?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Board of Scarsdale Little League. One of the highlights of my time on the SLL Board was a program I originated with Dave Feuerstein, a former professional baseball player, to “Coach the Coaches.” This program was designed to give coaches a solid base of fundamental baseballs skills to provide the children with a higher level of baseball instruction throughout the entire baseball season. Altogether, I have coached over 20 baseball teams in Scarsdale. I particularly enjoyed helping players develop over the course of a season. I remember working with one player that struggled all season at the plate. The greatest moment of that season was when that player hit a double in the final game of the season – and our entire team erupted in supportive cheers.

I currently serve on the Building Committee of the Scarsdale Library. I have been working to enhance the form and content of the communication between the construction consultant and the Library Board. I also served as an Alternate on the Village Planning Board and on the Finance Committee of Westchester Reform Temple.

What were some of your contributions during your 4 years as Village Trustee?

As a Trustee, I am very proud of the work I did on the project to renovate and expand the library. I worked closely with the Library Board and its Campaign Committee to determine the right balance between a “build once” opportunity based on record-breaking resident generosity and fiscal prudence that fit into the village’s long term financial plan. The process of striking the right balance was not easy – but it was the type of collaborative process that Scarsdale is known for. We listened to each other to determine how to manage the trade-offs needed to achieve our budgetary constraints while maintaining the core mission of creating a vibrant community hub that will benefit generations of Scarsdale residents. I believe my contributions as a Trustee helped the Library Board to balance the benefits and costs of the library project. Once comfortable that the right balance had been struck, I gave my full effort to marshal support for this exciting, transformative project. I am very proud of the work we accomplished and am very excited about the planned opening of our new library in 2020.

I am also very pleased to have been involved in the initiation of the Freightway redevelopment process about two years ago. Since $2.3 million would have to be spent to maintain and improve the aging, unattractive parking structure within the next few years regardless, the time was right to reexamine and rethink the site. From the start, we recognized the importance of extensive community input. We formed a steering committee comprised of key village stakeholders, including members of land use boards, realtors, a village merchant, the Scarsdale Neighborhood Association President, the President of the Overhill Neighborhood Association, an architect, and a member of the School Board. Former Mayor, Jon Mark, chaired the steering committee. I was very proud to have participated in the steering committee as well. We then retained BFJ Planning, an expert planning firm that has worked extensively in Scarsdale and the region, to actively engage the community. The resulting redevelopment study was based on numerous public workshops, focus group meetings, an online survey as well as commuter and merchant intercept surveys, two walking tours and even participation from the acclaimed SHS City 2.0 class. In total, there was input from well over 750 village stakeholders during the eight-month scoping process. The village subsequently issued a request for expressions of interest from the development community. It was very encouraging to see extensive interest from developers with seven responses submitted.

I am excited to continue to work closely with the community on the next steps of this lengthy and deliberate process over the coming years. Regardless of what is done at the Freightway site, I intend to remain vigilant about protecting village resources to ensure that we maintain sufficient commuter parking and protect the integrity of our schools, among other things.

What are some of the challenges that face the Village?

There are challenges every year in balancing Village finances with the high tax burdens we face as residents. It is important to keep in mind that village taxes represent about 18% of our real estate taxes (school and county taxes make up the remainder). It is also notable that about 75-80% of the village budget is related to personnel costs, and that the vast majority of Village employees are represented by unions, and subject to binding, collectively bargained contracts over multiple years. Lastly, we should be aware of reduced state aid in the face of added unfunded state mandates, and the possibility of further cuts out of Albany as they seek to balance the state budget.

As a result of this confluence of challenges, the realistic focus of managing the village budget is about working to control costs in the few areas where we have discretion while still providing the essential services that our residents demand and expect. We are very fortunate to have strong professional Village management, led by our Village Manager, Steve Pappalardo, who has created a culture of cost consciousness, teamwork and efficiency that permeates throughout Village staff. For example, Fire Chief Seymour developed a plan to reduce the total number of fire apparatus by adding more flexible equipment to our portfolio. This creative approach is actively encouraged by the Board of Trustees and Village management in all our departments as we actively work to find budget efficiencies. I hope to further encourage this type of creative thinking to bring about more long-term budgetary savings.

Please share your views on our current building code, lot coverage code and historic preservation.

As Land Use Chair, I was proud to be part of the group that convened a meeting of the Planning Board, Board of Architectural Review and the Zoning Board of Appeals to evaluate what is being done well and what could be improved upon with respect to land use in Scarsdale. We received thoughtful and constructive comments that addressed administrative and legislative matters. There have been subsequent meetings and discussions over the past year, and I look forward to picking up on the work that has been done and continuing to move this process forward.

How would have voted on the resolution to join the lawsuit against the IRS re: SALT rules and regulations?

First, we have to be clear that the new limitation on SALT deductions was created at the federal level and it can only fully be addressed by an act of Congress.

Second, the communities of Westchester County will feel it far more than most, Scarsdale included, through a combination of state income taxes and local property taxes. It is up to us to attempt to mitigate the harshest impacts to our residents while we advocate our Congressional representatives for relief. It should be noted that our Representative, Eliot Engel, is already the co-sponsor on a bill to restore the full SALT deduction.

Third, at the Village level, we have to do whatever we can to protect our residents. We started that process when we allowed for the prepayment of 2018 property taxes in the final days of 2017, prior to the SALT deduction limitations that commenced in 2018. I support measures that protect our residents while keeping the village and its residents from exposure, including Scarsdale joining with 18 other municipalities, plus counties and school districts, in an effort to push back on proposed IRS regulations that would have further limited options for our residents. Most recently, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has done phenomenal groundwork and found top-notch attorneys to press a future federal lawsuit in defense of our taxpayers on a pro bono basis. Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has also established a separate social welfare non-profit to cover any expenses. Therefore, the Village’s finances are sufficiently protected, and the only potential risk that has been identified is to Scarsdale’s reputation. I believe that the balance of the potential risks and rewards of this lawsuit tips firmly in favor of fighting for our residents.

Finally, to date we have only been able to speculate what the impact will be on our residents. At the close of the current tax filing season, we’ll have data on who in our community is truly affected and how badly. I anticipate there will be more ideas to come, and more circumstances to respond to on behalf of our residents. So long as our finances and our liability is sufficiently protected, we owe it to our residents to do everything we reasonably can to help them with this ongoing issue.

When you speak to residents about their concerns, what are some of the complaints or issues you hear most often?

The most frequent comments I have heard recently relate to two things: (i) taxes and the village budget, including SALT deduction limitations, and (ii) Freightway. Both of these items I discussed previously.

What do you hope to accomplish as Mayor of Scarsdale?

I am genuinely excited by the potential to continue to serve Scarsdale. I am particularly eager to work closely with the community on issues such as Freightway and land use matters.

I firmly believe that one of the most important things we can do as Mayor and Trustees is to listen. To that end, I plan to roll out a less formal way for the community to communicate with our elected officials. I will hold casual meetings open to all residents in less formal settings than our semi-monthly meetings at Village Hall. The intent is to provide more open and accessible communication so our elected officials can do a better job representing our residents to improve our outstanding community.

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