What a difference a Green Mayor can make
Greenwich Mayor shows accomplishments once in office
By David Doonan, Green Mayor of Greenwich New York
In the months leading up to my election as Mayor of the Village of Greenwich in upstate New York, I now realize I only had a surface-level view of the responsibilities of serving in this position. Originally planning to build a local Green Party chapter once in office, the reality is that as Mayor I am just too busy. I have come to understand that I serve the party by doing the best possible job I can as Mayor.
I worked with the community to help form a not-for-profit dedicated to youth, and also helped to revitalize another community group to assist people with substance abuse problems after three overdoses (two fatal). The two groups now work together and have formed a youth center at Village Hall. A coordinator has been hired with cooperation of the Village. The emphasis at the center is on electronic and performing arts. Members are now beginning to shoot and edit digital films. During the summer, the center will begin live streaming music, news and interviews. The long-term goal is to gain an FCC license for a low-power community radio station.
The Village, including the Police chief, hosted a no-questions-asked prescription drug turn-in event at Village Hall.
For the past two years, the Village of Greenwich has co-sponsored a fundraising soccer tournament, with all proceeds going to the groups mentioned above, to be used to help those with substance abuse problems.
A Village-owned parcel was turned over for a community garden. While some participants are growing vegetables for their personal use, many are donating their crops to the local food pantry. A minister arranged for the donation of a refrigerator to the food pantry so the produce can be kept fresh until it’s distributed. It looks like this year the garden will be re-located to the farm operated by the Future Farmers of America chapter at our high school. The new garden will be substantially larger. With its location next to the senior housing complex we’re hoping that many of the residents of the complex will be able to participate.
Last year the Village was awarded a $400,000 New York HOME Grant, targeted at limited income homeowners for needed repairs. This grant provided funding for new roofs, windows, boiler replacement and other home energy-related improvements at zero cost to the homeowner.
Last spring the Village acted as the lead applicant, in cooperation with the Towns of Greenwich and Easton, for a similar grant. While most of the funding for that round was diverted to help the communities devastated by flooding in the Catskills and southern Tier, we’ll be applying once again this year.
The Village was awarded a NYSERDA Grant for the installation of a 40k solar array at the Village water plant. It went online in early September. We’re seeking funding for a solar project at the sewage treatment plant and other opportunities to apply with the town and school.
In conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, we were awarded our second $200,000 New York Main Street Revitalization Grant, targeted at interior and exterior renovations for commercial structures. Once the state capital releases this year’s grant information, we’ll be applying for a Main Street Anchor Project Grant, aimed at helping to restore a building that once housed a restaurant that attracted diners from a 50 mile radius.
Recently a lease was approved to bring a YMCA into the Village, located on a part of a Village owned parcel, which had been abandoned for many years. Within six months, the membership at the Y met its two-year goal.
For almost three years I’ve been working with officials from Washington County, the EPA and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to bring a nine-acre parcel of river front property back to life. This former mill property, located along a world-class fly-fishing river, has been unused since the mid-1980’s. I have also had discussions with a responsible, local businessman interested in working with the Village to develop a master plan for this site to help improve it so it best benefits the Village. The history of this property and the efforts of the past three years are worthy of a story by itself.
Last October I chaired a meeting with three parties interested in purchasing commercial/industrial properties in the Village. Also in attendance were a local grant seeker, the local Chamber of Commerce and representatives of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Chris Gibson and State Assemblyman Tony Jordan. Two of the parties are continuing to pursue their plans.
Three years ago the Village was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership, which was used to commission a Vision Plan from the SUNY School of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Two years ago we applied for a New York Department of State Brownfields Opportunity Area Grant which, if awarded, will be used to do a survey of all empty and underutilized properties in the Village, determine best possible uses for each property and create the marketing materials to help bring them back to life.
A policy of submitting monthly Mayor’s reports to the Village Board was instituted since transparency and accountability in government was a part of my campaign.
A board resolution was passed stating the Village’s support for HR-676 (the Single Payer health care bill sponsored by Rep. John Conyers).
Another resolution stated the businesses the Village is targeting for recruitment are a hotel, software developers and a craft brewery. These three industries span the economic spectrum. So if we’re successful in recruiting all three, we will have helped to create local jobs for all income levels. Craft breweries are targeted for three reasons: they have good paying manufacturing jobs, they have become tourist destinations similar to wineries, and they could partner with our local agricultural community for hops production. This one industry has the potential to positively affect three distinct segments of the economy.
We’ve worked with local residents spearheading an effort to revitalize a trail system on a 140-acre parcel the Village owns. The Village attorney is in discussions with a resident interested in donating an adjoining 20-acre parcel. Hudson River Greenway, a state agency, has agreed that the Village parcel fits within its mission, which will allow the Greenway to provide, at State expense, liability insurance to private property owners should the trail system expand. The Washington County Soil and Conservation District helped in preparing a $6,000 grant application for improvements to the trail. The first funded project will take place in May when the former reservoir on the property is stocked with fish. Along these lines the local Girl Scout troop has been creating a trail along side the Batten Kill, which flows through the heart of the Village.
Last year a number of local residents, including elected officials from the Village, Town of Greenwich and Village of Argyle, attended a two-day training seminar on Transition Towns. Out of that has grown a local Time Traders chapter and a Front Porch Forum in Argyle.
Last summer a public referendum was held for a new firehouse. While the public overwhelmingly voted no, I am very proud of giving the public a vote on this matter. Everyone admits it should have been addressed decades ago. The primary fire station, built circa 1870, was condemned late last year, forcing the Department to relocate. A special Board meeting will be held at the end of April to review proposals for demolition of the existing building and design and construction of a new fire station.
While I haven’t done everything right, my time in office has been guided by doing what I believe is best for the long-term future of the Village of Greenwich.
Election Day is an appropriate time to review the past four years.
While I had attended many Village and Town meetings in the 18 months leading up to the election four years ago, doing so was at best a surface-level view of the responsibilities and duties of serving as Mayor. The first illusion that went was the idea I could use my position to help build a local Green Party chapter. I came to believe (and still do) that the most important task for an elected Green is to do the best possible job in her / his position. After being elected, should a Green not take the position seriously, they not only sully their name, but the name of our party as well.