Tarrytown Board of Trustees Meeting 9/19/2011

Many speakers back proposed tattoo parlor; taxi drivers' objections delay TLC licensing decision; some again accuse board of withholding information about Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly deaths.

Here is a look at what happened during last night’s Tarrytown Board of Trustees Meeting.

Tattoo Parlors

Mayor Drew Fixell opened the meeting by noting that the board would not vote at this meeting on the possibility of amending the village law banning tattoo parlors because two changes have been made to the proposed amendment (restriction of tattoo parlors to the second floor of buildings and disallow them in the village’s historic main street district) which require an additional public hearing.

With that the floor was opened to the public for what turned out to be a two-hour session.

Prospective business owner Chuk Högnell sought to combat negative stereotypes by saying “bikers and gang members don’t come to me. 
I am an artist.”

He noted he had gathered 315 signatures on a petition in support of a tattoo parlor in Tarrytown.

Coffee Labs owner Mike Love recognized that not everyone wants a tattoo parlor but that “diversity is what makes Tarrytown” and that the business will bring more money to Tarrytown. “Tattoos aren’t sailors and birds anymore. Chuk’s clients are walking canvases.”

“If this law passes, we could have six tattoo parlors in Tarrytown,” said Lori Semeraro. “Look how many nail salons we have.  If you want a tattoo, go to the City.”

Fixell noted that the law would require that tattoo parlors not exist within 500 feet of each other.

Resident Beth Chesterson said Tarrytown has an “artsy, funky appeal” and that the village needs to be open to opportunities. “Tattoos are means of expression that continue to flourish within an enhanced safety environment.”

“I thought laws were passed on fact, not feeling,” said resident Denise Wolf.  “I can’t find any documented case where hepatitis was transmitted from a tattoo.”

Visitor Melissa Neuman said she “puts a high premium on cultural diversity and could see myself raising a family here.  It’s not
ignorance that makes us want cultural diversity. It’s acceptance.”

Supporters of Chuk Högnell said he runs a sterile, clean, almost immaculate shop and the only objections left were “public fear and prejudice and that doesn’t make good policy.”  Others pointed that Chuck’s store in Mahopac is tasteful and his shop in Tarrytown could only intensify the village’s focus on culture as provided by its art galleries and the Music Hall.

Tarrytown resident Sandra Hinkey, who manages a tattoo shop in the Bronx, pointed out that the law prohibits tattoos being given to persons under the age of 18, even with parental permission.  “He’s not going to be grabbing your children off the street and tattooing them.”  Hinkey went on to say that disposal of used needles are subject to medical waste procedures, a cost to be absorbed by the shop owner. “People who want a tattoo have money. They are not cheap. And they are going to spend that money in Tarrytown.”

“I can’t believe I am saying this,” said resident Joe Qeenan, but “I support the young people. He’s got a legitimate business. Bear that in mind.”

“The village code banning tattoo parlors were created in 1996 because the village couldn’t regulate them,” said Christina Serafine. “What has changed? They may exist in other villages, but other villages don’t pay the kind of taxes we do.”

She did not elaborate on the other villages or the comparable taxes.

“If it is the Board passes this law, then, I, as a taxpayer, have no say,” said another resident. “I don’t feel it fits historic Tarrytown. You live in Irvington (referring to Högnell).  I think Irvington would love a tattoo parlor.”

“I am a taxpayer and I live in Tarrytown and I don’t think there is anything historic or quaint about Subway,” said Wolf.

The trustees closed the public hearing and set another one for Oct. 3.

Taxi and Livery Drivers Licenses

The public hearing about taking responsibility for approval of taxi and limo drivers' licenses out of the village's hands and giving it to the Westchester County Taxi and Limousine Commission was then opened.

Driver Joseph Kelly asked for an explanation of the costs involved: which amount to an additional $65 per driver annually, plus a one-time $90 fingerprinting fee and the cost of a required defensive driving course every three years.

Felix Lantigua, owner of Sleepy Hollow Car Service, continued to express his objection to the increased cost. “I just paid $86 to get fingerprinted and renew my license that won’t expire for three years.  Now I have to pay again.”

Deputy Mayor Tom Basher said the village would discuss reimbursing drivers for the duplicate expense.

Christian Arpi, owner of Tarrytown Taxi, asked “what is the benefit for us?”

“We understand that there will an additional cost to you, but we believe that the TLC will do a better job and that it is in the best interest of the village,” said Fixell.

Arpi went on to say that with a TLC license instead of a Tarrytown hack license, his drivers would be more likely to get tickets when they drive passengers out of town. “And those tickets aren’t cheap. My driver got a ticket for $300 and my business was ticketed $700 when my driver took a Tarrytown passenger to Yonkers.”

“We live here. We pay taxes. Why are you making our work harder,” said Arpi.

Santo Penalo, owner of Executive Taxi, said he “was not aware that it was illegal to drive his taxi out of Tarrytown.”

Trustee Tom Butler made a motion to table the issue until more information was available. Trustee Robert Hoyt seconded the motion.

Public Comments

John Stiloski launched a verbal attack against the board, aimed mostly at  Fixell, related to the deaths of village employees Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly on Sept. 7, 2010.  Stiloski demanded information on the village’s confined space program, pointed out what he perceived to be inconsistencies in board meeting minutes, demanded to know what Fixell had done for the families, and accused Fixell of having “no answers” and said he should “just resign right now.”

“I am not answering questions in this forum,” said Fixell.  “I don’t wish to be prosecuted by you at a public meeting.”

Steve Wilgermein of Tappan Manor focused on village Administrator Michael Blau and said “the legacy of this board will be the deaths of Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly. I still think Blau needs to go. There are a lot of angry people in this town because we are not being listened to. This isn’t over until we get answers.”

The trustees reaffirmed that they have forwarded to the Westchester County District Attorney, the New York State Attorney General and the New York state police a petition from family and friends of the two men requesting an investigation of Blau over the deaths of Ruggiero and Kelly.

John Chebetar, Kelly's brother-in-law wanted to know in what forum questions would be answered. Kelly’s sister Maureen Chebetar said, “You people have no idea what we are going through. We want someone to tell us the truth.”

“If people want to submit questions in writing, we’ll respond to them, if we can, through our village attorney and administrator,” said Fixell.   “There are serious labor laws and privacy issues involved. We cannot simply just answer questions about personnel, it’s not legal.”

 “We have waited and waited for information,” said Raymond Tuohy.  “I don’t feel this is open government.”

Diane Touhy asked, “Can you at least reassure the public that the people who are in charge have some safety training.”

“The Village has done safety training,” said Fixell.

Several people spoke up against the signs posted in the village that are critical of Mayor Fixell and Michael Blau.  “These cowardly signs are not a way to heal,” said Francesca Spinner.  “This litigious society makes it impossible for people of goodwill to say what they want to say. They have to follow the letter of the law.”

“The signs are creepy,” said Regina Mignogna.  “I feel like salt is being poured into the hurt that these people feel.  This is not going to bring your loved ones back.”

“To be screaming at the board of trustees and putting up these horrible signs will not solve the problem,” said Carole Griffiths.

Stiloski said Fixell did not visit the families at the hospital.

“It was an extremely distressing and confusing situation and I do regret that,” said Fixell.

Other Business

The trustees passed a bond resolution in excess of $3.6 million for the purchase of computer software, electrical and HVAC improvements, acquisition of fire boats, improvements to village roads and sewer system, and acquisition of construction and maintenance and fire-fighting equipment.

The board awarded a bid for the purchase of generators for two fire houses and approved the minutes of previous meetings.

C O Högnell September 26, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Anyone notice the historic Westchester county savings bank now covered in glowing citibank signs?
True Believer September 27, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Mr Sleepy hollow September 27, 2011 at 07:16 PM
I really don't think that a tattoo shop will bring in seedy characters, it's sad to say but thier best customers will be your 18 year old sons and daughters. Following the growing trend to tatto yourself that has become the fad lately. especially with young women they see the tatted woman show on TV and every celebrity has a tattoo or piecring. the days of sailors,bikers and hookers? getting tattoed are long gone..lol But we will gladly trade a few bodegas in sleezy hollow and throw in a Pizza shop for one or two of main streets yuppie shops.
Aintthatascam September 27, 2011 at 11:02 PM
I'm sure if someone wanted to open a transgender outpatient clinic, that would be okay.
Aintthatascam September 27, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Yeah, glad to see where our taxpayer funded bailout money is going.


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