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'Is It a Do-Si-Do or a Foxtrot?'

Orangetown's Town Board has failed for several years to come up with a plan for over 300 acres of prime land occupied by Rockland Psychiatric Center. It is time to stop the "do-si-do".

The Town Board of Orangetown held a Workshop Meeting on March 22, 2012 to generate public comment on the future of the Rockland Psychiatric Center and the adjacent Broadacres golf course.

I addressed the meeting and expressed my opinion that Broadacres was not the prime issue (See attached pdf file). The key issue is that the Town needs to begin immediately to develop a comprehensive master plan for Rockland Psychiatric Center and to tenaciously execute it. 

I and others recommended that the Board withhold any decision to close Broadacres until the end of the 2012 season, during which time the Town could provide clarity around the financial aspects of the golf course within the context of a master plan for RPC.  I also suggested that the Board review an earlier proposal from several years ago to put Senior Citizen housing around Broadacres. The senior citizen population is growing and it needs to downsize from big homes to smaller affordable houses; somewhere in the $350,000 range.  When I left the workshop meeting I believed that the town board and the attendees were of one mind about keeping Broadacres open for a year while the board came up with a comprehensive business plan about what to do with RPC.

After the workshop Supervisor Stewart sent an internal email to the town board saying essentially that Broadacres would have to be closed immediately unless the head groundskeeper position was funded, this funding having been cut from the 2012 budget by the previous Supervisor and the former town board.

Unfortunately, this internal memo, with draft language for a resolution for closing Broadacres, was leaked onto the internet and used to whip up a furor among the public at large. 

Consider the inflammatory comments made by Councilman Troy and reported in "I saw (the memo) as a betrayal of what we did last Thursday night," and "I don't think that's how Orangetown government works or how it should work".  Such comments are wholly inappropriate for an elected official and smack of grandstanding.

I applaud Stewart for asking the tough questions about Orangetown’s budget deficit and Broadacres’ future. It is unfortunate that he has had to learn the hard way that internal memos can and will be leaked to the public and used to political advantage!

Let me be very clear the only resolution on the March 29 agenda regarding Broadacres was to supply funds to pay for the head groundskeeper at the golf course. That funding had been intentionally left out of the 2012 budget by the previous Town Board of which the ‘old guard’, Troy and Diviny, were members. The present board (including Stewart) voted unanimously to approve the $117,936 expenditure, which includes salary and benefits.  Troy and Diviny might provide an explanation of why this line item was intentionally left out of the 2012 budget.

Councilman Troy's somewhat hysterical anxiety continued to be exhibited in the Journal News where Troy complained that he and other town board members were "blindsided" by the internal email Stewart had sent them. Playing to the crowd and drawing applause, Troy declared at the board meeting:  “It was a done deal at least from my perspective".

This was pure theatre from an individual who was instrumental in purchasing the Broadacres 'asset' that has cost the Town nearly $3 million dollars over the past ten years!  Troy soliloquizes in Hamletonian fashion about the fate of an asset that is bleeding $1,5OO for every day a golfer sets foot on the course.

Troy's co-thespian, Diviny, on the other hand lyricized to Stewart that: “I don’t want to go to (a) county dance and I don’t want to do-si-do, I just want you to be honest about the numbers.”

Mr. Diviny, in my opinion, it is the Orangetown Finance Director who has the numbers to which both you and Stewart need to pay attention.  However, I can tell you that $1,500 lost per day of the taxpayers' money does not sound to me like a 'do-si-do' but more like a 'foxtrot' by a couple of foxes doing a 'do-si-do' in the taxpayers chicken house!  These foxes may have got the chicken feathers flying but Farmer Stewart is heading to the coop with a shotgun to protect the taxpaying 'chickens' of Orangetown.

Surely, all of this energy with talk of betrayal and criticism of Stewart could be better targeted towards getting something started in the way of a business plan about what is to be done about RPC/Broadacres.  The derelict buildings and the lovely little golf course have been neglected since its purchase ten or so years ago. Stewart’s platform in the last election clearly stated the issues he was going to address and the community elected him to

RPC/Broadacres was on the top of the list!  Given that, may I suggest that the Town Board focus on these issues. The board is comprised of individuals who are described as ‘businessmen’ but who by their behavior are showing Orangetown’s taxpayers that they are not 'men of business'.

Let them stop their farcical dramatics and if the 'old guard' could stop its whining about the Supervisor the Board might be able to come together and get on with what the people elected them to do, namely fix the problem of RPC/Broadacres!

But Councilman Troy, hearing that the Town Board is planning to immediately discuss that will focus on RPC, is rehearsing a new dramatic role - that of 'grumpy ol' man' - which will open at the Orangetown Town Hall early this Spring. The theme of Act 1 is:

"When you have a major turnover of the town board and supervisor, it's hard to move forward".

I know that this is a different species but is it possible to teach an old fox a new trick?

(Photo of RPC courtesy of ScoutingNY.com)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Neill April 05, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I love it when a 'sacred cow' comes up for sacrifice especially when the 'cow' is not a 'cash cow'. The RCT has an article which is worth reading: http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/04/04/orangetown-golf-club-to-remain-open-for-2012/ This is Diviny and Troy's 'non-cash cow' and all they come up with as ideas is to call Stewart 'arrogant and attempting to be a dictator'.  They are the Board members who have been sitting on this problem for years.  The RCT says "Councilman Troy 'blasted' Stewart".  Yep, that's the good ole boy ....  'Cannonball Troy' is loose again!  Yet he did have to concede that the future of the course is “up in the air" ...... where incidentally, I might note, are the cannon balls he keeps firing.  Troy is NO Hamlet! If there IS a dictator on the Board, he is a Napoleon.  Diviny, (a lawyer) criticized the budget while Mandel (an accountant) suggests staggering employee schedules so that each works 5 days a week with no overtime. Somehow the employees all work on Saturdays at time and a half and Sundays at double time.  They know how to count their beans!  Diviny's economics are the economics of the CSEA.  He should stick to law books and leave economics to those who can count the Town's beans! As for Mr. Geasey of Clarkstown the “reigning champ of Broadacres” who says that "Golf courses are not to make money, they are a public service".  Might I suggest he gets his nose out of Orangetown's business and head back to Clarkstown?
Mike April 05, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Evelyn, I agree with your major premise that we need a a comprehensive, detailed, timelined out and professionally manged approach to RPC. It is a sham that this property was purschased almost 10 years ago and nothing of signifigance has happened since. The political rhetoric and name calling by all parties just needs to stop as its a useless and unproductive process. If this occured in the private sector, all parties would have long ago been canned. The first thing we need is a goal/objective as to what do we want out of the RPC purchase. Do we want affordable housing for all, some; do we want greenspace and recreation facilties; do we want commercial property for tax pursposes; or some combination of these or other uses. Once that is establsihed, we need a real budget on what it will take to get to the goal; we need a realistic timeline with appropriate intermediate stages that must be reached. We need a firm understanding of who is responsible for te overall project- a name- not the "town" but a name and that person must have the authority to act within the framework established by the Town Board. We hire all sorts of people in the Town and I would suggest we hire an experienced Program Manager to run this project and try to de-politicize it as much as possible. If we look back at the opportunity costs that we have incurreda s a Town since the 2003 purchase, I think we would be shocked at what doing nothing has cost us.
Neill April 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Evelyn: You may have read two pieces by Alex DiMenna in the Our Town (3/21/12 and 4/4/12) in which he complains he was accused of being a "nut job".   Stewart had responded in the Our Town of 3/28/12 to DiMenna's song and dance routine at a recent Board meeting by saying that DiMenna was making "nutty accusations". I have been thinking that to your analysis of the Town Board's dance routines, which included the 'do-si-do' and the 'foxtrot', you might add a third dance taken from Tschaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite - the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy'. I nominate as expert in this routine Alex DiMenna who in the two Our Town pieces mentioned above complained that "King Stewart" (the 'Sugar Plum Fairy's attribution) had permitted him to sing a maximum of just three arias at recent Board meetings.  Unfortunately  DiMenna is a 'Johnny One-Note' preferring to croak out repeated versions of the same 'Aria agitata' sung in a breathless manner and signifying various states of his present emotional or mental distress. Stewart's reply to DiMenna in the 3/28/12 issue of Our Town indicates that the Supervisor may be taking lessons in the 1960's dance craze 'Mashed Potato' which if successfully mastered might be used to produce some very fine plum juice.

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