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Port Chester Facebook Page Leads to Community Forum

This volunteer-run, resident-based committee grew from a Facebook page called “Making Port Chester A Better Place To Live”

About 100 Port Chester residents came out Thursday night at the Port Chester senior center to get involved in a resident-based effort to focus attention on key issues in the community. 

“I hoped for a better turnout tonight but this was still a good start,” Keith Morlino, a concerned Port Chester resident who started a Facebook group called “Making Port Chester A Better Place To Live.”

Morlino was pleasantly surprised with the following the Facebook group developed, which led to Thursday's community "Town Hall" meeting.

“This all started with a group I decided to start on Facebook,” said Morlino. “I was seeing a lot of crimes in Port Chester and I kept posting them. I invited a couple of friends to the group and it just kept growing. It went from 50 to 75, now it has over 300 members and three or four more people join every day.”

Morlino went on to explain that here were a number of concerns raised on the webpage by a number of different residents. Liz Rotfeld and Mary Rose Munnick were two of the residents expressing their concerns on the site.

“I realized we had a lot of good resources right here in Port Chester,” said Morlino. “Rotfeld has experience working with Villages. She worked in Scarsdale and now works for the Village of Rye-Brook.”

It became clear that there was enough interest and knowledge there to create a form of resident-run, committee-based task force.

Morlino, Rotfeld and Munnick proposed a group of committees that would help provide ideas and assistance to the Village Board of Trustees. The committees cover a range of topics but each was carefully chosen based on the thoughts and concerns of residents.

The proposed committees:

Illegal Housing Committee – Study illegal housing and Port Chester’s current practices with respect to permits, fees, inspections and fines. Members will examine how similar communities handle such violations and identify solutions.

Public Behavior Committee – Study types of complaints that arise in respect to public behavior. Members will identify strategies to increase awareness of laws and accountability for violations.

Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee – Study the traffic and pedestrian safety issues in the village and members will determine strategies by which to improve the traffic flow and pedestrian safety.

Noise Committee – Study the Noise Ordinance of the Village and develop strategies in which to enhance adherence.

School Residency Verification Committee – Study practices that occur in the district and in neighboring districts to ensure that all children being educated in the Village of Port Chester are actually living in Port Chester.

Village Board Efficiency Committee – Study ways in which successful municipalities conduct their business and make suggestions to the Village Board of Trustees with regard to a number of issues.

Public Safety Committee – Study various hot spots in the community where crime occurs against individuals and property and determine strategies by which to improve these areas.

Downtown Aesthetic Committee – To improve the look of downtown area. Members will study the downtown/business area and target areas for improvement.

Consistency In Building Code Enforcement Committee – Study the consistency in building code enforcement. Members will look at all types of violations and complaints and research what is being done.

 “The more that people are willing to roll up their sleeves, investigate the issue and address the issue in an intelligent way, the more progress we can make,” said Village Board of Trustees member Dan Brakewood. “I’m very glad to see that this is not a ‘People vs. the Board of Trustees’ kind of thing. We’re all residents of the village and we are all working towards the same thing. One of the committees is about noise. I live in the same neighborhood and hear the same noise. I want to address it and they want to address it so we’re all on the same page.”

The meeting included local residents and members of the Port Chester Board of Trustees and other village officials.

George Ford spoke out at the meeting and his ideas were well received by those in attendance. Ford also made a point to sign up for one of the committees. 

“Ultimately, we have to be responsible. Residents should have some control,” said Ford. “We vote people into office and we have to make sure that we are voting for people who will address our concerns, otherwise it’s time for a change. This evening was a great start to something that has been long overdue.”

The group is still very young and in an ongoing process of growth. If you want to get involved go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/435120483198078/ for more information.  

Bart Didden September 29, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Dear (also) Taxed To Death, I will offer you some information, not to correct you, but to clear the air. I did offer a plan to nullify every C of O in the Village as a method to get and maintain compliance with the State and Village building and property codes. Rightfully so this effort failed, but it still left the problem that as many as 40% of the properties in the Village are not in compliance with the State and/or Village Laws. I do believe that to increase values of our properties and then maintain the increasing values we must have a C of O system that buyers can rely on when they consider buying in our Village. The Board has finally adopted an Amnesty Program. The Mayor promised we would do this by last April, but he has rallied against every idea that I have put forward, because I put them forward. Starting October 1st, the building department will be accepting Amnesty applications, which (I am told) are available on the Village website NOW. Currently this BOT has three conservative members with true backbones willing to tackle the tough issues. The Mayor can't say that he is spearheading this effort when deadlines where consistently missed and he did nothing on these issues during his first 5 years on the BOT. He can't say he didn't know that there was a problem before the last election, because as he's been telling us, "we are making omelets here with all the broken eggs we have". Mr. Mayor, I like my eggs scrambled well done!
FJT September 30, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Bart, in a reply to me above, you wrote that you offered a plan to revoke every Certificate of Occupancy in Port Chester. Do you realize that your plan would have made it impossible for any property owner in Port Chester to sell or refinance his or her home, thereby immediately devaluing the property? Though you say your plan was never adopted, I disagree because I have seen enough evidence to the contrary. I know more than a few law-abiding people (all of whom are outraged) who were surprised to learn they no longer have a valid C of O simply because the village says so. These people who have found buyers for their property have seen the buyers walk away in disgust because the buyers' banks killed their deals due to the C of O debacle. Over the past six months or so, how many millions in deals have gone up in smoke thanks to the revocation of C of Os that had been considered perfectly valid for decades? How many homeowners who would like a better mortgage interest rate so they can save tens of thousands of dollars over time are now prevented from doing so because their C of Os were indiscriminately nullified? People only discover their C of Os are "no good" when they have a buyer on the line or they are trying to refinance. This is a travesty with no end in sight and will grow as more and more property owners discover what has been done to them. The village should be going after the slumlords in PC -- not everbody in town. Please do what you can to rectify this situation.
Bart Didden October 01, 2012 at 12:17 PM
@FJT, my proposal was, which I continue to state was right to fail, known from the start that it was the expressway to reality that eventually arrived now. It would have created a method to prioritize C of O requests based on sales and refi demands. I saw the reality of State and Local Laws and that it was time to pay the piper for all the negligent Village management prior to the election of July 1st, 2010. It also created an environment to inspect every parcel in the Village that did not single out anybody to find overcrowded residences and non-approved uses in the commercial buildings. Remember the building on William Street? Over 400 violations. Now starting today, for 90 days, almost everyone has the ability to file for Amnesty and get their files in the Building Department in order. I will be filing on my properties, so should you as well as everyone else!
FJT October 01, 2012 at 12:57 PM
I don't understand why I should file for Amnesty. What do you or whoever is behind this travesty think I've done wrong? When I bought my condo I had a title search done and got copies of my building's C of O and my condo unit's C of O. Everything was in order, done legally and all documents filed with the County. For decades hundreds of transactions have occurred in my building with no issues whatsoever about C of Os. Then several months ago nobody in my building was allowed to sell or refinance, causing immense disruption and pain you don't even know about. Now you mention Amnesty for people who have had their property unfairly rendered unsaleable and deemed unworthy of a mortgage by all banks in the area because of the blanket revocation of C of Os. Am I guilty until proven innocent and therefore must request Amnesty? How absurd is this!!! I thought I was living in the USA with its rule of law, not some tinpot dictatorship where decrees are foisted upon the people. By the way, WHAT LAW -- if any -- was passed in Port Chester permitting this travesty? You claim your law was NOT passed and you admit your law was a bad idea. So, how did your plan for blanket nullifcation of C of Os end up getting implemented? Who issued the decree?
Bart Didden October 01, 2012 at 02:53 PM
@FJT, Sir, until you are willing to believe that no one is picking on just you or your building and not potentially all buildings in Port Chester that have either physical, or documentation issues, there really is not anything else to talk about. I know that Mr. Steers and the Village professional staff has and continues to work diligently with your representatives to correct all of the open issues. Sorry, but have a good day

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