The Mount Pleasant Democratic Committee has come back to life, now running candidates for town government after years of dormancy.
This year, in addition to a pair of Town Board candidates, they have nominated retired Sleepy Hollow police lieutenant Frank Hrokto, a 39-year law enforcement professional, to oppose nine-year Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi.
It will be a tall order for Hrotko, a Hawthorne resident, in one of the few Republican strongholds remaining in Westchester. But as a founder of the committee about 20 years, he felt it was time to get more involved.
“I didn’t like the way the direction of the town’s going, so I said let me step in, let me put it up,” said Hrotko, who retired in 2019.
Fulgenzi said he hopes to return to office because there are myriad issues to manage, and with the help of the Town Board, has been focusing on revitalizing the hamlets, tackling flooding and traffic, repaving roads and making the town more energy-efficient.
Although the Town Board members are currently all Republicans, Fulgenzi said they govern in a nonpartisan manner, looking to assist any constituent who requests help.
“Anybody who comes here you’re treated with respect, whatever party they’re from,” Fulgenzi said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t know their political affiliation, but I give them the respect and I do what I can to help them, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Two issues that have dominated this election cycle has been the speed of development and the problems at the Cottage School, operated by the JCCA, that has resulted in hundreds of calls to local police.
Hrotko has called the rate of development excessive, which has worsened traffic in an already congested town. Perhaps no project is more emblematic of that more than the Amazon warehouse on Route 9A in Hawthorne, which is now tentatively set to open in early 2024, the challenger said.
The traffic light to be installed in front of the facility may help slow down traffic but could create other headaches, he said.
“It’s going to be a nightmare,” Hrotko said. “They put another signal in front of the Amazon (warehouse), and when there’s an 18-wheeler out there making deliveries, (the light) has got to be longer. You can’t have a stop light; it’s going to back all the traffic up. It’s going to cause congestion.”
Hrotko criticized the appearance of the new building on Commerce Street in Hawthorne as out of character with the hamlet. The proposed 31-home subdivision at Pocantico Lake should have never been allowed to progress to the Planning Board for an environmentally sensitive area, he said. Other projects appear to move along in the process without the public being aware, often until it’s too late, Hrotko added.
If elected, Hrotko said there needs to be a different philosophy on the other boards and he would make sure residents of different philosophies are appointed when vacancies occur.
“I’d be able to appoint people to serve on the zoning board, the Planning Board,” he said. “He appoints all of his people to go on the zoning board, he has a lot of influence in what gets approved and what doesn’t get approved.”
For Fulgenzi, the Amazon project is properly placed on Route 9A, a thoroughfare for trucks. He wanted the state to study the road as far south as Elmsford, but the Department of Transportation chose end it at the exit to the Taconic Parkway.
The town is now taking steps address streets such as Belmont Road and Pythian Avenue to prevent cut-through traffic from disturbing residents, Fulgenzi said.
The proposed Toll Brothers project, if approved and built, would provide much-needed age-restricted housing in the town and about 18 to 20 acres of land donated to the town for recreation purposes.
Within the past month, the town has also contracted with Kellard Sessions engineering in hopes of alleviating the flooding the town has faced from major rainstorms.
Hrotko said the approach by Fulgenzi and the board regarding the Cottage School has been antagonistic rather than working constructively to solve the problems at the campus.
“You should have an open policy,” Hrotko said. “Maybe they’re not going to agree with you, but at least you can communicate with them. To say, you’re not going to waste your time, that’s wrong.”
Fulgenzi said the more than 450 calls in the first six months of the year, which included some serious criminal offenses, is alarming. With roughly 25 unaccompanied migrant minor children likely to be placed on the campus by the federal government, and allegations that work to upgrade cottages have been done without permits, makes the JCCA an untrustworthy partner, he said.
He issued a state of emergency in May with the hope of discouraging migrants from being housed in Mount Pleasant.
The youngsters at the JCCA are town residents for the time they’re housed there, and the town will not permit dangerous conditions, Fulgenzi said. The supervisor said he has only one regret.
“I think I would have demanded something earlier because things have happened there, some things you don’t know about, that maybe could have been avoided,” Fulgenzi said. “The abuse, the physical abuse, everything that’s gone on there.”
Hrotko said he would propose having a town administrator to bring professional management to Mount Pleasant.
Meanwhile, Fulgenzi said he and the board have a well-functioning town that addresses residents’ needs.
“They haven’t come to me with anything that really says ‘Wow, what a great idea,’” Fulgenzi said of his opponent’s ticket. “The only thing they’ve done since we started this campaign is criticize me personally. Everything they want to do is things that we’re already doing.”
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/