This past week was like a time no other in all my years as Mayor. Things happened on multiple fronts truly at breakneck speed. The following is a factual synopsis of just some of the events:
Clearly of most importance was community reaction to the death of Mr. Floyd. Our young people in the village conducted vigils for most of the week. Unfortunately, they were the only vigils in the county, based on conversations with my fellow mayors, that did not inquire about or follow the permit process, speak with anyone in Village government or grant us the mandatory seven day notice. Many of you asked why I didn’t speak at any of the vigils. Simply put, I was never asked rather candidates from Mount Vernon and Tuckahoe were contacted. No one in Village government was accorded the same invitation. Contrary to convention, the Village found out about the vigil within 24 hours of its occurrence and learned of its cancellation via a local organization’s website. Sadly, on one of the nights of the vigils, I was privy to confidential law enforcement sensitive information that confirmed social media posts that the Village was indeed a prime target for unruly groups, vandalism and theft. As a result of the needed increase in police presence, on Tuesday night, two cars, whose occupants were intent on committing crimes were identified in the business district at 1am and fled police when confronted. They were later identified via license plates as involved in burglaries in several other Westchester communities.
The Governor thought there was enough merit to these occurrences threatening safety and property to send the New York State police to patrol Bronxville and other towns and villages in Westchester County.
Completely related, I received a myriad of emails on the issue of the boarding up of village establishments. There is nothing in the village code to prevent this as the authority lies with the landlord and tenant and not Village government. As to the Citibank closure, this was a corporate decision by Citibank itself as ATM machines have been prime targets of looting so we surmise this was a large factor in their corporate decision. As to private businesses, I know decisions were based on the same information that caused the Governor to send us State Police Patrol. Many of you emailed me that you found it unattractive and disconcerting to see the plywood and I don’t disagree. However from the perspective of a merchant who perhaps put his life savings into a business only to see Covid-19 do devastating economic damage, it is totally understandable why they made the decision that they could simply not take another economic loss to their property.
Wishing for better communication, the police chief and I met Friday afternoon with three of the young people who organized the event and we had the most productive and collaborative conversation. I applaud these young people for their passion and their dedication and we vowed to work together going forward should they desire to arrange any more vigils. They totally grasped that unfortunately it happens not everyone who appears near a peaceful vigil is there to be peaceful and positive and in addition, since numbers cannot be controlled, there are also safety concerns. In essence, there can be unintended consequences that need to be planned for.
I fault these young people not one bit, rather applaud them. I do believe they received less than optimal adult guidance. The conversation we started on Friday was productive and necessary and I look forward to continuing the dialogue. We at Village Hall are here to listen and learn.
In other news, I am excited to announce that Village Hall has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and an ever growing network of engaged, local residents to take immediate action to help our Bronxville business to thrive in the “new normal.”
This past Wednesday, we launched Bronxville For Bronxville which is a wide ranging set of initiatives which will be ongoing for months and years ahead.
Phase I, the goal of which is to bring immediate help to businesses, is underway in the form of up to 20 loans of $5,000 each at an interest rate of 0.18%.
Phase 2 of the Merchant Loan Program will be launched by the beginning of July and will include larger, multiyear loans at an interest rate of less than 3%.
Following this will be “Grassroots”, a way the entire community can help at any financial level via a donate button that will help our merchants create viable and attractive outdoor dining and selling space and provide amenities to the overall attractiveness of our two business centers. Visit the Village and Chamber of Commerce websites to learn the specifics of the programs as they are launched.
So many of you have asked me to reiterate the need to continue to wear masks in all public settings when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Dr. Fauci said just this past Friday that he has “no doubt” that Americans who aren’t wearing face makes, especially in large crowds, are increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Finally, our Giving Garden is up and running and we hope to exceed the 350 pounds of fresh vegetables we grew and then donated to the Mt. Vernon Soup Kitchen and Tuckahoe’s Community Action Program.