The following letter, sent to Albany May 30, is reprinted at the writer’s request.
Dear Senator Stewart-Cousins,
Edgemont has always appreciated your support of our community. You have reliably attended our annual meetings and events, and you have always been willing to listen to your constituents’ concerns, both in public forums and in one-on-one meetings.
Now, more than ever, in these final days of the legislative session, Edgemont needs your support.
As you know, when the EIC filed its first petition in 2017 — with signatures from over 30% of the Edgemont electorate — Town Supervisor Paul Feiner used the power of his office to deny the community a vote. While the State Supreme Court ruled that his denial was illegal, the Appellate Division disagreed.
Supervisor Feiner stipulated that petitions seeking a vote on incorporation must list the names and addresses of our children for public review. We have now submitted a second petition that attempts to meet his requirement. With even more signatures than the first, the 2019 petition demonstrates that the unincorporated hamlet of Edgemont wishes to hold a referendum on village incorporation.
Yet, as in 2017 and 2018, we now face proposed state legislation that would grant NY town supervisors even greater and unreviewable subjectivity in his discretion in determining whether a vote can occur. In addition, Bill S5793A dilutes the will of the people by making proposed incorporations subject to the vote of residents of existing villages. In doing so, S5793A eviscerates the foundation of the NYS Village Law: that residents of the area to be incorporated can decide on their preferred form of self-governance.
We understand from the press that Orange County Sen. James Skoufis, who is sponsoring Bill S5793A, has his own localized reasons for blocking a proposed incorporation in his district. Whether well intentioned or misguided, those reasons can’t justify the sacrifice of longstanding, statewide self-governance rights. It’s just a bad trade, particularly when there are other remedies.
You and Sen. Skoufis possess the legislative authority and political influence to amend laws and enact policies that benefit local areas without removing the broader rights of your constituents. Here in Greenburgh, for example, it is within your power to ensure that the Town's unincorporated residents retain their rights to vote on their preferred form of self-governance, and ensure with astute financial planning and intergovernmental cooperation, Edgemont could become a village without hurting the Town financially (despite the Town Board’s claims otherwise).
As we’ve discussed with you, existing New York laws encourage and facilitate intergovernmental cooperation. In the case of Greenburgh and a potential Village of Edgemont, such cooperation would allow the majority of current Edgemont taxes to continue to flow to the Town. With your influence, perhaps our Town government would embrace this responsible approach rather than focusing on preventing Edgemont from voting.
By now, your office has received hundreds of emails from people within the unincorporated area of Greenburgh (both inside and outside of Edgemont) objecting to this bill. Please don't allow it to become law. Surely there are other ways to help Sen. Skoufis without diminishing village incorporation rights statewide, just as there’s a way to allow Edgemont residents to vote on incorporation while stabilizing funding for critical services.
Please don’t disenfranchise your unincorporated constituents and leave their fate in the hands of an unabashedly biased town supervisor.
Edgemont Incorporation Committee