After almost two months of at times heated discussions about whether to adopt an anti-racism resolution and how it should be worded, on Aug. 17, council member Jennifer Castelhano read the final version of a statement from the Lewisboro Town Board addressing the topic. The document was then unanimously accepted by the board.
The final statement said the Town of Lewisboro is committed to equality and inclusivity. It also listed steps the town will consider to address racial inequities. These include considering an increase in affordable housing, establishing a “committee on race and equity” and introducing anti-racism education.
The town board’s deliberations on how to voice support for racial justice began at its June 8 meeting, in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police on May 25. One possibility it considered was expanding on the town’s “Welcoming Resolution,” originally drafted to support immigrant residents, to include anti-racist sentiments.
The board then moved to consider a new document called an “Anti-Racist Resolution” during the June 22 meeting. During the tumultuous meeting, council member Jane Crimmins read the first draft of the resolution. Since that meeting, the resolution went through multiple iterations. A second draft was presented during the July 13 meeting, where the name was changed to “Resolution on the Commitment to Racial Justice.”
The accepted draft presented at Tuesday’s meeting was named the “Statement Reaffirming and Expanding March 27, 2017, Welcoming Resolution.”
After the statement was read and adopted, the board accepted public comments on the final result of this lengthy process.
Approximately 125 residents participated in the Aug. 17 meeting, and 25 of them shared thoughts on the statement.
Residents, both in support of the board taking a position on anti-racism and those who opposed it, voiced frustration over the final statement. Some felt it was a “watered down” version of the prior draft resolutions, while others maintained it was “unnecessary” and “insulting.” Many criticized that the statement as too vague, with a number questioning the rationale for establishing a committee on race and equity.
“The resolution doesn’t have anything in it,” Lewisboro resident Jeremy Zitomer said.
Multiple residents said the discussions about adopting the racial justice resolution divided the town. A few blamed Ms. Crimmins, who has pushed the board to take strong action on the topic of racism, as the main driving force of that division.
At the end of the meeting, the board members thanked residents for engaging in the conversation around racial justice. Council member Dan Welsh emphasized that the statement, while disappointing to people on all sides of the issue, was only a starting point and that the town had a lot more work to do.
In an interview following the meeting, Ms. Crimmins said the final statement was a compromise, and that she sympathized with people who were confused by how the process ended with that document. She said she felt the same way.
In response to the people who mentioned her specifically in the meeting, Ms. Crimmins said she is doing her best to not pay attention to it and feels as though those voices are only a small part of the conversation.
“I’m happy we passed it and this phase of the work is done,” Ms. Crimmins said.
Some residents who spoke at the hearing said that the people fighting for greater diversity in town knew what Lewisboro was like when they moved here, and if they didn’t like it, they should leave. Ms. Crimmins later said that when she moved to Lewisboro, she recognized she was moving to a predominately white community, where the school’s Indians mascot struck her as racially insensitive, but her intention was to continue her previous work to enhance equity and justice.
Antenna Advisory Committee
Monday’s meeting began with a public hearing regarding the expansion of the purpose of the Antenna Advisory Board. With the proposed change, the board will advise on advancements in fiber optics and other similar technology used for voice communication, data services and streaming. After one brief clarifying question from a resident, the board closed the public hearing and voted in favor of the expansion.
Grants for lake study
The town board spoke briefly about the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission grants as part of the East of Hudson Community Wastewater Planning Assistance Grant Program to fund engineering studies at Lake Waccabuc, Lake Truesdale and Lake Kitchawan. Since Lake Kitchawan is in both Pound Ridge and Lewisboro, the towns mutually agreed that Lewisboro will act as the lead.
Town Supervisor Peter Parsons was authorized to sign the town’s Participation Agreements with NEIWPCC to accept the grants.
The engineering studies funded by the grants will be used to study wastewater solutions to improve the ecological health of the three lakes. The grant program is being funded by The New York City Department of Environmental Protection to improve the bodies of water that flow in the New York City water supply watershed.
The town expects to issue Request for Proposals for the study by Sept. 30.
“I’m very pleased that we have received these grants which will identify workable wastewater solutions for these lake areas in our towns,” Mr. Parsons said. “Once engineering studies are complete, we hope to compete for state or federal funds to design and construct these treatment solutions.”
Parks and Recreation updates
Mr. Parsons shared feedback from parents on the town’s Main Event day camp. Mr. Parsons said the camp was considered a big success this year and town residents have been appreciative of the Parks and Recreation Department’s work.
“You truly saved summer while keeping everyone safe,” one parent wrote to Mr. Parsons.
During the meeting, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Dana Mayclim and Michael Portnoy, recreation assistant and pool facilities operator, presented department updates to the board.
Ms. Mayclim said that when the pool first opened, they were unable to give first responders free pool access due to financial concerns. Ms. Mayclim said the department has made up most of the costs that it took to run the pool, and they would like to thank the first responders by giving each of them a free pass for one day at the pool.
In addition, Mr. Portnoy proposed to the board that the pool remains open an additional two days. The pool normally closes on Labor Day, but since the Katonah-Lewisboro School District is not reopening until Sept. 10, Mr. Portnoy wanted to give residents the option to continue to use the pool Sept. 8 and 9. On those two days, memberships will no longer apply and all pool patrons will be asked to pay a flat rate at the gate.
The board unanimously accepted both proposals.
Ms. Mayclim and Mr. Portnoy also presented preliminary plans for a Parks and Recreation day care at Lewisboro Elementary School. Ms. Mayclim said the department wanted to support parents who are working while their children are in school, and they are in the process of acquiring a day care license.
Mr. Portnoy said they will be offering 30 to 40 children a safe setting for remote learning under the supervision of the department’s staff. The day care will be staffed by recent camp counselors and others with degrees in education or experience in education. Mr. Portnoy added that the day care will most likely service children in grades two through five, and the expenses to run the program will be covered by day care fees.
Mr. Portnoy said they are still working out all of the logistics, but the board voted to approve the program on the contingencies that the department receives a day care license and the finances are covered.