This story was originally published on Sept. 11, 2013.
Town meetings in New Castle have gotten tense when a controversial subject is on the agenda and Tuesday night was no exception when the town board was ready to vote on approving Conifer Realty's special permit.
Before the board members approved the permit in a 3-2 vote, dialogue became heated as residents spoke during the public comment portion.
This was especially the case when Republican town supervisor candidate and frequent board critic Rob Greenstein got up to speak, asking Supervisor Susan Carpenter what she meant by "we" in terms of those wanting affordable housing.
“Who is is the 'we?” Greenstein demanded repeatedly. His comment also included a general observation about building affordable housing in general, stating that Westchester County's 2009 affordable housing settlement does not assign a specific quota to New Castle.
Robin Stout replied, telling Greenstein he has an “amazing
lack of understanding” of what the law requires and the
region's need for affordable housing.
At that point tensions escalated, with Greenstein referencing a speech Stout made more than two years ago when he voted to approve rezoning for 111 housing units at Chappaqua Crossing, including 20 affordable ones.
Greenstein then repeated this question to Carpenter, doing so multiple times in quick succession.
“When you say 'we want more affordable housing,' who is the we you're talking about?”
"Mister Greenstein!" Deputy Supervisor Elise Mottel said repeatedly.
Carpenter at one point raised the possibility of removing Greenstein, which prompted a groaning commotion from the audience.
“You are so rude to everybody who comes before you,” said Greenstein, who was met with applause from a crowd in which opponents to the housing plan appeared to constitute a majority.
Carpenter then tried to end the public comment portion of the meeting but relented after a groan from the audience.
“You don't need to yell at us!” one man shouted.
Carpenter replied that she was tired "of being yelled at."
Joan Corwin, president of Chappaqua Transportation and a critic of the Conifer plan, scolded Carpenter later on in the meeting.
“You are rude and you have put me down a couple of times and I think the other people resent it as much as I do.”
Carpenter did not want to comment when asked about the incident with Greenstein. It was one of several times in the meeting where dialogue diverged.
At one point, resident Brian Rattner asked about Conifer's tax burden for the project, which is called Chappaqua Station and will have 28 apartment units.
“This is for comments, not for answering questions," Carpenter replied, giving a reminder of what purpose of the public comment section of meetings.
“I think that if you don't know, that's pretty dumb," Rattner replied. He then continued on, raising concerns ranging from resulting student enrollment in the Chappaqua school district to a belief shared among opponents that the project will stigmatize residents who live in the building.
The Conifer meeting might not be the last contentious town board gathering this year. The board could potentially hold votes on the rezoning and master plan legislative changes to enable the controversial Chappaqua Crossing retail plan. That proposal calls for 120,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store. Some residents have decried the proposal, referring to it as a strip mall, feeling that it will create a new business center and worrying about traffic. Meetings on Chappaqua Crossing, going as far back as the residential rezoning plan several years ago, also can get heated.
Video showing most of Greenstein's exchange with the board is attached.