Time for a Change in Mount Pleasant? Voters Have a Difficult Choice

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Oftentimes change can be constructive, whether it’s within the private sector, an organization or a local government.

Having the same types of voices year after year can cause stagnation, and new ones can bring a fresh perspective.

That is what voters in the Town of Mount Pleasant must consider in 2023 as they head to the polls.

Clearly, there are accomplishments by the current administration, led by Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi. The day-to-day operations appear fine, with capable fiscal management, well-maintained town roads, an eye toward energy efficiency and a town pool, community center and senior programs that often receive accolades.

However, there are problems, and not just the development pressures and all the issues that accompany development – traffic, flooding, environmental concerns and having enough housing variety – that many communities are facing. Mount Pleasant also has the unique challenge of having the Cottage School within its borders.

The current all-Republican Town Board, which includes Councilwoman Danielle Zaino, who is up for re-election along with Fulgenzi and joined on the ticket by first-time candidate Mark Saracino, has been the subject of some valid criticism on several fronts.

Consider this:

The town fails to publish work session agendas, making it an outlier in the northern half of the county. Why is that important? While the Mount Pleasant work sessions mostly review mundane resolutions for the next week’s regular meeting, there are sometimes highly notable presentations that could give the public a first glimpse of important development. Representatives for Toll Brothers’ 162-unit proposal appeared three times before the Town Board between October 2022 and May 2023, but didn’t appear on an agenda or in front of cameras until June.

The town either didn’t know or didn’t say who the tenant was going to be –Amazon – for the 153,000-square-foot warehouse on Route 9A. It was approved by the Planning Board in July 2020 and is expected to open early next year.

The town appears to approve rezoning or site plans and worries about mitigation later. The Brightview assisted living project on Grasslands Road is on one of the busiest roads in the area and it was approved with the assumption that it won’t make congestion worse. Residents on residential streets near the Amazon site were already overloaded but had no way of knowing a corporate behemoth would move into their backyards.

The board amended zoning for a cluster subdivision on 36 acres by Pocantico Lake before anyone knew what that was about. About two months later the applicant submitted its formal application for a 31-lot clustered project

Then there are the hot-button issues surrounding the Cottage School. The town has rightfully sought answers from operator JCCA for incidents that have taxed the police department. But it has unnecessarily politicized the issue of unaccompanied minor children expected in the near future.

The Democratic ticket provides an alternative, having spent the campaign blasting the town for rampant development. But are they ready to lead?

Supervisor candidate Frank Hrotko had a 39-year law enforcement career, retiring as a Sleepy Hollow police lieutenant. He has some strengths and solid ideas, including wanting to have a town administrator, but doesn’t seem to have full command of all the issues.

Town Board candidate Charlie Caspari is a sharp 25-year-old Pace Law School student, who has already immersed himself into politics. He has worked for former assemblyman David Buchwald and the Kingston Common Council. He has all the qualities to be an outstanding board member, but does he possess the bandwidth given his current schedule to take on such a role?

Joe Bonanno has served for eight years as a Valhalla fire commissioner and for 22 years as firefighter. He got his feet wet two years ago when he lost the supervisor’s race to Fulgenzi and has run a much more active campaign for Town Board. He has correctly identified the areas of concern for residents.

In her four years on the board, Zaino has continued advocating for safety on and around the Cottage School campus. Plus, she has done an excellent job in advocating for parks and recreation.

Saracino is a smart, pragmatic business-oriented candidate who is actually an independent. If elected, he would serve admirably having co-founded the Coalition for a Safe Mt. Pleasant with Zaino.

In the end some change is needed. A new voice on the board is needed, and the best choice would be Bonanno for one of the Town Board seats. But there are concerns about Hrotko and Caspari for the reasons stated above.

Therefore, Fulgenzi and Zaino should stay on for another term, with the understanding that it can’t be business as usual for another two or four years. They should be joined by Bonanno who has the breadth of knowledge required to serve the town well and to raise important counterpoints to the majority.

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