The Mayor’s Abdication of Municipal Authority
The proposed sale of the single-family residence located at 70 Belmont Avenue in the quaint Sun Haven neighborhood in New Rochelle’s east end to Cardinal McCloskey Community Services (“Cardinal McCloskey”) to establish a men’s group home health care facility shines the light on the Mayor’s willful abdication of municipal authority that strips the people of New Rochelle of the few statutory rights that are granted to the City by the State of New York.
Over the years, the Mayor had disbanded the New Rochelle Site Selection Committee - - the municipal apparatus that would provide input into the site selection process, he withheld publication of the time sensitive notice of the proposed facility, and he discouraged public debate and discussion of this very important and sensitive issue.
New York State’s Mental Hygiene Law, ch. 468, Sec. 2, commonly referred to as the “Padavan Law” (named after State Senator Frank Padavan) provides, in relevant part that “when a site has been selected by the sponsoring agency (Cardinal McCloskey), it shall notify the chief executive officer of the municipality (the Mayor) in writing and include in such notice the specific address of the site, the type of community residence, the number of residence and the community support requirements of such program” (the “Padavan Notice”).
Since the Padavan Law was enacted in 1978, the Courts have upheld the State’s broad and sweeping powers to dictate the location of any group home health care facility, trumping all local laws and zoning restrictions, despite the fact that the decision is made 150 miles away by unelected bureaucrats in Albany who have neither seen the site nor will ever visit the neighborhood; and, will never suffer any consequences of their decisions.
The Padavan Law, however, does provide one solitary procedural safe-guard: “The municipality shall have forty days after the receipt of such notice to: . . . suggest one or more suitable sites within its jurisdiction which could accommodate such facility.”
Mayor Bramson, quietly genuflecting to “State power”, surrendered the last line of municipal authority that is granted by the Padavan Law, leaving the people of New Rochelle no political recourse, frustrated, confused, and very much in the dark.
First, despite the fact that for years the State has aggressively pursued the establishment of group homes (there are 25 in New Rochelle) by administrative fiat, the Mayor has allowed the City’s Site Selection Committee to devolve into a one man committee - - Mr. Kelly Johnson -- thereby disabling the City’s ability to provide any input into the site selection process, as provided by the Padavan Law.
Second, on June 10th, the Mayor, when pressed by the people of Sun Haven to confirm the rumor that a men’s group home health care facility was going to be established at 70 Belmont Avenue, acknowledged that Cardinal McCloskey did send the Padavan Notice, which was received on May 13th, 28 days earlier, leaving only 12 days (until June 22) for the City to respond so that it is not stripped of all municipal authority and of its standing to provide input into the site selection process of the State mandated and licensed facility.
It is appalling to me that the Mayor’s office would betray the people of this City by allowing their political and statutory rights to die a silent death by attempting to pocket the Padavan Notice, so that the State can simply impose its unfettered will, without any input from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, the City’s now-defunct Site Selection Committee, or from the neighborhood of Sun Haven.
Finally, again on June 10th, Mayor Bramson toured the proposed location with the residents of Sun Haven and assured us that there was nothing we could do despite the obvious fact that 70 Belmont Avenue is ill-suited for a men’s home health care facility.
70 Belmont Avenue is a small lot that sits on a cul-de-sac, with no through traffic, no parking, far from public transportation, is close to neighboring single-family homes all with children or grandchildren, and a nursery school around the block.
I am not a housing expert. I am not a health care expert. I am a father of three children who play with their friends in the small cul-de-sac as if it were a playground. Having a men’s group home health care facility or any business at that location seems, at the very least, to be a bad idea that warrants deliberation and discussion.
However, Mayor Bramsom initially told the crowd at Sun Haven that there was nothing we could do but cooperate with the State. Remarkably, he advised us all that “you should not waste your time” voicing your concerns at the City Public Hearing that was scheduled for later that night.
It was not until former Mayor Paduano, acknowledging the tough, uphill fight the City has against the State, advised Mayor Bramson that the City could exert its influence in the process by interposing a response to the Padavan Notice within the 40-day statutory period and by reconstituting the City’s Site Selection Committee, which was originally established by then Mayor Paduano in the 1980’s to deal with this very situation.
Mayor Bramson reluctantly acknowledged this exercise of municipal authority and gave a half-hearted endorsement of the process, condescending to his constituents that everyone was “wasting” their time in an effort that had “zero chance” of success.
Clearly, the Mayor misunderstands his own people. Sun Haven only asked its Mayor to protect the rights of the citizens of this City to know what is going on at City Hall and to give us a voice; which, the last time I looked, was why the Mayor is elected.
Instead, he further advised the people he represents not to speak up, not to seek political or legal solutions and not to “waste” our time, and to kneel to dictates of Albany, much as he does.
Thankfully, Councilman Tarantino, who also attended the Sun Haven meeting on June 10th, recognized that there should be, at least, some discussion about placing a men’s group home health care facility in such a badly suited location - - obvious to all but the “experts” who seek to exert unbridled State authority with impunity.
Councilman Tarantino, along with City Manager Charles B. Strome, III, and to a lesser degree the Mayor himself, took the first step to interpose the City’s response to the Padavan Notice June 20, 2014, offering to work with Cardinal McCloskey to review the proposed location and to request the opportunity to offer one or more suitable sites within the City of New Rochelle.
Since the Padavan Notice was sent, a dialog was begin starting with a formal meeting with Cardinal McCloskey Community Services at City Hall on Thursday, June 19th.
More to follow in a subsequent article.