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Analysis

Three Reasons to Dissolve South Nyack

by Charles Cross

There are a host of demonstrable and factual reasons for voting “Yes” in the referendum dissolving the Village of South Nyack.

Griswold Cottage on the campus of Nyack College

In the 2020 budget the Board approved a 17% budget increase and a cap-busting tax increase. Since then the Board has approved spending an unbudgeted $18,000 for a consultant to study dissolution, hired a land-use attorney at an unbudgeted hundreds of dollars per hour, and is looking to hire a master planner, after coming within minutes of agreeing to contract with one for $100,000. At the same time, New York State has reduced this year’s Aid to Municipalities by 20%–so 5 months into the fiscal year, expenses are up and anticipated revenue is down.

Orangetown Can Provide Similar Services At Lower Cost

We are a village of 3,500 residents that provides a high level of municipal services with a purely residential tax base. There might have been some hope that a major builder would buy the Nyack College property and that the subsequent commercial development would add to the tax base and ease the financial strain–but that did not happen. The bulk of the village budget is contractual personnel costs that cannot be reduced or eliminated except by reducing or eliminating the very services that proponents of remaining a village claim are so essential. As the village authorized GCR consultant’s report shows, The Town of Orangetown can provide comparable services at a reduced cost to South Nyack taxpayers

Our current DPW is exceptional but the town will pick up our lawn and yard waste bags (though less often) and the roads will be plowed. Having our own police department is an expensive luxury; police in South Nyack costs $10 per $1000 of assessed valuation, while Orangetown police costs $6 per $1000 of assessed valuation. Some people point to criticism of police service in the Village of Nyack but the policing needs of South Nyack and Nyack are very different. Crimes against persons are very rare in South Nyack, and when they occur the South Nyack PD has to seek the assistance of the Orangetown PD or the county sheriff’s department. Much of the reported crime in Nyack is linked to the commercial district and the bar culture neither of which exist in South Nyack. It would be more accurate to compare our policing needs to Upper Nyack or Tappan where residents seem to be pleased with their respective town police departments.

Comparing the relative costs can be done simply by looking at the publicly available current town and village tax data. The GCR report confirmed our earlier projection of a savings of approximately $8 per 1,000 of assessed valuation. There are 2 variables to consider–trash collection and debt service. Village debts will continue to be paid off by South Nyack residents (which will also be true if we remain a village.) The total debt can be eliminated by selling village property and equipment prior to dissolution which will eliminate that cost. Trash collection can be estimated to cost $30 per month as it does in the other unincorporated areas of the town. All the other tax districts–fire, ambulance, sewer, etc.–are unchanged by dissolution.

South Nyack Village Hall. Sketch by ©Bill Batson.

South Nyack As Hamlet:
To Be Or Not to Be?

On Dec 17, voters in South Nyack will weigh in on whether their village should be dissolved and become an unincorporated hamlet of Orangetown. Advocates say it will reduce property taxes; opponents say residents will lose control of local zoning. The citizen’s initiative which lead to this referendum was sparked by concerns about the sale of Nyack College.

Read more: CGR’s S. Nyack Dissolution Report: 10 Important Takeaways.

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Have a point of view about the Dec 17 vote you would like to share? Submit your opinion articles to max@NyackNewsAndViews.com.

The bottom line is that costs and taxes will continue to rise, and remaining a village is simply not sustainable, which was the conclusion of the comprehensive Feasibility and Sustainability Study commissioned by the village 3 years ago, and now, apparently, conveniently forgotten. New York State encourages the consolidation of municipal services with a grant program that gives the town 15% of the combined town and village tax levy and requires that 70% of that money must be used to reduce taxes. That savings was not computed in the GCR report. Some try to argue that the town cannot be trusted to properly service the village, but the town would be legally obligated to provide South Nyack with the same level of service it provides to all the other unincorporated areas of the town.

The Town Is Better Equipped to Handle Sale of Nyack College

The unknown factor is the impact on the village of the sale of Nyack College. The village faces potential extraordinary expenses monitoring any zoning changes and development on that property. This is not a scare tactic. The Board effectively acknowledged the problem by contracting with a land-use attorney before the sale was even finalized. The village has one part-time building inspector and hourly attorneys. The town has a full time building and planning department and attorneys on staff full time. It is also not a scare tactic, nor anti-Semitism, to point out that every small municipality in Rockland and Orange counties and in New Jersey that has been in this situation has experienced either new voting patterns that have changed control of the local government and led to changes in zoning laws to permit higher density development, or RLUIPA based lawsuits. It is unrealistic to believe that the same history would not happen in South Nyack. A RLUIPA lawsuit would cost South Nyack hundreds of thousands of dollars if the village position were upheld by the courts, and even more if the village lost.

The Alternatives to Dissolution Are Impractical

Options other than dissolution that have been proposed are either impractical or could take years to accomplish. The village cannot simply cut the college property out of the village and, even if that were possible, it does not solve the long-term fiscal problems of South Nyack. Combining with Nyack and other riverfront villages requires the agreement of all those villages, a complicated and time-consuming process that has been proposed many times in the past with no result, but could certainly be explored again if there were enough support in bot communities. Creating a ward system in Orangetown is an excellent idea but it need not be linked to dissolving the village. After dissolution, when we are more dependent on the town, support for a ward system should increase, not only in South Nyack but throughout the Eastern areas of Orangetown which have been often underrepresented on the Town Board.

The Bottom Line of Dissolution

Once dissolution is approved, the Board of Trustees has 180 days to finalize a plan and present it at a public hearing. It would have an ethical and legal obligation to develop, in partnership with the town, the best possible terms for the residents of South Nyack.

Voters need to look logically and dispassionately at the question of dissolving the village. Look at the data and read the GCR Report posted on the village website. This is our only chance. If this referendum fails to pass, the question cannot be raised by either the voters or the Board of Trustees for at least 4 years.

Save South Nyack. Vote “YES” on December 17.

Charles Cross is a former Mayor of South Nyack.

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Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.


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