I came away from Wednesday’s Freightway meeting better informed, but also alarmed by the lack of civility. The level of vitriol hurled at our board of trustees by community speakers was shameful. Opinions were expressed angrily, the board treated like an enemy. At one point, I overheard a woman in line hissing loudly that the trustees were liars, without evidence. Almost no one offered a “thank you” for the trustees’ clearly extensive work.
This board of trustees is highly qualified with a wealth of financial, legal, business and real estate expertise. An informed group, they commit hours to village business, so we don’t have to. It is worth noting that one seasoned presenter commented that in his decades of municipal work, he had never seen a process more inclusive. Our board asked the community to engage, so berating them for it is embarrassing.
I was also alarmed by the way people discussed possible rental apartments. It was said several times that Scarsdale was built as a community of single-family homes, but that might not be a past to laude. Historically, limiting apartments was a technique employed by affluent communities to restrict access and remain exclusive enclaves. Even if built as luxury spaces, there is a current of ugliness about apartments that I hope will evaporate — we are better than that.
Scarsdale is neither a transient community nor is it a lifelong entitlement, but I can imagine ways that apartments could serve us, both as entry homes to new families and retirement pads, with tremendous conveniences. As stated repeatedly, impact studies must include schools to understand demographics, tax burdens and educational needs, and ways to equitably welcome kids. And, if the decline in recent enrollment is a trend, we might need them. Our schools can only offer rich and varied curricula with a critical mass.
With a literal cost to doing nothing looming (i.e., fixing the garage), why not engage a partner who can pay for needed studies? No doubt a developer will be incentivized by an upside for itself, which seems to universally be apartments, but the programs have room for creativity and public amenities, which experience proves hard to fund. The board stated repeatedly, if a design is not a good fit, we walk — but we walk better informed. Agree or not, this is reasonable and I will remain open minded.
So, why such fury?
It is clear to anyone paying attention that a small, vocal group is at the ready to criticize everything our village leaders do, using terms like “fiasco” and “failure” to promote outrage. Hyperbole about idyllic Scarsdale should be treated with skepticism; it masks the truth about reasonable outcomes and positive progress. False narratives and insulting innuendo are really meant to undermine trust in Scarsdale’s nonpartisan system that has long placed qualified volunteers into office, without party politics.
Let’s not allow an open dialogue about Freightway’s potential and concerns to be used as fuel for an explosive agenda. And let’s keep civility in our civic efforts.