Who Wins? Who Should Win?

poolaerialThis is the opinion of site founder Joanne Wallenstein:
As a longtime resident and chronicler of the community I’ve seen many proposals for new facilities live and die.

Once upon a time, ice hockey enthusiasts set their sites on a skating rink next to the library but were dismissed by Fox Meadow residents who did not want an ice rink in a residential neighborhood. A few years later, in 2009, swimmers developed plans for an elaborate $25 million underground indoor pool and community center on the site of the outdoor pool. Neither of these passed muster, and in fact, some are still awaiting refunds for the fees they paid to join this never-built indoor pool.

After years of debate the community decided to commit $9.9 million of public funds in a public-private partnership for an extensive renovation and expansion of the library, but also shelved plans to build a new elementary school at Greenacres. Neighbors who bordered the Greenacres field launched a vocal and effective campaign to “Save the Field,” trumping others’ wish for a state of the art facility and silencing parents concerns about keeping children inside the antiquated school during the 2-year construction project.

Most recently, a proposal to build a dog park at the underutilized Weinberg Nature Center was squashed when a few neighbors raised the specter of increased traffic on Mamaroneck Road and the sound of barking hounds.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because we currently have two more proposals before us: one to install field lights on 80 -foot poles and a sound system at the high school…. and another for a large residential and commercial development project at the site of the Freightway Garage on the West side of the Metro North tracks.

Considering Scarsdale’s history, will these see the light of day? Will the fears of the few override the benefits to many?

I have no dog in either of these fights but it seems to me that decisions on most of the land use development proposals come down to NIMBY. If those who live closest to the proposed site, or would be most affected by the change are able to marshal support and run a successful campaign they can often kill a proposal that would improve the lives of other residents.

If however, the NIMBY forces fail to organize or are afraid to speak up, they’ll find that proponents for change will win out.

There are times when the overall benefit to the community should override parochial concerns. It’s unfortunate that many good ideas are turned down as a result of a few loud voices in the room.
And that’s where good governance comes in. The job of our school and village boards is to balance the needs of the individual vs. the community and strike the right compromise to benefit the most people.

Whatever the issue before them, let’s hope our leaders do their due diligence, listen carefully and do not permit a few outspoken people to dominate the conversation. Our chosen leaders have the interests of the community at large in their hands and it’s a big responsibility.