PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – The Port Chester Daily Voice is profiling the candidates for the village Board of Trustees and for mayor in the March 19 election. Each candidate was asked the same questions.
Mayor Dennis Pilla, running on the Citizens for Better Government (CBG) ticket, is being challenged by Neil Pagano, a candidate on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines, for a two-year mayoral term.
Candidates running for six 3-year seats on the Village Board include incumbents Daniel Brakewood (D, CBG), Joseph Kenner (R), Saverio Terenzi (R, C, I), Luis Marino (D, CBG) and Bart Didden (C, I). John Branca is not seeking re-election.
New candidates are Gregory Adams (D, CBG), Gene Ceccarelli (Pride of Port Chester), John Reavis (Coalition Party), Ricardo Dos Anjos (C) and Frank Ferrara (R), who serves on the Industrial Development Agency.
The Daily Voice asked Ferrara about his background and what he would do if re-elected to the Board of Trustees. Here are his answers.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
For the past 10 years, I have been an equity portfolio manager for high-net-worth individuals. Previously, I was founder and CEO of a mid-sized steel exporting firm and spent 25 years in international trade. I have a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College.
I have lived in Port Chester for 22 years with my wife JoAnne. We've been married for 25 years and have two daughters, Francesca, 20, and Therese, 16. Why are you running for the Village of Port Chester Board of Trustees?
I am running because Port Chester's stalemated board needs leadership that can help precipitate consensus to address issues that retard the village's growth and its citizens' quality of life. As an experienced entrepreneur with an education in economics and government, and as a Democrat crossing party lines to run on a Unity ticket under the Republican banner, I believe I can be a vital part of that solution. In order to move the village forward, we need to address property taxes that are excessive as a percentage of property values, perhaps the highest ratio in all of Westchester County. We need to seek relief by restoring underutilized properties to the tax base through smart development and pursue willful building-code violators who threaten the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens, while placing added stress on a stagnant tax base.
What qualifies you to be a village trustee?
Civically, I presently serve on the village's Industrial Development Agency.
Professionally, I am a successful entrepreneur/CEO who previously built an international firm to over $20M in sales. Part of that experience was successfully conducting negotiations with major American corporations. I am, therefore, up to the task of defending the village's best interests when we negotiate with developers who have their own best interests at heart.
At the current time, I oversee investment accounts for individuals, which requires me to have a deep-seated understanding of economics and business trends - critical requirements for forming a vision for our village as we move forward.
What are the three biggest issues facing the village today? If elected, what would you do to address them?
1) Correcting the village's poorly designed Amnesty Program by giving owner-occupiers control over when they participate in the process - either when they move, refinance or make structural changes on their home. As much as possible, we should look to grandfather older open permits that may have never been properly closed due to village oversight or practice at the time.
2) Pursuing building-code violators to protect the health and safety of our citizens, while simultaneously addressing our excessive population density. This will have the added benefit of lowering the cost of services provided by the village. A cursory study of other municipalities' practices indicates that some have programs in place that require all rental units to regularly qualify for a Certificate of Compliance rental inspection. We need to design such a program that would withstand legal challenges and defend the taxpayers' best interests.
3) Pursuing smart development policies to enhance and expand our property tax base. I have previously discussed the need for projects that yield net positive tax dollars. Restaurant Depot is a fine example of what I seek for the village.
Along those lines, Starwood needs to be engaged to green-light a project on the United Hospital site that fits within our Master Plan. An 820-unit apartment complex does not meet this requirement, nor would it pass the "net positive tax dollars test," but that doesn't mean we do not conduct negotiations with a developer eager to make an investment and ensure that it meshes with what is in our best interests and in keeping with citizens' vision for the site.
The marina should be redeveloped so it can become a revenue generator for the village and serve as a further lynchpin for continued downtown revival.
If something had to be cut from the budget to meet the state tax cap, what would you cut?
Already most of the "low-hanging fruit" has been cleaved from our spending. About the only constructive method of additional streamlining that could have a significant impact is to further investigate service-sharing ventures, such as we have with our fire department and library, both with the Village of Rye Brook. This would allow us to take advantage of economies of scale that can be derived from larger operations.
Every service in the village must be examined for such efficiencies.
Beyond that, we must pursue smart development to restore commercial properties to the tax base, and thus alleviate the need to raise the tax levy on already "active" properties. We must take care to ensure that this development brings net positive tax dollars to the village, i.e., the benefit should not be offset by overburdening our infrastructure or schools.
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