The Northern Westchester Examiner

Slater Faults Gilbert for Shabby Conditions at Some Town Parks

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Matt Slater said fence at Shrub Oak Park should be repaired for safety reasons.

Yorktown Supervisor candidate Matt Slater is pointing fingers at incumbent Ilan Gilbert for failing to address glaring issues in some town parks and not developing a plan for recreational projects.

As one example, Slater stood inside tennis courts at Shrub Oak Park which haven’t been used since 2008 and currently have piles of concrete and other debris, along with fencing that has numerous holes from vandalism.

“It’s chaos. There should be a plan to address it, even if it’s a long-term plan,” Slater said. “I don’t fault the Parks Department. They’re being told what to do. It’s the supervisor’s duties to manage the day-to-day operations of the town. People deserve parks they can enjoy.”

Gilbert, who has been in office for 18 months, refuted Slater’s criticism, explaining the Parks Department, which has 17 employees, operates 31 parks, including two pool complexes consisting of seven different pools, 16 playgrounds, 12 tennis courts and has responsibility for an additional 20 municipal properties.

“To say that there is no plan is not accurate,” Gilbert said. “We have a schedule for preparing our facilities for the season but of course this has been adversely affected by the unusual amount of rain this season. However, we have completed work on a number of the facilities and now that our seasonal workers have reported for duty, we will accelerate the rate of preparing our facilities for use by our residents.”

Todd Orlowski, Yorktown’s Parks and Recreation superintendent who is leaving in early July to join North Castle in a similar capacity, said from January through May his workers dedicated 1,100 hours to ensure the multi-million dollar Granite Knolls sports complex in Shrub Oak was up and running.

He also noted the tennis courts at Shrub Oak Park are scheduled to receive a $130,000 facelift this summer, as are courts at Downing Park and Blackberry, which cost much less. Orlowski said the Shrub Oak courts were being utilized as a temporary staging area while work on a retaining wall at the playground was being completed.

“Things take time, that’s what it is,” Orlowski said. “I think the department has a lot on its plate. Like all departments, we have our constraints. I know how hard they work. In the last few years, we’ve accomplished a lot. The only things the supervisor and Town Board do is they are the ones that approve any budgets and hire personnel. They don’t get involved in the day-to-day work.”

Slater said the town needs to better inform residents of improvements being planned perhaps in a timeline list posted on the town’s website or on an interactive map.

“Day one when I walk in, I’m getting every department head in a room and finding out a list of priorities. I’m going to rely on my department heads and their assessments until I can get a grasp of what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t pretend to know everything. Parks Department is being used as a construction crew. I’m not taking pride in pointing out deficiencies in our town.”

Gilbert his administration was the first in 15 years that allocated funding to add employees to the Parks Department.

“Government can’t have its eyes all over the place. Government should be responsive to constituent concerns,” Gilbert said. “To criticize government for taking an action on a concern is absurd.”

Meanwhile, Slater said Yorktown should be doing more to provide information to residents and town employees that could calm concerns regarding the use of herbicides and pesticides at town parks and public buildings
“Private businesses have strict notification requirements and it is time our town government holds itself to the same standard,” Slater said. “As a parent who often visits Willow Park with my young son I can understand the concerns neighbors have when they see and smell what appears to be chemical use in a kid or pet friendly place.  Our local government can easily provide accessible information that not only preempts questions or concerns but ensures the public is indeed safe from harmful chemicals.”

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