For the first time since he was voted out of office last November, former Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace publicly addressed the Town Board last week and he didn’t hold back in criticizing the current administration for not pushing forward one of his pet projects.
Grace, who served six years as the town’s chief executive before being ousted by Supervisor Ilan Gilbert in a Democratic sweep that changed the majority on the five-member board, said he has stayed out of the spotlight for the last six months because it felt a bit “awkward” returning in a civilian role.
However, Grace, whose law offices are situated directly across from Town Hall, proceeded to take the board to task for being mum on the Depot Square project on Front Street, which involved the relocation of the Highway Department and Parks Department.
During his time in office, Grace spoke often about Depot Square having the potential of being a cornerstone for the revitalization of the downtown Yorktown Heights area.
“I spent six years as town supervisor trying to set a vision for the town. We started to do things that started to put this town on a positive track. It’s a shame there hasn’t been any follow through on it,” Grace said. “By not doing anything, you’re missing a golden opportunity to revitalize the downtown.”
One of the last resolutions the Grace-led board made regarding Depot Square was committing $120,000 to hire an architect for the controversial highway garage project, which has been opposed by a certain segment of residents who signed petitions led by the United Taxpayers of Yorktown.
Grace has long contended the project could be built at little or no cost to taxpayers, citing $1.2 million in grant money allocated for it, a projected $4 million from the sale of the existing garage and approximately $10 million Yorktown currently has in fund balance.
“Just because they were Supervisor Grace projects doesn’t mean they’re bad,” Grace remarked. “You need to put politics aside and have a thoughtful discussion. You’re not even allowing a public discussion on it.”
Grace also questioned Councilwoman Alice Roker, saying she once favored Depot Square. Roker said that was true, but she thought New York State was going to pay for it.
“I have never allowed politics to cloud my judgement,” Roker said. “I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. If you want to work with us, let’s not fight. Let’s not do what they do in Washington.”
Gilbert said he wasn’t going to “engage in a debate” with Grace but offered to have a private discussion with him, saying he had “an open-door policy.”
In prior meetings, former Councilman Tony Grasso and Yorktown Chamber of Commerce President Eric DiBartolo have also urged the board to move ahead with the plans for Depot Square.