Election 2023

DiGiacinto, No. Castle Dem Co-Chair Rende in Supervisor’s Race

We are part of The Trust Project

Over the past 10 years, there hasn’t been too much excitement in North Castle on the alternating years of town elections.

That has changed this year.

As outgoing Supervisor Michael Schiliro completes a decade in his current post and 16 years on the Town Board, his decision has helped create a wide-open race not only for the board but for the supervisor’s seat.

Town Democratic Committee Co-chair Joe Rende, a nine-year North Castle resident, will lead his party’s ticket while 10-year Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto, who a little more than a week ago received Schiliro’s endorsement and serves as his deputy, heads the Republican side. Rende, a former Republican, had a three-year term on the Port Chester Village Board in the 1980s after serving on that community’s Planning Commission.

Both candidates pointed to Schiliro’s pending departure as the impetus for their candidacy.

“When I saw that Mike was leaving office, and being active locally as the co-chair of the Democratic Party and actually hearing the local buzz around town that the likelihood that Barbara was going to run on the Republican side, I felt very strongly that, number one, I don’t think we should ever as a party and I don’t think it’s good for the community to allow someone to run unopposed, especially when they’re going for a new position,” said Rende, who works in the title insurance industry after years in the home heating industry.

Rende was also Westchester County’s deputy director of emergency planning and management in the 1990s.

DiGiacinto, a retired English teacher at Westlake High School and a lifelong town resident, said her knowledge of the town and its issues would make her an effective supervisor.

“In the scheme of things, I’m the best person to follow in (Schiliro’s) footsteps,” DiGiacinto said. “It’s the experience, it’s the history that I have that’s invaluable at times.”

Rende said the likely top issue in town is fear of overdevelopment with simultaneous projects under review or recently approved. Fresh ratables are critical for the town, but it must be balanced with responsible development that doesn’t detract from quality of life and community character, he said.

The Town Board’s chief responsibility regarding development is consideration of zoning changes. While the board has made some sound choices, Rende questioned its decision on The Gateway, the now 34-unit proposal at the former Mariani Gardens site, which sits just outside the Bedford Road Historic District. More forethought could have been given for such an important parcel, he said.

“I don’t think I would have voted to rezone that to residential. That’s my opinion,” Rende said. “I would have rather seen some type of a gateway plan development for that part of town.”

DiGiacinto said two of the projects, The Gateway and the old lumberyard on Bedford Road, were already regarded as residential and are consistent with the current Comprehensive Plan. She points to the proposed redevelopment of the former MBIA office campus as a smart re-use of the property, including adapting one of the office buildings for age-restricted housing rentals, which DiGiacinto had suggested.

“To me, that was a good compromise to consider if we were going to be rezoning that for residential,” said DiGiacinto.

The various developments, most of which haven’t been built, concerns DiGiacinto relating to downtown Armonk parking. The town’s purchase of the Verizon lot next to the library should help. She would also explore obtaining a parcel next to Citibank, if needed.

“I think (more parking) is a given,” DiGiacinto said. “I don’t know how much more parking, but yes, we could need additional parking.”

A proposal for the developer to add a lefthand turn lane from Maple Avenue should alleviate the one consistently problematic intersection at Bedford Road, said DiGiacinto, who believes some of units will be inhabited by snowbirds.

Rende said the town’s ordinance requiring 10 percent affordable housing for developments is a good mechanism to ensure North Castle is contributing to area housing needs. He supports having the developer keeping then on-site as much as possible.

To tackle the recurring problem of illegal North White Plains apartments, Rende said he would want to make sure town regulations mandate elimination of the illegal units, not just having the owner pay a fine and walk away. For those that fail to meet code, Rende wants to have a more streamlined process.

“The process to make it legal is the right thing to do,” Rende said. “I don’t know that hitting people with heavy fines” is effective.

Rende was critical of the how officials have handled the town pool, letting it deteriorate until the town recently took ownership. As a result, upgrades will likely cost more, he said.

“I couldn’t believe how badly the place was let go,” Rende said.

DiGiacinto responded that it would have been wrong to spend major capital expenses during the lengthy legal process required by the state attorney general to acquire the pool.

Having fields in consistently good playing condition is critical to a community, and DiGiacinto would like to see Fields 1 and 2 near IBM resurfaced with artificial turf, but she first wants to see how much they will cost. The expense was recently estimated at $2.7 million.

During her time on the board, DiGiacinto has had outreach to North White Plains to ensure their needs are addressed. She has held a monthly Saturday meeting at the Community Center, and the feedback has built a bridge to some residents who might have previously felt slighted compared to Armonk.

Rende said it should be the next supervisor’s responsibility to shorten the length of meetings. While stifling comment is wrong, too often members of the public and the board repeat themselves unnecessarily.

DiGiacinto said it starts with controlling the agendas, such as avoiding multiple major public hearings on the same evening.

Rende’s professional and personal experience has made building relationships and working with people a strong suit.

“It’s a skill to bring people together, so that’s what I really enjoy a lot and that’s what I’m focused on, hopefully, to be involved in the community in that way,” Rende said.

DiGiacinto touted her ability to work across the aisle, having had excellent relationships with County Executive George Latimer, state Sen. Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Chris Burdick.

“It’s all about the town. It’s not about us, it’s not personal, it’s not about pet projects, it’s about respecting all three hamlets and earning the trust that people have placed in us,” DiGiacinto said.

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.