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'Town Hall Meeting:' What Would You Do To Improve Port Chester?

Residents asked to participate in Sept. 27 forum at Port Chester Senior Community Center.

What started out as a call for action on a Facebook page by a Port Chester resident upset by a rash of violent crimes in the village has led to a "Town Hall" style meeting that is designed to let village residents ask questions, offer suggestions and get involved with improving Port Chester.

Port Chester Mayor Dennis G. Pilla said the “Improving our Village: Quality of life issues, strategies and solutions" session is set for Thursday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Port Chester Senior Community Center, 222 Grace Church St., behind Village Hall.

"There are many residents who are interested in what's going on, and how can they become more involved to help," Pilla said. "At the same time, the village government needs public input. We also need to communicate more with the public about things we're actively doing to improve the Village."

Pilla, members of the village Board of Trustees, new village manager Chris Steers and Port Chester Police Chief Joseph Krzeminski are expected to attend the meeting, which is open to the public.

The session was set up after discussions between Pilla and Keith Morlino, a third-generation Port Chester resident who had become growingly concerned over conditions in the village because of a rash of violent incidents — robberies, group attacks and a murder — which took place over the summer.

Port Chester police have made multiple arrests in the robberies, assaults and in a rash of thefts from cars in the village. Since the arrests, the thefts from cars have dropped off and the rash of early-morning attacks and muggings have stopped. Detectives, however, have not yet made any arrests in the shooting death of Wilfredo Rivera, 21, of Port Chester and Stamford, CT, on South Regent Street.

In response to the crimes, Morlino set up a page on Facebook called "Making Port Chester a better place." The page, as off this morning, has 266 members.

Morlino, who works as a salesman, said his initial focus was on local crime, but he said his discussions with members of the community and public officials like Pilla have convinced him there are many other issues that residents like himself can — and should — become involved with to make Port Chester a better place to live and work.

Pilla, who said he meets with many local groups throughout the year to talk about local issues and concerns, said this meeting is unique because it has been prompted by discussions on social media, involving residents who do not necessary attend other public meetings like village Board of Trustees sessions.

Pilla said he is hopeful by gathering members of Morlino's Facebook group at a meeting they can learn about what they can do as residents, and then spread to word to other residents — in person and on social media.

Bart Didden September 22, 2012 at 06:52 PM
@Robski48, While I have said in the past that the Mayor will say almost anything, I will confirm that the Chief has reported to us that he has adjusted minimum staffing levels for certain days, times and locations around the Village. This is what I expect from the command staff of the police department or the management of any of our other departments. I don't believe that the Mayor knowingly tells lies, but I have heard and seen him bend facts to promote himself, his programs and his positions. He also flip flops often to suit the current audience.
Ceasar September 22, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Aidan, These crimes all happened under the watch of the Mayor and Police chief. I feel it's time for both of them to step aside to allow those who have experience in dealing with the complexities of violent gang-related crime.
Robski48 September 22, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Bart, I still would like to see public proof. My understanding is in the last month the manpower has been reduced twice. Can the manpower numbers be FOILed? Better yet why don't you post the numbers from the summer and now and let us see with our own eyes if it went up, down or stayed the same. I am only going by what I was told. Haven't seen it with my own eyes, but would love to.
Aidan September 22, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Ceasar, I agree ... the PCPD is the key here. And I am well aware that they are operating under strained budgetary restraints. BUT that is no excuse for what's happening here. We have all learned to make our resources stretch in these times. Families have adjusted, schools have as well, and so, too, must the PCPD. If the current deployment of officers is not meeting the needs then that needs to be studied. There's small mystery here as to where the more rugged areas are located. Nor are the usual hot spots of miserable behavior a mystery. The police department needs to step up ... as most villagers have ... and to make the most of what is available. The money plea isn't the solution at this moment. A gutty, creative, inspired force can do a whole lot to right this village and keep lives and property safe ... budget restraints notwithstanding. We know the department is under pressure. We're all under pressure. The hallmark of a professional force is to professionally respond to this situation despite the obvious hurdles. Money's not gonna bubble up from some sweet source so we can beefs up the department. That is NOT in the cards at this financial moment. I'd prefer to see the PCPD face this situation head-on ... with there current force. Then, when things rebound and the situation of a great many villagers improve we can all look to the proper adjustments. Now is the time to buck up.
Kim Edwards September 22, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Bart- just because nobody was fired doesn't mean manpower hasn't been reduced. A few officers have retired and have not been replaced. Furthermore, allegedly the minimum staffing was recently reduced according to someone who is a lot more knowledgable then me about the inner workings of the P.D. If this is true it is very sad that management would allow this during a rash of crimes!
Concerned Homeowner September 22, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Bart- just because nobody was fired doesn't mean manpower hasn't been reduced. A few officers have retired and have not been replaced. Furthermore, allegedly the minimum staffing was recently reduced according to someone who is a lot more knowledgable then me about the inner workings of the P.D. If this is true it is very sad that management would allow this during a rash of crimes!
Robski48 September 23, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Robski48 6:45 pm on Saturday, September 22, 2012 Bart, I still would like to see public proof. My understanding is in the last month the manpower has been reduced twice. Can the manpower numbers be FOILed? Better yet why don't you post the numbers from the summer and now and let us see with our own eyes if it went up, down or stayed the same. I am only going by what I was told. Haven't seen it with my own eyes, but would love to. PS....only posting this again cause you took the words out of my mouth. I posted this same point 3 hours ago and don't want it to be missed. Good night to all
Bart Didden September 23, 2012 at 02:40 AM
@Robski48, Kim Edwards & Concerned Homeowner No one has retired this fiscal year so far. There will be one December 1st, but it is a command position that will not be refilled and will serve as the opening for the potential of two more street officers. Is the staffing levels FOIL'able, I would say no because it is an internal operational guideline and not a document or file, but I am not the expert. What is known is that the overtime budget is way over the previous year which would lead me to believe that staffing/deployment levels are higher than in the past and your sources are more about how much overtime will be sucked out of the taxpayer than staffing levels. Summertime is traditionally heavier on calls for service and overtime spikes out of proportion to the calendar year. The Chief is expected to throttle it up and down with the workload (calls for service and investigations) and overtime availability to balance the needs for safety and the ability of the taxpayer to cover the costs. This topic or forum should not become a leverage for the PBA or its members to maintain unwarranted overtime opportunities. The police were hired and told what the job paid, overtime should not be counted on as an absolute. The Chief has a duty to work within the budget, but is not penalized for over spending as needed. The Chief is meeting my personal expectations so far, I can't speak for the other Trustees or the Mayor.
E. Nuff Sayd September 23, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Didden and this current crop of Conservatives have taken $70,000 of your tax money and thrown it at Joe Carvin's brother chasing windmills over the DOJ case. Then they had the chutzpa to cut $5,000 dollars from a tree planting program that was started by the previous BOT. Go to any Westchester town and what do you notice? Trees. Lots of them. Planting trees and replacing sidewalks, WAS, and IS good government. These two small programs were designed to improve Port Chester and its image and shouldn't have fallen victim to budget cuts. Didden and pals gave sidewalks and trees the axe to pursue an appeal of DOJ. Didden says he was elected to oversee government and the aggrieved taxpayer.... But think about it. What kind of business would sell more widgets when there is the perception (or reality) of increased crime due to the reduction in law enforcement? Hmmm? Ding-Ding-Ding...ALARMS!!! So when Didden advocates for cutting police overtime, PC residents should understand that he is making a marketing decision for his alarm company. Our citizens deserve a better and I am going to fight my hardest to see that Bart loses his next election. Mr. Didden, why don't you say anything positive or offer any solutions to village problems? You blame the minority and the mayor. Dennis Pilla has become your MOBY DICK. Unlike you, the mayor actually cares about ways to bring the village together. You have become PC's own Captain Ahab with one solution- the death of the Great White Whale.
Robski48 September 23, 2012 at 09:22 AM
So since you won't directly answer my question, I have to read between the lines and see that the levels have been reduced by your comments. I don't think the PBA is looking for "unwarranted overtime opportunities", you provided it by passing budgets with reduced numbers of police officers. The police need to be on the road. You either have to hire or pay the overtime to have them out there. Can't have it both ways! You say "potential" hiring of two street officers, but no commitment. Typical politician, saying what you think your residents want to hear. You have the nerve to critizie the mayor about "saying almost anything" and here you are doing it. You can't complain about spending money on our safety especially when you spent $22,000 on a study for a new village hall/police station, when we have a village hall (and lots of debt with it) and one trustee was quoted in the paper as calling the amount of money spent for the study as "peanuts".
Aidan September 23, 2012 at 10:55 AM
"So when Didden advocates for cutting police overtime, PC residents should understand that he is making a marketing decision for his alarm company." Ludicrous.
Concerned View September 23, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Interesting to note the thread's focus directed away from Pilla's announcement and the town hall meeting. To divert ongoing criticism? Has Pilla ever put a proposal before the Board for a vote to reduce residential density anywhere in the Village? Perhaps convert an entire multi-family block for a new park? Perhaps expand a double line road to enhance traffic flow and provide parking? Anything?
Ceasar September 23, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I feel it's time the Mayor and Police chief step aside and allow those with experience in dealing with the complexities of violent gang-related crime, to take over. Enough is enough!
E. Nuff Sayd September 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
@Aiden- AKA Bart Didden's lapdog. Here is what is really "Ludicrous"- How about this bonehead quote from you... "NO more liberals. We cannot take it anymore." FYI ...Thank a liberal for your weekend. Thank a liberal for food safety and child labor laws. Thank a liberal for the laws that insure your grandma doesn't go hungry when you can't take care of her. Thank a liberal for your freedom- Remember it was FDR who inspired the country to defeat Japan and help beat back NAZIs. FDR was the very same liberal that saved capitalism. FDR also said "A conservative is a person with two good legs who refuses to walk forward." PLEASE... I know that there are very good conservatives out there, but Didden is not one of them. Didden is bad for Port Chester. Bart Didden is for Bart Didden.
E. Nuff Sayd September 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
@Concerned view, has any PC - BOT ever talked about decreasing density until these past few years? It was the fire department that raised the issue year after year through the 80s and 90s. The same fire department that Didden wants to continue to cut. The conservatives have had the majority for most of those years. It wasn't until Pilla became mayor that code enforcement got teeth.
Bart Didden September 23, 2012 at 05:40 PM
@Robski48 You can weave whatever you want to say and I am happy that you think your the greatest anonymous defender of your own opinion. Since joining the board, we hired a new officer, and we are eliminating this year one command position and now trying to turn that high salary and overhead into two patrol officers. Wow, what a concept that you can't dispel with any truth. Potential is a simple concept even for someone like you. Can you count to 4? I am one Trustee and one vote. I can't and don't speak for others. I raised the potential that we should consider hiring two officers. When three other votes show up, it will happen, but you can continue to hang this on the only Trustee that is willing to talk to gutless anonymous writes. Now to where you are fiscally missing the boat. We can either spend millions on facility patches at 350 North Main, or we can build the facility that serves the demand and locate it in one of the worse parts of town and reduce density. Duh... I spoke against the study, because I believe that we need it, period.
Bart Didden September 23, 2012 at 05:49 PM
@ E, Nuff Sayd (A.K.A. anonymous gutless wonder) Last meeting we approved over $148,000 for sidewalks to be completed this year. The $5000.00 tree program was to plant trees on private property on a first come first served basis, which primarily was awarded to properties in the north end of town. We can afford to plant our own trees and don't need hand outs. Meanwhile we are replacing trees on Westchester avenue. The rest of your rant does not even warrant a reply because my business does not sell alarms to the consumer, residential or commercial. But you are another PC know it all just like your Mayor, brilliant. @ Aidan, thanks
Bart Didden September 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
@ E. Nuff Sayd, How wrong can one person be? Well if you drink the Pilla cool aid every day, a lot. We are about to hire three paid firefighters to replace three vacancies. I argued for four. It must be easy for you to fabricate statements that are based on nothing other than a belief that Mayor Pilla walks on water. In the seven years of his service what can you point to that has increased property vales, reduced the cost of government or made a positive difference in your life and that of your neighbors?
Robski48 September 23, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Bart.. You may have hired one new officer, but how many did you already eliminate in the two budgets you constantly brag about. Let's see if you can count. If you elimate more officers than you hire, you still are in a negative count, duh!! About the new station, so you want to take more properties off the tax roles to build your new facility and burden the tax payers even more? Please save the hot air about selling 222 GCS with all the debt on it to make up for it, not happening. Again I say you have no right to call anyone gutless with your anonymous, racist flyer that ultimately helped put this village in this crazy voting system. What was it, under oath and penalty of perjury you admitted to it, now that is gutless!!!
E. Nuff Sayd September 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Bart, I have seen the meetings when you were cutting fire and police overtime and NOT NO WAY hiring. You were against hiring before you were for hiring. Could there be an election coming up?
Lori B September 24, 2012 at 03:09 AM
You can ask anyone in PC and they will tell you what the top issues are - code enforcement (residential AND businesses), closer oversight of the police department (to make sure they have sufficient staff/resources AND to make sure that they are actually doing their job) and for local elected officials to put community first instead of their political parties, families and friends.
Aidan September 27, 2012 at 02:27 PM
There's no question that the PCPD is valued and necessary. That said, they are just one of many government agencies. And all agencies have been impacted by this on-going recession. I'm with Mr. Didden on this call. We have a genuine appreciation for those who make our community what it is ... police, fire, sanitation, school teachers and so on. That is NOT the issue. Hard times is the issue. More officers require more tax dollars ... and that requires increased sacrificed on many who have been so generous for so long. Now, the climate's changed ... and I think attitudes need to change as well.
Aidan September 27, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I think the PCPD should go about its business with extreme professionalism and energy ... as that will sow more productive seeds for the future when things do rebound. Show the citizens that you're with them ... and that you, too, are willing to buck up and stretch each dollar and make every officer as efficient as is possible. There's nothing unreasonable at all in that request. It's asked of others ... why not uniformed personnel as well? I don't get this "division" tactic. Exploiting a bad series of events in the village to make a case for increased personnel has a rancid aroma. Lots and lots of folks in this village are struggling ... just to make ends meet. I'd rather see the PCPD acknowledge these rugged times and announce their intentions to redouble their efforts all around the village. When times improve ... and we're all back on balance ... many folks will remember the professional of the PCPD ... and properly reward them for their efforts. We've asked others ... teachers, administrators and other village workers ... to do this very thing. This might not be what the PCPD want to hear ... but it's what has to be said. Sorry, it goes against my grain to hear suggestions that one slice of our public employees are more valued than others. That is not the case. Not ever.
Aidan September 27, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Well, you are the very first to call me a Didden lapdog. Pretty amusing. You have either a short memory ... or none at all. I'll stand by my statement about liberals ... and cite you tit-for-tat if you wanna engage in infant "Am not, am, too" crapola. I could have a field day with FDR. All employees ... private and public ... need to be part of a nation-wide reset. We're measuring ourselves against a recent period of time that wasn't real. This society has come to grips with major adjustments. And no group has the high ground when it comes to exceptions. The PCPD is top-shelf. Always has been. But is this the argument we need ... during a never-ending recession and with a sort of crime-burst taking place? All I'm suggesting is that the department acknowledge what everyone knows and feels: that this is a rare and different moment ... and that what was once "normal" isn't any longer. I don't often agree with Mr. Didden, but I commend him for stepping forward and giving up his time and energy for ... for what? No personal gain here. To me, it seems as though he loves this village, has life-long ties to the community, and wants to make it all shine bright. Some of his decisions are questionable, and he takes criticism square on the chin if you make a fair case. Listen, all I want is a village with a vision ... and a village thats responsive to whatever situation presents itself. At least Mr. Didden's looking AT the problem rather than looking AWAY from the problem.
Silvio V. Buccieri September 27, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I hope that they talk about over crowding at the meeting tonight, ever since code inforcement was started we have increased ten folds. if I could see it, why can't they see it ?? come the new school budget in 2013, your going have to sell your home and shame on ones who are watching the store. pissed off.
John B September 27, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Mr.Buccieri: You can attend the meeting and speak on the over crowding. The more of us there the better
Robski48 October 04, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Aiden..point understood. I don't call it a "division" factor, I call it reality. In bad times, you get more crime. Factor in less police, crime is going to spike even more. Then you have the public mad and the politicians start pointing fingers at the police and they put the police chief on the hot seat at board meetings blaming him for the end results of their bad decision. I due understand the economic climate today, as I have adjusted my lifestyle to it. What's your thoughts of the trustee, who happens to be your partner Bart's sidekick, calling the $22,000 for the study peanuts? Especially is this ecomonic climate you speak of
FJT October 29, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Bart, has the village pulled the Certificate of Occupancy of every homeowner in Port Chester? If so, that's major news because a homeowner can't sell, can't refinance, can't rent out and can't even legally live in their own house until he or she gets a new CO. Please tell me whether every homeowner in PC has had his or her CO pulled. In all the discussion about overcrowding, re-zoning and amnesty for law-breaking homeowners, I don't think the vitally important question I'm asking has been definitively answered. So, again: Has the village pulled the CO for every homeowner in Port Chester? Please respond.
Bart Didden October 29, 2012 at 05:25 PM
If a property had a valid CO for the entire premises and no open violations or open permits then they are still good to go. if they don't have a valid CO for the entire premises than they should apply for amnesty to take advantage of reduced fees and get a CO for the entire premises.
FJT October 29, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Silvio wrote, "Come the new school budget in 2013, your going have to sell your home..." That's already started and statistically, it's turned into an exodus, according to the following article that appeared in the Port Chester Patch. The PC numbers -- jaw-dropping when compared to our neighboring communities -- would have been much higher still, if not for the fact that many condo sellers can't seem to get the Certificates of Occupancy needed to close their deals and escape the sinking ship. (I know some who have been waiting patiently for over six months.) Here's a link to the article I mentioned: http://portchester.patch.com/articles/real-estate-port-chester-sees-q3-jump-in-year-over-year-home-sales#photo-11766065

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