Please select a year.
State of the Town
In the year and a half since I became your supervisor, I have been endeavoring to fulfill the promises I made while running for office. Looking back over these past 18 months, we are well on our way to reaching these goals.
- We improved communications, supported business, created new opportunities for recreation and worked to continue to protect our local natural resources
- We improved services and prioritized the continued financial health
- We have empaneled and added new members to our boards
- We begun projects that will benefit our residents for many years to come
- One of my favorite new initiatives is our weekly town newsletter that now goes out to approximately 12,000 recipients. Improving communications to Cortlandt residents is crucial to ensuring that residents are able to take full advantage of all that the town has to offer. We know the newsletters have become a success because of all the feedback we received from residents concerning the items we address in it. In addition, mutiple organizations, including churches, not for profits, and even the schools ask us to publish events to help them get the word out. Clearly, the newsletter has become an important means whereby the town can communicate information directly to our citizens in a timely manner.
- We moved to support public safety and increasing policing in a fiscally sound way. Recently the Town Board agreed to hire a second full time community police officer from the Westchester County Department. Based on the Policing Committee's study of 2021, chaired by Deputy Supervisor James Creighton, a recommendation was made to hire a community resource officer or CRO. We followed through on that suggestion by hiring Officer Deopaul Mahadeo last year. We also insisted that all county police officers that serve Cortlandt work exclusively in the town. We want these officers to have a relationship with our residents and Cortlandt Police is now visible on all our vehicles that patrol the town. The additional community police officer will be tasked with traffic and safety issues throughout the town, improving the quality of our life of our residents. Cortlandt is therefore served by dual police forces, in addition to the county housed at Town Hall. We are also served full time by the state police, who actually pay Cortlandt to utilize the barracks they occupy on Memorial Drive. Therefore, the county and state both have barracks right here in town. The agreements we have with these departments are effective. Crime is down across the county and in particular it is significantly down in the Town of Cortlandt. We appreciate our relationship with the state police as well as the county police officers that work cooperatively. We have an excellent public safety coverage over the 50 square miles that the town covers with an exceptionally low cost to taxpayers.
- Keeping taxes low is even more important now in the face of the economic uncertainty since the pandemic. Post-pandemic, many towns found it difficult to keep retail stores open in their communities. The Town of Cortlandt did witness many storefronts becoming vacant. However, this administration has been very proactive in recruiting new businesses to our town, such that we can claim an unheard of occupancy rate of over 90%.
- For example, when Regal Theaters threatened to close over 40 theaters nationwide, the Town of Cortlandt worked with the Cortlandt Town Center to renegotiate a reduced rent lease.
- The Cortlandt Town Center successfully negotiated and these theaters will remain open. We are successful in replacing OfficeMax with Ashley Furniture, which opened just this month. We also attracted the Dog Haus restaurant and Tropical Smoothie to the town center.
- Across the street on Rt. 6, we attracted several new businesses adjacent to the new Shoprite, including the Hudson Valley Credit Union, Buff City Soap and a national chain, Aspen Dental
- We are hopeful that the Big Lots store will soon be replaced by Aldi Supermarket.
- Finally, we are optimistic that we will backfill the old Shoprite in the very near future.
- While promoting new businesses and new development, we are also cognizant of the environment. We successfully purchased 38 acres along rt. 6 that already had a site plan approval for 14 homes. This land will be protected forever and becomes part of over 3000 acres. The town is preserved for every acre develop. We plan to save an acre. We will always keep our eyes on the future.
- Fiscally, the Town of Cortlandt remains exceptionally healthy. At the end of 2022, we had a sales tax surplus of 1.7 million, and our tax increase this year was just 1.2% for unincorporated Cortlandt. We anticipate a similarly small tax increase for 2024. The town maintains an excellent credit rating of AA1 by Moody's. We have an exceptionally low amount of debt and we continue to apply for grants for parks, recreation and infrastructure improvements. In sum, we remain very financially sound.
- We continue our efforts to make Cortlandt where life works by creating new recreational opportunities. We are pleased that within the first year we were able to build, plan and open our new outdoor ice skating rink adjacent to the Cortlandt train station. This summer we will begin construction of our new Outdoor Cortlandt Performance Stage at the Waterfront Park in Verplanck. This stage will feature a floating roof and unobstructed views, allowing outdoor concerts in one of the most beautiful settings anywhere. Music along the Hudson, watching the river in the boats all while watching the sunsets. Funding is provided by a grant arranged by Senator Harckham through New York State. No local tax funds are needed. In addition, we will be rebuilding the children's playground at the Waterfront Park. Maintaining the seaplane theme of the area with the assistance of a grant from Westchester County.
- We continue our efforts in Montrose, working with the Montrose Improvement District Group, where once again applying for a D.R.I. grant to help redevelop this area. We have plans to build a park at the site of an old abandoned gas station, and we recently signed an I.M.A or Intermunicipal agreement with Buchanan, allowing the Town of Cortlandt and Village of Buchanan to receive almost $7 million for sewer plant improvements and connections.
- The Town of Cortlandt established a tri community planning group consisting of Peekskill, Yorktown and Cortlandt to address traffic along Rt. 202 corridor. We have received a $3 million New York State planning grant to re-imagine traffic from Peekskill all the way to the Connecticut border. We are hopeful that one day Rt. 202 can be completely widened to minimize traffic. And we are working on the Annsville Circle part of town, which is the gateway to Cortlandt and Westchester. As cars come south from the Bear Mountain Parkway and Rt. 9. The area will be converted from highway, commercial and industrial to mixed use, which allows residential and retail development. The plans involve construction of a new water and sewer system and we have applied for grants from the county, state and now the federal government through Congressman Lawler.
- Finally, we have established a quarry committee consisting of two dozen residents to help plan and build this unique and once in a lifetime project. The hope is to make it a park like recreational destination for swimming and enjoying the beautiful environment of Verplanck. We hope to have more advanced design ideas later this year. One of my goals as your supervisor is to make Cortlandt one of the most important and most desirable towns to live and work in of the 19 towns in Westchester, this means growing our economic base, growing and preserving our greenspace and having a larger input into what goes on in this region. When we hosted our Rally to Save the River, we were joined by four United States congressmen representing New York City to Albany. We had mutiple state senators in the Assembly, members from both parties on both sides of the river. They all know that Cortlandt is one of the largest and most diverse towns and that we are committed to the environment and preserving our lifestyles and that Cortlandt is a hidden gem. We are rapidly becoming known as the place where life works.
Richard H. Becker, MD