Dear Town Board Members;
We remind the Town Board that Hartsdale Neighbors Association was the first civic group to alert the community to the threat to unincorporated Greenburgh posed by Edgemont residents’ proposal to incorporate as a village. We remain convinced that Edgemont incorporation will be a disaster for the left-behind unincorporated residents. While we share this conviction with the Town Board, we believe that in their zeal to thwart Edgemont incorporation, the Town Board, Senator Stewart-Cousins, and Assemblyman Abinanti have concocted a short-sighted and anti-democratic resolution, and accompanying legislation, that should be immediately rejected. While we ardently hope that Edgemont will not incorporate, we are not willing to surrender rights granted by the New York State legislature to all unincorporated residents state-wide.
The New York State constitution’s marriage of village and unincorporated residents within a town structure is antiquated, awkward, and enables imbalance. Villagers have mayors and trustees to advocate village interests before a Town Board. Unincorporated residents, conversely, lack such empowered intermediaries, and are subject solely to a Town Board which also answers to villagers who, as in Greenburgh, may comprise a majority of the population. The village/unincorporated imbalance within the Town constitution is exacerbated by the Town tax distribution where unincorporated residents contribute 90% of the town coffers but have a minority of the vote. The result in Greenburgh, with its large unincorporated, but majority incorporated, population is that village residents retain a potentially outsized impact on town governance compared to unincorporated residents.
While New York State holds the responsibility for creating the problematic village/incorporated structure, the New York State legislature had the foresight to offer unincorporated residents a pathway toward village incorporation should unincorporated residents find their status intolerable and wish to enjoy the privileges and rights of their incorporated neighbors. The state’s Village Law provides objective and achievable milestones for unincorporated residents to petition a Town Board for the right to vote on whether to incorporate or remain unincorporated.
The resolution now before the board improperly muddies the pathway toward incorporation. Instead of objective standards, the resolution, with its novel impact statement requirement, will grant the Town Board broad powers to apply subjective standards to be devised- in fact improvised – by the Town Board. In addition, the five year budgets and additional plans far exceed in scope and demands those requirements currently imposed by the state legislature on prospective incorporators.
Admittedly, the resolution’s proposals are not unique: bills containing similar provisions to apply state-wide have been floated in the state legislature and died quickly in committee. Considering that Albany has previously weighed and rejected such added burdens to the incorporation process for state-wide application, it is particularly outrageous that Greenburgh’s state representatives are now asking their colleagues to impose such burdens exclusively on Greenburgh’s 43,000 unincorporated residents.
Finally, the Town Board has erred greatly in judgement in bringing forth this resolution while failing to consider unpredictable developments in the future. Rather cavalierly, the Town Supervisor writes that the resolution is not exclusively an Edgemont bill but is intended to grant the Town Board sweeping powers to stop dead any future petitions “filed to incorporate other unincorporated areas” [Paul Feiner Facebook posts, dated June 17, 2017]. The current Town Board may not foresee any reason for Hartsdale and/or Fairview, together or separately, to seek incorporation in the present day, but as Greenburgh’s population, demographics and income distribution changes, village/unincorporated balances may evolve with unexpected results. One could imagine a future where organized, mobilized villagers wield their voting majority to dominate the Town Board and promote village interests over those of the incorporated. Until now, in such a plausible scenario, Greenburgh’s unincorporated residents could have sought empowerment through carefully considering incorporation. The provisions proposed by the present resolution would grant a village dominated Town Board broad power to easily thwart any such move toward incorporation, even when entirely justified by changing circumstances.
We ask you to reject the highhanded and undemocratic tactics embodied in the Resolution now before the Town Board. We ask you instead to respect the pathway toward incorporation that the state legislature has granted and repeatedly chosen to preserve, for Greenburgh and all New York state unincorporated residents, by voting against this unwise resolution.
Hartsdale Neighbors Association