Readers Write: Thomaston mayor should bow out of Tower Ford proceedings

Readers Write: Thomaston mayor should bow out of Tower Ford proceedings

Dear Village of Thomaston:

Please accept this as a formal request for the recusal of Mayor Steven Weinberg from all
matters relating to the evaluation and consideration for landmark status of the building
structure on the property located at 124 South Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck, NY,
and the adjournment of the upcoming meetings and/or hearings with regard to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

As detailed in the pending Amended Petition filed against the Village of Thomaston (and
property owner) relating to the enactment of Local Law 3-2021 and the related application to demolish the existing structure and replace it with a modern five-story, 75-unit apartment building, there remain very serious allegations relating to, among other things, the mayor’s abuse of power, undue influence, lack of disclosure and close involvement with the property owner/developer to advance the project.

As you know, the application — which the mayor
supported — called for the destruction of the very building that is the subject of the commission’s evaluation. The litigation is pending, and the Village has not substantively responded to these grave allegations. Moreover, as reflected in the upcoming Village meeting schedule and documents recently produced in response to FOIL requests, the mayor continues to dedicate a substantial amount of resources to the project and any revisions.

Notably, the mayor’s recent appointment of two commission members (one of whom
was designated to be the chair to replace without explanation a longstanding chairperson who served in that capacity for years) are individuals who have worked with the mayor and do not appear to have qualifications relating to architecture and/or historical preservation. These appointments occurred in closed session on Aug. 16, 2021, after the mayor directed the public to “leave the room.”

At no point did the mayor solicit applications from Village residents who
have requisite experience and credentials to serve on the commission.
Despite many requests and concerns from the public since August 2021 for in-person
hearings on the application and to start the landmark review process, the mayor failed to
conduct a single public hearing, conducted all meetings via Zoom webinars with no opportunity for the public to speak, and waited until only after the developer withdrew its application and requested a resolution of the landmark issue to start the landmark review process.

Now that the developer has requested landmark review, the mayor appears to be steamrolling the process over the holidays so that it could be completed by Jan. 4, 2022, including drafting resolutions before even knowing how the commission will elect to proceed and its timeline for doing so. Once again, there is the appearance that the mayor is acting at the behest of the developer and not in the best interest of the Village and its residents, and the public remains very
concerned about the appearance of conflict of interest, undue influence and abuse of power by the mayor.

In summary, we respectfully request the recusal of Mayor Weinberg from all matters
relating to the evaluation and consideration of landmark status relating to the property and an adjournment of all upcoming meetings and/or hearings with regard to the commission, namely the meeting scheduled for Nov. 30, the “Special Meeting” of the Board of Trustees
scheduled for Dec. 1 and the proposed public meeting of the commission scheduled
for Jan. 4. Instead, there should be a public hearing to discuss the credentials and
qualifications of all members of the commission to ensure a fair, just, and transparent process.

No actions should be taken until that occurs.

Thank you for your anticipated immediate attention and response.

Respectfully submitted,
Village of Thomaston Residents
Wendy and Aaron Halpern
Alka and Anish Jain
Olivia and David Pinsley
Nancy Sherman

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