I’ve read several articles and letters that have been published in various local newspapers recently going back and forth regarding the “plan” for the parks and recreational resources for the town of Yorktown. But, with the most recent letter authored by Councilman Ed Lachterman, I feel compelled to respond.
First and foremost, Mr. Lachterman’s contention that Supervisor Ilan Gilbert “immediately upon taking office, relinquished all control of Parks and Recreation to the commission…” is just as erroneous as many of the statements that have been included in a good majority of the previous articles and letters.
For the edification of my fellow Yorktown citizens, and apparently several current and prospective politicians, understand that control over the parks and recreational resources of this town has not been within the purview of the Town Board since 1968. The Town Board at that time had the foresight to separate politics and management of the town’s parks and recreational resources by creating the independent Parks and Recreation Commission with Town Board Resolution No. 458, which was unanimously adopted on Oct. 30, 1968.
This resolution unambiguously established that the Recreation Commission was delegated certain “powers,” amongst which included “the complete and exclusive control, management, and maintenance of all town owned or operated playgrounds, recreational centers, and recreational facilities together with the power to improve or make additions to the same.” This same legislation limited the Town Board’s remaining control to the finances (budget) of the Recreation Commission, hiring of employees and appointment of commissioners, the power to purchase new land for use as parks, and “general regulation which as the Town Board may seem expedient and necessary.”
It is this latter item that some within the Town Board have tried to use to shoehorn their influence into the “control, management, and maintenance” of the town’s parks and recreation resources, whereas, in my opinion, this was intended to mean further resolutions that can only be adopted by the Town Board.
To relate this to today’s issues, it would pertain only to matters relating to such things as banning dogs and/or smoking from being allowed within our parks, which the Town Board solely has the authority to adopt into the Town Code. In other words, neither Susan Siegel, Michael Grace, nor Ilan Gilbert, or any prospective supervisor candidate or past supervisor since Resolution No. 458 was adopted as part of the town code, ever had such “control” over this town’s parks and recreational assets to relinquish, as Mr. Lachterman tries to contend.
Without apologies, myself and others on the commission have pushed back when members of the Town Board have overstepped their authority when trying to use the parks of this town for their own political gain, such as attempting to gain favor by providing resources to a single group representing only their own interest. Since then, rumors have persisted that several Town Board members were going to great efforts to attempt to disband the Parks and Recreation Commission so that the Town Board could regain the control(s) currently empowered to the commission. The volunteer members of the Parks and Recreation Commission include experts in the fields of construction and construction management, contract negotiations, budgeting, navigating through the town’s codes/laws/departmental budgets, the innerworkings of our local sports clubs, as well as day-to-day management of Westchester County and other Westchester towns’ parks and recreational facilities.
Despite our political differences, and many times difference of opinions, unlike the Town Board, we have been able to maximize and capitalize on each other’s expertise, listen to other’s opinions, and repeatedly compromise to accomplish goals for all of the diverse groups within Yorktown that benefit from our parks and recreational resources. Our collective skills sets, and our ability to work together as a team despite our political affiliations, is exactly what the 1968 Town Board was hoping for when it adopted Resolution No. 458.
All that said, and to clear up all of this pandering, understand that a comprehensive inventory and determination of the needs at each of our facilities was indeed compiled with a collaborative effort by the Parks and Recreation Department and several members of the Parks and Recreation Commission. A tentative budget for each of the needed repairs/upgrades was established, and a tentative plan developed to address each based on the limited budgeted and agency funds available.
In his letter, Mr. Lachterman references the joint meeting held March 9, 2016 between the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning Board, where purportedly commissioners “grudgingly admitted” that an inventory was needed. This is a complete mischaracterization of how the meeting was received by both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning Board. A preliminary inventory had already been completed (and presented to the Town Board) prior to this meeting, and a follow-up inventory and list of needed repairs was completed shortly thereafter this meeting.
As far as the Town Board doing “anything for the parks,” I have a very simple response to that thought. If the politicians wish to be critical of the state of the extensive inventory of parks and recreation resources in our town, I need to ask them what their “plan” would be to extend additional resources to address these issues? Are they willing to raise taxes, take on additional debt in the form bonding, or cut other services out of the town’s budget to fund such repairs? What about reallocating the significant additional funds obtained by providing the continued use of Legacy Fields for the ongoing gas line work back into the parks and recreation budget, as the original funds have already allowed us to build a sports complex that the town’s sports clubs are proud to call “home field”?
Those of us on the Parks and Recreation Commission have the expertise to address every issue in very short order with dedicated resources, as we have shown with Granite Knolls, but with the reality check of the town’s other infrastructure and services needs, we will continue to triage the current inventory and address issues as timely as possible as the Town Board sees fit to make the funds available.
The reality is that the current Parks and Recreation Commission, in tandem with the hardworking men and women of the Parks and Recreation Department, have accomplished a considerable amount of repairs, upgrades, and construction of new facilities that have won numerous awards and accolades during the tenure of the last few town supervisors. That’s above and beyond the construction of the wonderful Granite Knolls facility that will remain one of the most prestigious sports complex facilities in New York State for years to come.
Most of that has happened quietly and behind the scenes as, like what members of our other boards and commissions in this town do every day, we volunteer our time to help our community and not our own political aspirations. As those who have taken advantage of the opportunity to discuss their issues in an open forum know, we meet on the first Thursday of every month, except July and August. If/when required, special meetings are called to address any specific concern/issue.
If anyone wants to know the real facts about our parks and recreational facilities, or has any concerns with their town-owned neighborhood facilities, they are more than welcome to attend one of our meetings to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed. Our forefathers wanted it that way to prevent exactly what has been happening this election season from happening: individuals trying to use these resources to target specific groups in an attempt to get votes.
Hearing statements such as that the tennis courts were only repaired because it was in the newspaper recently is just ludicrous, and those who have attended our meetings the last year and half know that the letting of this work has been planned (and executed) well before anyone tried to use it for political gain.
Let’s stop the nonsense, and let us all just simply continue to enjoy the fruits of the hardworking Parks and Recreation Department’s labor this summer. Go out and enjoy the parks, the pools, the sport facilities, and let’s keep the politics out of the parks as it has been since 1968.
Patrick Cumiskey has served on the Parks and Recreation Commission since December 2013.