Yes he can!
Yes he did!
Jonathan Siegel was sworn in as Irvington’s new mayor on Monday April 6, taking over for Nicola Coddington.
Siegel’s road to becoming the new mayor was one that was supported by not just Democrats, but also by the Republican and Independent parties. “I couldn’t possibly know [why I received support],” he says. But he thinks it was because he was appointed by a Republican mayor in 2003 and then ran the following spring when both Democrats and Republicans supported him. This past December, it was a Democratic mayor who appointed him.
“I make a real effort to work well with people regardless of their political party,” he says. He chalks it up to being an attorney, especially one who specializes in negotiations, mergers and acquisitions. “You learn how to work with people who may disagree with you. My approach to politics is no different than my approach to business, which is that you have to achieve key compromise. That’s how you make progress.”
And there is progress to be made as Irvington’s new mayor. There is talk about waterfront development, the business district and village taxes. Siegel has already started work on waterfront development. “The first step’s going to be a hearing at some point,” he says. He was already working on this as a Trustee, with the other Trustees and with Larry Schopfer, the Village Administrator. There will also be a work session this month where the waterfront will be the main topic and, later in the spring, a meeting for the public to restate their position.
As a Trustee, Siegel attended several hearings and has listened to outside specialists like Scenic Hudson, and other groups regarding waterfront development. Eventually, Siegel and the Board will work on the local law that will establish the zoning scheme with the information they have.
“I’ve already asked Larry Schopfer to find examples of materials we’ve worked on in the past and the current business schemes that are in place for other areas of Irvington so that we can get a feel for what might be appropriate,” he says. “I’m also expecting Bridge Street Properties to participate in the process because they are very important to Irvington itself as well as being the property owner of this particular location.”
Siegel says the ultimate goal is to protect the view from Main Street, the park, and to make sure there is sufficient setback from the river.
He hasn’t forgotten about Main Street and the rest of the business district. “Right now there is a business improvement committee that has been created which involves many of the best and brightest folks in Irvington,” he says. These people are, “talented business people who are interested in helping the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses improve the volume and nature of business that goes on in Irvington.” They are working on the development of a plan Siegel is not privy to, but he is sure it will involve increasing the volume of business on Main Street, as well as the business district, and ways for the village to facilitate improvements in the way business is conducted on Main Street. “That may involve changing some of the local regulations,” he says. “Whether it’s signage or other things, we obviously have to look at that piece-by-piece, but that is likely to be the approach.”
Siegel also mentioned the upcoming budget. A hearing was scheduled and input from residents was sought. “We want to get input so the Board can make judgment because by May 1st, we have to finalize the budget.” He estimates that the budget adds up to being very close to last year’s.
“This is the most extensive I’ve seen,” he says of the budget, having been through three or four previous budget cycles. “We really went line by line, we asked departments to come up with savings. We gave them some guidance for where we expected them to end up and we asked them to show us where the savings are. I find it very ineffective when a Board imposes its will on departments that have expertise that Board members can’t hope to acquire in the short period of time they have in the budget process.” They found savings through the Village department heads and the Village staff, and Siegel feels grateful for their help.
Like everyone across the nation, Irvington will feel the consequences of the national financial condition and budget. “Irvington will suffer the fallout from federal and state shortfalls and the difficulties that property owners in Irvington are facing, whether it’s difficulties with banks and potential foreclosures or it’s personal employment issues,” he says. “We have to be prepared for shortfalls in revenue as a onsequence. In addition to that, there may be difficulties to follow for the Village itself.”
The main issues Siegel says he faces are to manage a budget and keep it as close to what was seen last year to prevent creating an excessive financial burden on residents; to help the business district survive the current financial state; and waterfront zoning.
Let’s see if he can.