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Local Businesses Raise Concerns at Clarkstown Candidates' Roundtable

This free event was Monday, hosted by two candidates running for Clarkstown seats

Despite the rainy day, local business owners and entrepreneurs in Clarkstown came out to the Clarkstown Business Roundtable. It was hosted by Shibu Abraham—who is running for Clarkstown Town Council—and Ralph Sabatini—who is running for Clarkstown Supervisor.

"I think it was a really great opportunity for people to come out and speak to potential leaders," said Participant Patty Ciardullo.

The candidates came out to hear from and learn about issues and concerns local businesses have and there were guest speakers present to discuss money-saving strategies and business exit planning.

"Overall, it's a good stepping stone. Even if they (the candidates) are not elected, they say they're able to present these issues to the board," said Peter Kral, designer and project manager of Royal Kitchen & Home Improvements in New City. "There's too much waste going on and they need to look at overall solutions with schools, government (and all other institutions)."

Anthony Mele, president of AMI Global Security LLC, was the moderator for the event. He said that he came up with the roundtable idea and that he has done this several times in other parts of the country.

"The idea is to ask businesses for their input on issues of town planning," he said.

One of the major concerns was the main street construction in New City and its disruption to local businesses.

"Businesses were not consulted before streets were torn up, on how it would impact their businesses," said Mele. "What about the local guy. Everyone here said that they were losing business and losing money. Before government does anything, the first rule is 'do no harm.'"

One local businessman said that the dollar amount going into the Main Street construction does not balance with its value afterwards given the amount of lost business suffered by local Main Street stores.

"They did have input (from local businesses), but the input was ignored. I don't think putting all that money into the facade will improve our business or pedestrian traffic that much," said Frank Grandel, a self-employed local businessman. "They needed to address the condition it (the New City downtown area) was in, but cadillac sidewalks were not used (or needed) in other (Clarkstown) towns."

As for Nanuet, Sabatini said it needed a lot of help.

"Nanuet is a tragedy," he said. "We need to promote business growth and Nanuet needs intense focus."

Problems that the candidates identified for local businesses included

  • Permits
  • Signs
  • Fees
  • Inspections
  • Taxes
  • Traffic and Construction
  • Code enforcement

Mitchell Brill of Altium Wealth, discussed business exit strategy and planning, and David Trokel and Nic Cultrara from LDI Color Toolbox  talked about money-saving strategies, which business owners can implement.

The question was proposed: "How can local Government make Clarkstown more business friendly?"

The roundtable answers were: Help you keep more of your money, help your business grow and help you hire one more employee. As for the candidates, this was one of many meet and greets they have planned leading up to elections.

"We need to cut salaries, cut town cars and look into the special bargaining unit," said Sabatini. "Everytime we find waste, we're going to cut it and return it to the taxpayers."

"We need to cut waste, pool spending and have term limits for everyone," said Abraham. "Clarkstown is over-taxed and over-regulated. The current town board, they know what's going on but they just don't care."

Abraham added that he plans to take a salary cut as a councilman.

"We only work two days a month but make $40,000 or more a year. Also, the town council members can make more if they're on a committee," he said.

Barry S August 16, 2011 at 04:40 PM
The roundtable created a great opportunity for our business people to get their voices and concerns heard. This will allow Mr. Sabatini and Mr. Abraham to develop plans to addresses the concerns with solutions and 'hit' the road running - when they ARE ELECTED.
Kristen Stavisky August 16, 2011 at 11:15 PM
It is irresponsible for Mr. Abraham to suggest council members work two days per month. While there are usually two regular Town Board Meetings per month, council members on both sides of the aisle work many additional hours. First, there are usually two additional workshop meetings per months. Second, council members spend a great deal of time at Town Hall, both in meetings and responding to constituent issues. Third, council members meet with each other, other members of the staff, and with constituents on a regular basis. Finally, there are numerous events and meetings that require council members' attendance. Many of those events take place on weekends and during evening hours. I've observed Town government for many years and have never seen a member work two days per month. Of course, the number of hours and dedication varies; it does in any endeavor, business, or entity. In my opinion, most council members treat the job like a second full-time position. Two days a week would be the rare exception, certainly not the rule. I urge Mr. Abraham to do some research. Perhaps he should not be running if he plans to treat the position as a two day per month job. The taxpayers deserve better.
Anthony Mele August 16, 2011 at 11:50 PM
Ms. Stavisky is right on one point - The Taxpayers deserve better. Mr. Abraham is the better choice. His point was on target. All the days and hours expended by the Town Council cited by Ms. Stavisky, she did not realize not one minute of it was allocated to consulting the businesses who are the revenue generators and job providers in the town. Mr. Abraham's assessment that we deserve better is the consensus he is sharing with you. It was not irresponsible of him to observe the Taxpayer's are not getting their money's worth. They feel like they are the Town Council's personal ATM machine instead of constituents or the people who hired them. No offense intended to Ms. Stavisky's input. It is welcome. The business leaders who we consulted crafted actionable solutions to long standing problems in this one meeting. I invite Ms. Stavisky to simply have a discussion with Mr. Abraham and get his input first hand. You may find out, you agree with him more than you orginially thought. He is tough, smart and principled man. How can you go wrong? Hear him out.
Concerned Resident August 19, 2011 at 07:23 PM
I do not think that it is irresponsible at all of Mr. Abraham to imply that our town council does too little for their compensation. Many people work much harder for far less. As far as council members responding to constituent issues, I've seen little to none of that in this town. Most council members are concerned with themselves and their personal interests, not the interests of their constituents. As far as meeting with constituents? When does that happen? And we all know that events they attend are simply to promote their name in the public eye, how does that help me? Evening and weekend hours? That's part of the job, they deserve no additional compensation for that. Although we can't forget certain council members and our supervisor who spend countless hours rubbing the backs of party leaders and other shady characters who have no one's interest in mind but their own. I mean you no offense, but it's certainly clear that Mr. Abraham was not literally saying that council members only work two days a month. He was obviously saying that as tax payers we are not getting what we are paying for. A town council full of people who care only about themselves and their interests, and a supervisor who is only interested in doing what he can to keep himself on his throne is certainly not what I want for my town. I believe YOU need to do some research into the dealings of our town council and our supervisor. If you do, I'm sure you will be surprised with what you find.
Mike Hirsch August 20, 2011 at 11:53 AM
I think Shibu's point is a good one, and I applaud him for volunteering to cut his own pay if elected. I believe that Sabatini will do the same, as well as cutting the pay of the other employees who he is able to, eliminating political patronage positions such as the "clerk of the works", and reducing staff of the union protected employees. The Clarkstown Taxpayer group has been calling for a 10% cut in the town budget for years, and would like to see that 10% returned to the taxpayers by a reduction in property taxes by 10%. There is so much fat in the budget, that it would be child's play to do so. Again, I applaud Mr Abraham for taking that stand. His opponent, Shirley Lasker, makes an extra $10,000 per year as the Deputy Supervisor. She has abused that position this year by taking her vacation at the same time as the Suppervisor.

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