Manor candidates debate police reform, moving elections to November in campaign’s only forum (includes video of event)

Pelham Manor mayoral and trustee candidates Tuesday debated police reform, the timing of village elections, the tax cap and environmental programs during the only event where they will face each other during the campaign. Voting is March 16.

Republican Mayor Jennifer Monachino Lapey and Republican trustees Angela Michele DeLillo and Joseph Senerchia faced Democratic mayoral candidate Ramsey McGrory and Lance Koonce and Andrea Ziegelman, who are running for trustee as Democrats, to discuss resident-submitted questions during the debate moderated by Maggie Klein over Zoom.

When asked about Pelham Manor’s draft report produced as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order on police reform, McGrory said, “There were many meetings, but none of the content of these meetings made its way in the report. We believe it was a lost opportunity.”

Lapey said she took the matter of the police review seriously and met with various local organizations, including Pelham Together and Pelham United. Lapey also cited her past experience in changing the Pelham Manor police, arguing that years ago, “the only person who stepped up and wanted to help change a department in need was yours truly.”

Klein asked both candidates about zoning laws in Pelham Manor and specifically the availability of affordable housing. “The affordability of Pelham Manor is understated,” Lapey said. “It’s an unfair characterization of Pelham Manor to say our zoning is an impediment.”

McGrory argued the village could have done better to make changes to the zoning code code.

In response, Lapey argued that there is little the village can do in regards to infrastructure modification in order to expand housing. She said the schools are packed, and “it’s important to remember we are 1.2 square miles and our village is filled.”

Elections in November

Ziegelman said she was in favor of holding a referendum to decide whether to move village balloting from March to the general election date in November.

“If we are elected, we would take this issue to the voters to decide,” said Ziegelman. “How can we make these decisions in a vacuum without listening to our neighbors?”

DeLillo said there is too much political “noise” in November for a local election to take place. She said New York State law sets local elections for villages to be in March by default, and more than half of the state’s villages keep their elections during that month. She also said that many residents of the village are not interested in having elections in November and the question does not legally warrant a referendum.

Ziegelman countered hundreds of residents did not know they have a village election in March.

DeLillo responded, “I think our residents are smart. They will know if they have an election.”

“It’s not a question of intelligence, it’s a question of communication,” said Ziegelman.

Lapey was asked about overriding the tax cap for specific projects, to which she firmly stated her opposition. “We have a very disciplined approach to our budget,” said Lapey. “We’ve remained tax cap compliant, and we (are on track) to do so again.”

McGrory said that sewage overhaul would be one of his priorities when asked what new expenditures he would make to deal with outstanding issues. Additionally, he said he’s open to utilizing low-interest loans, breaking precedent from Pelham Manor’s long standing debt-free position.

“It is in within the best interest of all Pelham Manor residents to remain debt free,” Lapey said.

Policy on Environmental Programs

DeLillo was asked by residents why Pelham Manor had not joined with the Village of Pelham in setting up programs for environmental sustainability. (The Village of Pelham has a Sustainability Advisory Board and Climate Smart Communities Task Force.) DeLillo said new solar panel programs would be redundant, as Pelham Manor residents are already allowed to install solar panels. When asked about subsidizing such installations, DeLillo said, “We are proponents of open markets.”

Koonce replied, “It’s just not true that all programs that are good for the environment are too expensive” for Pelham Manor. 

Elections in Pelham Manor are March 16. For more information about voting and absentee ballots, click here.