My name is Frank Ferrara and I am a candidate for village trustee. My wife JoAnne and I have raised our two daughters in Port Chester which we've called home for 22 years.
Like many residents I am frustrated by the lack of measurable progress in the village. And like many I'd convinced myself that I couldn't make an impact. But a severe illness and a year of chemotherapy a few years back taught me that life is not forever and if you want to make a broader contribution there is no time like the present. I've decided to get off my couch.
I am not a professional politician. Frankly, Port Chester does not need another one. But I feel public office is where I can best apply my background and accomplishments. I studied government and economics at Boston College, founded an international firm that I built to over $20 million in sales and today manage equity accounts for high net worth individuals.
I am a registered Democrat but am running on the Republican ticket. Nationally the parties differ about the size and scope of government but at the most local level these arguments are moot. By crossing party lines I offer myself as a symbol of the non-partisan, professional management that this village desperately needs and has too long lacked. I believe this approach can help heal the village board's dysfunction.
I am running on a bipartisan ticket that includes a Conservative, a Republican and a gentleman without party affiliation. This is a slate that can help precipitate consensus on the board, break down barriers and get things done. It can change local politics.
In order to restore Port Chester as a robust village we need to tackle three key issues: suffocating property taxes, smart development of the village's assets and code enforcement.
Over the years my home's value has appreciated far less than my property taxes, which are now in excess of 3.5% of its value. This is stifling and among the highest ratios in Westchester County. I doubt my situation is unique. No wonder last year three homes on my block were vacant, another became a rental and several others have languished on the market. Excessive tax burdens such as this put undue strain on our residents, forcing many reluctantly from their homes and hinder the attractiveness of the village to prospective buyers.
My trustee running mates are incumbents who have cut almost all the fat they can out of the budget. In order to not just hold the line on taxes but meaningfully reduce them we need to focus on Smart Development.
Smart Development means pursuing projects under our Master Plan that will increase tax revenues more than the additional costs incurred. Restaurant Depot is a shining example of this, bringing jobs to village residents while freezing in place the property's assessment for 10 years.
Smart Development does not mean that we allow Starwood to build 820 apartments on the United Hospital site, which would stress a village infrastructure already at the breaking point and likely more than offset the new revenues such development would bring. But neither is it smart to refuse to engage a developer that has already made an investment and is prepared to make a much larger one. Being a leader isn't about saying no. It's about conducting negotiations for what is in our best interests, not the best interests of developers' shareholders. As a businessman with a successful history of negotiating with major corporations I can make those distinctions.
The amnesty program recently enacted by the board is poorly conceived. We are emerging from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. To expose already financially strapped homeowners to this unknown financial liability, which is often due to poor village record keeping, is a violation of the public trust.
Insuring all of our residential properties are up to code can raise home values by increasing the confidence of buyers in our properties. But I propose we allow owner-occupiers to comply at a time of their choosing. Homeowners would only need to verify that their homes are up to code when they either sell their property, refinance it or have work done on it. And many older properties for which improper records were kept should be grandfathered.
The real issue should be to pursue the willful code violators who rent unsafe apartments to many of our most vulnerable citizens. I am tired of being told they are beyond our reach. My wife, who was a crucial partner of the Community School at Edison Elementary, has heard stories of children whose mothers rent couches for them to sleep on. This kind of behavior on the part of landlords simply cannot be tolerated.
As a layman I am not an expert in New York State code, but it appears that other municipalities insist that all rental units regularly qualify for a Certificate of Compliance Rental Inspection. If elected my first goal as trustee would be to attend to the adoption of such an ordinance that would ensure the health and safety of our citizens while addressing village density issues, which have strained our resources and helped increase our taxes to the breaking point.
I do not claim to have every answer. But by having no political baggage, an education focused on government and development, and a history as a successful entrepreneur, I believe I am well placed to advance the best interests of our residents and the village at large.
I will be knocking on as many doors as possible between now and election day to better introduce myself. I hope you will share your thoughts and concerns as we seek to restore Port Chester to the vibrant community on the Sound it once was.