Positive Forces in Croton

The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.

To the editor:
Paul Rolnick says (The Gazette, week of April 26-May 2) that he is sick of “rants” and that “many residents . . . wish Mr. Gingold and others would spare us from more of the same in our local paper.” 

My guess is that Mr. Rolnick’s definition of “rants” that should not appear in the Gazette is different from my definition, but in any event I think the result of Mr. Gingold’s letter illustrates why our both our local paper and Mr. Gingold are positive forces in Croton. 

I don’t agree with Mr. Gingold’s reasoning nor his conclusion about the Silver Lake fee. At the risk of shocking Mr. Rolnick, not only do I wholeheartedly agree with the decision of the Board of Trustees on this matter but I also thank Ms. Gallelli for providing a reply which suggests a path forward beneficial to our financially-stressed seniors.

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Although Mr. Gingold is partially wrong on the merits, he is also partially correct. His letter provided a valuable public service quite apart from bringing the Board of Trustees policy change to the attention of readers of this newspaper.

Mr. Gingold was upset (see his letter here) that the fee waiver for seniors had been eliminated. He stated that he discovered this when he went to the Municipal Building to get his 2018 pass. Mr. Gingold’s letter made two arguments for the fee waiver.

Mr. Gingold’s first argument was that a fee waiver is warranted “in recognition of our status and in compensation for the substantial contributions we have made to the village during our younger years (and continue to make).”

I disagree with Mr. Gingold on this point. Simply attaining a specific age does not confer any superior social status. For example, we respect the wisdom of our elders, but that has nothing to do with age per se but rather because they bring a wealth of life experience and knowledge which warrants their opinions and advice being taken seriously.  

And if the basis of a municipal fee waiver is “substantial contributions” made by a waiver applicant, then this has nothing to do with age but rather would require an evaluation of what each resident has contributed to Croton. As such, a blanket waiver on seniors would be both over and under-inclusive with the only solution an impractical and cumbersome one.

The second argument made by Mr. Gingold is that many seniors have financial constraints greater than the general Croton population. This is a legitimate concern that should be taken seriously.

I have said for years that the Village policy was too restrictive on ID card issuance and also that it was unduly burdensome on lower-income residents and particularly families. Last year there was a policy change loosening the proof requirements for getting an ID card and an expansion of hours to accommodate parents who work during the daytime. That was a welcome change.

But it did not address my other concern as to the exclusionary impact of Village policies on lower-income residents of our community. It is here that Mr. Gingold’s letter had a positive impact.

In response to Mr. Gingold’s letter, trustee Ann Gallelli replied (The Gazette, week of April 26-May 2) with a letter making two points. At the risk of once more shocking Mr. Rolnick, I think that Ms. Gallelli was correct on both of her points. Ms. Gallelli’s first point was that this modest fee is to partially offset the cost of improvements which will benefit a narrow group of people and that the Village is undertaking these improvements at the specific request of the group of people now being asked to bear a $1 fee.

I often disagree with Ms. Gallelli on Village budget matters, but I don’t see how anyone could disagree with her on her position on asking that Silver Lake patrons make at least a token contribution for these particular upgrades. 

While I find Croton Point Avenue to be a boondoggle and Gouveia to be an eternal money pit, the distinction Ms. Gallelli makes with the Silver Lake fees is a valid and important one. I disagree with Ms. Gallelli on CPA and Gouveia, but those projects are ones which are arguably intended to benefit the municipal populace as a whole. That is not the case with these specific Silver Lake improvements.

Mr. Rolnick and Mr. Gingold disagree on substance but both feel that the Silver Lake fee is part of a larger debate. If you accept as reasonable Ms. Gallelli’s explanation (which I do), then this is an entirely sensible and non-political action and not part of any larger issue.

Ms. Gallelli’s second point is actually the most important data which has come out of this whole exchange, and if not for Mr. Gingold’s letter it would not have come to light.

Ms. Gallelli tells us that Croton “has a financial aid program to ensure that all residents have full access to village parks and programs regardless of their financial situations. Applications are available in the Recreation Office through June 1.”

This not only goes to the heart of objections raised by many residents (not just Mr. Gingold) regarding Silver Lake, this is a program which benefits financially-stressed families who wish to be a part of all of the municipal activities in our community—not just Silver Lake.

I would urge Ms. Gallelli to speak with the Village Manager about ensuring that affected residents are aware of this program. This can be done by putting a notice on Recreation & Parks application forms that require fee payment. Something along the lines of “If you are experiencing financial hardship, fee waivers are available. Contact 271-xxxx” would let people know that they shouldn’t just throw away the flyer before the kids see it and the parents don’t want to tell their kids the family can’t afford to let them attend a Village event.

Another avenue for outreach is the Croton Seniors who meet at the Muni Building: remind them to spread the word to fellow seniors who are in need. Many of our churches have programs assisting our low-income neighbors, and also assist residents who may customarily consume information in Spanish or other languages and therefore not know about the Village fee waiver policy. Organizations such as Croton Caring Committee and the Lions already work with some of our neighbors who will be glad to find out that the Village wants them involved in our recreation programs.

I also think that fee waivers should be accepted by Recreation & Parks at any time that someone has need to apply, not just during a limited time window. At least this should be tested for a year, particularly since the 2018 deadline is just a few days away.

This past month has been a bit of a bummer for anyone who relies on Croton social media to shape their perception of Croton or get news about Croton. That is a discussion for another time. The Gazette has been a refreshing counterpoint to online negativity.

I thank Mr. Gingold and Ms. Gallelli for putting their views forward in the pages of this newspaper. I often disagree with both of them, but I pay attention to their views and find their writing to be well-reasoned. At the end of the day, their dialogue on Silver Lake has been enlightening and beneficial for our community and they have provided a path forward for the rest of us in Croton.

Paul Steinberg