Unite New Castle Looking to Move Town Forward

We are writing in response to the recent Examiner article entitled “New Castle Scraps Form-Based Code, Takes No Action on Findings Statement.”

As concerned residents of New Castle, we actively participated in our town’s 18-month-long debate over the adoption of a Form-Based Code (FBC), with Lisa Katz serving on the Town Board during that time. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, a large grassroots movement of diverse and disparate voices emerged, all of whom simply wanted to be heard. Thousands signed petitions, wrote impassioned letters, and attended board meetings and engagement sessions decrying the impropriety of a blanket zoning and development overhaul for the Chappaqua hamlet during a period of great uncertainty. Virtually no residents spoke out in favor of the FBC.

Those voices were joined by key interested agencies, namely our school, planning and library boards, who all expressed reservations about the inadequate analysis being done by the Town Board. For the first time in memory, these agencies were treated like adversaries by our Town Board.

The incumbent Town Board had a moral and fiduciary responsibility to educate residents and achieve substantial consensus before moving forward with a plan destined to be transformational. Despite the objections and reasoned arguments of Katz, the Town Board majority failed throughout the process on all counts.

Within that landscape, we joined together as Unite New Castle on a platform of collaboration and consensus, as we listened to the collective concerns. We campaigned largely on the issue of the FBC, along with the broader idea of transparent, inclusive, respectful and responsive governance.

We faced an opposing slate that, together with the board majority, had all the levers of power – the ability to control the message through official communications, how and when the public could speak and the rote endorsements of virtually every major Democratic political figure in New York. The result? The Unite New Castle slate won all four open seats.

We understand how frustrating this must have been to our opponents and members of the Town Board who advocated for the FBC. Even accounting for that disappointment, however, we were shocked at the lack of grace and good will displayed at last Wednesday evening’s Town Board meeting. We heard three Town Board members make unsupported and frivolous claims and accusations about lack of progress, misrepresentation of facts, nefarious campaign contributions and the failure to address social justice goals.

As we have said all along, the only endorsements that matter to us are those of our neighbors, and we are honored that they spoke loudly on our behalf on Election Day. They heard our promises to promote responsible growth that takes resident voices into account, not just a blanket plan that focuses on developer profits. They saw through claims of misrepresentation based on their own studied analysis of the town’s Environmental Impact Statement (and the clear victory our slate earned in the one fair election complaint filed against us by our opponents). And they certainly recognized the performative nature of arguments that the FBC was somehow a social justice proposal, particularly when it never took into account the likelihood of displacement for our lowest income neighbors and ignored the fact that we have achieved over 60 affordable and workforce housing units in recent years without an FBC.

Finally, we are so proud to have received financial support from hundreds of neighbors and friends. To the extent that included the support of local entrepreneurs and philanthropists or longtime friends and former colleagues who care deeply about our town is a tremendous source of pride for us and should be for all residents.

We now must come together as neighbors to support each other and to collaboratively foster a New Castle that is inclusive, welcoming and thriving. We look forward to working with all of New Castle’s residents, merchants and stakeholders in an open, positive and engaging manner for the best interests of this home we all love. The actions we take in the future will stand or fall on their own merits, and we are proud that the voters in New Castle entrusted us with that responsibility.

Unite New Castle
Lisa Katz
Tara Kassal
Chris Hildenbrand
Victoria Tipp

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