Election 2023

Four-Candidate Mt. Kisco Board Race a Spirited Contest

We are part of The Trust Project

There haven’t been many contested elections in Mount Kisco’s recent history, but the village’s political scene has made up for that dry spell this year.

What started out as a campaign mainly over the potential relocation of a cell tower to Leonard Park, has morphed into debates over accessory dwelling units, public safety, ethics, transparency and more.

In the Village Board race, the Democrats will have incumbent Trustee Karine Patino vying for a second term while Jean Farber, who served for 10 years, looks to regain a seat after stepping aside three years ago. Only Patino was formally endorsed by the village’s Democratic Committee.

Current Deputy Mayor Lisa Abzun, who needed to win a primary to get the party’s nomination over Tom Luzio in June, heads the ticket for mayor.

The independent Village Inclusive Party has former longtime mayor Michael Cindrich. He is joined by two first-time candidates, Theresa Flora and Angie Garcia-Guerra.

Jean Farber

Farber stepped aside in 2020 after her fifth two-year term to have more time for herself and family. But the retirement didn’t last long.

She initially thought about getting back into the fray because she felt too many used the board to build resumes. When some residents suggested she run again, Farber initially resisted, then reconsidered.

A self-described moderate, Farber said the board could use someone with the negotiating skills she’s honed in her professional life and listens first before reacting.

“I’m a realtor, so I really know how to negotiate, and this is what I believe is missing, that everyone is so involved in their point of view,” Farber said.

Farber noted that in her time on the board she voted against placement of a cell tower at Leonard Park, something that was largely the motivation for her opponents to run. She called that vote “an easy decision.”

However, it was the current board’s responsibility to look at all options when it was confronted with two poor choices – having a cell tower at that time with a possible solar array at 180 S. Bedford Rd. and the park.

“Understand what the problem is and look for solutions,” Farber said. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to vote for it but you need to understand the solutions before you can make a decision to the best of your ability.”

Farber dismissed the notion that the current board would have approved Leonard Park before their opponents and their supporters strenuously objected.

While the cell tower in the park is no longer on the table, the next board will must make decisions about where one will go and how to increase coverage and capacity in the areas that lack service, she said.

Farber would want to explore the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) legislation because more housing is needed in the area. However, strict and clear-cut regulations would have to be written and followed.

“I don’t want the whole world to have an ADU in the single-family area, but at the same time it’s an option as long as it’s really, really taken seriously and the building inspector is going to be there to make sure everything is absolutely kosher,” Farber said.

Farber said the Democratic ticket would likely be better equipped to oversee the improvements for traffic and pedestrian safety. Many of the key thoroughfares in the village are state and county roads. They have worked with their state and county representatives before in hopes of getting snagging critical funding.

The village’s trails have become an important amenity to many residents, Farber said, and she’d be supportive of the idea to help make the public feel safer. She would also want to evaluate how the DPW’s monitoring of the trails has worked the past several months to help make a decision.

“I have absolutely no problem with a ranger if the board, the historical society and the trail team feel it is that important,” Farber said. “I have no problem trying that because we’re not talking about a great deal of money.”

Farber said she doesn’t see the transparency issues opponents of the current administration are

“Everybody’s doing the best they can,” Farber said. “If you want to nitpick, of course you can find something.”

She would support reviewing the village’s ethics code to see if improvements can be made. However, she called the applications that were before the town involving former Planning Board chairman Douglas Hertz “a disappointment.”

Theresa Flora

The jumping off point for Flora’s candidacy was the consideration by the board in early 2022 to relocate the cell tower from the controversial proposal at 180 S. Bedford Rd. to Leonard Park.

But as Flora, a retired nurse and longtime village resident, began attending meetings, she had questions on other issues as well.

“It was the way the cell tower (issue) was handled,” she said. “It made me very suspicious as to what else was going on, what else don’t we know.”

Flora said that there are some coverage and capacity issues, but there are gaps in Mount Kisco’s regulations for 5G, which have begun popping up on poles throughout the village, including in front of her house. If elected, she hopes to press for regulations such as Scarsdale’s law that sets parameters for small cell.

One of the main factors that led to debate over a cell tower at the park was the village’s “short-sighted” zoning to allow solar panels in the Conservation District, according to Flora. What made it worse was 180 S. Bedford is next to Marsh Sanctuary, she said.

Flora said placing a solar array at the old landfill made sense or even possibly at the North Moger parking lot might have been a better idea.

“Turning (the Conservation District) into an industrial use opened it up to a cell towner,” she said.

While the region needs more housing, Flora opposes the ADU legislation. The village has varied housing stock and is one of the most affordable communities in the county.

Most importantly, the typical parcel in the single-family zone is far smaller than in neighboring towns.

“We have varied and way more housing opportunities for low-income earners than our surrounding municipalities,” Flora said. “Maybe we should be asking them to pick up the slack.”

She would be willing to consider Cindrich’s idea for a Business Improvement District for the downtown. At the very least, the merchants, property owners and village officials need to brainstorm. Flora opposed the Kirby Commons development that was scuttled but perhaps there could be development on a smaller scale.

“I’d like to see a lot of stakeholders come to the table, including people who live in the area and get their take on what they need there,” Flora said. “That’s where I would start.”

The challenger was pleased that the board voted to approve the AKFR study, but Flora raised other ideas to address traffic and pedestrian safety. To cut down on illegal U-turns on South Moger Avenue, she proposed a center median with plantings. Another idea is prohibiting parking on Main Street near the corners to allow cars to make right turns.

For pedestrian safety, Flora said she intends to be a pest to get the state representatives’ attention for funding for crosswalk improvements, pointing to the $100,000 Peekskill recently received.

“In the short term, we really need help with the crosswalks and some of these major intersections, and we don’t have money for them,” Flora said.

Flora supports hiring a part-time ranger to patrol the trails and Leonard Park. She doesn’t believe the DPW has enough manpower to do the proper job and a uniformed presence could deter bad behavior and make residents feel safer.

Tightening of the ethics code to include financial disclosure for candidates and board members is needed to ensure there aren’t conflicts of interest.

Regardless of the outcome next week, Flora plans to stay involved.

“Win or lose, I hope people are inspired to get involved here in Mount Kisco,” Flora said. “The last thing you want to see is the same people over and over running uncontested.”

Angie Garcia-Guerra

Garcia-Guerra moved to Mount Kisco in late 2019 from Dutchess County, where her husband had been working. When he needed to start commuting into the city, they moved to the village.

The political newcomer was a New York City school teacher, followed by per diem subbing at districts throughout Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties. She homeschools her nine-year-old son.

Like Flora, her running mate for trustee, Garcia-Guerra was shocked to learn the Village Board would entertain the possibility of placing a cell tower at Leonard Park, a place where she and her son began visiting frequently.

“From that moment forward, I was like we have to figure out what we can do as a community to stop this from happening because this is a bad decision and that was sort of how this whole thing got started,” Garcia-Guerra said.

She firmly believes that the groundswell of opposition caused the board to abandon possible relocation of the proposed tower.

“It just seemed too convenient that the story changed once there was so much pushback and there were so many residents resistant to it,” Garcia-Guerra said.

The other major issue for her in this campaign is transparency. In the time that Garcia-Guerra has interacted with officials, she doesn’t believe they are as forthcoming with information, first regarding the cell tower but on other issues as well.

Mount Kisco needs more affordable housing, but other solutions should be tried rather than the proposed ADU legislation, Garcia-Guerra said. It would likely be ineffective and potentially detrimental. If all other ideas for more housing for working class families fail, then it could be revisited as “an absolute last resort,” she said.

Traffic and pedestrian safety serve as an impediment for some people to walk, adding to the vehicular congestion in the village. Garcia-Guerra called for greater enforcement to crack down on speeding and will concentrate on seeking funding for crosswalks and appropriate signage.

“I don’t know what the 100 percent solution is but there’s got to be something better because what we’re doing is dangerous,” Garcia-Guerra said. “It’s scary for pedestrians and kids.”

She would like the village to try a part-time ranger for the trails, in part because that person will then become known by community members. It is a small but potentially significant action, Garcia-Guerra said.

To help the downtown, Garcia-Guerra said establishment of a BID is a possibility that can be explored if business and property owners agree. It has worked in other small communities and could be beneficial to Mount Kisco as well.

Now that Garcia-Guerra has become involved in the community, she intends to stay engaged whatever the results of next week’s election.

“I’m like always telling Theresa, no matter how this all ends up, we’re going to stay on top of things,” she said. “We’re going to stay involved, we’re going to stay being informed, asking questions. So none of that changes.”

Karine Patino

Completing her first term on the board, Patino said she has enjoyed serving the village and getting up to speed on the vast array of issues facing Mount Kisco. The first term has been a learning experience and understanding the big picture.

A lifelong village resident and the first Latina to serve on the Village Board gives her a unique perspective.

“Even though you want to, yes, like translating meetings into Spanish, was something that the board was for, but then other issues that affect the (larger) population you really need buy-in, so you really need to focus on policy and consensus building,” said Patino, an attorney for the Putnam County Legal Aid Society.

Patino said consideration of the cell tower relocation to Leonard Park was partly to give the village options while it pressed for property owner to provide them the lease and to search for alternate locations. But it was also the board’s responsibility to try and do what it can for the nearby homeowners, even though she didn’t want to put it in the park.

In fact, Patino said she told Flora that the more opposition, the less viable the plan would likely become. Patino employed a similar strategy in her opposition to the failed Kirby Commons mixed-use proposal near the train station, she said.

“I can go to sleep knowing that I can look (the homeowner) in the face and say I did my best,” Patino said.

The village, however, does have coverage and capacity issues, because the community is densely populated with residents and business as well as being a medical hub, she said.

Of the current trustees and candidates, Patino is the most enthusiastic for ADUs. She sees the units as part of a larger strategy to have reasonably priced housing, along with potentially developing a few lots on Maple Avenue for affordable and workforce housing.

If there are 50 additional units built, data shows that the village has plenty of water and sewer capacity available, Patino said.

Housing units targeted for people in different stages in life is what the village should strive for.

“We need to focus on the people who are here, people who are living here, people who are from here that don’t want to live with their parents anymore,” Patino said.

Patino would be open to a ranger for the village’s trails, but would first want to evaluate the job the DPW has been doing. If a change should be made, it should be decided in the spring during budget season, she said.

A part-time ranger could also evolve into a full-time position or even multiple positions if the trail system is expanded, which is something the village would have to watch. However, Patino said the notion that a ranger is needed because Mount Kisco is unsafe is wrong. Many of the vagrants suffer from alcoholism, among other issues, and need services.

“The more people taking care of the village the more assured people feel,” Patino explained. “It just feels sad that it’s portrayed that Mount Kisco is a dangerous place to be and it’s really not. It’s been ongoing. We know who these men are. This is a problem that has been going on for forever that nobody has addressed.”

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.