PoliticsThe Examiner

Pleasantville Village Board Race Attracts Incumbent, Two Challengers

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Three candidates are running for two seats on the Pleasantville Village Board in the Mar. 19 election.

Incumbent Trustee David Vinjamuri has served on the board for two terms and is running to keep his seat against two longtime residents, Francesca Hagadus and Yemi Pickard Healy. Each seat carries a three-year term.

Trustee Michael Peppard announced in December that he would not seek a second term.

Francesca Hagadus

Francesca Hagadus, left, Yemi Pickard Healy and incumbent David Vinjamuri are vying for two seats in next week’s Pleasantville Village Board election.

Hagadus, who served one year on the Mount Pleasant Town Board in 2019, said she would bring important qualities and expertise if elected.

“I do understand how local government works when it comes to budgets, compromises and consensus-building,” she said. “I respect the Board of Trustees and I understand what needs to happen in the village and how it relates to the town, county, state and federal level.”

Hagadus said she would advocate for more enforceable village regulations, particularly when addressing development. If a developer strays from an approved plan, Hagadus suggests there be a penalty. She backs an approach to development that is well-thought out, especially when it comes to the prohibitively expensive apartment rentals.

“There also needs to be a consensus on what the pricing on these places are going to be,” Hagadus said.

For new, mixed-use developments, such as the one proposed for the former Chase Bank at 444 Bedford Rd., Hagadus wants a method to monitor and enforce what the final project would look like.

Another regulation needing more enforcement is the leaf blower ordinance.

“It is important to maintain quiet and have less fumes from gas-powered leaf blowers,” Hagadus said. “But it’s very hard to enforce, especially with hired landscapers. It needs to be addressed.”

Traffic is still a serious problem in the village, Hagadus said, particularly from mid-afternoon to early evening.

“There should be a left turn possible when you’re going north on Broadway towards the village and also when making a left to get on the Saw Mill from Grant Street,” she said. “Something needs to be done about that. A light or a small left-turn lane could be a simple solution to a very big issue.”

Pedestrian safety is key at various hotspots around the village, Hagadus said. “Crossing the Saw Mill, or near Foxwood where the sidewalk disappears, as it does on Washington Avenue and near Nannahagan, are treacherous, especially for children walking to school,” she said.

Hagadus has been in touch with Assemblywoman MaryJane Shimsky urging her to help the village get red-light cameras to detect speeders near the Grant Street-Saw Mill Parkway intersection.

The village has proposed building a new swimming pool with flood mitigation, a project now estimated at about $5 million. Hagadus questioned if rebuilding the pool in its current location is the best option for the village.

“Something has to be decided about going forward,” Hagadus said. “We need to explore what to do with the pool long term, if we ought to put the pool somewhere else or build a new recreation center where the pool is.”

Communicating village happenings to the public remains a priority for Hagadus, She strongly supports residents subscribe to the village website and Facebook page.

“But there are people that are not tech savvy,” Hagadus said. “They should sign up to receive a quarterly (printed) newsletter in the mail.”

Yemi Pickard Healy

A key reason behind Healy’s candidacy is to improve village walkability and safety and to strengthen communication between the village and its residents.

Last year her children were in a car accident caused by a speeding car near the Grant Street-Saw Mill Parkway intersection. Her children weren’t injured, but the experience prompted Healy to serve on the village’s Pedestrian Committee, which motivated her to run for the Village Board.

“Issues about the safety near the Saw Mill crossing has come up for years,” Healy said. “When my neighborhood came together about the issue, I asked them how they would propose to solve the problem. You have to hear what’s feasible. We submitted ideas to the village and the state.”

A red-light camera at the troubled intersection would be helpful.

“Honoring Pleasantville’s walkability requires doing a better job,” Healy said. “It’s a special character we have and we have to listen to the community and make adjustments.”

Because of its walkability and popular restaurants, Healy said local real estate has done well.

“If there was no building going on, there would be no jobs, no restaurants and you wouldn’t want to live here,” Healy said. “People want to come to Pleasantville because of the town and the schools. My take on more development is to hear the suggestions and ideas and filter what’s being heard. But we are lacking housing. Time will tell if development is too much too soon. But there needs to be a balance.”

Commenting on recent developments that have unexpectedly veered from approved plans, Healy, a former construction manager, said it was common for building construction to change.

“It’s not a surprise for construction to shift,” she said. “I don’t know if penalties have to be in place but maybe it’s not off the table.”

If elected, Healy would support recommendations from the recent village traffic study.

“The study suggested minor adjustments be made on the (traffic light) timing at crosswalks to help the flow of traffic and help slow traffic in high pedestrian areas like near the gazebo,” she said.

Healy said the village’s proposed tree ordinance to regulate tree removal might be difficult.

“I don’t know if it would change too much and it may need to be adjusted. But they are on the right track.”

Regulating leaf blower use is helpful for people who work at home, which Healy does one day a week, but has raised the ire of landscapers. She said because of COVID there were major shifts in work patterns.

Communication between the village and its residents can always be improved, Healy said, but it could also involve reaching out to residents on an ongoing basis.

Her family, which includes her husband and three young children, use the village pool.

“If I was elected, I would go to the nth degree of possibilities of what might be right for the future of the village,” Healy said. “Maybe this location isn’t for a pool anymore because of the drainage issue. Maybe it should be behind Parkway Field. It will be an infrastructure change and will cost money. You have to think long-term.”

David Vinjamuri

A two-term incumbent, Vinjamuri has enjoyed serving on the board, where he’s learned the inner workings of the village.

Vinjamuri, who works on audits and master plans for libraries nationwide, is also

a marketing professor at NYU and has a 15-year career in the field.

“I have an economic sense of how businesses grow and survive,” he said.

Vinjamuri said the Master Plan, which was updated in 2017, has been a key road map to stimulating economic growth.

Since 24 percent of the village’s general expenses pay for healthcare and pensions, Vinjamuri said growth wasn’t in the village’s control.

“The only way we can finance the growth in our expenses is either increase taxes, which for the last six years have never increased above roughly 2 percent, or we can grow the revenue base, which means sales from restaurants and more revenue from developers,” Vinjamuri said.

A lively downtown restaurant scene has helped Pleasantville draw many visitors from outside the community, which has helped to keep village taxes in check, he said.

For Vinjamuri, the housing moratorium that halted development for six months last year raised important questions about emergency services, or if there would be appropriate gas or power.

To ensure developers abide by approved site plans, Vinjamuri said the village is working to ensure appropriate staffing so there are enough people inspecting construction sites.

The Village Board has reviewed the recent traffic study and is working on signal issues at Wheeler Avenue and the right turn onto Bedford Road, Vinjamuri said.

“The village doesn’t directly control the lights at all the intersections; some we need state or county approval to adjust the lights. We are trying to optimize the signals work will help the traffic.”

For Vinjamuri, the proposed tree ordinance could become a civil liberty issue, particularly for the single-family homeowner.

“However, I do think for developers when taking trees down there should be an arborist on site that should be paid for by the developer,” he said. “There needs to be some sort of mechanism to measure what’s happing to manage the village’s tree cover.”

The village is looking at imposing certain fines as part of the ordinance, he said.

The board has achieved multiple environmental accomplishments, including the leaf blower regulation that became law in 2022 and the food scrap recycling program. Getting the police department to electrify their vehicles has also been important, Vinjamuri said.

Another achievement Vinajmuri is proud of was creating the monthly newsletter “What’s Happening.”

“We try to reach as many people as possible and the newsletter is there as a resource,” he said.








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