About 100 Port Chester residents came out Thursday night at the Port Chester senior center to get involved in a resident-based effort to focus attention on key issues in the community.
“I hoped for a better turnout tonight but this was still a good start,” Keith Morlino, a concerned Port Chester resident who started a Facebook group called “Making Port Chester A Better Place To Live.”
Morlino was pleasantly surprised with the following the Facebook group developed, which led to Thursday's community "Town Hall" meeting.
“This all started with a group I decided to start on Facebook,” said Morlino. “I was seeing a lot of crimes in Port Chester and I kept posting them. I invited a couple of friends to the group and it just kept growing. It went from 50 to 75, now it has over 300 members and three or four more people join every day.”
Morlino went on to explain that here were a number of concerns raised on the webpage by a number of different residents. Liz Rotfeld and Mary Rose Munnick were two of the residents expressing their concerns on the site.
“I realized we had a lot of good resources right here in Port Chester,” said Morlino. “Rotfeld has experience working with Villages. She worked in Scarsdale and now works for the Village of Rye-Brook.”
It became clear that there was enough interest and knowledge there to create a form of resident-run, committee-based task force.
Morlino, Rotfeld and Munnick proposed a group of committees that would help provide ideas and assistance to the Village Board of Trustees. The committees cover a range of topics but each was carefully chosen based on the thoughts and concerns of residents.
The proposed committees:
Illegal Housing Committee – Study illegal housing and Port Chester’s current practices with respect to permits, fees, inspections and fines. Members will examine how similar communities handle such violations and identify solutions.
Public Behavior Committee – Study types of complaints that arise in respect to public behavior. Members will identify strategies to increase awareness of laws and accountability for violations.
Traffic & Pedestrian Safety Committee – Study the traffic and pedestrian safety issues in the village and members will determine strategies by which to improve the traffic flow and pedestrian safety.
Noise Committee – Study the Noise Ordinance of the Village and develop strategies in which to enhance adherence.
School Residency Verification Committee – Study practices that occur in the district and in neighboring districts to ensure that all children being educated in the Village of Port Chester are actually living in Port Chester.
Village Board Efficiency Committee – Study ways in which successful municipalities conduct their business and make suggestions to the Village Board of Trustees with regard to a number of issues.
Public Safety Committee – Study various hot spots in the community where crime occurs against individuals and property and determine strategies by which to improve these areas.
Downtown Aesthetic Committee – To improve the look of downtown area. Members will study the downtown/business area and target areas for improvement.
Consistency In Building Code Enforcement Committee – Study the consistency in building code enforcement. Members will look at all types of violations and complaints and research what is being done.
“The more that people are willing to roll up their sleeves, investigate the issue and address the issue in an intelligent way, the more progress we can make,” said Village Board of Trustees member Dan Brakewood. “I’m very glad to see that this is not a ‘People vs. the Board of Trustees’ kind of thing. We’re all residents of the village and we are all working towards the same thing. One of the committees is about noise. I live in the same neighborhood and hear the same noise. I want to address it and they want to address it so we’re all on the same page.”
The meeting included local residents and members of the Port Chester Board of Trustees and other village officials.
George Ford spoke out at the meeting and his ideas were well received by those in attendance. Ford also made a point to sign up for one of the committees.
“Ultimately, we have to be responsible. Residents should have some control,” said Ford. “We vote people into office and we have to make sure that we are voting for people who will address our concerns, otherwise it’s time for a change. This evening was a great start to something that has been long overdue.”
The group is still very young and in an ongoing process of growth. If you want to get involved go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/435120483198078/ for more information.