The first debate of the political season was held in Yorktown on Sunday night. GreenYorktown hosted the forum at Temple Beth Am so the public could hear each candidate’s views on environmental policies and their vision for the Yorktown community.
All of the candidates were against hydraulic fracturing for natural gases. They all also believed that the town should be as energy efficient as was affordable. Councilman candidate Rich Campanaro recommended slowly replacing some of the town’s vehicles, except the police department, with electric vehicles.
Supervisor Susan Siegel, former supervisor Don Peters (who are both running for town supervisor), and Councilman Jim Martorano each spoke of the efforts that were put in place during his/her tenure to help preserve open space and energy conservation.
Each candidate expressed their view of a balance between protecting the environment and the need for development to drive economic growth.
“Open space and development can be complimentary and mutually exclusive,” Councilman candidate Dave Paganelli said. “I believe that each development project needs to be examined and determined on a case-by-case basis.”
“We need to preserve our wildlife corridors,” he added. “Development should be put in areas where transportation and infrastructure already exist.”
Ed Ciffone, who is running for town council as a write-in candidate, said that he would call for a moratorium on purchasing open space.
“I would like to see more new businesses in Yorktown to lower our taxes,” he said. “We need to freeze the acquisition of open space until we pay the millions of dollars of open space debt. My plan is to keep government away from open space and maintaining the land in the name of open space.”
Ciffone cited Granite Knolls and Holland Sporting Club of two open space parcels that have cost the taxpayers’ money.
Campanaro, president of the Yorktown Athletic Club and Democrat councilman candidate, said that he has spent the past 10 years as an advocate for open space and field development. He recommends driving new businesses to populate the empty stores.
Campanaro said he thinks that there needs to be more recreational fields also wants to reach out to the business community for help in funding fields. “We have 25,000 acres of land sitting idle right now we need. We can reach out to local business owners to help fund field development. I am not in favor of overcrowding the town but I do think there is park land that is not being used.” Campanaro considers the new Legacy Ball Fields to be a “keystone to the community.”
“Over my tenure on the town board I have come to realize how important the environment is,” said Martorano, who is endorsed by the Sienna Club. “Philosophically you have to look at all the environmental laws we have and whether they are seen as road blocks or safe guards. For me they are safeguards.”
“We have to be very careful once we establish an impervious surface, the impervious surface generally does not go away,” Martorano added. “There need to be a balance. We are not just talking about aesthetics but public health and safety. I believe open space is a good investment. It is good for the soul.”
“[Councilman Nick Bianco] has been an advocate open space since he was an environmental inspector for Yorktown,” said Paul Moskowitz, who was representing Bianco. “During his tenure on the board the town has acquired 3,000 acres of open space. Open space has more than just an aesthetic value. It does not require as much up keep as developed land. Bianco believes that you need to put the proper things in the proper places and development should occur it an already existing developed empty space.”
“There has to be a proper balance in preservation and future development,” said Republican supervisor candidate Michael Grace. “The tax base in this town is skewed with residents paying 85 percent of the taxes while commercial properties only make up 10 to 12 percent.”
“I think that development is compatible with open space,” he said. “However, in order to be a proper steward over your environment you need to have revenues to pay for it.”
Peters said that he thinks development should occur in areas that already have infrastructure.
“You must be careful that smart growth and open space have a balance,” said Peters. “This way our quality of life remains.”
“I agree with and would follow the newly adopted comprehensive plan,” said Siegel. “We need to keep with the character of this town.”
“There is no one-size fits all solution, “she continued. “Each project has to be seen as a case-by case issue.”
Both Kaplowitz and Kane spoke about the need to close the nuclear portion of Indian Point and replace it with an alternative form of energy. They also agreed that the county needs to help promote energy efficiencies and environmental protection.
“Really, this is the time to step up and take responsibility for our environment,” Kane said.
All of the candidates running for town council, town supervisor and county legislature in districts 1 or 4 were invited to attend the debate. They were also given the option to send a representative on their behalf if they could not make it.
Legislator John Testa who is running for re-election in District 1 sent a letter stating the he could not make it, but that he was an advocate for environmental issues.
Councilman Nick Bianco who is also running for re-election sent Paul Moskowitz to represent him while he attended an out-of-state wedding.
Yorktown Councilman Terrence Murphy who is running for the legislative District 4 seat did not respond to the invitation. All other candidates attended the event.
“When I sent out the invitation to the debate, I specifically said that if they wanted to send a representative they could,” said Patty Peckham, co-chair of GreenYorktown. “They all got the questions ahead of time so I do not feel that it is an issue if you ask someone to speak on your behalf if you cannot make it.”